Tuesday, February 2, 2010

BAD BRAINS: Jah Doesn’t Love You Anyway

Text by Paul Decolator, intro by Robert Barry Francos
Interview © 1983; RBF intro © 2010 by FFanzeen
Images from the Internet

[Paul Decolator]
The following article about DC punkers Bad Brains was originally published in
FFanzeen magazine, issue #10, in 1983. It was written by Paul Decolator, who would become one of the key figures in the New Jersey hardcore scene of the ‘80s, as a musician, promoter, and including going on to publish his own ‘zine, the excellent digest-sizedTips & Tours. He was in his teens when he wrote this piece, but sadly, Paul passed away at age 36 in 2002. His memorial page is here: myspace.com/pauldecolator

Never in the history of
FFanzeen did we ever receive so much hate mail than after the publication of this article. Over the years, though, much of what Paul claimed has become widely circulated and acknowledged. – RBF, 2010
The BB’s cassette happened to be one of last year’s greatest releases (ReachOut International Records [ROIR]), unsurpassed in its speed, energy & raw power. In concert the BB were in a special class by themselves. You’re probably saying, to yourself, “Yah, right man, the Bad Brains Rule.”

[The ROIR Tape]
Well think again. The Bad Brains are not the punk saviors everyone makes them out to be. The Bad Brains have a seedy side to them that contradicts the very fundamentals of what this phenomena called Punk (Hardcore, if you want to call it that) stands for.

Let’s start off with some of the BB’s major sins – sins ‘cause Jah would turn over in his grave if he knew what these Rasta-phonies preached. On a national tour, the BB stopped in Texas; there they played to a very enthusiastic crowd who loved them and their music, but this attitude would soon change. The BB hooked up with MDC (Millions of Dead Cops); the BB liked their music and offered MDC a spot on their tour across the rest of the country. The BB also offered to help MDC distribute their record across America and even to do something with the band in the UK. It was almost a dream-come-true. I say almost because it never materialized. Why? Well it just so happens a couple of the members of MDC are gay. When the Bad Brains heard this they lost a bolt, going on this tirade about how horrible homosexuality is, calling the members of MDC “bloodclot faggots” and condemning them to an eternity in hell. Needless to say, the BB was so disillusioned by these “misguided" souls that the BB cancelled all plans with MDC.

This wasn’t their only bad incident in the Lone Star State: the BB stayed with the Big Boys while in Texas. Randy, the lead singer, was nice enough to supply the BB with fifty dollars worth of pot. After all, the BB need their daily dosage of ganja to keep their heads permanently in some sorta mystical fog. But Randy also happens to be homosexual and you know the BB hate gays. So instead of being swell guys and paying Randy for the weed, they gave him and the Big Boys a verbal tongue-lashing and split Texas, leaving being a trail of shattered images.

Well, the Bad Brains scourge doesn’t limit itself to Texas. Back in their East Coast camping ground, New York, the BB also screwed a few people. The 171-A Recording Studios was where the NY Thrash tape (also ROIR) and the BB’s tape were recorded. The BB set up home there and used the studio a lot. And not just in the conventional sense either. The BB took a few liberties with the phones there and rang up a bill of tremendous proportions. The BB said they would pay for the bill, but of course they didn’t, and the 171-A went under a month later. I wonder were all the phone calls were to – Ethiopia?

But it doesn’t stop there. MDC came to town and played as 2+2, and you couldn’t imagine the BB’s reaction when those “bloodclots” tried to invade BB territory. The night of the gig there was a royal egg raid. At this gig, the BB stated what they thought were abominations, mainly gays and lesbians. What struck me really funny was that the BB preach unity – you know, that concept where everyone comes together and breaks down such barriers as race, sex, creed, etc., etc. At any BB show, one can hear such phrases as, “Black and unite.”

I guess the BB forgot to make clear in their songs that we can only unify as long as we are not gays, dykes, faggots, or sympathizers. As an obscure fanzine said, “The Bad Vibes [mock word-play on the BB – PD] preach unity only through fascism.”

Who the hell do the Bad Brains think they are? Thanx to all the punks who needed some stupid idols to worship, the BB were elevated to such a post where they can obviously say whatever they want to matter how asinine or contradictory it is. Now that the BB is at this lofty position they can take the punks for all their money and still preach this ludicrous bullshit.

Now you’re saying, “But they put on a good show.” Yeah, and so does Van Halen. The fact that Punk is here is because it was formed as a rebellious movement which promoted open-mindedness, originality and aggression. It is a cry against certain stupid aspects of society. Punk can be a unifying factor in today’s society because it focuses on alternative ideas. It also confronts issues that your Moral Majority type would shy away from. The fact that the BB play good music doesn’t mean they can go around and screw people out of money or anything else.

Sincerity – where is it? The BB doesn’t possess a scrap of it. Remember when the BB broke up and were going to form their all-reggae band, Zion Train? I do. The fact that they never formed it is interesting to look at. The BB are con artists who love that green stuff sometimes referred to as money. All they have to say is they’re gonna break up, and when they announce they will play their last show, there’s gonna be a lot of dinero floating around. And after their three month’s absence over the summer, they can come back and stage reunion gigs and make even more money and take us punks for another eight bucks a ticket.

Another event that killed me was their Discharge / Bad Brains concert scam. First off, Discharge was never even scheduled to play, but the name Discharge sure kicked up advance ticket sales. I know I bought my eight dollar ticket as soon as I heard that line up. Of course, when I go there, Discharge was supposedly canceled and the lamest English group (Vice Squad) was substituted. Gee, when I got there, a big sign read, “American Gov’t Cancelled Discharge.” Yeah, right. I believe that. I also believe in Santa Claus, Jesus Christ and the Tooth Fairy. Discharge had been touring the country all the time and was nowhere near New York at the time of that gig. It is also rumored that the whole thing was a scam put on by Vice Squad to get more people to come to the show. Well, it worked. Even though I asked for a refund, my friend (who had come to see Discharge) went in to see the bands because he traveled from Jersey and didn’t want to go home empty-handed, as it were. My friend was treated to the Young & the Useless (undeniably one of NY’s worst acts), a set by Vice Squad, and a special 25 minute set by those darlings, the BB. Boy eight bucks for 25 lousy minutes of music. A real irony was that outside the show, one of the members of the Young & the Useless was trying to coax people into seeing the show saying, “Three bands for eight dollars is a good deal.” A Minor Threat / SSD / + three other bands show, put on by the Philly BYO for five dollars, is a good deal, not three bands for eight bucks.

You’re asking, “When does this end?” Well not yet, buddies. The BB did a show on November 20th with Scream and Double Blow at CB’s, and it just so happens that on the same night, the worthy Philadelphia Better Youth Organization was staging their first important show with the aforementioned bands. Wasn’t that sweet of the BB to do a gig that same night so as to take away a good 400 people from going to the show in Philly? I guess since the Philly punks take a liking to MDC and open-minded ideas, that they should be penalized. And it’s not as if the BB couldn’t have gotten a show at CB’s a week later. You see, the Bad Brains do more damage to the scene than help. In my own opinion, the BB isn’t that good a band to the point where they start fucking up scenes.

This article was not meant to kiss-ass up to the BB, and it’s certainly not being written ‘cause I have something against the band, musically. It’s just that with all these incidents occurring, I just cannot support the BB – it goes against every minor ethic or ideal I ever had about Punk. It’s a shame to see such people trying to screw everything up.

In final, go out and ask people, write MDC or the Big Boys, and ask their opinions; write or talk to the Bad Brains and see what they have to say, and then form your own opinion. I have given you mine. The Bad Brains are Bad Business. And hey, Jah doesn’t love you anyway.


  1. They have since repented against their past behavior - not sure about HR. They were young, angry and way too into rasta. Rastas are anti-gay, they follow the word of the bible. It makes no sense considering how they preach peace and unity.

    It was also a different time in some respects. You could say faggot in a PG movie.

    They are better than any other hard rock band period. The nonsense about the punk ethos is a joke - though in 83 I'm sure all that shit still meant something.

    Its funny to see how they are talked about 'not being that good' when they were in the prime of their career.

  2. Actually, Paul starts off saying that they are an excellent live band who put out one of the strongest releases that year, but even so they are not worth the negativity they brought (I'm talking then). Yes, you could say many words then that you can't say now (for example, Blazing Saddles probably could not get released nowadays), but that does not change their behavior, including mis-using friendships to tank a recording studio by overextending their phone (and the story goes that they felt justified to steal equipment from bands that had gay members, which is more than just sounding off).

    I also understand the anger towards us for publishing it. Back then, there was a lot of media backlash towards punk - especially hardcore - even from liberal shows like Donahue. Fans were oversensitive to negative comments (though real punks wouldn't have given a shit what other's thought of them), and they reacted towards us by grouping us in with other media. Except we were generally on their side. Biting the hand that helps them; sounds like George Bush / Republican behavior to me.