Monday, April 06, 2009

What's In A Name?

Death were a Detroit based trio of brothers - David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney. In the early '70s they started playing r'n'b in their garage, but after seeing Alice Cooper in concert they decided to start playing hard rock. This was the mid seventies, and the African American community was listening to funk, soul and disco. Death did not fit, but they were undeterred and continued to rock. They signed with a small label and started recording. They completed their demo. Supposedly the band's producer met with Clive Davis and played him the music. Clive was into it, and purportedly said he would offer them a deal on one condition - they had to change the band name. This rankled David Hackney, and he refused. No deal. They soon parted ways with their label, self released a single in '76 and soon moved on to other musical projects and raising families. The story takes a crazy twist. Last year one of their kids hears the 1976 single at a party and recognizes his Dad's voice. He finds out that Death has a cult reputation that has grown from the one 7" single. He tells his Dad who digs out the demo from his attic. The son mentions the demos on the internet and a collector who owns a copy of the single happens upon the post. He contacts Drag City, the label contacts the Hackneys, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Death - Where Do We Go From Here
...For The Whole World To See hit record shelves in February. It is a choice historical nugget, a primo slice of high energy garage rock. It is a juxtaposition of styles - classic FM rock a la Hendrix meets the crunching pre-punk sounds of The Stooges & MC5. Its seven songs rage hard, full of quick time changes, catchy choruses and blazing solos. It is, as a recent NY Times article called it, punk before punk was punk. I love it. A highly recommended reissue that I think rock fans will really enjoy.

2 comments:

Buddy Cole said...

Back around the first of the year, one of the music blogs I frequent posted a couple of tracks from "For The Whole World To See." I went straight to Drag City's web site and ordered the cd the same day.

Death fucking rocks. That's all there is to it. You have to wonder how good the finished record would have been. "Keep On Knocking"/"Politicians" by rights should have been a college/classic rock radio staple.

I'm more and more curious to hear 4th Movement now. Christian rock is not particularly known for its musical innovation, but the late 70's early 80's did give us Larry Norman at his peak, Daniel Amos, the 77's, and early, early King's X, etc., so it's possible that 4th Movement didn't trade in its ferocity and innovation. Heck, for all we know they may have thought of themselves as a "Christian" band even when they were called Death.

I'm rambling. To sum up: Death is awesome. Everyone should buy the cd. Peace.

Manhattan D said...

I'm from Detroit, grew up in the 1970s, work for the New York Times (where the story you cite appeared) and I STILL hadn't heard of Death until your post. Thanks. It really is a kind of missing link for a lot of stuff I was hearing on radio in 1975. Electrifying Mojo anyone? Thanks for posting this.