By melding punk with reggae, Bad Brains became one of the definitive American hardcore punk groups of the early '80s. Although the group released only a handful of records during its peak, including the legendary cassette-only debut, Bad Brains, they developed a dedicated following, many of whom would later form their own hardcore and alternative bands. As for Bad Brains themselves, they continued to record and tour in varying lineups led by guitarist Dr. Know into the late '90s yet never managed to break out of their cult status.
Dr. Know (born Gary Miller), a former jazz fusion guitarist, formed Bad Brains in 1979, inspired by both the amateurish rage of the Sex Pistols and the political reggae of Bob Marley. Realizing that the lines between punk and reggae were already blurred in the U.K., he set out to replicate that situation in the U.S., and he recruited several similarly minded musicians -- vocalist H.R. (born Paul D. Hudson), bassist Darryl Aaron Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson -- to prove his point. Bad Brains quickly became one of the most popular punk bands on the East Coast, particularly in their hometown of Washington, D.C. Their live performances were legendary, but their recordings 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 other EPs in ...