Big Audio Dynamite

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Big Audio Dynamite
Big Audio Dynamite performing live at Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago, 2011
Big Audio Dynamite performing live at Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago, 2011
Background information
Also known asBAD
OriginLondon, England
Years active
  • 1984–1997
  • 2011
Associated acts
Past members

Big Audio Dynamite (later known as Big Audio Dynamite II and Big Audio, and often abbreviated BAD) are an English band formed in London in 1984 by Mick Jones, the former lead guitarist of the Clash, who has been their only constant member. The band mixed various musical styles, incorporating elements of punk rock, dance music, hip hop, reggae, and funk. After releasing a number of well-received albums and touring extensively throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Big Audio Dynamite broke up in 1997. In 2011, the band embarked on a reunion tour.


T.R.A.C. (1984)[edit]

After being fired from the Clash in 1983 and following a brief stint with the band General Public, Mick Jones formed a new band called Top Risk Action Company (T.R.A.C.). He recruited bassist Leo "E-Zee Kill" Williams, saxophonist John "Boy" Lennard (from Theatre of Hate), and former Clash drummer Nicky "Topper" Headon. Headon was quickly sacked for his heroin addiction and Lennard either left or was fired and the band folded.[1] Although the band released no material (only demos were recorded which have yet to be officially released), T.R.A.C. can be seen as a forerunner to Big Audio Dynamite in much the same way London SS can be seen as an early incarnation of the Clash.

Big Audio Dynamite (1984–1990)[edit]

Jones then formed Big Audio Dynamite with film director Don Letts (maker of The Punk Rock Movie, various Clash music videos, and later the Clash documentary Westway to the World), bassist Leo Williams (from T.R.A.C.), drummer Greg Roberts, and keyboardist Dan Donovan. In 1985 the band's debut, This Is Big Audio Dynamite, was released. The album's cover shows the band as a four piece, minus Donovan who took and designed the photo. In 2016 This is Big Audio Dynamite was reissued on vinyl, with the album being mastered using analog tapes and pressed on 180-gram vinyl.

1986's No. 10, Upping St. reunited Jones for one last album with former Clash lyricist and lead vocalist Joe Strummer, who was credited with co-producing the album and co-writing of 5 of its 9 tracks. The cover painting, based on a still taken from the Brian De Palma film Scarface, was painted by Tim Jones. BAD supported U2 on their 1987 world tour, then released 1988's Tighten Up Vol. 88 and 1989's Megatop Phoenix. Tighten Up, Vol. 88 contained "Just Play Music!", which was the second No. 1 single on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. The band also recorded an unreleased track called "Keep off the Grass" which was a rock-style instrumental of the theme to the classic western film, The Magnificent Seven. A promo video can be seen on YouTube.[2]

In 1990, the original line-up wrote and recorded the song "Free" for the soundtrack to the adventure comedy film Flashback. This would be the final song written with the original line-up, as the band would break-up shortly after. "The Bottom Line" from the band's first album was remixed and used as the title track for Flashback. However, this track was not included on the soundtrack. It can be found on the 12" or by download. Later in 1990, Mick Jones debuted Big Audio Dynamite II and release the UK only album Kool-Aid. Dan Donovan remained in BAD II for one song, a re-working of the final BAD track "Free" renamed "Kickin' In".

Big Audio Dynamite II (1991–1993)[edit]

For 1991's The Globe, only Jones remained from the original incarnation of Big Audio Dynamite, and the band was now called "Big Audio Dynamite II". This new line-up featured two guitarists. The Globe featured the band's most commercially successful single, "Rush," which hit No. 1 on both the US Modern Rock Tracks chart and the Australian National ARIA Chart. "Innocent Child" and "The Globe" were also released as singles.

BAD supported U2 on their Zoo TV Tour, headlined the MTV 120 Minutes tour which also featured Public Image Ltd, Live, and Blind Melon,[3] and released the live EP "On the Road Live '92".

In 1991, while Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite II, the rest of the original lineup briefly formed a band called Screaming Target. They released one album "Hometown Hi Fi" and two singles "Who Killed King Tubby?" and "Knowledge N Numbers" before disbanding. The title and album cover were purposely meant as a tribute to Big Youth's reggae album Screaming Target.

In 1993, Greg Roberts formed the electronic band Dreadzone with Tim Bran, with the name suggested to them by Don Letts. Leo Williams and Dan Donovan joined the band before their second album Second Light and the single "Little Britain" in 1995. Dreadzone is still active, with Roberts and Williams remaining members.

Big Audio (1994)[edit]

A promotional photo of Big Audio Dynamite in 1995

The band later recruited keyboardist Andre Shapps (co-producer of The Globe and Mick Jones's cousin) and DJ Michael " Lord Zonka" Custance as DJ and vocalist. Both appeared on the band's 1994 album Higher Power, which was released under the shortened name "Big Audio".

Final years and subsequent activities (1995–2010)[edit]

After signing a recording contract with Gary Kurfirst's Radioactive Records in 1995, the band reverted to the original "Big Audio Dynamite" moniker and released their least successful album to date, F-Punk.

Radioactive Records refused to release the next proposed BAD album, Entering a New Ride.[4][citation needed] The line-up contained MC vocals by Joe Attard of Punks Jump Up, Ranking Roger of the Beat and General Public and drummer Bob Wond of Under Two Flags. In 1998, the band launched a new website, primarily intended as a means to distribute songs from the Entering a New Ride album. In 2001, after having only released 6 songs from the album, the website went down and Big Audio Dynamite disbanded. Their final album was never properly released in its entirety, but it has been heavily leaked online for fans who wished to hear it.

Since 2005, Jones has been working on a project with Tony James (ex-member of Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik) called Carbon/Silicon.

In early 2007, a BAD II live 8 song DVD was released, titled Big Audio Dynamite Live: E=MC².

Since BAD's official end, several DJs have continued to make mixtapes under the moniker "BAD Soundsystem". However, Mick Jones was never involved in any way with this iteration. The BAD Soundsystem line up consisted of Lord Zonka aka Michael Custance, Joe Attard, with Mick Jones on occasion MC,ing As previously stated, any other line up, was/isn't the original/proper soundsystem[clarification needed]

2011 reunion[edit]

In 2010, Don Letts revealed to that he and Mick Jones broached the idea of a Big Audio Dynamite reunion in 2011. He explained, "I could lie to you and say 'Not in a million years,' but... if Mick wasn't tied up with Gorillaz it might happen this year. (Jones) has looked at me and said, 'Maybe next year,' but who knows. I've got to admit that in the past I'm not a great one for reformations; I always think if you're lucky in life, you get a window of opportunity, use it to the best of your ability and then fuck off and let someone else have their turn. But here I am 25 years down the line considering the thing." Besides a Big Audio Dynamite reunion, Letts said he was also hopeful for more Legacy Editions of the band's albums after finding more unreleased material—including live recordings—in the vaults. "There's definitely more stuff; whether Sony thinks it's worthwhile, that's another matter. But there seems to be a lot of respect for Big Audio Dynamite. Time has shown that a lot of the things we were dabbling in back then have come to manifest themselves hopefully we'll get to do some more."[5]

The reformation of the original line-up of BAD was confirmed on 25 January 2011 with the announcement of a UK tour.[6] The 9-date tour was a commercial and critical success. The first of their two sold out Shepherd's Bush Empire shows received a 4 star review in The Times ('Not just a reformation - this is their time'), The Observer welcomed BAD's return with a glowing review declaring, 'they remain a joy'.[7] News of the World awarded their Manchester Academy show a 5 star review and proclaimed, 'Easily the reformation of the year'.[8] Their headline slot at Beautiful Days festival was favourably reviewed on the Louder Than War music website.[9]

Big Audio Dynamite played sets at the 2011 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival,[10] Glastonbury Festival 2011,[11] and Lollapalooza.[12]


Big Audio Dynamite (1984–1990, 2011)

Big Audio Dynamite II (1990–1993)

Big Audio (1994–1995)

Big Audio Dynamite (1996–1998)

  • Mick Jones – vocals and guitar
  • Nick Hawkins – guitar
  • Andre Shapps – keyboards, programming
  • Michael 'Zonka' Custance – DJ, keyboards, samples
  • Daryl Fulstow – bass
  • Bob Wond – drums
  • Joe Attard – MC
  • Ranking Roger – vocals



  1. ^ "Big Audio Dynamite – "This Is Big Audio Dynamite" (1985)". 10 May 2010. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Big Audio Dynamite - Keep Off The Grass (rare video)". YouTube. 24 December 2006. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  3. ^ "O.C. POP MUSIC REVIEW : That What It Wasn't : A hard-to-take PiL and a so-so B.A.D. II and Blind Melon make for a tedious '120 Minutes.' Live, though, is lively". Los Angeles Times. 28 March 1992.
  4. ^ Colin., Larkin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). London: Music Sales. p. 2600. ISBN 978-0857125958. OCLC 993081261.
  5. ^ "Big Audio Dynamite Reignited". 8 April 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  6. ^ "Big Audio Dynamite reform with original line-up". NME. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  7. ^ Kitty Empire (10 April 2011). "The Naked and Famous; Big Audio Dynamite – review". Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Big Audio Dynamite live at Beautiful Days Festival: review". Louder Than War. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Coachella 2011 Poster". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ "Welcome to Glastonbury Festivals". Glastonbury Festivals. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Lollapalooza 2011". 19 July 2011. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]