This is the story of the rebirth of a forgotten punk band and the remembrance of the loved ones lost along the way.
Before you shudder in fear of the word ‘death’, give me a few minutes to explain why the story behind this band is far from the brutality of death. The journey of Death is a tale of rebirth and survival when all odds are stacked against the life of good music.
If this band were called ‘Life’ would you want to listen to them?
Three Detrition African-American brothers in the 1970s losing their father in a fatal accident, writing and recording punk before The Ramones to only be discovered over 40 years later. It is here a tale of coincidence and the twist of fate begins. Two Hackney’s of Death still live to tell the tale of their determined brother, David Hackney, an insanely driven and talented guitarist, who was resilient to keep the name and ethos at the heart of Death sincere.
Death. “We all have death in common,” says Bobby Hackney, bassist of the band. Death started with the loss of a father and the eventual loss of a mother and one brother in the band. Though, since the release of their long-awaited 1970s record ‘For the Whole World to See’, they’ve walked on a path of success, slowly thriving after years of rejection from record labels. Writing and recording in the 1970s and surfacing into the public ear is not something your average rock band has done, so, as soon as I was recommended this band in San Francisco’s Amoeba record store, I opened myself up to Death.
Later attending their gig in London on 2nd October; I stumbled my way into a dingy bar and old pub, baffled at how small the chosen venue of the MOTH club was. Though, I guess, suitable for such an underrated band. I made my way into an empty club, sitting on a sofa booth on the side to await the main act and the filling of an empty dancefloor. It was here that a band who, if they were signed in the ‘70s, would have reaped a similar strand of fame gained by many popular punk bands, began their path to success with a ‘N.E.W’ album and a new following.
A band of such profound talent and coincidental fame were given this small glimpse of recognition. Though it was small, it gave me an alternative gig experience that I will treasure.
Throughout the wild gig Bobby Hackney mused of how many of their viewers state how they can’t believe that they are finally seeing Death live, he says ‘We can’t believe we are finally seeing all of you” after all that the proto-punk band have been through. The Hackney’s and guitarist friend, Bobbie Duncan (filling in the spot of David Hackney) were late to arrive in Hackney’s MOTH club (arriving just before curfew) to rock into the early hours of the next morning. Nevertheless, every single devout fan left waiting were welcomed into the family as Bobby declared “Tonight, you are all Hackney’s”
In a touching yet appropriately grounding moment of silence, the wild moshers and punk rockers of MOTH stopped to hear the solemn words of truth from Bobby Hackney, talking of loss and the theological and spiritual inspiration behind the name of Death. After his explanation Death became such a beautifully appropriate name. In this moment I understood it all: is it not through our memories and thoughts of our deceased loved ones that we keep them alive? Even in death they are fiercely loved and alive in our minds and hearts. A strange discovery to make in a punk rock gig, I confess, but undoubtedly amazing. Despite the loss of a vital member and the driving force of the band, David Hackney’s spirit and memory were alive in the music performed.
The relevance of ‘Politicians in My Eyes’ to the current global political atmosphere was duly noted and the impotence to rise above it all was urged by Death. Every gig-goer was told to remember that love is the answer to achieve peace in the midst of hatred and political warfare. This was perhaps a typical ‘70s hippie notion, but nevertheless relevant and heartfelt amongst the rough rock performed.
There was something special about this gig: although small and without barriers or security, there were no pretences, just pure, rough and ready punk rock with the most peculiar soft nature of love and respect at the heart of it.
In this moment, Death was as alive as they were over 40 years ago.
If you want to hear about the story of Death, go ahead and watch the heart-warming documentary film: ‘A Band Called Death’, or listen to their latest album ‘N.E.W’ which carries the great mantel of their previous album and continues to rock on a similar thread.