Somewhere at the birth of punk is …Death.

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).

Death (the band)

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.

Death – Keep on Knocking(mp3)

Death – Politicians in My Eyes(mp3)

Get the whole album from Drag City(support the label!) or here

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.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Somewhere at the birth of punk is …Death.

  1. Bucky Sinister

    Thanks for the heads-up on Death! I wasn’t familiar with them, and that’s some sweet-sounding proto-punk.

  2. Chad K

    Thanks for the heads up regarding Death in a previous blog post of yours.
    I typically consider myself pretty well versed in the realm of punk rock, particularly that of the late 70’s, early 80’s, but am always finding gems by happenstance, or in this case, friends with their ears held close to the ground.

    There are, countless bands out there, that for any number of reasons, simply toiled in obscurity until they gave up and were eventually forgotten about. It has been left up to the biggest supporters in positions of privilege to resurrect these be it John Reis of Rocket From the Crypt reissuing San Francisco’s “Crime” on his Swami imprint, or as did Jello Biafra of Alternative Tentacles w/ Miami’s garage rockers “The Eat”, or Seattle’s own Light In The Attic Records and the late 60’s German band composed of former American G.I.’s, “The Monks”, who, too are credited with honing the raw and visceral abrasiveness that later came to a head in the proto-punk, punk, and post-punk to follow.

    At any rate, thanks for bringing this forgotten band to my attention. They probably won’t be of any interest to the self-appointed Greenville hipster cognoscenti and their immediate concern with the Brooklyn band of the month, but they’ve surely struck a chord with me and my insatiable hunger for all things genuinely expressive.

    Oh yea, through some research I’ve learned that the sons of Death member Bobby Hackney Sr. currently play in a Burlington, VT based band called Rough Francis. Pretty decent. Perhaps you can see if they are touring and are willing to take the time to melt Greenvillain face when they’ve got a minute.

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