Big Audio Dynamite Reignited

Josh Cheuse
Big Audio Dynamite. From L to R: Dan Donovan, Leo 'E-Zee Kill' Williams, Don Letts, Mick Jones, and Grey Roberts

A new version of Big Audio Dynamite's debut album may have stoked interest in a band reunion.

Co-founder Don Letts tells that while compiling "This is Big Audio Dynamite -- Legacy Edition," an expanded version of the 1985 set that comes out April 12 -- he and Mick Jones broached the idea of putting the band back together again. "I could lie to you and say 'Not in a million years,' but...if Mick wasn't tied up with Gorillaz it might happen this year," says Letts, noting that Jones and Clash mate Paul Simonon will be playing dates with Gorillaz in support of that group's new album, "Plastic Beach." "(Jones) has looked at me and said, 'Maybe next year,' but who knows.

"I've got to admit that in the past I'm not a great one for reformations; I always think if you're lucky in life, you get a window of opportunity, use it to the best of your ability and then fuck off and let someone else have their turn. But here I am 25 years down the line considering the thing. Isn't that a bitch?!"

Formed after Jones was fired from The Clash in 1983, B.A.D. released nine albums before disbanding in 1998 and had most of its success overseas, though the U.S. club and college markets embraced singles such as "The Bottom Line," "Medicine Show," "E=MC2," "James Brown," "Rush," "The Globe" and "Just Play Music!." Given the limited commercial success of "This is Big Audio Dynamite," Letts says he was "surprised" that Sony Legacy wanted to do a special edition, which sports a second disc featuring a dozen remixes and other rarities, five of which -- including the Letts-sung outtake "Electric Vandal" -- are previously unreleased.

"I first thought, 'Ah, no, you can't go back there,' but I was pleasantly surprised," says Letts, who's now a BBC on-air personality and co-produced the reissue with Jones and Bruce Dickinson. "It didn't sound like yesterday or even today; some of it sounded like it could even be tomorrow. The Jamaiccan bass lines, rock 'n' roll guitar, hip-hop beats, rap things, my mind that's still the basic elements that excited me today."

Letts adds that he still marvels that B.A.D. was able to get away with using dialogue samples from various films, including spaghetti westerns, Clint Eastwood shoot-'em-ups and Nicholas Roeg-directed works. "To be honest, I was stealing shit," he says with a laugh, "big chunks of movies I won't mention for fear of getting busted now. But one of the reasons I think we didn't get busted back in those days was because (sampling) was so new. And also we never had any major hits in the States -- no hits, no risk. You bet your ass if we'd had a No. 1, people would've jumped out of the woodwork to sue us."

Besides a B.A.D. reunion, Letts says he's also hopeful for more Legacy Editions of the group's albums after finding more unreleased material -- including live recordings -- in the vaults while working on "This Is..." "There's definitely more stuff; whether Sony thinks it's worthwhile, that's another matter. But there seems to be a lot of respect for Big Audio Dynamite. Time has shown that a lot of the things we were dabbling in back then have come to manifest themselves hopefully we'll get to do some more."