When Mick Jones was given the boot by the Clash in 1983, few probably anticipated that his next project, Big Audio Dynamite (a.k.a. B.A.D.) would outdo his former band in terms of years and output when compared side-by-side. Regardless, the band’s aptly titled This Is Big Audio Dynamite trumped the revamped Clash’s abysmal swan song from the same year (1985), Cut the Crap. (One has to wonder at the competing sloganeering of the two records, given Crap’s “We Are the Clash.”)
Jones, teaming up with longtime Clash associate Don Letts, bassist Leo “E-Zee Kill” Williams, drummer Greg Roberts and keyboardist Dan Donovan, created the logical extension of his former group’s ever-evolving multi-culti hodgepodge. Led by the invigoration of first single “The Bottom Line,” B.A.D. evoked the patina of their West London base in its dubby layers and Jones’ toasting at the track’s end. But centered around the guitarist’s glistening hook, the song also reflects the spirit of Jones’ punk background. When he sings about dancing “to the tune of economic decline,” he could just as well be once again lamenting his lack of career opportunities.
Despite what most might say, the ’80s were an exciting time for music, and not for the “new wave” for which its usually remembered. Hip-hop was bristling with new beats and sounds, and the ideas that punk had first sparked were being taken in a multitude of directions. B.A.D. was very much the synthesis of all of this. The name—Big Audio Dynamite—really said it all. Picking through remnants of what came before them or blowing to bits all that was current around them and then taking the pieces they liked, they packed it all into an urbane powder keg. “E = MC²” pastes mechanized beats to movie samples and a simple melody. It’s the sort of thing that would be later watered down by also-rans like Urban Dance Squad, but in 1985, Jones and his gang were clear-cutting a path of their own. Songs like “The Medicine Show” seem deceptively simple now, but the components of their make-up were largely foreign to each other previously.
While the first disc of Legacy’s expanded edition contains the remastered original album, disc two is comprised of the remixes of the record’s singles as well as a couple B-sides and an unreleased outtake. It is on the remixes that the songs’ beats are emphasized. “Sudden Impact!” stands up particularly well to the treatment, with its repeated synth tweat stretched to five minutes of groove. “Electric Vandal,” the unreleased cut, is reminiscent of the Tom Tom Club (who arguably were working in a similar terrain around the same time), a cooing melody infused with electric funk. Still, the second disc is more curiosity than necessity. Fortunately, the same can’t be said of B.A.D., who were very, very essential at the time and remain so to this day.