free statistics

Death, Proto-Punk and the New York Times

March 16th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon


Oh, I just live to learn about music like this. I’d never heard of Death until this afternoon, but the whole thing has me unstuck in time. Half of me is lying on the floor in high school, in someone’s dark room smoking pot and watching punk posters peel off the wall and getting my mind blown by something caustic and brand-new. The other half of me is in my friend Patrick’s mildewy garage trying to put together our own garage-punk band. I can smell the grass from the lawn mower, the mildew from the wet carpet in the corner and hear the ringing in my ears. Then a third half of me dreams of remixing my last band’s unreleased music into a similar find …

But enough about that. From the New York Times:

Forgotten except by the most fervent punk rock record collectors — the band’s self-released 1976 single recently traded hands for the equivalent of $800 — Death would likely have remained lost in obscurity if not for the discovery last year of a 1974 demo tape in Bobby Sr.’s attic. Released last month by Drag City Records as “… For the Whole World to See,” Death’s newly unearthed recordings reveal a remarkable missing link between the high-energy hard rock of Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5 from the late 1960s and early ’70s and the high-velocity assault of punk from its breakthrough years of 1976 and ’77. Death’s songs “Politicians in My Eyes,” “Keep On Knocking” and “Freakin Out” are scorching blasts of feral ur-punk, making the brothers unwitting artistic kin to their punk-pioneer contemporaries the Ramones, in New York; Rocket From the Tombs, in Cleveland; and the Saints, in Brisbane, Australia. They also preceded Bad Brains, the most celebrated African-American punk band, by almost five years.

Jack White of the White Stripes, who was raised in Detroit, said in an e-mail message: “The first time the stereo played ‘Politicians in My Eyes,’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. When I was told the history of the band and what year they recorded this music, it just didn’t make sense. Ahead of punk, and ahead of their time.”

Here’s a song, via Youtube — it’s just a tune with the image of the record laid over it:

Filed under Jeff Simmermon having 3 Comments »

Comments are closed.