I’m a sucker for an underdog story. When I heard about the documentary A Band Called Death, I was intrigued enough to track down the movie. I found it available for 10$ on the iTunes Store (US only I think), but the movie is actually touring (and will be in Montreal in October) so it can be seen in theaters if you’re lucky.
The movie is about three black brothers in Detroit in the early seventies you formed a band (called Death, not to be confused with the death metal band of the same name). The unusual thing is that they were influenced by bands like The Who and Alice Cooper (as they call it “White boy music”) while the black community in Detroit was ruled by the Motown Sound. Their hard edged music recalls the MC5 and Bad Brains, and foreshadows punk before punk existed (they recorded 7 tracks for an album in 1974, 2 years before the first Ramones album). They were offered a record deal by mogul Clive Davis, on condition that they change their name, because he feared no one would be interested in a band with such a name. They refused, and Davis dropped them. Their only release was a 45 of Politicians in My Eyes for which 500 copies were pressed.
The movie then goes on to detail how faith and happenstance got their music re-discovered in 2009, and the forgotten master tapes were found and used to finally release …For the Whole World to See, their only album.
The movie is a great story of brotherhood, dedication and serendipity, and of the human spirit. The twist and turns the album had to take to finally come out are amazing, and you’re left wondering if Death could have changed the face of punk (their music was certainly good enough. Keep on Knocking is classic 70’s guitar rock!) I highly recommend this movie, whether or not you like punk music.
The album on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/…for-the-whole-world-to-see/id303817016
Death on Wikipedia.
The official website.
- 10 Great Documentaries About Punk Rock (flavorwire.com)
- Don’t Call Them Proto-Punk: ‘A Band Called Death’ (Short Ends and Leader) (popmatters.com)
- ‘Ahead of punk, ahead of their time’: The resurrection of a band called Death (dangerousminds.net)
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage
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