Edinburgh‘s Queen‘s Hall and Glasgow‘s Queen Margaret Union will be host to an unlikely-looking bunch of musical gypsies; a former punk rocker who some say has seen better days. a couple of Rastas with
dreadlocks three feet long. a ; keyboard player doubling as the
3 group‘s photographer and a
‘ drummer who is slave to the rhythm j oftheir sixth member. a beatbox that - pounds out an insistent tattoo. over
and over. until there‘s no mistaking its message: THIS IS BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE!
The cosmopolitan mix of their music is one of the most important legacies of that musical watershed punk rock. a decade old this year. as ageingjournalists keep reminding us. as ifcompensating for the loss of their youth by making sure the Live/Red Wedge generation learn it parrot-fashion. Back in those days B.A.D. founder Mick Jones was lead guitarist for The (‘lash who. along with the Sex Pistols. were the kings ofthe scene. They all hung out down
London‘s Roxy. where a natty dread
ofa DJ named Don Letts opened the young punks‘ ears to the reggae sounds of artists like Delroy Wilson and Burning Spear. the beginning of an uneasy and condescending affinity felt by the punks for Rastamen. Pretty soon. reggae elements were being introduced into the music of three-chord punkers like The Ruts. Stiff Little Fingers and most significantly The Clash. whose version ofJunior Marvin‘s ‘Police And 'I‘hieves‘ so impressed the legendary dub wizard Lee ‘Scratch‘ Perry that he produced a single for them.
From there on The (‘lash diversified in a bewildering variety of directions. Mick Jones finding himselfequally at home with any style. Then came the triple-album ‘Sandinista!‘. a bizarre monument to eclecticism- gone-mad and an embarrassing disaster on nearly all fronts. Artistic control was wrested away from Jones by Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon. and the band tnoved back to more out-and-out rockers. with the occasional reggae number to supplement their increasingly tired music. By this time Mick had discovered electrobeat and hip hop in the streets and discos of New York. The discovery hit him like a thunderbolt. showing him a way to break the logjam. David Byrne ofTalking Ileads is well known for his contention that black dance production is more radical than punk rock. and now Mick Jones
more radical than punk
of The (‘lash could see a way to unite the two. The others didn‘t want to know. and then. to cap it all. management problems arose. Eventually. in an ugly dispute more than two years ago. Jones picked up his guitar and walked out.
The story is picked up by Don Letts. the aforementioned Roxy DJ. now fully-ﬂedged member of Big Audio Dynamite. ‘Shortly after leaving The (‘lash. about fifteen minutes after. Mick started to get
another band together. ‘cause he
Roaring up the charts with a rudimentary knowledge of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the strongest backbeat heard this year, Big Audio
Dynamite play Glasgow on 18 April and Edinburgh on 19th. Don Letts lets up long enough to tell Mab what makes them the hippest B.A.D. boys in town. Mick Jones (right) looks on. Photograph of Don Letts by Miriam Reik.
can't do anything else. '1 he only thing Mick could really see himself doing. I believe. is to be in a group. and he got together with a bass player called Leo ‘E-Zee Kill‘ Williams and Greg Roberts the drummer. Mick hates jazz. so they didn't want to be a trio. and they were looking for someone else. They saw me in a club one night. and I was surrounded by a bunch ofgirls. looking so cool it was untrue —
' y‘know. like something out of Miami
Vice — and they said Yeah! That‘s the man! For the group! And I said Hold up! [can‘t play anything. And Mick said have these coloured stickers on your keyboard. so you‘ll know what notes to play. and it‘ll be all right.‘
A punk ideal typical ofJones: From fresh heads come fresh ideas. But Letts‘ selection wasn‘t such a random choice as it sounds. The pair had known each other since the early days. after Letts had gone to Ilarlesden. ‘I saw The (‘lash play there. and there were these wild-eyed while men. and I didn‘t understand a word they were saying. but I didn‘t half get offon it! And then I met him really at The Roxy. skulking around in the shadows. and we sort of formed a friendship there.‘
That friendship led to a partnership of a kind. Letts being drafted in to direct The (‘lash videos. starting with the acclaimed ‘l-ondon (‘alling‘. He went on to do nearly ltlf) more for names like Elvis Costello. Public Image Ltd (with whose Jeanette Lee Letts had once co-managed a shop on the King‘s Road). The (iap Band. The Pretenders and Musical Youth with their massive hit ‘Pass The Dutchie‘. ‘While I was a DJ at the Roxy I sort ofgot off on the punk energy and it inspired me to get involved. but they were all playing guitars and looking really cool. and I couldn‘t do that. so picked up a camera and worked out a kind of
thing with that instead.‘ Such
modesty. Letts was one of the most sought~after video directors ofthe
time. renowned for his originality
‘ and taste. So why stop?
‘The groups got progressively worse and worse. and I just got fed up with it. It wasn‘t artistic any more. it was like factory filming. you know
what I mean?‘
So with Mick bandless and Don in a trough the stage was set. and the ﬁrst Bid Audio Dynamite single. ‘The Bottom Line‘ went on release last autumn. A credible fusion of rock
a funkier proposition
and beatbox funk. with one of the best guitar lines of the year. a chorus that urged self-respect and singalong. it was also a hit in practically every New York disco. E= .MC3 . the follow-up. is equally danceable and hovering around the Top'l‘en this very minute. Letts contributes keyboards. percussion and special effects via a digital sampler and a hold-all full ofstorage discs. Thus. B.A.D. songs are enlivened by snatches ofdialogue from thrillers and westerns. plus any odd sound effects he finds lying around. ‘We use these voices and other‘bits of the media like another instrument. you know what I mean? They could be a guitar or something else.‘
At the moment. prescribed listening for B.A.D. members are the heavy metal hip hop bands on Rick Rubin‘s DefJam label in the States. who rap along to snatches of ACT/DC and Led Zeppelin. joyfully mucked about with. That sort ofglee carries on to the LP ‘This is Big Audio Dynamite‘. and indeed the track ‘Stone Thames‘ has the cheekiest pieces ofDJ scratching I‘ve ever heard. What next? A turntable with a tremolo arm?
‘We‘re looking for excitement.‘
says Letts. ‘and something that we can get off on. holding our heads up
in our home town. ‘Cause things are so lame out there. you‘ve got
conservative charts. you‘ve got Cliff Richard and The Young Ones at Number One. We think it‘s time to clean out all that stuff and bring in some new ideas. ‘cause we don‘t think that ideas have run out yet.‘
The LP isn‘t ﬂawless. There are too many fillers. and the ‘impressionist travelogue‘ lyrics can begin to grate but. when they‘re on top. the energetic drive of B.A.D. silences the complaints. Letts rates Sigue Sigue Sputnik — ‘They shook the place up. I liked that‘ — and there are superficial similarities in their use of sound effects. but B.A.D. aren‘t a scam. they‘re a much funkier proposition and a more durable one. Plus they‘re making it in the arena The Clash without Jones have minimal understanding of: the danceﬂoor. And now the charts.
‘I guess ifwe keep coming up with the goods we‘ll get bigger and better.‘ says Letts. ‘Cause the record‘s the currency. right? And as long as we‘ve got plenty ofbank we‘ll be rockin‘. Or as long as we‘re rockin‘ we‘ll have plenty of bank.‘ To lighten my darkness he adds, ‘When I talk about bank I‘m talkin‘ about ideas. My bank manager‘s got £4 million worth of ideas.‘
'I‘he Lisifts April — 1 Mar