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Bad Brains
Bad Brains

Jean Beauvoir
Jean Beauvoir

Black Punk Time: Blacks in Punk, New Wave and Hardcore 1976-1984 (Part 1)*
By James Porter and Jake Austen

(From Roctober #32, 2002)

With help from John Battles, Damon Locks and Ken Wong

Also contributing: Tony Azu-Popow, Beer Can Fanzine, Don Bolles, Monica BouBou, Chris Butler, Kim Cooper, DMAC, Larry Farber, Margaret "Maggot" Griffis, Andy Hopkins, Anthony Illarde, In The Red Records, Randy Lancelot, Mike Lavella, Joe Losurdo, Steve Manning, Smog Veil Records, Corey Saunders, Scott Soriano, Dan Sutherland, Syl Sylvain, Torcoclown, Janet Van Dammit, WHPK staff, Paul Zone

(NOTE: THE ONLINE VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WILL BE UPDATED AND CORRECTED PERPETUALLY...SEND IN MORE INFO, RANTS, DIATRIBES AND UPDATES TO blackpunk@roctober.com.)
Last updated:

Other online sources for Black punk history (including info on the contemporary black punk documentary Afropunk):
afropunk.com


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


When punk-rock arrived--as we now know it--back in 1975-77, it was the kick in the ass the music world needed. At a time when the wide-ranging rock scene incorporated everything from Midwestern Metal to Outlaw Country to funk-fusion combos like Weather Report, there was an overall, evident energy drop. When the debut albums appeared from the Ramones, the Dictators, Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols, the Dead Boys, and others, the edge was back. As Spin, VH1, Rolling Stone and the rest of the self-important "Rock History Reports" so boldly declare these days, punk was the wildest, angriest, most vital, most energetic, hottest shit going.

But it was also the whitest.

For many of the young punks coming up, Black music meant disco. Or their older hippie brother's Blues albums. I recall a Rolling Stone article from 1979 on the Ramones where one member seemed particularly proud of the fact that there were no Blues influences in their music. Nothing wrong with that--it was an honest assessment of their classic sound. However, this did have an ugly side. When rock writer Lester Bangs first moved out to New York in the mid-seventies when punk rock was peaking, first thing he did was throw a party, inviting all his friends from the CBGB's scene. Bangs reflexively threw on an Otis Redding album, ostensibly so everybody could dance; right then he heard somebody yell, "Hey, Lester, what are you playing that nigger disco shit for?"

To some people, punk rock might have represented another wave of ethnic cleansing in Rock & Roll. However, that first wave of the New Wave was more integrated than most people might think. Several Black performers had key roles in punk bands during the prime early years (1976-83), particularly in New York, which, as the home of the Black Rock Coalition (a musician's collective), has had a long involved history of Blacks playing Rock & Roll. This is a salute to the brothers and sisters that helped make it happen.

As far as Black punk's relationship to Hip Hop, there's lots of soundbites to give, but they don't necessarily add up to much. Rick Rubin recalls Russell Simmons' initial reaction to Public Enemy being, "Rick, this is like Black punk rock. How can you waste your time on this garbage?'" Perhaps the most famous record ever done in an 80s hardcore style was "Cop Killer" by BODYCOUNT, rapper Ice T's novelty project where he had an all Black band playing hardcore/thrash. Johan Kugelberg, who compiles discographies of insanely obscure punk singles for Ugly Things magazine, has recently come out of the closet as a rap-head by declaring in print that early Electro records and battle tapes have the vitality and spirit of their punk contemporaries. And, of course, there were a few cases of cross-pollination, with projects like Time Zone (Afrikaa Bambataa and Johnny Lydon) and bands like the Clash becoming interested in Hip Hop (a nod returned when zillion sellers with Clash hooks began popping up from commercial Hip Hop).

But the true relationship really comes down to early punk and early Hip Hop both being D.I.Y. movements with independent spirits. When Black Hip Hop artists began exploring (and creating) their underground, culminating in obscure, unbelievably NEW sounding vinyl spinning out of NYC, this was not entirely untread ground. So in addition to the African griots, the signifying toasters, the comedic Jump Blues vocalists, the chitlin circuit standups, the political poets, the fusion Jazz experimenters and the countless other pioneers that can lay legit claim to the roots of Hip Hop, leave a tiny space for the handful of Black punk rockers who dared to refuse to accept that they had to dig the music they were supposed to dig and wear the clothes they were supposed to wear.

(Note: Bands mentioned in descriptions in ALL CAPS have separate entries, either in main listing, in Also Notable section in Other Punk/New Wave Hardcore Bands With Black Members section. Bands in bold type are acts with a significant relationship to Black Punk that do not have a separate entry)

BARRY ADAMSON - Adamson, later of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, played bass in Magazine from 1979-1981. The band, while not too punk, was the product of the undeniable punk pedigree of Howard Devoto of the Buzzcocks. Adamson brought funky influence to the band, and that funkiness continued with his solo work in the 90s, especially The Negro Inside Me [Elektra, 1993], which explored his relationship with Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop and Euro Pop.

STEVE ALDRICH - The perpetually sunglassed Steve fronted the late 70s Grand Rapids, MI punk/New Wave band GWBT (which, believe it or not, stood for the Guys With Big Teeth) and then had a career spinning punk records on college radio (WSRX) which morphed into spinning "alternative" music as a pro-jock on WLAV. I've heard Aldritch's take on punk described as "possessed of a rare naivette" and also as that of "a big New Wave poseur." I suppose those aren't actually contradictory. GWBT's "Now I'm Really Mad" may be the only punk song to feature a celeste solo. (JA)

Terry Mohre adds: Way off in stating that STEVE ALDRICH fronted the GUYS WITH BIG TEETH, Stig had little or nothing to do with the band except we used his drums, which I remember urinating on. Members of the GUYS WITH BIG TEETH were M. DUNG, CAPTIAN TODEL, TERRY, WALTER WRIGHT, SPUDDY, and sometimes FROOT TA MAN. Also, no celeste it was a little blue toy piano

ALGEBRA MOTHERS (a/k/a THE A-MOMS) - This Detroit punk band was led by the African American guitarist Gerald Collins. They released the single "Strawberry Cheesecake" b/w "Modern Noise" on Aftertaste in 1979.

ALLAH AND THE KNIFE WIELDING PUNKS - Bernie Edwards, Nile Rogers and Tony Thompson were among the members of this 1976 co-ed New Wave act (they did not release any records) before morphing it into the legendary dance act Chic. Rogers and Edwards became two of the most successful producers in pop history, and each has worked with a number of rock artists (Rogers' collaborators include David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and Sting; Edwards' include ABC, Duran Duran and Air Supply). Edwards died of pneumonia while on tour in Japan in 1996. Thompson also played with Duran Duran members and Robert Palmer in the Edwards-produced rock supergroup Power Station, and was the drummer for the Led Zeppelin reunion at Live Aid in 1985. He died of cancer in 2003. (JA)

JABARI ALLEN & DAVID ALLEN, JR. OF UNITS - Jabari Allen and David Allen Junior joined the band Units for their New Way to Move EP. A video of the single "A Girl Like You" was released and can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/i44WVe1Hci4 The band started out fairly aggressive and political, but as they grew older leaned a bit more toward R&B/New Wave, but philosophically remained true to their original principles. The Allen brothers contributed very nicely in my opinion, giving Units a fresh sound, while creating a commercially viable sound given their shift to a major label, (though ultimately fruitless, as their debut for Epic didn't chart.) (Grant Olsen) [New Entry 2-2-13]

ANDY ANDERSON - Drummer for the Cure in 1983 and 1984 on the 'Lovecats' single and 'The Top,' "Japanese Whispers" and "Concert" albums. Clifford Leon Anderson (his bith name0 was briefly in Hawkwind before joining the Cure, and was fired from the Cure for fighting with security guards during a Japanese tour.

RODNEY ANDERSON and PAT BAPTISTE of SEISMIC WAVES – Hailing from the wrong side of the tracks in the Chicago suburb Evanston, Rodney would go on to play drums in one of the best regional hardcore bands, DJ on the crucial punk radio show "Fast and Loud" and eventually become one of the bitterest men in Chicago punk. Seismic Waves' body of work deserve a place in punk history based on their titles alone; you have to acknowledge songs named, "Cable TV Was A Ripoff," "Lipsynch To The Go Gos," and "Fat Girls." Guitarist Pat Baptiste was also African American, making the band 66.7% Black. The "Fast and Loud" radio show (born in 1983) was one of the cornerstones of Chicago punk. Hailing from the campus of Evanston's Northwestern University (where Rodney attended) it played a boldly diverse sampling of local, national and international punk, hardcore, Oi! and speed metal (see ZOETROPE), and the show even spawned one of the great Midwest comps, The Middle Of America. Rodney's post Seismic Waves band, 007, was a surf mod act in which he played guitar, and which featured Eric Williams, another Black rocker. (JA)

Rodney Responds: While it is an honor to be mentioned in this article (and to still be remembered so many years later), I wanted to "refine" a few things: "Cable TV" was the title. "It's a ripoff/just bought a ripoff/sho 'nuff a ripoff" was the chorus. The Seismic songs mentioned were based on real people and real events. Some knew that they were the lyrical focus; most didn't. By the way, I didn't stumble into the job. I was drummer, head writer, and lead singer, though we all sang/yelled. I was kind of a Grant Hart copycat, if anything. Location, location, location... How'd I get to Northwestern, and WNUR, from the wrong side of the tracks? That one's funny. "...one of the bitterest men..."? Your sources don't know me. I'm the opposite. Someone once called me a cynic. I laughed, and said "You're dead wrong. I'm an optimist. Only an optimist can see that much potential and hope (in something) to complain about it..." Another reader adds: ...I did a short tour with Tranquility Bass a few years back and who should be playing guitar, but Rodney. And to further mix it up, Eric Williams was acting as the Merch guy. They were 2 of the nicest and laid back blokes one could hope to meet. Rodney was certainly not even close to the "Bitterest Man in Chicago Punk", in fact making no mention of his pedigree until me and the head hippy in the band got into it over the relative virtures Black Flag, at which point Rodney off handedly threw his weight behind my contention that they were better than the Dead, or something equally stupid. I roomed with him for a couple nights and we chatted a bit about "the old days" in which he had a "been there, done that" attitude, but without the arrogance that sometimes goes with it. He, like many people, seemed to lose interest when the bands started sounding like cookie cutter thrash morons who got so insular that goons would start a punchin when someone who did not fit their narrow viewpoints. I don't think the irony was lost on him that many of these losers were first introduced to the whole scene by his show, but when he would later go to a show dressed less than punk they would always find an excuse to hassle him. After the tour ended I dropped him and his gear off at his folks house in Evanston and it was definitely not the Wrong Side of the Tracks.

THE ATOMICS - Rick "Stick" Greene sang for a while with this 1980-1983 Gainesville, FL band. The Atomics for the most part were a punk/New Wave cover band.

BAD ACTOR - Bad Actor was formed back in 1980 in Phila. Pa., originalÊmembers are; Ken "Tojo White, Henry "Tex" Mosley, Michael "Spider" Sanders (ex-Pure Hell), Gary "Wooly" Neal. Soon after forming they migrated to L.A. only to lose lead vocalist Tojo, being replaced by Shawn Bright (Oingo Boingo) and then Dee Dee Troit (U.X.A.). they played all of the then punk/new wave venues of the day, taping the very last New Wave theater, before Peter Ivers was murdered. They made only one recording that was released on the 1983 compilation LP "Sounds Of Hollywood Girl" on Doug Moody's Mystic label. Their house in Silver Lake was the meeting place for the Better Youth Organization planning the "Someone Got Their Head Kicked In" tour. Sadly Spider passed away in 2002 in the middle of reforming Pure Hell, we still miss him! See PURE HELL (Gary Neal) [NEW ENTRY 7/11/09]

BAD BRAINS – Bad Brains are perhaps the most important hardcore punk band ever (many argue that their single, "Pay To Cum" b/w "Stay Close to Me" [Bad Brains Records, 1980] is the first hardcore record) but they are definitely the most interesting one. If a brilliant book is ever written based on the hardcore scene, a piece of literary historical writing that captures the bizarre complexities of American culture the way In Cold Blood did, the Bad Brains' story would be the perfect source material. Quite simply, H.R (Paul Hudson), the band's founder, is a mad genius that only America could produce; he's a magnetic, self-destructive, unfocussed/ultrafocussed, brilliant, schizo, frustrating, talented icon whose powers have resulted in a career/non-career that has no parallels. Before he was 20 he studied medicine in college, flunked out, abused drugs, fathered a child and worked simple jobs. His dismal hopes for a better life left Hudson ripe for suggestion, and when he stumbled upon some dusty self-help manuals he decided to reconfigure his life based on the principles of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). He used this positivity to realize a dream: he wanted to make music! Hudson lived in Maryland, but our story shifts to nearby Washington, DC. DC is a predominantly African American town, but the punk scene was, not surprisingly, very white. Two neighbors from the Black side of the tracks, Sid McCray and Darryl Jenifer, were open to white music and an interest in Metal led them to '77 punk. Jenifer's interests drifted to progressive Jazz Fusion music, however, and he soon joined Paul Hudson's new band, Mindpower (a PMA name) with Paul's brother Earl Hudson on drums and friend Gary Miller (the future Dr. Know) on guitar. Mindpower was a short lived, unsuccessful musical experiment, but Paul stayed positive, and when McCray urged them to give punk a chance they changed gears and renamed the band Bad Brains. HR (Hudson's punk persona) liked the name because it combined the Black English slang "Bad" with the idea of mind power, not knowing that Daryl took it from a Ramones song. The key axis-moment in DC punk history is the Cramps show at Hall of Nations in 1979. Though it's hard to believe the ultra-serious straight edge and emo scenes would be born from a band as joyous and goofy as the Cramps, the fact is, like the famed Ramones show that inspired every important British punker, this concert was attended by future members of Minor Threat, Rights of Spring and many other significant DC bands. And it was at that show that Bad Brains handed out flyers for their debut show in the Hudson basement. The five member band (Sid was briefly a second vocalist) played furious punk with lyrics that combined PMA optimism with outrage. They developed a unique sound, combining jazz influences, Jenifer's and Dr. Know's invigorating playing, HR's unusual reedy voice, and, in lieu of the stiff metronomic beat that hardcore would be known for, the meaty rhythms of drummer Earl Hudson that swung like a rusty ax. By the end of the year they recorded their demo (7 tracks done in an hour), started incorporating Reggae (Mindpower had gone on a band field trip to a Bob Marley concert before Bad Brains formed), tried to relocate to New York and London (both failures, they never got past customs in Europe) and recorded what would be their first single. As the '80s dawned HR struggled with drugs and spirituality and become more invested in Rastafarianism. From any distance HR, a drug addled college dropout basing his life around absurd self-help books, doesn't seem like someone you'd follow, but his charisma and magnetism made him a true leader and soon the band members spoke in Jamaican accents. Over the next couple of years several managers who recognized Bad Brains' powers tried to get them on the road to superstardom but it wasn't to be. Though their shows were amazing (HR's signature backflips were something unseen on the tiny punk stages he roamed) and though they managed to record some amazing songs, HR's unpredictability always shut doors of opportunity as fast as they opened. The only reason they were able to negotiate the release of their legendary self-titled cassette album for ROIR (1982) is that ROIR's Neil Cooper (who died last year) personally knew Rastafarian prophet Haile Sellassie. The cassette (diehards insist it only sounds right on cassette) would sell over 100,000 copies and became one of the most influential hardcore releases of all time. It led the band to coast to coast touring, and it was in San Francisco and Texas that Bad Brains would feel their first backlash from the punk world. The religious doctrines HR was adhering to were intolerant of homosexuals. This led to conflicts as bands they played with were either gay friendly or gay, culminating in some ugly incidents with the Big Boys that became the talk of the punk grapevine. HR's Rasta ways also had him trying to guide the band to an all Reggae repertoire, which caused quite a bit of oddness, with either punk fans not getting as much punk as they expected or, on occasion, Bad Brains drawing a Black Reggae crowd that was confused by the local, white punk opening acts. After the troubled tour more chaos followed, leading to them losing their practice space, master tapes for upcoming records and equipment. They were given a new lease on life by punk fan Rick Ocasek (the Cars) who helped them record the band's first full length Rock For Light (PVC, 1983). Due to the regular Bad Brains chaos the record had an odd history or being released on a few labels over the years, but the album is perhaps the most cohesive document of their Rasta/punk balance. This led to interest from major labels but HR wanted none of it. He really wanted to change the band's name and stop playing rock altogether, and he (of course) thought major corporations were Babylon/Satan/apocalypse bringers. After sabotaging their chances at success the band was essentially broken up, and HR supported himself financially by selling pot (leading to an arrest and jail sentence). He still played occasionally with his brother, but was not on warm terms with Jenifer or Know. However, in 1985 they somehow mad epeace and re-formed, wrote new material, toured and made a new album. After the drama and odd release history of their previous recordings, now they were working with an almost real label on an almost real record, I Against I (SST, 1986). It featured diverse musical excursions, and solid writing and singing by a fully engaged HR. The well-received album led to the possibility of signing with Island (Bob Marley's label!) but again HR refused and he and his brother left the band to concentrate on their other project. Between 1984 and 1990 HR performed with and released recordings with his "solo" band H.R. (also known as Human Rights). The best of these, Human Rights (SST, 1987) is an odd fusion of Reggae, Funk, pop and Rock that showcases the unusual magic of HR's voice. The band performed with a rotating lineup that often included his brother Earl and DAVE BYERS. I saw them perform once with a chorus of sweet singing women complimenting HR's reedy, off center vocal stylings in a sublime, fantastic way, making it evident what was special about his unique talents. However, at the same show the band performed without keyboardist Billy Fields (later of the Atlanta-based Black rock band Follow For Now and the rap group Arrested Development) who HR had take the fall for a drug bust at the previous show. Unfortunately, that kind of disorder was more what the band would be about than the musical coherence. Human Rights was able to exist with drastically changing lineups until the end of the 80s, but eventually no one would work with him. After a European tour with Human Rights ended with HR stranded overseas he eventually made it back to the states and he and his brother briefly rejoined Bad Brains who had been performing with another singer. Quickness (Caroline, 1989), featured HR as a lyricist (anti-gay stuff included), but had little Reggae, and with the inclusion of the Punk-Metal crossover sound that many hardcore bands were into, it feels like HR is merely a hired hand. The European tour that followed had HR physically attacking a bandmate and jumping off a moving tour bus. When they returned to the states the band broke up. Bad Brains reformed with singer Chuck Mosely (Faith No More) and continued to play. Things were worse for HR whose Reggae band was falling apart. He had sold the rights to the name and the music of Bad Brains to his ex-bandmates for needed cash, and without even that minute income coming in he spent a few years drifting between homelessness, his parents' house, incarceration, and short stints on friends couches for the brief period between his arrival and the time he alienated them. On the other side of the coin, in 1992, a few years after the commercial success of the Black rock band Living Colour, Epic Records took a look at the newly energized Bad Brains and signed them to their first major label contract. It was easy to see why they seemed appealing; the fantastic musicianship of Jenifer and Dr. Know was complimented, though not elevated, by their new lead singer Israel, a young, super-energetic kid with long dreadlocks and a stage presence influenced by pit diving punk. If you'd never heard of HR you'd be mildly impressed. Rise (Epic, 1993) had a perfunctory release but they were dropped when it didn't find a new audience (and lost the old audience who couldn't reconcile the Stones-without-Mick nature of the lineup). In 1994 perhaps the strangest chapter of Bad Brains history was written. Somehow Earl and then HR returned to the fold. Not long after the original Bad Brains lineup was reformed they signed a contract with Maverick/Warner Brothers (Madonna's label) and the real Bad Brains were all of a sudden a major label band. On one hand it could be argued that the amazing thing here is that HR agreed to sign. But the truly bizarre aspect of this arrangement is that Bad Brains (a middle aged, self-destructive, Black rock band with a cult following at best, who never even knew themselves if they played punk or Reggae) was perhaps the stupidest major label signing ever. There is no reasonable argument that would justify investing in Bad Brains' potential as an extremely commercial act. But the legend of Bad Brains was so powerful, and the band meant so much to any kid that grew up in hardcore, that someone at Maverick with a punk pedigree (I assume not Madonna) made the stupid decision with heart, not mind. They quickly released the unfocussed God Of Love (Maverick, 1995), produced by Ocasek, and took off on a tour with (hardcore pedigreed Bad Brains loyalists) Beastie Boys. Inevitably the tour was a disaster; HR beat his manager brutally before a show in Canada, got arrested for possession, and when the tour resumed, jumped off a stage in Kansas and, with the help of a microphone stand, hospitalized two fans he thought were spitting on him. As he dealt with the criminal charges the band was dropped, and apparently lost the rights to even use the name "Bad Brains." When the group straggled back together at the end of the decade they had to be billed as Soul Brains. I heard numerous punk fans mention halfheartedly going to see the shows out of sense of obligation. It was hard for them to be excited about what they knew would be a perfunctory show at worst and a sad, violent, act of self destruction at its most interesting. But this was Bad Brains! How could you not go? The various members of the band, when not on tour, split their time between regular jobs, family and various musical projects that their Bad Brains veteran status affords them (like Dr. Know's recent stint in Black Jack Johnson, a Rap-Rock band with Mos Def, BERNIE WORRELL, and members of Living Colour). But despite the fact that they didn't live up to the stellar expectations that their amazing first recordings and shows promised (an impossibility perhaps), Bad Brains will always stand tall as the true godfathers of hardcore and the punk band with the most formidable (and deserved…and bizarre) legend. (JA)

An e-mail response from a Bad Brain (since it was an e-mail we can't verify if it is genuine, of course): you dont shit about the bad brains son.............pay closer attention ....meditate between the lines.......peep the true mystic and science of the brains and not the petty earth runnings that tend to blind all of yall lemmings, still,even today 03.......open your mind -not your mouth,..knucklehead............d.jenifer [Updated 3/31/03]

On a more positive note, Steve Albini adds: I was struck by how perfect your biography of the Bad Brains was (my all-time favorite hardcore band -- I will never forget the sight of HR making his entrance by doing a backflip and landing precisely on the downbeat and precisely in front of the mic stand at C.O.D. in 1982), and I was impressed that you were willing to listen to- and digest their many lesser works so the rest of us don't have to, despite our curiosity. You did a great job of appreciating the genius of the band (and especially HR) without ignoring their human failings. I was told (by Minor Threat's Lyle Preslar, if it matters) that HR was originally a nickname, the initials for "Hunting Rod," which probably has the meaning we imagine it does. I was told that Darryl Jennifer played bass on a Bob Dylan album in the '80s, and if memory serves, also a Hall and Oates album, but I have no evidence of it. [Updated 3/31/03]

JEREMY WALLACH ADDS: It's "Rites of Spring," not "Rights of Spring." Here's a question: On the Ramones' 1987 album Halfway to Sanity, HR is clearly the vocalist on the track "I Lost My Mind," yet he is not credited in the liner notes (at least not in the ones that came with my nineteen-year old cassette...). Does anyone know the story behind this collaboration? [Updated 11/28/06]

Guy Fiorentini adds: On the I Against I tour in 1986, I was listening through the back door because I didn't have enough money to get in and the tour manager gave me $12 from his wallet and said go around and pay at the front door. [Updated 1/28/08]

KENNY BALDWIN - One of the pioneers of Milwaukee punk, Baldwin was drummer in Locate Your Lips, but more significantly turned his father's strip club, Starship, into the city's first punk venue, which he managed (reportedly in a grumpy manner).

BASEMENT 5 – Basement 5 was an all Black trio from England that combined punk, dub and Metal, with Lemmy like vocals. Their album was cryptically titled Basement 5 1965-1980 (Island, 1980) and they also had a few 45s, 12"s and EPs, including a dub mix of their album and a Christmas single, "Last White Christmas" which railed negative X-mas greetings at Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Khomeni and Ian Smith. Their take on a punk dub fusion was much more convincing then PIL's. Leo Williams, the bass player, was later in BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE. (JA)

BEACH BUNNIES - Circa 1979-80 there was a Black two piece (bass and drums) girl band in Pittsburgh called the Beach Bunnies who performed in Playboy bunny outfits.

JEAN BEAUVOIR - Beauvoir's punk cred can't be denied; he played bass (and piano, and synth) for the Plasmatics from 1980-1981 (He's on Beyond the Valley Of 1984, Stiff, 1981) and he wrote the Ramones' closest thing to an '80s-style punk song (exploiting the ever popular Reagan mockery theme in "Bonzo Goes To Bitberg"). Born in Chicago to Haitian parents Beauvier took up bass early, and by his teen years was musical director for Gary "U.S." Bonds. This got him on the Dick Clark oldies circuit, which led to a stint as a singer in the Flamingos ("I Only Have Eyes For You"). Rejecting the clean-cut world of American Bandstand he started hanging on the NYC punk scene and after responding to an ad joined the Plasmatics and donned his trademark blonde Mohawk. The Plasmatics were legitimately more famous for Wendy O. Williams' remarkably hilarious stage antics (chainsaws, shotguns and shaving cream included) than for their songs, so it's amazing how highly regarded he was as a commercial musician when he left the band. He joined Little Steven Van Zandt's Disciples of Soul in 1982 (based more on his Gary "U.S." Bonds pedigree than his Plasmatics gig). In 1984 when Gene Simmons' acting career distracted him from KISS, Beauvoir (who had opened for KISS in the Plasmatics) was brought in to (anonymously) play Gene's bass tracks on the Animalize LP. He also co-wrote that album's "Thrills In The Night" In additon to Animalize, his apparently bestial knowhow was tapped for Animal Boy, the Ramones' 1986 LP that Jean produced and co-wrote. He released a solo album, Drums Along the Mohawk (Columbia/Virgin UK), in 1986, which sold over a million copies worldwide (he had a much bigger audience in Europe). He followed it up with several more solo albums, but more significantly with production and writing work for other bands (more in Sweden than the US). In the late 80s and 90s he led two bands who were somewhat popular (in Europe), Voodoo X (the Voodoo aspect was a play on his Haitian heritage), and the Black rock supergroup Crown of Thorns (with Tony Thompson of Chic and Power Station and Micki Free, the pink guitar slinging Prince impersonator of post Jody Watley Shalamar). In recent years he's gone from Mohawk to bald, written for NSYNC, performed with Bruce Springsteen, released a solo acoustic LP, and is working on a beer campaign. Perhaps not the punkest career, but he's kept it interesting. Check out www.jeanbeauvoir.com if you dare. (JA)

BIG COUNTRY - From the un-punkest reaches of the tail end of New Wave, this band did rise from the ashes of the far punker Skids. Featured one Black member, journeyman bassplayer Tony Butler (he played with the Pretenders [in 1984], Pete Townsend, and Roger Daltry, amongst others). (JA)

BLACK DEATH – Though embraced as more of a Metal band than a punk act (their self titled 1983 LP was on the Ohio Metal label Auburn Records), Sikki Spacek and his leather-clad, all African American bandmates definitely played a Hardcore inspired brand of Thrash. The punkest thing about them was that these kids from the wrong side of the tracks (a/k/a/ East Cleveland) rode the bus to their own gigs…with guitars and a full drum kit! (JA)

THE BLENDERS - This band had two Black lead singers (Bobby & Gail). I saw them open for the Bad Brains at CBGBs. No vinyl but they had a lot of fans. I also saw them at Max's. Vocalist Gail Epps is currently working as a stand up comic (edie gourmet) [New Entry, 11/28/06]

BODYCOUNT - Not the Ice T hardcore project, this was an early 80s Maryland punk-Reggae crossover band. The drummer, Crucial Tony, was Black.

BOO (aka THE BOO BAND) - Boo, from Dallas, consisted of two black men on bass, guitar and vocals, and a white, female drummer. They played a variant of Dub Punk, similar to The Basement 5. They never caught on, but, did play at the protests of the 1984 Republican Convention, one of the only local acts afforded such a distinction. (John Battles) [New Entry 9/14/13]

BOSCH - This band from Columbus, OH, started as a studio project called Hieronymus Bosch for a 1977 single ("Rollin' In Firs" on local label Enigma, not the more prominent label of the same name) before emerging as a full-fledged band under the shorter name. Their promo photo shows a Black member. (JP)

KEVIN BOWIE (THE FRONT LINES) - Bowie played bass for the Evanston, IL-based punky power pop band Front Lines. The teen was discovered in a guitar shop by the rest of the band, who were Northwestern University students (including guitarist Kier Strejcek, brother of Nathan of Teen Idles/Dischord fame. Bowie appears on both of their records, Where Do We Go From Here ep (1980, with bluesman Carey Bell guesting on harmonica) and "Capital Attraction" b/w "In This UniverseÓ(1982). A detailed history of the band (including mention of partying with Rick JamesÕ band in Buffalo) can be found at http://strejcek.net/bands/bands.html (JA, thanks to Felicismo Go)

BUDDY BOWSER - Sax player who guested with the Dolls and Johnny Thunders. [New Entry 11/12/05] Bowser also wrote much of Maximillian's debut album. Maximillian was a power trio with an irresistible Garage ineptitude, much like The Gories, though Mick Collins and Dan Kroha disagree with me on that one. (John Battles) [Updated 9/16/13]

CHERYL BOYZE of NASTYFACTS/PANDEMONIUM – Boyze and her band were high school students from Brooklyn circa '79-'80, who played melodic punk and released one amazing collector scum coveted single, "Drive My Car" on Jimboco. Boyze (a/k/a Boyce) was older then the others but they asked her to be in the band (originally called Pandemonium) because she looked cool. She played bass, sang and is credited with writing the songs. They played Max's, CBGB's and even shared a bill with BAD BRAINS at a cowboy bar. Bandmate Brad Craig, as well as other members, are still active musicians but are out of touch with Boyze. Hear MP3s of their single and unreleased stuff at Brad's fretman.com site. The band recorded again in 2004 without Cheryl. Recently Boyze has been performing in San Francisco as King TuffNStuff, a drag king (male impersonator) character who performs excellent original Delta-style blues music. Both Nastyfacts and TuffNStuff have Myspace pages. (JA) [Updated 6/09]

SHAWN BROWN of DAG NASTY: Brown, who is currently involved with Jesus Eater, performed his first show with DC melodic hardcore band Dag Nasty at the WUST Hall in DC in the early 80s. Brown recorded the band's demo, but was out of the band when they recorded their debut. He was also in Swiz and Sweetbelly Freakdown. [New Entry 11/12/05]

BUS BOYS - Time (and a still-nascent, would-be 80's revival) has totally passed this band by, and those who still remember think of them as that bar band that appeared in Eddie Murphy's 48 Hours. I'm still kinda peeved that "Make The Music Go Bang," Don Waller's excellent chronicle of the pre-MTV New Wave scene in L.A., doesn't include any Bus Boys trivia. As Damon Locks from the Eternals exclaimed when he overheard me describing them as a New Wave band: "NEW WAVE??!?? Naw, naw, man, the Bus Boys were mainstream arena rock like Huey Lewis & the News! Where did you get 'New Wave' from?" Well, maybe you had to have been there, but the Bus Boys came from the Los Angeles punk/New Wave scene of the late seventies and early eighties. During the era that they were almost famous, with two moderately-selling albums on Arista that charted in Billboard, it was basically the New Wave crowd that provided a support base. The arena-rock crowd was too busy listening to REO Speedwagon to give a toss about a mostly-Black rock band who dressed like waiters and specialized in throwing stereotypes back into their listeners' faces (Lyric: "...I'll bet you never heard music like this by spades!!!") On their first album, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll, every other song deals with racial issues, turning negative stereotypes (old-school "yassuh, boss" Ebonics, etc.) into a vicious tool of satire. The monkeyshines were toned down on their second LP, 1982's American Worker, and then...nothing. In 1988, with Black rock finally getting another shot on the radar through Living Colour, the Bus Boys reappeared on a label called Voss (related to the soft-drink company?) with the horrid Money Don't Make No Man, which had them chasing the sound of Prince but not quite catching up. (JP)

NIKKI BUZZ of SUN - With his massive afro peeking out in a goofy publicity shot Nikki Buzz, lead singer of Sun, breaks the color line on the Live At CBGB's LP (Atlantic, 1976). Listening too their track the buzzsaw guitars definitely indicate "punk" but a closer listen reveals that they're just playing 60s Blues Rock at double time. The first dead giveaway is that Nikki's vocals are straight out of the Filmore stylewise, not so much sounding like Soul vocals, but sounding like a Black take on the white 60s version of Soul vocals. The real clue that these guys didn't know what punk was about (and why they didn't make it in the scene) is that their tune, "Romance," is five minutes long! Though some discographies indicate Nikki was involved in the funk band Sun from Dayton I think that's a mistake, though he did hail from nearby Louisville, KY. As far as credible post-CBGB's history, lucky for us he kept that ridiculous name throughout his career. In the early 80s Nikki fronted Vendetta who put an album on Epic in 1982, and then at some point (with the help of Curtis Knight…see PURE HELL) he ended up in Europe. The Nikki Buzz Band popped up at Blues fests and clubs around the continent for years, and the latest Buzz sighting has him fronting The Jackson re-5-al Band, a J5 tribute act in Holland. (JA)

BUZZ & THE FLYERS – This was a Black-led rockabilly band on the late '70s NY punk scene; Buzz later changed his name to Dig Wayne and sang with the band JoBoxers in 1983. He's gone into the stage and screen sides of performing in recent years. He appeared in the original London cast of the Louis Jordan musical, 5 Guys Named Moe, and showed up in a few crappy movies, including Judge Dread. (JP)

Brian Young adds: Buzz and the Flyers were a KILLER band - hugely influential on the Uk rockabilly scene as their records were just so good..Syl Sylvain produced their first EP and released it on his Sing Sing label..so much for all us rockabillies (of which I am one!) being racist!..after all wasn't Little Richard one of the first punks!..sadly the Jo Boxers were 80s studio pop....ulp! [Updated 11/12/05]

DAVE BYERS of ENZYMES - Byers played guitar for the Washington, D.C. '80s hardcore band Enzymes, who became the punk-funk band The Psychotics. He was also in the shortlived 1981 band Peer Pressure (see TONI YOUNG), who to my knowledge didn't release any recordings but do show up a few times in the great 1988 photo book, Banned In DC. In '85 Byers was the guitarist for an early incarnation of HR's band Human Rights (also known as HR), and later played in Press Mob, a band with an ambitious take on hardcore. The first punk show he attended was the legendary Cramps show at D.C.'s Hall of Nations (see BAD BRAINS) (JA)

Odd Rocker Orlando Greenhill adds: Dave Byers also played with Los Angeles post punk band Cygnet (with some of the members of Scaterd Few) in the Late 80s. He has since passed on. [Updated 3/11/13]

*Definitions of punk, hardcore and New Wave are landmines and someone's going to be unhappy whatever we say. It is an accepted belief amongst many that "New Wave" was just a term used by the record industry so they could sell punk to the masses, and while there may be something to that, it's undeniable that the safety pin/hate aesthetic of Malcolm McLaren's proteges the Sex Pistols is a different animal than his danceable acts like Bow Wow Wow. "Punk" was first used to reference the garage bands that banged out raw rock across America in the Beatles' wake. The Ramones revived the "Nuggets" aesthetic of these bands, but with a faster, more aggressive, more "fuck you" edge, and bands on both sides of the Atlantic followed suit. If every band sounded just like the Pistols and the Ramones it would be simple to label things, but in New York, LA and London popular-with-the-punk-crowd acts like Television, X and Elvis Costello confuse the issues. As the more diverse acts in the underground became defined as New Wave, the term expanded until it really became defined by what it's not. At some point in the late 70s and early 80s the label New Wave could be hung on any "new" rock music; anything that wasn't REO Speedwagon, Kansas, AC/DC or Allman Brothers might fall into this category, including but not limited to art rock, No Wave, electronic music, British pop, underground dance music, 2-Tone Ska, etc. etc. etc. New Wave can be said to be an afterbirth of punk, though in retrospect, the quirky art rock of Eno and the electronic experiments of Kraftwerk in the early '70s seem to lay the groundwork. A more limited definition, one which looks at New Wave as a marketing of the oddness of the underground to the masses, can be said to start as soon as Malcolm McLaren's Sex Pistols experiment blows itself up and he and much of the "punk" world use their energy in less abrasive projects. I'd say the New Wave era ends in '82-83 when bands like Duran Duran and Culture Club take the keyboard friendly, eclectic elements of McLaren’s New wave archetypes and become the mainstream, getting Beatles-big and making the wave not so new and certainly not outsider-ish. Hardcore, which is definitely not exactly the same thing as punk, is far easier to define. It refers to the almost always aggressive, fast, violent American regional punk that developed in the wake of the self-destruction/mainstream co-opting of punk's original '77-'79 onslaught. Hardcore's glory years were approximately from '80 to '86 or so, but throughout the '80s, '90s and '00s there have always been hundreds (sometimes thousands) of bands around the world playing exact reproductions of '77 style punk and early '80s style hardcore, though the groundwork and innovations pretty much stopped early on. So that’s what I got to say on the subject, let the hate mail commence....


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