You hear that? That persistent low growl rattling around your ears, a persistent and threatening force travelling at high speeds to make its mark. You are helpless to its cause; you are merely a toddler with a pair of safety scissors facing off a juggernaut truck. There is nothing you can do… other than embrace the underappreciated Death.
Before you start panicking that No Taste has turned into a new age murder cult, I would firstly say it’s a little late to start worrying about that and secondly no, I am not talking about our inescapable fate but the record ‘For the Whole World to See’ by the forgotten heroes ‘Death’.
Bobby, David and Dannis Hackney grew up in the troubled city of Detroit, and as with many others, the brothers used music as a way of expressing themselves in a world that often didn’t care. This can be sourced back to an inciting incident in 1964, where they were sat down by their father to witness The Beatles appearance on TV. The boys witnessed them jamming away and of course Ringo Star was laying down a rock solid beat (please people let’s escape this false narrative that he is anything but a standout musician). In awe, the boys decided they were going to be musicians. The following day David found an unwanted guitar lying in an alley, as if by divine fate. He started learning that night, with his brothers following suit; Bobby instead choosing the bass and Dannis opting for the foundation of any group, the drums.
The brothers began practising, finding a joy you can only experience whilst creating art – that warmth that you can derive from putting something beautiful in world – and transformed a hobby into a talent. When they first started playing, they were not the punk-rock heroes that we know and love today but instead they jammed out to the funkiest of genres… well, Funk. They slapped and grooved their hearts out as ‘Rock Fire Funk Express’, a name that I fully intend to steal, and set up gigs in their living rooms and garage, inviting anyone who was even remotely interested. The boys soon grew into fully fledged music dorks (I’m sure all of us can relate) which resulted in seeing lots of live music. This included a ‘The Who’ concert which made the boys step back and go ‘Oh fuck, that’s the future right there’. Unfortunately, their father passed away resulting in David pushing for a name change ‘Death’ as a way of turning something as negative into a positive – bringing them together and honouring their father. It was a hard sell but it worked. David also led the band into the hard rock genre which has an undeniable proto punk taste to it.
The year is now 1975 and Death have finally picked up enough attention to warrant a record contract from Columbia Records. They planned 12 tracks to be released on ‘For the Whole World to See’ but Clive Davis, who at the was funding the recording, insisted on a change of name, as it was not marketable – which is obviously horseshit. This spoke to a larger concern in the industry where Rock’ n ‘Roll was a white man’s genre and black musicians were rarely seen in genres other than Motown, Funk, jazz and soul. This resulted in a lot of concern as to why these 3 black musicians from Detroit were stepping into a white man’s game. After recording 7 blistering tracks the label cut funding due to them refusing to change their name. They independently released the single ‘Politicians in My Eyes’ with the B-side ‘Keep on knocking’ saw a limited run of 500 prints and saw little success.
1979 saw the brothers going their separate ways and moving on to new projects, and sadly Death vanished to the world, only to be remembered as a rare single for record collectors to drool over. Apparently in 2009 we collectively had done enough good that life decided reward us as a species by having the release of a remastered Death (This is obviously a jest; we as a species are irredeemable and deserve nothing good). ‘For the Whole World to See’ was now as the title suggests and people took notice. It wasn’t an explosive success, but people took notice with time. Rightfully so, as the record is incredible, genuinely. It has this very distinctive musical signature that violently drags you in and invests you into the beat. The lyrics are carefully crafted about real issues that sadly are still relevant today and it’s a well realised and paced record; there’s a cohesive and recognisable sound to the piece but none of the tracks ever tread on the others’ toes or blend. Every track stands comfortably on its own, with its own feel and themes whilst supporting the rest of the record. It’s an astonishing release, and if life were fair, I would spend another 1000 words describing the brilliance of each track but then again it would be cruel to rob you of the experience discovery of a first listen.
Since its release people have recognised how truly ahead of their time it was. Sadly, David passed in 2000 but both Bobby and Dannis are making music and even did a follow up release of even more unreleased demos and a new release in 2014 which doesn’t quite hold the same magic as the early releases but it’s still a tasty listen.
In summary Death are a deeply interesting group with some rock-solid releases under their belts, and if you salivating for more there is a fantastic documentary named ‘A Band Named Death’ which is worth checking out. Just listen to the record and you’ll understand why I developed a strong need to write about them. Also, getting to be a smug prick because your mates don’t know who Death are is a very tasty bonus, which I live for.