I’m not gonna pretend to know everything about punk, but I’ve managed to learn a little as I slowly catch myself up on all the original architects of punk. And somewhere between Stooges/ MC5 protopunk and the big bang of Ramones, sits this obscure Detroit band, Death, who’s music finally found wide release a couple months ago (yeah, I’m probably a little late coming to this by internet standards).
And they have a great story too. Three brothers, David, Dannis, and Bobby Hackney, ditch their R&B sound for rock after seeing an Alice Cooper show. (David started playing guitar when he found one in the trash the day after he and his brothers saw The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show). Playing shows locally, they eventually caught the ear of the head of Columbia Records when they randomly set up studio time at a company owned by Stax producer Don Davis. They were ready to release an album in 1975, but it all fell apart when they were asked to change their name.
Of course, this would seem to be the perfect punk legend of not selling out, but supposedly part of the reason to stick with the name was that David planned to pen a (decidedly un-punk sounding) rock opera that looked at death in a positive light. Only 7 of the planned 12 songs got recorded. Their self-released 7″ of “Politicians in My Eyes/Keep on Knocking” became collector’s item among hard core audiophiles, but most of the work recorded for the album was not released until February 2009, by Drag City. There are some definitely great songs here, but they’re even more fun when you think about the fact that they were written in 1974.
Three of the sons of Bobby Hackney from Death now play in a punk band called Rough Francis, which cover a lot of their father’s songs.