Bad Brains’ vocalist, H.R. Photo by Lucian Perkins from the book “Hard Art, DC 1979”
Here’s some godlike video footage of Bad Brains playing Berlin in 1983. I thought I had seen every bit of classic period Bad Brains video out there, but somehow this one avoided my radar until now. Strange I’d missed it, as it’s been up on YouTube since 2011 and I’m certain I must have searched “Bad Brains live” at least a dozen times in the past five years—but sometimes, you know, incredible stuff just bubbles up to the surface. As we’ve said before at Dangerous Minds: “The world will never run out of ‘newly uncovered’ (insert band name here) videos.” The Internet, like Jah, mon, always provides.
There are actually two shows on this video. The first show is from The Loft in Berlin on May 22nd, 1983. The second show begins at about 37 minutes in. I believe it’s also from Germany. Despite some issues with video and audio quality (some of these issues clear up a bit as the show progresses), this is some of the best footage around of the Bad Brains. The band is absolutely on fire. Although the video quality is far from the quality of the commercially available DVD Live at CBGB 1982, I think the band’s performance at this Berlin show eclipses the CBGB performance. The sound quality on the second show is a bit better than the first.
It’s interesting to witness the German audience’s reaction. They are certainly much more stoic than the frenzied pit maniacs you’d have seen at an American Bad Brains show in 1983. And they don’t seem very excited about the reggae numbers AT ALL. The audience highlight is clearly around 25 minutes in when the band launches into “Pay to Cum.” This was probably their most well-known track at the time as it had not only appeared on their first single and the self-titled ROIR cassette, but also on the widely European-distributed Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation on Alternative Tentacles. The crowd goes absolutely pogo apeshit when “Pay to Cum” kicks in. The ritualized American circle-pit hadn’t yet made it to Germany.
It’s worth noting that there are a few songs in the first set that I don’t recognize: two reggae songs and one hardcore song. The band split up for a brief time following this tour, so perhaps that’s why they didn’t get around to recording these songs.
Bad Brains’ singer, H.R., and guitarist, Dr. Know, have both been in the news recently for unfortunate health issues. H.R. is currently raising money to combat a neurobiological disorder that causes extreme cluster headaches, just a week after Dr. Know set up a GoFundMe page to recoup $100,000 in medical expenses incurred from a recent cardiac arrest that left him on life support. It may come as a shock to some, but punk rock doesn’t come with a great insurance and retirement benefits package.
As we keep these guys in our thoughts, let’s remember how absolutely unrelentingly raging a musical force they were.
If you’re a Bad Brains fan and haven’t seen the video after the jump yet, well you’re in for a TREAT…