Seminal 1980s Washington, DC funk/metal/punk/reggae band Bad Brains had long been known among certain circles for its Rastafarian roots (all of its members actively practiced the religion.) One particular aspect of Rastafarianism is its thinly-veiled homophobia - in effect, a total distaste and disgust with homosexuality.

Bad Brains had been rather good about avoiding this topic in their music, instead choosing to visit the Minor Threat route of vicious discourse on local and regional politics, revved-up revisions of traditional reggae and Rasta tunes, and frequent takes on their religion and their persecution in America for being both black and Rastafarian (plus more than few tracks that could easily be construed as misogynistic, but women-hating is a common theme to all shades of music, so I'll leave that for another node.) Rastafarianism also was not the only focus of the band - they were like most bands in the DC area concerned with the plight of the times, less than any particular philosophy or ideology.

With the release of 1989's Quickness (Caroline Records), the band changed course rapidly. One track in particular, "Don't Blow Bubbles," spoke out actively against homosexuality, suggesting that the then growing AIDS crisis in America was the "cure" for homosexuality. The lyrics are reprinted here for posterity:

Don't blow no bubbles
Don't blow no troubles

In time before there was no cure
Now through his will it's healed for sure
Trash pit, trash pits, trash pits away
It's not the weather, we've got PMA
We know you can do anything and no thought withheld from there
So here I beseech thee to always request and declare

Don't blow no bubbles
Don't blow no troubles

There's got to be a better way
Don't blow no spikes
Ask Jah and he'll make the change
We know you can do anything and no thought withheld from there
So here I beseech thee to always request and declare

Don't blow no bubbles
Don't blow no spikes
Don't blow no fudge buns

Ask Jah and he'll make the change
We know you can do anything and no thought withheld from there
So here I beseech thee to always request and declare

While the outrage was muted (Bad Brains was hardly a Top 40 band, and within the circle of hardcore punk fans arising at the time, it would not have been particularly in bad taste to be anti-homosexual), the controversy was enough to leave a bad taste in many music retailers' and concert promoters' mouths. The band eventually derailed, as each member took on his or her side projects.

Dr. No, bass member and founding member of Bad Brains, told me on the phone once: "We wrote that song as kind of an angry warning to homosexuals. We didn't really mean to insult them, but a lot of people we knew seemed to be living with their eyes closed." I found his answer at least somewhat compelling in the heyday of late-80s gay politics, or the lack thereof. The decidedly un-p.c. culture of hardcore punk is perhaps the only avenue for such scathing indictments. Bitter truth, or senseless hate? You be the judge.

The backstory was synthesized from information provided in Dance Of Days: Two Decades Of Punk In The Nation's Capital by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins.

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