A Band Called Death (2012)
RADIO HOST 1: The New York Times,
this past Sunday, there
was an article about
the first black punk rock group
called Death in the '70s.
And they found these old recordings.
And they have an album
that they put out now.
They have pictures of these guys
back in the '70s. One of them died.
And now I'm dying to hear
this fucking group's music.
- Should be good.
- RADIO HOST 2: What were they called?
RADIO HOST 1: They were called Death.
RADIO HOST 3: Death.
(WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE???
HENRY ROLLINS: The quick version
of the Death story is almost like the tease
at the beginning of a movie trailer.
Three black guys, in the '70s,
from Detroit, Michigan, blood brothers.
Three black cats from Detroit,
played heavy, punk, rock 'n' roll.
ALICE COOPER: It's pretty hard to
be black playing rock in Detroit.
'Cause they were sort
of stereotyped into...
You had to be Motown, if you were black.
Death's music was definitely
ahead of its time.
They really predated
what we know as the punk movement.
Nobody was making music like that in '73.
They have to be properly credited
as being visionaries.
ELIJAH WOOD: You have a record
that is so perfect in its innovation,
it makes it all the more shocking
that it didn't manage to find a way
to come out then.
They're kind of like the Unknown Soldiers
BEN BLACKWELL: They were recordings
that were simply put away.
There's been hardcore history sitting up
in that attic, and no one's known about it.
Thirty years after the fact,
we're just now discovering this band
that had been sort of lying in wait.
It's such a great story and it's, uh...
It's punk rock.
Welcome to my neighborhood.
This is where Death was born.
- This is our old friend...
- ...that we grew up with.
- This is Kathleen. She lives right here.
- They telling the story about Death.
- You remember Death.
- I'm still here.
They telling the story about our old band
that we used to drive you all crazy
with all of our loud music.
Yeah, I remember that.
I remember that, yes.
Oh, yeah, there you go!
David... David... You know what?
But you know what?
That was my boy, though. That was my boy.
He was all right.
My name is Dannie Hackney.
I played the drums, and I was born and
raised in the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan.
Well, I remember when I...
You all were teenagers, uh...
- DANNIS: That's right. That's very right.
- Yeah. Right, yeah?
I'm Bobby Hackney.
I am a bass player.
My parents, Earl Vonlee Hackney
and Majora Florida Hackney,
two beautiful people.
I was the youngest of, uh, four boys.
Our oldest brother was Earl.
David was born the second.
And then it was Dannie.
And, um, I came along.
EARL JR; I am indeed the eldest,
and that was ingrained in them also,
because I'd say,
"Never forget, I'm second in command
to Moms and Pop."
DANNIS: Spirituality plays into our life
right from the beginning of our roots.
You know, our dad was a Baptist minister.
We're preacher's sons.
EARL JR.: Being a minister's kid
taught us the Word,
from Genesis to Revelation.
I mean, we all became versed in the Word.
BOBBY: He always told us, you know,
if you try your best in life
to keep your promise to God
and give God time enough
to keep His promise to you.
DANNIS: My old man instilled into us
to back up your brother.
So all of our lives we
grew up with this idea
that, you know,
we gotta back up your brother.
We made a pact with each other
that we would never fight,
we would never do anything
to hurt each other.
We were all close.
I mean, we all were very, very close.
BOBBY: Moms, you got so many
grandchildren, you can't keep up now.
- MAJORA: I don't try.
- (ALL LAUGHING)
I got eight kids.
I'm proud of every one of them.
- BOBBY: That's right. That's right.
- Love every one of them.
- Your son, David...
- BOBBY: You're gonna see everybody came...
I don't know what David's doing up there,
but there's a lot of good things going on
in our lives, because of all his things.
- Um, yeah.
- It is.
Yeah, I know that out of... David...
We talk about Dave all the time.
- I know. You said... I know.
- You know, me and Viv, we talk about Dave.
- Some of the things he did.
- (ALL LAUGH)
DANNIS: I mean, we were kind of crazy kids.
We thought of some games
that was really weird.
I remember one time we was having
a squirt gun fight.
You know, Dave hid behind the garage
and pissed in his.
You know, just...
Just some of Dave's pranks, you know.
EARL JR.: David was kind of creative
when it comes to the...
I mean, he would put together
some makeshift stuff
that just would work that...
That you wouldn't believe.
DANNIS: He took the telephone one time
and pulled wires and he pinched wires,
and the next thing you know,
you pick up the phone, it's...
And, you know, we actually
have tapes of this.
David used that to scare people.
(DAVID'S VOICE ECHOING)
(DIAL TONE BEEPING)
BOBBY: Uh, growing up in Detroit...
it was just a... It was a great time.
It was that Motown time.
You know, that real time when Motown
was churning out all those amazing hits.
You know, it was just such a bustling town.
Well, the presence of music,
that all started with my mom and dad.
They were always music fans.
- (ALL CHATTERING)
- Just in right here,
my mother used to have a little clock radio,
little gray radio right in that corner over there.
Every morning we would sit at the table,
eating breakfast, listening to CKLW.
MAN: All right.
- And they played everything.
- MAN: Mmm-hmm. Yeah, back in the day.
Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger.
And I'm thankful to my mom and dad,
'cause they never held us back
from listening to music.
They would always tell us,
DANNIS: There's so many people
who brought music into the house.
I mean, it was my dad who sat us down
and made us watch the Beatles.
BOBBY: The minute I saw Paul McCartney
singing and playing that Beatle bass,
I wanted to play bass and
still wanted to sing.
Then David tuned in to John Lennon
playing the guitar and...
And it was David who rallied us to, you
know, be a band and get together and...
And that made him the leader.
BOBBY: That's your first drum.
DANNIS: This is my first drum.
- MAN: What? Jesus Christ.
- Very first drum.
(LAUGHS) Right here.
So I used to put two knives,
two butter knives, on here
to make it sound like a snare.
DANNIS: One time we had some good luck
in our family
and our mother got a settlement
from a car accident.
And suddenly we had some money.
And she gave us kind of a choice
of what we wanted to do.
First thing we did was
went to Manny's Music, man.
BOBBY: I bought a Rickenbacker guitar
and a Fender guitar.
David bought a brand-new Fender guitar.
Bob went and bought himself
an acoustic amplifier,
so I had to have the
best drums I could find.
I went and bought me
a Slingerland set of drums.
BOBBY: I had a bass,
Dannie had some drums, David, his guitar.
We started jamming together.
MAN 1". Here we go.
MAN '2". One, two, three, four!
(ROCK MUSIC PLAYING)
BOBBY: The first band
that we formed as brothers
was called Rock Fire Funk Express.
'Cause at that time we wasn't sure
whether we wanted to be a funk band
or a rock band.
DANNIS: Rock with a fire, you know,
add a little funk in there
and just keep on going, like an express.
But then the Who came to town.
And when Dave went down to see them,
he was like, "That's it."
You know, "We gotta play this music.
This is the music we gotta play."
(ROCK MUSIC PLAYING)
David, every time I would leave, man,
he would have that stuff playing.
He'd just be laying there, listening.
And then I'd come back
and the same thing would be playing.
DANNIS: You know, when I saw Alice Cooper, it
was like, you know, "All bets are off, man."
To me, if we ain't playing this,
then I ain't gonna be having no fun.
BOBBY: Rock 'n' roll just kind of...
We just kind of immersed ourselves in it.
That's what David called it,
he said, "it's pure rock 'n' roll, man."
Not like a lot...
You're gonna have your one hit,
but the pure rock 'n' roll is what
they don't play over the radio, you know?
That's what David always said.
MAN: (ON RECORDING) One, two, three, now!
(BASS GUITAR STRUMMING)
This is the room where Death was born.
Look at this door, right here.
Only something like this could come
from the mind of my brother.
- That's David's thing, right there, man.
- MAN: Oh, yeah!
BOBBY: We used to play.
This was my station, over here.
David was right over here.
And this was all Dannie' drums.
And then we had our PAs.
We just gutted the whole room.
And we just made it
into this little rock 'n' roll haven.
If it wasn't for our mom...
She let us turn our whole entire room
into a workroom for music.
DANNIS: She got behind everything
we wanted to do.
While I'm on camera, I'm gonna say,
"Thank you, Mom. Thank you."
BOBBY: And she just made
an agreement with us.
She said, "Hey, look, 3:00
to 6:00 is your time.
"After 6:00, you gotta cut it off."
MAN: (ON RECORDING) All right now,
here we go. We're gonna get this right.
One, two, three!
(PUNK MUSIC PLAYING)
David, he could practice for hours
and hours and hours, literally.
BOBBY: He got to the point
to where he played along
with just about every album
that was in our collection.
So he was learning Queen,
he was learning the Who.
David had a slogan. He said,
"if I could play chords like Peter Townsend
"and play lead like Jimi Hendrix,
"I am the ideal guitar player."
David's amp was always positioned right
here, because he liked it like that...
So he could, you know,
roust up the neighbors.
And then there was like a... Some girls...
We'd be practicing so loud,
that after we're done with a song,
we could hear all this
loud knocking on the door.
And that was them trying to get in.
One day this transpired and David started
playing these riffs, you know?
(KEEP ON KNOCKING PLPOHNG)
You know, we just came up with the words
right then and there, you know?
- "Keep on knockin'."
- "Keep on knockin'," you know?
EARL JR.: (LAUGHING)
And then they're playing in the house,
and, oh, man, they were...
They sent people down the street
holding their head.
DANNIS: You know, we would start to
practice and the doors would slam
and the cop cars would pull up,
because we know they called them on us.
BOBBY: See, we grew up
in the black community, so...
At that time people were tuning into, like,
groups like Earth, Wind and Fire.
DANNIS: And, you know,
here we are in the middle of all of this
playing rock 'n' roll.
And, I mean, it was just...
it wasn't a rock 'n' roll culture.
White boy music!
I mean, the more people tried
to talk to us about changing,
I think the deeper we
went into rock 'n' roll.
MAN". One, two, three, now!
(ROCK-N-ROLL VICTIM PLPOHNG)
All of that is pure anger.
We are fighting with the neighbors
to maintain our identity.
And we would not be not heard,
especially with David.
(LAUGHING) And people
were running around,
"Turn it down! Turn it down!"
BOBBY: My dad, Earl V. Hackney, died.
Though it was an accident,
I think it impressed us a lot in our lives
from then on, when they described to us
how he died.
DANNIS: He was an electric lineman,
so his job was to climb up the poles,
fix the wires.
I guess he had a trainee
with him one night.
And this trainee, I guess,
stuck his screwdriver in the wrong place.
And he got shocked,
and it threw him off the pole.
So my dad races down the pole, you know,
throws him in the back of the car...
And they take off for the hospital.
But just so happened, a
bar was letting out.
And there was a person
who was drunk behind the wheel
and they swung right out in front of him.
And he slammed right into her
and he died instantly.
BOBBY". I mean, the last thing that he did
before he left this world was a noble deed.
He was trying to help someone.
BOBBY: I think when my dad died,
it had really a big effect on David,
as it did all of us.
Um, and David became obsessed
with a lot of spirituality.
Seeing our dad at a funeral,
I think really was for the first time
that we was up close and
personal with dying,
and the fact that someone that you love...
You're never gonna see this person
in this existence.
And that, I think, had a
big effect on all of us,
but on David probably the most.
DANNIS: Bobby was in school, I was at work.
So when we get home, David says,
"Man, I got this great, great new idea
for the name of the band."
So he holds us in suspense.
Let's run up to the room
and find out what this great name is
that David then came up with.
We're waiting with much suspense.
And as soon as he says,
"Yeah, this is the name, dude. Death."
Death. Oh, man.
DANNIS: So me and Bobby just kind of
looked at each other as if to say,
"This dude's gone way off the deep end."
I know what I would do
if somebody came up to me
talking about their band,
the name of their band was Death.
I'd be like, "You don't wanna...
No, I don't wanna hear it."
DANNIS: But there again, that old thing
in the back of your head kicks in.
"Back up your brother.
Back up your brother."
BOBBY: And David always said
that our name would have shock value.
And we're like, "Why would you say that?"
He says, "Because death is real."
DANNIS: He had so much conviction,
so much belief,
until we just went along with it.
And that was right around
the spring of 1974.
Yeah, that's when we became Death.
MAN: (ON RECORDING) Death!
(LET THE WORLD TURN PLAYING)
This picture right here was taken in 1975.
And from our mother's back yard in Detroit.
David looked up into the sky
and he saw a triangle.
As you can see, there's
a triangle right there.
And also there's a face.
David said that that was the face of God
watching over the triangle.
And he used to tell us
that was a message to us, you know.
Hey, this is what Dave was in tune to.
This is what he was all about.
DANNIS: David wanted to
put a positive spin on death.
It's kind of like birth.
It's not a good or a bad
thing, it's just a thing.
BOBBY: Yeah, well, see,
this right here was David's concept.
He calls it the death triangle.
And what it basically means
is the three elements of life,
which is spiritual, mental, physical.
And this right here means
that's the guiding spirit.
And that's what David said.
This right here is God.
DANNIS: The stuff that used to come out
of his head was just so, you know,
it was original, but, you know,
when you first heard it,
it just sounded crazy.
DAVID: (ECHOING) The ultimate trip.
Okay, since he's proclaiming
the leader of the band...
We said, "David, we need a contract." Okay?
So, well, David takes the yellow pages,
nails it to the wall
and go gets a dart.
He opens it to the music section,
where you have all your producers
and music offices and...
He opens the yellow pages,
nails it to the wall, takes the dart...
And the dart lands
on Groovesville Productions.
He said, "Those are the guys
we're gonna call."
DANNIS: There's Groovesville Productions.
I always remember these yellow bricks,
'cause this is where the studio was.
DANNIS: Now, Groovesville,
they were a production company
that handled people like
Johnnie Taylor, The Dramatics.
And their leader was Don Davis,
who was just a Detroit music mogul.
Hello. My name is Don Davis.
I am a record producer.
I am a music publisher.
And I am a studio owner.
And just more recently,
I am the proud owner
of First Independence National Bank.
DANNIS: Maybe we should knock
on the door and just...
The Hackney brothers
came in to my office,
because before you get to Don Davis,
you had to come through
the Groovesville office,
which was my domain.
Hey, how you doing?
I met the Hackney brothers.
And played me some demos that I just
thought were absolutely wonderful.
BOBBY: This was Brian Spears' office,
This is the room where Death auditioned
for Brian Spears.
- This is the room.
- Still got the original furniture.
He had the tape... On this shelf...
On this shelf
he had the reel-to-reel tape.
And Brian sat in this... At this desk.
SPEARS: I was just blown away
by the energy of David Hackney.
He just knew that this is what
their destiny was gonna be.
DANNIS: Through a couple of auditions,
we ended up signing with them.
And it just so happens
that they was running the stellar,
legendary recording studio of Detroit
called United Sounds.
I mean, if you were a musician in Detroit,
you knew about United Sounds.
SPEARS: Let's see, I can tell you
the exact date they were in the studio.
They were in the studio
February the 18th,
it was a Wednesday, in 1975.
"Death and Legacy are
in the studio cutting."
(LAUGHS) It's right here.
BOBBY: We used to just love
to come here, man.
This is where we spent
the entire summer of 1975.
We spent it right around,
in and around this building,
recording that Death album.
The moment that that band
fired up those instruments,
it was just amazing.
MAN". One, two, three, now!
(PUNK MUSIC PLAYING)
I think with every song that they played,
the energy level
just kept growing and growing,
because they just wanted to show
every bit of talent that they had
on every song.
(POLITICIANS IN MY EYES PLAYING)
SPEARS: It was amazing to me,
to see such young players
have so much to say through their music.
BOBBY: Course, we were the loudest thing
that they'd ever seen.
David, he went in there and he showed them
- what his double-stacked Marshalls could do.
And they were like, "Okay, we hear it.
"Please turn it down."
SPEARS: Once we were pretty much happy
with the mixes,
I grabbed Don Davis and I said to Don,
You've gotta listen to these guys."
I'm like, "Brian, have you lost your mind?
"Nobody is going to buy a song
"on a group called D-E-A-T-H.
"What's the matter with you?"
(STAMMERING) I know the name is
gonna be a drawback,
but, you know, I convinced Don
that on his next trip, we need to start
showing the group around.
BOBBY: We got turned down
by every major label in the UK.
'Cause, I mean,
we had gotten a rejection letter
that said we tried all these labels.
He says, "As far as I'm concerned,
don't even look anymore."
DANNIS: He went all the way
pretty much around the world
looking for a contract.
Everybody turned us down.
The name had really seemed
to be a roadblock.
So I got this
setting with Clive Davis.
And it caused a very interesting stir,
because they were really focused
on this record,
and they wanted to get involved in it.
The first reaction was,
"Hey, this... You know, great stuff."
Possibly we may be on the brink of a deal,
but there's one sticking point.
Clive Davis expressed
that he really didn't care
for the name of the band.
Brian had told us, he says,
"You guys might have a record deal, uh,
"if you are willing to change the name."
DANNIS: That sent David into another place,
because he had his Death concept
and the concept went with the name
and the band went with the concept,
and nothing could change!
BOBBY: David, in no uncertain terms, just
said, "Tell Clive Davis to go to hell."
DANNIS: Okay, so David, our illustrious
leader, turned the deal down.
When that came out of David's mouth,
me and Bob had nothing coming out of ours.
We were flabbergasted.
Even though we didn't agree with it,
in public, back up your brother.
But in private,
we had a bitter argument about that.
"Listen, man, these guys wanna give us
a $20,000 contract."
And in the '70s, you know,
that's a pretty big contract.
We could've actually just went ahead
and changed the name.
I mean, how many times
we gonna get a contract like this?
And, you know, then Dave got mad at us.
If we give them the title to our band,
Dave said you might as well
give them everything else.
DANNIS: He always believed in the music,
and I have to admit,
a bit more than me or Bob did,
because, you know,
we were willing to make concessions.
Dave was absolutely not.
And he stuck to his guns.
He stuck to his guns, man.
Yeah, I would've changed
it in a split second.
Okay, I would have.
But my spirit was telling me,
"Go with your brother."
You know, we just went
in the office one day and...
Brian told us that Don has decided
to put a release on us.
David just stood there and calmly asked
them, he says, "Can I have the masters?"
"Why not just give us our music
and let us walk?"
And Brian said, "Hey, no problem."
SPEARS: And I was able to
arrange to get the masters
turned back over to the group.
So we took those master
tapes that he gave us
and we printed up 50045s.
BOBBY: And the reason
we pressed those 500,
'cause we wanted to get radio airplay.
And it was frustrating, because the rock
stations that we loved, they would play it,
but very sporadically.
We never could get them to play it enough
to really make a difference.
And it would happen every time
we'd tell somebody.
"Well, what's the name of the band?"
And, you know, we'd kind of...
Do one of those and then we'd tell them
the name of the band.
And we'd get the same old reaction
that we were expecting to get.
You know, rejection.
BOBBY: We ended up having to just kind
of get rid of all of our equipment,
'cause we needed money at the time.
We gotta bail ourselves
out of a number of things.
And what happened was,
our distant relative,
his name was Donald Knight,
he says, "Well, you know, why don't
you guys just come up to New England
"for a couple of weeks,
just clear your head?"
We didn't even know
what he was talking about.
We thought he was talking
about flying across the Atlantic.
We're like, "New England?
What'd you do with the old one?"
We took him up on that offer,
because basically there was nothing else
left to do in Detroit.
DANNIS: So we came up here
on a two-week vacation,
and we just never went back.
We found apartments,
and then we eventually
bought even musical gear.
DANNIS: When we first got to Burlington,
David, he wanted to introduce
the town to the band.
Well, David went down the street.
On each pole,
he put a Death poster.
So I think he had
about 500 of them printed up.
DANNIS: I mean, the cops must've just went
by every pole he was at
and just grabbed them off,
'cause when the cop came to the door,
he said, "This is a peaceful town,
"and we don't have gangs here."
That's when I said,
"Dave, you better come to the door, man.
"They think you're about
to start a street gang."
You know, he says,
"No, man, this is a musical group.
"This is all about music."
He says, "Well, if you wanna get anywhere
around here, you'll change that name."
You know, after he left, I just closed the door and
I said "That's it, man. I'm just tired of it."
I'm tired of the rejection,
I'm tired of the snide comments.
I'm done With it.
BOBBY: We just understood
that we tried our best with Death.
We hung in there from '73 to 1980,
dealing with rejection for our name,
rejection for our music,
rejection for the fact that
we were black and playing rock 'n' roll,
rejection for the fact
that our music was too fast,
rejection for... So many rejections.
DANNIS: David, he felt the rejection
as well as we did. I mean, he knew.
I think it was David who came up
with the name 4th Movement.
We didn't even listen to the concept
or why he came up with the name.
It wasn't Death, so me and Bob
was just like, "Yeah, okay.
"That's a good name."
We just decided to take
our rock 'n' roll sound
and give it a spiritual concept.
DANMS: There was a campus newspaper
and the name of the article was,
"Rock 'n' Roll, Hold The Religion, Please."
And they were saying
how good the music was,
but how they didn't like the religious
aspects that went along with it.
BOBBY: After all the rejection that
we'd been through with Death,
there's this big old article
in The Cynic saying,
"Nice music, hold the religion,"
with our picture by it.
DANNIS: Dave took it really personally,
and I think he had just got fed up
with the rejection, too.
That's when the homesick
for Detroit thing started to brewing up.
He wanted to go back to Detroit.
He really, literally,
wanted to bottle up everything
and take it with him, including us.
He wanted us to fold up.
But at the time, I mean,
I had brought my wife, Tammy.
And she had just had a little baby,
We just didn't wanna pack up
and go back to Detroit, you know?
So David went back to Detroit.
Well, lam Heidi Simpson,
and David Hackney was my late husband.
Well, let me see.
Well, we moved from
Vermont to Detroit in 1982.
He wasn't working at that time.
I know that.
He was staying at home
and playing his music to himself
and trying to figure out
what he wanted to do himself.
He just wasn't no typical working person that,
like, out there, doing the 9:00 to 5:00.
And he was a dreamer.
(CLEARS THROAT) He liked, uh...
He would sit out on the porch
and just look in the...
In the clouds in the sky
and make pictures out of the clouds.
BOBBY: We went for about two or three years
without a guitar player.
Yeah, we would practice the same way
every day that we always did.
DANNIS: 'Cause we was always on the idea
that David would come back.
As time went on, we finally realized,
"Well, maybe Dave's not coming back."
So me and Bob stayed here
and that's how Lambsbread was born.
BOBBY: We looked at each other and said,
"Man, this is a no-brainer."
People love this music.
It's ruled by the bass and drums
and that's all we got right now.
So it was a no-brainer.
That's how we gravitated to reggae.
DANNIS: We was able to find ourselves
a booking agent
and get on the road as Lambsbread.
We love you people!
So somebody say
you wanna fire up some ganja!
Fire the ganja?
DANNIS: And we was actually glad that we
had put down the name Death
because we thought, okay,
now that we got rid of that, you know,
things are beginning to open up for us.
Let them know it's true. Come on!
DANNIS: That might've rubbed David
the wrong way,
'cause at first he didn't
really take to the news
that me and Bob was forming a reggae band.
It was like, "Oh, well,
those cats done abandoned rock 'n' roll."
No, man, we were sitting back
waiting for you to come,
but you didn't come,
so we had to busy ourselves with something.
BOBBY: I don't think he was comfortable
with the fact that
we traded in our rock 'n'
roll shoes for reggae.
You know, in his eyes, we were still Death.
BOBBY JR.: When I was young, my father,
he was a reggae musician.
As a kid, that's all I knew...
I just knew them as reggae musicians.
And I just knew them as Lambsbread.
We did the same thing that our mom
and dad did for us.
We just made music available to them.
My Uncle Dannie taught me
all the basics of drumming,
which was really awesome.
DANNIS: And I used to bring him
behind the drum set,
and I would put a stick in each of his
hands and kind of move his hands for him.
And then when Bob had his other sons...
When they saw how Bobby played the drums,
I guess, you know,
all of them wanted to play the drums.
Well, I was always, you know,
influenced by my Uncle Dannie and Bobby,
'cause, you know, he always had
drums laying around the room
and I kind of caught on to that.
Yeah, my dad and uncle,
they always had a very strong,
serious musical connection,
and that was something that made
a profound impact on me.
Bobby came to me one day and says,
"Hey, man, you're turning
all of my sons into drummers."
(LAUGHS) You know?
My Uncle Dave, he was really my...
One of my favorite uncles.
And he was just always so crazy
and so out there and so out of the box.
JULIAN: He just had the best sense
of humor and the best laugh,
and I used to love talking to him.
You know? 'Cause he was just so lively
and so funny, you know?
He was like a child.
BOBBY: The thing that was kind of sad was
I never got to see him at his prime.
I only... 'Cause he was...
He really got into the bottle,
he really got into alcohol.
So most of the time that I saw him,
he was always drunk.
BOBBY: David thought...
He's one of these genius types,
man, you know?
I mean, the demons get to you.
You know what I mean?
The demons get to you.
EARL JR.: And David was gonna do
what he was gonna do.
And he was hell-bent on that.
And nobody was gonna mess with him.
And the more that people tried to
correct him, if you will, or change him,
the worse it became, okay?
He was a visionary.
He had a plan,
and that plan didn't go through
the way he wanted it to.
And I think part of his drinking then
was from not being able to
fully express what he wanted to do
with his music and his art.
This is part of the diary
that David had started,
and he's just talking about,
uh, one day of his life.
"Check the dreams that are in your mind.
"Take a flight to see
which ones are really there.
"Open up your eyes and see
the paradise of a dream.
"The world we know shall be no more."
That was when David revealed that
his music would not come forth
until after he had left this earth.
I think he was just feeling
like he wanted to leave back then.
He always was in another world, like,
he just kept saying that
he didn't wanna be here anymore.
Uh, no, he was never an idol.
He was like an influence to me.
I don't have any idols,
not on this earth.
My idol is Jesus Christ.
I follow him, until the day I die.
And then show me how to get up
to the orchestra, you know,
that's gonna play
in front of the throne of God.
That's my destination.
I wanna play
in front of the throne
of Almighty God.
DANNIS: And the last
time David was up here,
the last thing he did,
he filmed my wedding.
DAVID: All right, we at the church, here.
And this is what it looks like inside.
There go the groom.
(WEDDING MARCH PLAYING)
There go the bride
and her dad.
Look at Dannie.
DANNIS: I had a conversation
with my mother.
She said, "You know what your brother
David told me?"
I said, "No, what'd he tell you?"
"He said, 'When you get home,
"'get ready to bury one of your sons."'
And we noticed that he was frail
and that he didn't look that good.
Hey, man. Hey, man.
BOBBY: And we asked him,
you know, "ls everything okay?"
And he never said nothing to anybody. He...
"Yeah, everything's okay. Everything's...
I'm all right. I'm all right."
I just wanted to say these words,
'cause me and my brother Dannie
have been through heaven together,
we've been through hell together,
we've been down in the ditch,
we've been on the heights.
We've got a great career as musicians,
and we're well-respected here
in the community and we thank God for that.
DANNIS: But before Dave left my wedding,
he brought all the Death master tapes
and told Bob to hold them.
He says, "One day the world's gonna
come looking for this,
"and I know that you will keep them."
BOBBY: And I say,
"Dave, I have enough tapes.
"I got enough of our stuff, man."
He says, "No."
He says, "You gotta keep these."
He says, "The world's gonna come
looking for the Death stuff."
And he says, "I know that you'll have it
when they come looking for it."
That was when he told us, he says,
"Man, when y'all make it with this music,"
he says, "I'm not gonna be with you guys."
When I hugged David before he left,
David let me know
that I wasn't gonna see him again.
BOBBY: And then after he got back home,
a few months later,
we got a call from our brother Earl.
You know, Earl said to me...
He said, "He's dying, Bob."
I remember that so well,
like it was yesterday.
"What do you mean David's dying?"
David had a pretty advanced cigarette habit
that eventually ended up
taking a toll on his life.
He says, "Yeah, Bob," he says,
"he's got full-blown lung cancer."
And that just floored me.
Once he hit intensive care, man, it was...
It was all over.
day after my wife's birthday.
Tammy's birthday is on the 8th of October,
and I think David died on the 9th.
I just put the tapes in a safe place.
I didn't think about them.
I was thinking too much about David.
DANNIS: When I eventually went
to David's funeral in Detroit,
I thought that,
"I guess the Death thing
is just gone with Dave."
EARL JR.: David's dream and the thing
that he always said was consistent
from day one.
And he never wavered in the story,
nor his dream.
And so, yes, he did carry that
all the way up till the end.
My wife used to say that Dave was Dave
when he was playing his guitar.
If you wanted to see the real Dave,
you gotta catch him playing his guitar.
BOBBY: You know, David continued to write
beautiful music, right on up until he died.
This right here
the last record that David made
before he died.
And, as you can see,
his nickname was Rough Francis.
You know, the name of the song 'vs
I'd Be Your Doggie.
And then it was backed by a song called
We're Gonna Make It.
And you know who plays on this?
David did recruit,
uh, myself and Dannie to help him
on the tracks on this.
So, you know, this is kind of like
the last time that we really got together
and made a recording.
"Now the way that it's been, we've seen thick
and thin, and dark days all around us."
"But now that it's over,
let our love grow stronger.
"Don't you cry now,
"we're gonna make it.
"Don't you cry now, we're gonna make it."
I think that says it all.
We stuck together
through thick and thin for 22 years.
(CABLE CAR RUMBLING)
Talk about record collecting, he says.
Well, you go by hunches.
I mean, I found this in a thrift store.
Glenn Schwartz and the
All Saved Freak Band,
with a brain on the cover.
I thought, "How can I not take this home?"
And here's my favorite
Marcy and Little Marcy.
Don Bolles, formerly of the Germs,
actually tracked her down
and got one of the dolls a while back.
Robbie The Werewolf is
sort of self-explanatory.
This is a regular old lounge guy, but...
Somebody to haunt you in your dreams.
Anyway, so when I saw the Death record,
Politicians In My Eyes,
pop up on this one guy's list,
buried in everything else.
The "Northern Soul," as they call it,
for ridiculous amounts of money.
And there was this little record,
Politicians In My Eyes, and I thought,
"This looks interesting."
I was interviewing Jello Biafra
for a book that
some friends of mine were writing
about the history of band T-shirts.
I know that Jello's
a really huge punk collector.
And this collector friend of mine said,
"Jello supposedly has a box
of the Death single."
And I said, "What's the Death single?"
He's like, "Oh, man, it's this all-black
punk band from Detroit
"and it's super hard to find."
Das was a guy that I'd seen
coming into the record store often.
He never talked. He was always very quiet.
But he would buy really cool records.
"I got a record you might be interested in.
I'll just give you a copy.
"It's friends of mine that
I knew back when I was...
"You know, just got out of college."
So I gave him a brand-new copy
of the Death record and he just like,
"Where'd you get that?"
He says, "Hey, you know,
my friends gave me these 45s,
"and, uh, they told me to give them out
to help promote their band,
"and I never really got them out there.
"But, you know, it's never too late.
"So, you know, if you could take these home
and give these a listen...
"These guys were friends of mine."
BOBBY". Don Schwenk, we met in 1976,
when we were releasing those Death 45s.
And David had commissioned Don
to do the artwork.
And he wanted a triangle in the clouds.
But, you know, of course,
they never had the money
to follow through on any of the stuff,
so, basically, I did all
this artwork for them,
but they couldn't pay me,
so they traded me records.
That's what happened.
So now I got these clean copies
of the Death 45 from Das.
I left one on the counter here,
and Ben Blackwell took that.
So this 7-inch, it's a limited press,
it's Detroit, it's punk rock, it's hard to
find and not a lot of people know about it.
I mean, this hits all of my checklist,
you know, this is something meant for me.
So there it is,
Politicians In My Eyes,
which is the A-side,
and, uh, Keep On Knocking,
which is the B-side.
Later that night, another record collector
told me the value of the record.
He had heard of it, and
I mentioned it to him.
And he told me that, "Oh, you know,
do you know what that thing's worth?
"That's a really valuable record."
So Matt Smith puts the 7-inch on eBay
and he had it on eBay,
"Buy It Now", 800 bucks.
How I discovered the Death album was I saw
an American unknown punk compilation,
and Death was featured on Side B.
I was completely blown away
with such a great song, you know?
I was asking myself,
"Why was this band not known?"
I knew I had to find that record.
About a month after I had heard
I was eBaying and I noticed one for sale.
And it was for $800.
The old digs, Archer Record Pressing
in Detroit, if they knew
that something they pressed 30 years ago...
Gosh, 35 almost, selling for 800 bucks.
Why would anybody pay $800
for an old Keep On Knocking?
I mean, if I had one,
I would've gave the guy one.
BLACKWELL: The idea of something
that's been unheard, that excited me.
This needs to come out. People need to hear this.
This is important.
I make some copies, I send them out
to people that I know
and to some people I don't know.
One of the people I made a CD-R for
was by the name of Henry Owings
and he runs Chunklet magazine in Atlanta.
And he posted them on Chunklet's website.
BOBBY JR.: Julian moves out to California
and he is out there just, you know,
traveling, hanging out
with friends and stuff.
JULIAN: And I had a friend,
a roommate who, uh...
She used to go to a lot of parties,
and she used to go to all these parties,
where these DJs would spin
all these collectors' classics,
and, you know, unheard of, just anomalies,
and rare hidden gems and things like that.
She came home one time, and was, like,
just ranting and raving
about all this new music
that she had heard.
And she wouldn't stop going on
about this band Death.
I did a little bit of research,
and it didn't take long before I came
across this website called Chunklet
that Ben Blackwell had posted two songs.
(POLITICIANS IN MY EYES PLAYING)
I heard that song, Politicians In My Eyes,
and I heard my dad's voice,
and it was unmistakable, unmistakably his.
JULIAN: And it turns out that there were these
three black brothers in Detroit in the '70s,
by the name of Hackney.
And I call up my dad.
BOBBY: And he called me up and he says,
"Dad, do you realize
"that they're playing your music
at underground parties here?"
And I'm like,
"Are you talking about Lambsbread?"
You know, I thought he was talking
about our current reggae band.
And he says, "No, Dad."
He says, "You were in a band in the '70s
"from Detroit called Death."
And then I just got quiet.
You know, "Dad, were you in a band
in the '70s called Death?"
He says, "Politicians In My Eyes,
Keep On Knocking?"
And when he said that, I said, "That's us."
I'm like, "Dad!
(SHOUTING) "Why didn't you tell me?"
And then my brother would call up me
and be like,
"Bobby, you're not gonna believe this.
"Like, Dad and Uncle Dannie and Uncle Dave
were in this band called Death."
He was telling me about the music,
about how amazing it was.
It was like the best rock 'n' roll
he's ever heard.
And then I play the MP3
and my jaw drops.
MAN: (ON RECORDING) Death!
(FREAK/N OUT PLAYING)
Like, I just couldn't believe
what I was hearing.
Like, my eyes started to tear up,
the hairs were standing up
on the back of my neck.
I started shaking.
BOBBY JR.: I just couldn't believe it
because once I heard it,
I knew, I just knew it was them.
I could feel it.
I was like,
"This is my dad and my two uncles."
URIAN: I was one of the first people
to hear the record.
And I could not believe, I like...
it was unbelievable.
JULIAN: It was raw punk,
and I did not believe it at all.
It was really a dream come true.
I was like, "I can't believe that
I know that I'm listening to
"the best rock 'n' roll
music I've ever heard,
"and I'm the only person
that knows about this.
"I need..." Like, I started
calling my friends.
Bobby calls me up and he says...
I didn't pick up, he left me a message.
He says, "I gotta talk to you.
I got some crazy news for you."
And he said, "Yeah, you know, I found out
that my dad was in kind of a protopunk band
"in, like, the early, mid-'70s."
And I was like, "What?"
Then I made him a copy and told him
to listen to it.
And he had the same reaction I did.
So I post on various message boards,
punk rock message boards.
And posted a long story about everything
I knew about Death,
put up links to the songs, and just
wanted to share this, 'cause I said,
"Other people need to hear these songs."
That post circulated all over the Internet.
To the point where it got the attention
of Robert Manis, who is a record collector.
I was still freaking out over that record,
you know, I'd listen to it all the time.
And I was just blogging.
I typed in "Hackney Death,"
and this blog came up.
So I dropped everything that I was doing,
and I talked to,
you know, a couple of
the guys at Drag City.
RIAN MURPHY: Well, we were
talking to Robert Manis,
and so Robert sent over some MP3s
of the Death single.
It's like '70s garage
like you've never heard it before.
Just made us really excited to wanna be
involved with the record, if we could.
So, naturally, the thought turned to,
"Reissuing a single is cool,
"but if there's more material
of a similar nature,
"then you can reissue an album."
And that seemed to be
the next question.
Is there an album out there?
Where are these guys? Do they still exist?
BOBBY: Let's give thanks.
Lord, we thank you for this food
that we are about to receive
and we thank you for our family
and all that you do for us.
In Jesus' name, we thank you. Amen.
What I do for a living is
I work at St. Michael's College.
I'm on the late-night maintenance crew.
I've been able to give my kids the choice
of going to college, through this job.
I've been able to buy a house.
To me, it's a good job
that I can do while, uh...
While I struggle as a musician.
Getting the call from Drag City
was really exciting,
because every musician lives for that day,
when you get the call
from the record company.
But after the excitement
of that part wore off,
you know, it's just bringing up
a whole Wellspring of emotion.
After starting a new band and after just
creating a whole new life, all of a sudden,
you know, something from your past
just pulls you back.
And says, "Hey, what about this?"
BOBBY: This is where we store stuff.
For years and years,
most of the Death tapes were right here,
in this little bin here.
This is just the way it was on that day
when Bobby called me up and said,
"Dad, please tell me
you have those master tapes."
And they were sitting up here,
just like this.
I was in such a blur about everything.
"I can't believe that I'm up here
looking for the Death tape."
You know, I mean,
that within itself was so surreal for me.
This right here
is the original finish master tape
that was recorded
at United Sound's production studios.
As you can see,
that's my brother David's
writing right there.
And that was what he wanted to call
the whole... The album, that's what he...
"Death, For The Whole World To See."
Course, he put his signature triangle,
which basically represented
the whole Death concept.
This is the tape
and this tape has been through
quite a bit, you know?
It's kind of, like,
older than any of my children.
Then, before I knew it,
the album was released.
So this is the album, right here.
Released on Drag City Records,
February 17th, 2009.
After all these years...
Three cats, three young dudes,
who just love rock 'n' roll music.
SPEARS: Imagine taking 35 years?
It's... It's incredible.
I don't know of a story like that.
I don't know of one.
BOBBY". When the album came out,
I felt emotional, I felt happy.
I was happy for us, that our music
was finally getting recognized.
I was sad, you know,
because David was not here to see it.
You know, he wanted to see something
like that really significant happen.
DANNIS: It's kind Of hard,
when you talk about this, because you kind of
hear Dave's voice in the back of your head.
You know, he said it.
He said the world's gonna come
looking for this music one day.
I'm still hearing in the back of my voice
all the things Dave said,
and they're coming true
and, you know, it just feels weird.
The album was released,
but since nobody really heard...
Not many people heard
the Death album quite yet,
what we decided to do,
me, Julian and Urian,
was pay tribute to Death
by covering the album and, like,
playing it live.
(PUNK MUSIC PLAYING)
JULIAN: The Death songs
needed to have an audience
and that's been too long, you know.
It'd been 34 years
since the songs had been heard by anybody.
BOBBY JR.: We did a lot of campaigning,
Like, we were out there spreading the word.
We were almost like musical missionaries
for Death, in a way.
I remember the first show that we played.
It was packed and people
were just really excited and happy.
It was like this rush of spiritual
energy running through our veins.
It was pretty much like speaking
to Uncle Dave again.
It was like saying, "Hey, what's up,
Uncle Dave? How you doing?"
Like, "I haven't seen you in a while."
When we played those songs,
that's what it felt like.
It felt like he was there with us again.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
This whole set goes out to David Hackney.
He was a beautiful man. We miss him.
URIAN: We were trying to think of names
and Rough Francis came into play
when Bobby was thinking about the, uh...
That old 7-inch that my Uncle Dave
put out as Rough Francis.
BOBBY JR.: I was like, "Perfect. Rough Francis.
That's the name of this band."
'Cause it's like this band is
all happening because of Uncle Dave.
Like, we're channeling his music,
his energy, his art.
It has to be called Rough Francis.
So a few songs that you just heard,
they're by a band called Death.
And that band is our family.
Our father, our uncle, and our other uncle.
So we're just carrying the torch.
And we're just very excited to be up here
playing for you right now.
Thank you so much.
(PUNK MUSIC PLAYING)
BOBBY JR.: When we were
playing one of the songs,
I looked over
and I saw my father and my mom,
and they were both hugging and crying.
JULIAN: They were both just so moved by it,
And that moved me, seeing them.
TAMMY: Seeing my three boys on stage
performing their dad's music,
I was just so proud to be their mom,
and it was just a wonderful night,
and I will never forget it.
Thanks a lot. We are Rough Francis.
MIKE RUBIN: Rough Francis was
They were a real force on stage
their father's and uncles' music.
I know my piece began with Bobby
sort of beaming back at the bar.
You know, he's got three
of his sons on stage
and his brother Dannie there,
and his wife Tammy's there.
And, I mean, it was like a family reunion.
You know, and the missing member is...
Was his brother, David,
who was then present...
You know, whose presence was
really felt through his music.
BLACKWELL: I think for me, like,
when I saw the story in The New York Times,
it was pretty mind-blowing
to see it on that scale.
I was just blown away
when that article actually came out.
And there was like a picture, like,
this big of Rough Francis.
I was like, "Oh, my goodness, we're in
The New York Times, like half the page."
I've never heard from so many people.
People's parents were saying they saw this,
and, you know, like I said, my dentist.
KID ROCK: I had a buddy,
Matt Sweeney, in New York City,
and I think he saw an article
in The Times or something.
So he actually sent me a disk.
And I was checking it out,
and I was like, "Wow."
You know, how did I not know about this?
I was like, "Man, this is bad-ass."
And it's just one of those
great music stories.
It's one of those things that
keeps you going to the record store,
hoping for another great story like that.
It's why you listen to music.
It instantly became a favorite record,
It was sort of... it literally popped out
of the speakers and it had an energy to it
and a musicianship that
sort of blew my mind.
MICK COLLINS: When I got to hearing
Politicians In My Eyes,
it was like an immediate, like,
"This is one of the greatest songs
"I have heard in quite some time."
And it really was
quite an electrifying recording.
Ramones got all the glory
for what this is right here.
And this is pretty much the Ramones,
but two years earlier.
There's no doubt on that record,
there's only conviction.
There's only full-hearted conviction.
And that's really what
makes it rock 'n' roll.
MICKEY LEIGH: When I heard it, I just couldn't
believe that I'd never heard it before.
It was the predecessor
of what punk became.
And that was what also compelled me
to really wanna search them out,
no matter, you know, how long it took me
to find somebody
who had a number for these guys.
BOBBY JR.: Joey Ramone's brother,
he ended up tracking me down,
and he invited Death and Rough Francis
to come play
Joey Ramone's Annual Birthday Bash.
And I'm like, "Well, Mickey, you know,
Death, they haven't really played any...
"They haven't played live yet.
"I don't even know if
they would be into it."
And then I called my dad.
You know, at first, he didn't really know
if he wanted to go forth with the project,
just because of all the emotional ties
they have with it and, you know,
they always wanted to be really respectful
to my Uncle Dave.
Yeah, we were very reluctant,
because, you know, we didn't wanna...
We just didn't want to do it without David.
It actually took a few weeks
for us to really take this
thing kind of serious,
because we had to answer the question
about who's gonna play the guitar.
BOBBY: David said,
"I don't leave any children in this world,
"you gotta remember
my songs are my children."
You know, I'm committed to
taking care of those children.
And at the time,
we was working with Bobbie Duncan,
who we had found
to be a guitar player in Lambsbread.
As far as the look, he fits.
I mean... But should we throw
this kind of a load on the dude?
BOBBIE DUNCAN: Bobby says, like,
"Bob, something's happened," you know?
He was, like, you know, he didn't even
seem like he could really, uh,
put it all together, man, but...
'Cause it was just, like,
such a big thing to him.
He says, "Man, I hope you wanna
do it, man," you know, and stuff.
And so I listened to the CD.
And he said, "Not only is the album
awesome, man," he says, "but I'm gonna..."
He says, "I'm gonna try
to do David justice.
"I'm gonna try to live up to the standard
that he put down on that album."
DANNIS: And when we got together
with Bobbie Duncan, we figured,
"Well, you know Keep On Knocking,
that's kind of an easy tune.
"We could just, you know,
throw that out there first
"and see what happens, you know."
BOBBY: We started playing the music.
We stopped. And Bobbie, he says,
"Guys, did I do something wrong?
"If I did something wrong, I'm sorry."
And when we turned back around
to answer Bobbie,
he saw that we both had tears
streaming down our eyes.
(SOBBING) Because he was playing it.
It sounded like Dave.
And I had to get up and
leave out the studio.
Okay, I just took a 10-minute break.
I just, you know, went out there and did
my crying on the side of the studio,
and I said, "I don't know what's going
on here, Lord." I said a prayer.
I said, "I don't know what's going on here,
Lord, but you gotta tell me how to walk.
"You gotta tell me how to walk."
That's when I realized
it was more than just, like, playing guitar
and covering songs, or doing a gig,
I realized this is a spiritual thing.
This is, you know, a deep thing.
You have to understand, at that session,
at that time...
That was the first time
that we had played that music
since about 1978.
BOBBY: Y'all ready? Here we go.
(FREANN OUT PLAYING)
BOBBY: We have been working
for the past five months
on rehearsal production for a Death tour.
That's gonna be the first time, uh,
in almost, uh, 35 years
that Death has played a show.
So we're excited about it.
(MEN TALKING INDISTINCTLY)
I still feel like I'm in a dream.
Hey, fellas, for the whole world to see.
This is our first stop,
for the whole world.
This is our first stop for the whole world.
Love you, man.
Love you, too.
- There you go.
- And that one's for Dave.
I love you, man.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(KEEP ON KNOCKING PLPOHNG)
Thank you very much.
DANNIS: You know, I mean, really,
we are enjoying this wonderful thing.
But, for us,
it's a beautiful thing
and we're having a lot of fun,
but we do carry a tremendous burden
with us, in that, um,
David had predicted all along that this
music would catch on throughout the world.
That's one of the things, I think,
that's really bittersweet with us,
is that he, um,
never got, physically,
the opportunity to see
his prediction come true.
Thought nobody in the world
would hear this one.
David always believed that
the world would hear this music.
DANNIS: This whole thing is happening,
not because of my faith,
but all this is happening
because of Dave's faith.
Dave is the one who said
all this stuff was gonna happen.
We told him he was dreaming.
But now we're living it, and that's what's
making everything so strange.
It's like a movie.
And we are the unwitting
stars of the movie.
And Dave is the director.
Even from his grave, he's
directing the movie.
My mother, Majora Hackney...
She passed away last Tuesday.
And here we are taking
this journey once again.
It's kind of reminiscent of the journey
that I took in 2000,
after David had passed
and we had to go to his funeral.
You know, the one thing that
we're really thankful for is our mother
got to see the resurgence of Death
and that her sons really did make something
out of all that loud music
we was playing upstairs all the time.
MINISTER: We all know why we're here.
This is the homecoming
of our dear, beloved Mother Hackney.
DANNIS: Family is everything to us.
'Cause without family, we wouldn't be here.
we wouldn't have anything that we have.
Me and Moms used to
kind of have a relationship
that was a little bit different
from the rest of the brothers.
See, I went to my first Motown party
with my mom.
But then again, she taught me how to pray.
She taught me how to
ask God for what you want.
She taught me many things
that I will never, ever forget.
My mother loved all of y'all.
God bless you. Thank you for being here.
BOBBY: So I believe, unequivocally,
the body ceases to exist,
or the body drops its spirit,
and that spirit is what we really are.
David always said that. He said, "This
isn't the final stop. This isn't...
"it's not over. This is just a..."
He used to call this just a waiting room.
He said the world was one big waiting room.
Said some of us have left the waiting
room and some of us are still here.
That's the way he looked at it.
BOBBY: Whenever I say Death,
I think about my brother David.
He convinced us.
Not only did he convince us, but he...
He inspired us, because we had
the chance to change the name.
And I think David was the prime example
of what the Lord said when he said,
"What does it profit a man to gain
the whole world and to lose his soul?"
And David's music was his soul,
and he never wavered on that.
And the chance came.
Change your name and
I'll give you the world.
And David didn't waver.
And I'm proud of him, and I love him,
and I honor him for that.
(YOU'RE A PRISONER PLAYING)
(YES HE'S COMING PLAYING)