The Bad Brains’ explosive live performances beginning in the late 1970s established Washington, D.C.’s reputation for breeding some of of the most important bands of punk rock and, as hyperbolized in one of their best known songs, were rowdy enough to get the group “Banned in D.C.”
On Tuesday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said Bad Brains has been nominated for placement alongside the likes of Elvis and The Beatles – the group’s first nod since becoming eligible in 2007. The punk pioneers appear on a shortlist of 19 artists, and the five finalists will be announced in December.
The nomination applies to the four members behind Bad Brains’ most well-known lineup, and the majority of the group’s existence: singer Paul “H.R.” Hudson, bassist Daryl Jenifer, drummer Earl Hudson and guitar player Gary “Dr. Know” Miller. Other artists nominated for the hall of fame are Chaka Khan, Chic, Electric Light Orchestra, Depeche Mode, The J. Geils Band, Jane’s Addiction, Janet Jackson, Joan Baez, Joe Tex, Journey, Kraftwerk, MC5, Steppenwolf, The Cars, The Zombies, Tupac Shakur and Yes.
While never quite banned in D.C., Bad Brains’ energetic and uproarious performances at venues in the District and elsewhere earned them not just notoriety, but the admiration of local musicians who were subsequently driven to start successful bands of their own. Live sets brimming with 90-second songs performed at breakneck speeds with utmost precision inspired an entire generation of young D.C. punks like Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye to pursue music before later becoming punk icons in their own right for their work in groups like Black Flag and Minor Threat, respectively.
Bad Brains “were really one of the great bands that existed of all time,” Mr. MacKaye, the co-founder of Discord Records, recalled in Michael Azerrad 2001 book, Our Band Could Be Your Life.
In addition to inspiring young musicians in D.C. and beyond, the Bad Brains’ all-black lineup shattered expectations during punk rock’s formative years and helped paved the way for fellow black musicians to pursue similar paths.
“They helped light the way for us. Well deserved!” Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid said on Twitter.
Eric Avery, a founding member of fellow Hall of Fame hopeful Jane’s Addiction, told The Washington Times on Tuesday that he hopes Bad Brains make it to the list of finalists. In an email, Mr. Avery recalled seeing Bad Brains perform at a horse racing track in Los Angeles during the early 1980s years and said the group quickly became “the measure of musicianship.”
“They were guys that, not only had an overabundance of energy and attitude, could really play their instruments,” said Mr. Avery.
Bad Brains have released nine studio albums since their eponymous debut in 1982, including at least one during each decade. They played their hometown as recently as a 2012 performance at Howard Theater, but lately the group has been sidelined by health issues: Dr. Know was on life support for two weeks after suffering from multiple organ failure last year, and H.R. announced in December that he’s battling a rare neurobiological disorder known as SUNCT that plagues him with persistent cluster headaches.
In a crowdfunding page for H.R.’s medical expenses, his wife wrote that a documentary on the singer is expected to be screened at a film festival in London next month. Attempts to reach the band and its management for comment were not immediately successful.