[Photo: Glen E. Friedman]

Bad Brains, the righteous and ferocious Washington, DC-based rastapunk quartet who arguably invented hardcore, have won back the rights to their back catalog. In the near future, they will undertake an extensive remaster/reissue campaign. The records will be issued on a custom imprint, Bad Brains Records via Org Music.

“Hey what’s up Bad Brains family,” says bassist Darryl Jenifer. “I’m proud to announce to you the blessings and return of all Bad Brains master rights/recordings to Bad Brains and out of Babylonian captivity. These rights and other items include master reels, recently discovered photos, and etc. Thanks to JAH and all involved in this glorious feat. Stay tuned for the ‘re-everything’ involved in all of our nine studio albums and more. Big up to Org Music for their faith, hard work and dedication to Bad Brains Records. We got that PMA, 2020 and beyond.” 

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The operation begins in February 2021 with what was certainly one of history’s first hardcore records, the “Pay To Cum” single. In a world that considered the Ramones the fastest punk band alive, this track had many checking to see if they’d accidentally set their turntables to 78 RPM. It sounded like a Sex Pistols record travelling at Daytona 500 velocity.

Bad Brains (Jenifer, singer HR, his brother Earl Hudson on drums, and guitarist Dr. Know) began as a jazz/funk ensemble, Mind Power. Already interested in metal a la Black Sabbath, early member Sid McCray played them Pistols, Ramones and Dead Boys records. Instantly converted, they named themselves after a song on the Ramones’ Road To Ruin album. They soon caused a stir on DC’s early punk scene. For starters, being Black separated them in a scene dominated by white suburbanites. Now factor in their jazz/funk roots, endowing them with musicianship leagues beyond even the best-known punk bands.

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Bored with standard Ramones-derived punk forms of the day, Hudson soon pushed their tempos to a velocity even beyond Motorhead. A quick listen to future harDCore heroes such as Minor Threat or Scream indicates that the sound of DC punk became Bad Brains. Now factor in two further developments. Firstly, their transmutation to Rastafarianism, leading to the incorporation of deep roots reggae. Then there was their interweaving of ‘30s self-help guru Napoleon Hill’s PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) concept. This created an optimistic counterpoint to punk’s still-prevalent nihilism.

The initial phases of the reissue campaign center on eight titles released across two years, including their original 1982 debut album for the cassette-only ROIR label. The 1983 follow-up, Rock For Light, will be restored to its original mix. Other titles slated for release include I & I Survive, Quickness, The Youth Are Getting Restless, Omega Sessions and Live At The Fillmore 1982. All will be released on vinyl, some with CD and even cassette editions. There will also be limited pressings featuring covers from designer John Yates’ Punk Note Instagram series.