This Is Big Audio Dynamite – B.A.D. (1985)

This Is Big Audio Dynamite CD cover

The shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton just proves that anything is possible now. This climate of change, accelerated by the internet, has made the concept of the unpredictable mashup possible. We see it in media, politics even in our fast food choices.

The mashup of musical genres is something we take for granted today. There was a time when it seldom happened in the mainstream. Often English bands like the Clash would mix styles like reggae, dub and rap with punk as on Sandinista, but these experiments were always on the fringes in America.

Not surprisingly the first instance of genre fusion to make it to my small collection of CDs and later to almost the big time was from Big Audio Dynamite. B.A.D. was the creation of former Clash vocalist and guitarist Mick Jones. Jones was undoubtedly part of the force behind the urban elements of the Clash. Now free from the limitations of Joe Strummer and company, Jones was able to freely mix the urban styles into his new hybrid of pop punk.

This Is Big Audio Dynamite was one of the first 20 or so CDs I ever owned. It is also one of those albums that sounds the most like 1985 in retrospect. Back then, the big bombastic sound that featured layers of samples and drums was as futuristic as it was cool. With so much going on, it was easy to forget that there were only 5 members in the band. Like the old-style punk it replaced, there was plenty of angst, yet it managed to contain subtle (and not so subtle) cartoonish humor.

With beats straight out of the early book of hip hop, This Is… contained elements of dialogue from obscure British TV shows. The dense production from Mick Jones, was not unlike that of Trevor Horn, one of the few producers at the time who was making this kind of production that relied heavily on samples and drum machines.

This Is Big Audio Dynamite produced a few hits most of them reaching Billboard’st dance and club charts. Songs like Medicine Show and E=MC2 are today more likely to be heard in their 12 in single format.

You got the feeling that the layered narratives of This Is Big Audio Dynamite was made for the video medium. Despite heavy airplay on MTV and sometimes VH-1, This Is Big Audio Dynamite remained somewhere near the fringes of radio airplay. The upbeat, zany nature of the production lent itself to mainstream acceptance. The dance community aside, the U.S.was just not ready for this kind of fusion. Today of course it’s commonplace, in part thanks to pioneering albums like this interesting debut.


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