The members of Bad Brains started out playing 70s jazz-rock fusion, but took a sharp turn when they began breaking up their live sets into reggae and punk. Alongside Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys they became pioneers of punk’s hardcore fringe, influencing nearly every subsequent hardcore or quasi-hardcore outfit, including the earliest incarnation of the Beastie Boys. Their live performances were legendary, but their recordings (as the best often are) were difficult to find. Their debut single, “Pay To Cum,” was pressed in limited numbers, and their 1982 debut album was only issued in cassette form by ROIR.

In addition to the Bad Brains tape, the group released a handful of EPs in 1982, finally moving to PVC for 1983’s full-length debut, Rock For Light, which was produced by Ric Ocasek. After various lineup disruptions, a brief stint with major label Epic, and a number of albums later Bad Brains disbanded and spent some time on solo endeavours, before reforming, playing a couple of successful and infamous CBGB gigs and releasing the inspired Build A Nation in 2007.

Lest there be any question about who is the hardest and heaviest of all time…

You can read more about Bad Brains and their early roots in Washington, DC check my latest feature story THE MIGHTY ROOTS OF ENGLISHMAN.