No band is more essential to the proliferation of punk rock than the Ramones. Although British acts like the Sex Pistols and The Clash experienced more notoriety during the 1970s punk boom, the Ramones cut their teeth and survived longer than any of their contemporaries, carrying the torch for punk as it evolved and expanded throughout the decades. When hardcore punk arrived in the 1980s and pop-punk exploded in the 1990s, every single band on both sides of the divide could point to the Ramones as their major inspiration.
Washington D.C. hardcore legends Bad Brains were no exception. Although they were dedicated to reggae music and Rastafarian beliefs, the members of the Bad Brains were also the fastest, loudest, and most intense punk rock musicians around at the time. They brought a technical proficiency that wasn’t commonplace in the genre while still being speedier than any other group, giving them everything they needed to take over the punk world. The only thing they didn’t have was a name.
Originally, Bad Brains operated under the name Mind Power. At this point, they were mostly a jazz fusion band, playing slower and softer material. That all changed in 1977 as punk rock began to filter through American cities. By 1978, Mind Power had completely changed its style, and they sought to find a new name that reflected their new sound. The answer came while listening to the Ramones’ 1978 album Road to Ruin.
“One day we were listening to the Ramones,” H.R. told American Songwriter in 2020. “They had put out a song called, ‘Bad Brain.’ So, we listened to that song and we turned the stereo up from 33 [revolutions per minute] to 78 and we were all pogoing and dancing around. We just started to call ourselves ‘Bad Brains.’”
The name turned out to be a closer fit for the more intense music that was forming within the group. That intensity, along with the startling sight of young black men playing punk rock, led to the Bad Brains being subjected to an unofficial blacklist in their hometown of D.C. In order to survive as a band, the Bad Brains moved up to New York City and settled into CBGB’s, the same club where the Ramones made their name half a decade prior.
Check out the Ramones song that gave the Bad Brains their name down below.