Live to tell - Page 2

A new doc unearths long-lost Detroit band Death

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Band of brothers: Death's sole single is now highly-prized by record collectors.

A man with a plan — but no backup plan — Dave eventually slunk back to Detroit, and was dismayed when his brothers moved on musically, experiencing some success with a reggae band called Lambsbread. Death wasn't just forgotten; it had never really been noticed. Its only material issue was a self-distributed 1974 single of "Politicians in My Eyes" b/w "Keep on Knockin'" that had scored just token local radio play. But three decades later some of its 500 pressings started surfacing on underground DJ's turntables, rare-record collectors' wish lists, and on eBay (at $800 a pop). What could be a more fascinating enigma and find than an unknown African American group making music that was precociously protopunk (with some psych influences) well before even the Ramones' first album in '76?

Eventually the surviving members saw their ancient masters released at last, and toured clubs as a reformed Death with Lambsbread's guitarist taking cancer-felled Dave's place. It was all made sweeter by the fact that three of Bobby's sons now had their own band, named Rough Francis after their late uncle's last recording pseudonym.

A bit overlong, the documentary nonetheless ingratiates with its surprising wealth of home-movie footage, commentary from the very genial Hackney clan, and testimony from latter-day fans like Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Kid Rock, and Questlove.

 

A BAND CALLED DEATH opens Fri/5 at the Roxie Theater.

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