Bad Brains (album)

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Bad Brains
Bad Brains debut.jpg
1996 CD reissue cover
Studio album by Bad Brains
Released February 5, 1982
Recorded August – October 1981
May 16, 1981
Studio 171-A
Length 33:56
Label ROIR
Producer Jay Dublee
Bad Brains chronology
Bad Brains
Rock for Light
Alternate cover art
1989 reissue as Attitude: The ROIR Sessions.
1989 reissue as Attitude: The ROIR Sessions.
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[2]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[3]
The Village VoiceB+[4]

Bad Brains (also known as The Yellow Tape[5] or Attitude: The ROIR Sessions) is the debut studio album recorded by American hardcore punk/reggae band Bad Brains Recorded in 1981 and released on the cassette-only label ROIR on February 5, 1982, many fans refer to it as "The Yellow Tape" because of its yellow packaging, much in the way that the Beatles' self-titled record is often called "The White Album."[6] Though Bad Brains had recorded the 16 song Black Dots album in 1979 and the 5-song Omega Sessions EP in 1980, the ROIR cassette was the band's first release of anything longer than a single.[7]

Background and recording[edit]

After being banned from all the major clubs in their hometown of Washington, DC, Bad Brains moved to New York City in 1981.[8] In addition to their regular gigs at CBGB's, the band frequented Jerry Williams' 171-A Studios in Alphabet City. Named for its location between 10th and 11th Streets on Avenue A, 171-A was a 60-foot room with a stage at one end and an elevated sound-proof booth at the other.[9] When the Bad Brains played a gig at 171-A in May 1981, Williams recorded it on reel-to-reel tape. The band liked the sound and returned to 171-A to record between August and October 1981. 12 of the 15 tracks on the album came from these sessions, while "Jah Calling", "Pay to Cum" and "I Luv I Jah", were from Williams' live recording in May.[10]


Bad Brains was originally released on February 5, 1982 in cassette-only format[nb 1] on Reachout International Records (ROIR). The cover art depicts DC's Capitol Building being struck by a bolt of lightning.[8] The original cover art unfolded to include a photo of the band, album credits, lyrics to all the songs, and liner notes by then New York Rocker and Soho News critic Ira Kaplan, who would later front the band Yo La Tengo.[11] Rather than label the tape's sides A/B or one/two, the band designated them Side 1/Side A.

The original edition of the cassette had a white spine on the J-card and a red cassette shell. Subsequent editions had an all-yellow J-card with either red, gold, or green cassette shells, in a nod toward band's Rastafarian leanings. Later versions appeared in solid white, solid orange, and transparent red tape shells. Because the yellow cassette shell was most common and it came in a matching yellow package, many fans referred to it as "The Yellow Tape".[6]

Bad Brains EP[edit]

In 1981 the Dead Kennedys' record label Alternative Tentacles opened an office in the United Kingdom to issue special editions of records by American punk bands for the UK market. The single version of the Bad Brains' "Pay to Cum" had appeared on the Alternative Tentacles compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans! and with the ROIR sessions available, a few songs were selected for a 1982 UK release as a 12" EP. The record's sleeve featured the same lightning-strikes-the-Capitol art that appeared on the ROIR cassette, and the back cover had the inner J-card's band photo, credits, lyrics, and Kaplan's liner notes. The record also mimicked the tape's Side 1/Side A aesthetic, differing in that one side was reggae and the other hardcore punk, unlike the cassette, which interspersed the two genres. Because Alternative Tentacles UK was a short-lived venture, the Bad Brains EP is rare, and for eight years was the only appearance of these songs on vinyl.

Track listing[edit]

Side 1

  1. "I Love I Jah"

Side A

  1. "I"
  2. "Sailin' On"
  3. "The Big Takeover"

Reception and influence[edit]

When the album was first released, fans and critics alike were stunned to learn that the musicians behind this album – one of the fastest albums of all time upon its release – were African-American Rastafarians who also were skilled at reggae.[citation needed]

The album was a crucial step in the evolution of hardcore punk and the eventual fusion of hard rock and reggae adopted later by bands like Sublime, Fishbone, and 311.[citation needed]

Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys was quoted as saying that this album is "the best punk/hardcore album of all time".[1]

To this day, many people involved in the hardcore scene regard it as one of the greatest hardcore albums of all time and a groundbreaking release for the hardcore punk genre.


In 1989, In-Effect Records released a CD version, with the same track listing, titled Attitude: The ROIR Sessions.[nb 2]

In 1990, Dutch East India Trading, through its imprint Homestead Records, was the first label to release the album on vinyl in the United States.[nb 3]

In 1996, ROIR reissued the original album on CD, featuring a hidden bonus track, followed by an on LP version the following year.[nb 4]


Many of the album's tracks were re-recorded for their 1983 follow-up, Rock for Light, with the exception of "Don't Need It", "The Regulator", "Jah Calling", "Leaving Babylon", "Pay to Cum", "I Luv I Jah". The instrumental final track on Bad Brains, titled "Intro", became the first nine seconds of Rock for Light's title song.

Cover versions[edit]

Appearances in other media[edit]

In 2008, the song "Right Brigade" was included in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, for its reproduction through the in-game radio station Liberty City Hardcore (LCHC).

Track listing[edit]

Side A
1."Sailin' On"1:55
2."Don't Need It"1:07
4."The Regulator"1:08
5."Banned in D.C."2:12
6."Jah Calling" (live in studio)2:31
8."Leaving Babylon"4:10
Side B
9."Fearless Vampire Killers"1:07
11."Big Take Over"2:57
12."Pay to Cum" (live in studio)1:25
13."Right Brigade"2:27
14."I Luv I Jah" (live in studio)6:22


Bad Brains



  1. ^ ROIR #A106
  2. ^ In-Effect #88561-3002-2
  3. ^ Dutch East India Trading #DEI2001-1
  4. ^ ROIR #RUSLP 8223


  1. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "Bad Brains – Bad Brains". AllMusic. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha (2004). "Bad Brains". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  3. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert (May 4, 1982). "Christgau's Consumer Guide – Bad Brains: Bad Brains (ROIR)". The Village Voice. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  5. ^ Harvell, Jess (June 28, 2007). "Bad Brains: Build a Nation". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Ellison IV, John (July 4, 2011). "More than Meets the Eye: My Interview with MVP". Ghetto Punk Rocker. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Bad Brains: Artist Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". AllMusic. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Logan, Ben; Stein, Mandy (2012). Bad Brains: A Band in DC (documentary). Plain Jane Productions.
  9. ^ "171-A Studios in New York: Beastie Boys, Bad Brains". Popturf. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  10. ^ Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Second ed., 2010. Feral House. ISBN 9781932595895.
  11. ^ Russonello, Giovanni (24 December 2014). "Yo La Tengo: Indie rock's standard-bearer is still changing the formula, 30 years in". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ "john frusciante – sailin'on (bad brains cover)". YouTube. 2008-03-30. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 

External links[edit]