Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
There's a great photograph on the back cover of Death's 2009 reissue of the band's recordings from 1975, under the title of "…For All The World To See." It's a shot from around the years when the songs were originally recorded, when the Hackney brothers - David, Bobby and Dannis - were young and when, in a saccharine way, had their entire lives in front of them. Or so it seemed. It appears that Dannis is wearing one of the band's T-shirts, with silver, iron-on letters and Bobby, in stocking cap and customized denim jacket is staring into the camera, giving the No. 1 sign, as if they just dethroned the defending champions in punk rock and they were the new kinds in town. The late David seems to be cupping a butterfly and all was young. All was right. The band went relatively unheard back in those days though, with the band of brothers breaking up in 1977. According to legend, or according to history, the band's original recording sessions were funded by Columbia Records head Clive Davis, but when the band refused to agree to his insistence that they change their name to something more marketable to the general public, he pulled the wallet back and moved on to something else. The Hackneys moved out to Vermont, of all places, and David moved back to Detroit soon thereafter. In 2000, David died due to complications from lung cancer and over the past few years, the band that he started with his brothers (which now includes guitarist Bobbie Duncan) has experienced a renaissance. It's something like a first hurrah, but even if it's long overdue, the fact that it came at all is something of a miracle. The music that was recorded over 30 years ago is aggressive and raw, but loaded with the spit and the fire of three young men who were doing something that none of their friends were likely doing. The music that they were making - inspired after they took in an Alice Cooper show - wasn't what was pumping out of their neighborhood jukeboxes. It was political and anarchic. It was the stuff that the dirty and rowdy white kids were all listening to, but it was what they cared about and even now, all these years later, the Hackneys and Duncan come walking down the street in some matching blue, old-school, satin baseball jackets with DEATH emblazoned on the backs of them. They still feel and sound like they did in that sepia-toned photograph from the 1970s - like KISS on a Saturday night bender.
Drag City Records