Thursday, December 10, 2009

Listening Post

The soundtrack to my budding mid-life crisis continues.

There are very few bands that I honestly tell people fifteen to twenty years younger than me that they should be sorry they missed. Oddly, as great as the punk movement was -- and I admit to being too young to have caught more than the tail end of it -- it's not the kind of thing that, as a whole, I would've called exciting in a "man, you should've been there" kind of way. (I'll leave that brand of touting of the cultural supremacy of one's past to the Boomers.) That said, hearing the Clash for the first time was indeed the epiphany so many still claim -- and the band that arose out of its ashes turned out to be equally revolutionary.

That band was Big Audio Dynamite -- or BAD -- and they remain one of the most underappreciated acts in rock history. I say this not because they didn't sell records or garner critical accolades, but because these days they're not often hailed as the light-years-ahead-of-their-time bridge between punk rock and the dozens of splinter movements that would come after it, which they should be. BAD fused a truckload of eclectic, disparate styles into one hallucinatory mish-mash that was just plain beyond description. Fronted by Clash guitarist Mick Jones DJ Don Letts, BAD was the first band to truly combine elements of punk, funk, reggae, the emerging sound of turntable hip-hop, a liberal amount of sampling and, hell, even Tarantino-esque spaghetti western influences, into an entirely new culture-jammed kind of sound. The first time you heard BAD, you immediately thought, "What the hell is that?"

And to this day, there's never been anyone quite like them.

Here now, two from Big Audio Dynamite. First up, from their 1985 debut album, this is The Bottom Line.

And from that album's follow-up, 1986's No. 10 Upping Street, here's a song I still think is one of the coolest dance-rock tracks ever recorded: C'mon Every Beatbox.


Alanna said... happy you posted this. BAD. I love them. The 2-tone wave of ska combined a lot of the musical elements you listed in your post and The Specials were an influence on some of stylings that BAD adopted (and adapted). Jerry Dammers = genius. I think the Specials in their early years (then going as the Coventry Automatics) opened up for the Clash...I am sure Strummer dug the inspiration for BAD.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Chez. "The Globe" is still my all-time fave BAD track since Mick gives props to The Clash in the samples.

Dave G said...

I couldn't agree more. A lamentably unappreciated band. These are still 2 of my all time favorite tracks. The guitar sound in the intro of The Bottom Line still sends shivers up my spine, and a great shout along chorus to go with it.

kanye said...

Good call on The Specials, Alanna. Jimmy Skafish covered some of this ground early on as well.

(Quick aside--In 1976, my father took me to see Skafish; just shy of my eleventh birthday.)

Alex said...

Alright - flashbacks of cruising in the berlinetta when i heard this.