In 1974, three Detroit brothers -- David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney -- began writing and recording fierce, socially conscious punk-before-there-was-punk, and called themselves Death. After a few years of near-success, the realities of life, loss and the music industry -- including resistance to their name -- broke up the band.
Thirty-five years later, after visionary David had passed away and Bobby and Dannis were settled in Vermont with families, Death's lone 7-inch single ("Politicians In My Eyes" / "Keep On Knocking"), released in 1976 on their own TryAngle Records, was discovered by record collectors who could hardly believe what they were hearing. Some of the band's unreleased demos, entrusted by David to his brothers, were collected in 2009 as the LP "For the Whole World to See" by Drag City, and Death lived again.
The story is the subject of the moving new documentary "A Band Called Death," which has earned wide praise including from luminaries like Chelsea Clinton and Anthony Bourdain, who tweeted in May that it was "an extraordinary film with a hell of a lot of heart."
Bobby, Dannis and guitarist Bobbie Duncan are building on this new level of visibility with the July 30 release of Death's first vinyl single since 1976, on the resurrected TryAngle label. The A-side, "Relief," was released digitally in 2012, and was the band's first new song since the original recordings. The B-side, "Story of the World," was written in 1975 by David and Bobby, but was never professionally recorded nor released on the 2009 collection. You can hear the trio's new recording of the song first on Billboard.com, above, and order the vinyl single at deathfromdetroit.com. A digital version will be available at CD Baby.
According to Bobby Hackney, the song is about "how we interact with each other and the powers that be, and how they affect how we live and how we think. Of course," he adds, "that was back in the '70s. So it puts a whole new spin on the meaning today."
Listen: 'Politicians in My Eyes' (1976)
Bobby says the band has also completed a 10-song LP, which includes six newly recorded versions of classic '70s Death tracks and four new tunes conceived by Duncan, who also brought the original idea for "Relief" to the surviving Hackney brothers. They're in conversations with several labels to release the full album, which they hope to make available by February 2014.
"It has been chaos," says Dannis Hackney of the four years since the band's rediscovery, which pulled the brothers away from their reggae band Lambsbread and a peaceful Vermont existence.
"This thing fell almost like a house, and in fact, when it fell, we were in the process of trying to put out a new album with Lambsbread, which never made it. It’s been a kind of turmoil, kind of bittersweet, kind of, you know, a laugh out loud kind of thing. But it’s all good."
"A Band Called Death" Trailer: