Hey, we got that P.M.A.!: “Finding Joseph I: The H.R. from Bad Brains Documentary”

By on February 14, 2018

Now streaming on Night Flight Plus is the 2017 documentary Finding Joseph I: The H.R. from Bad Brains Documentary, which delves deeply into the eccentric life of punk rock reggae lead singer Paul “H.R.” Hudson from Washington D.C.’s Bad Brains.

Finding Joseph I also provides some of the answers that Bad Brains fans have been asking about the band’s legendary lead singer, who quit the band numerous times and eventually changed his name from “H.R.” (which stood for “Human Rights”) to “Joseph I.”

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Joseph I/H.R. also started up a new, Rastafarian-influenced reggae outfit, Zion Train, which allowed him to explore his interest in reggae music.

This change in musical output also enabled him to more fully devote himself to the Rastafarian faith, which had been guiding him away from hardcore punk and towards a more spiritual path.

“I was desperately searching for revolution and truth and freedom. I thought I could find it in punk rock,” says Joseph I/H.R. “It took me about three years to discover that I was just beating my head against a wall.”

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The excellent 90-minute award-winning film — lensed by first-time director James Lathos — features never-before-seen archival footage, photography and exclusive interviews with family members, bandmates (past and present), close friends, and those he has influenced and inspired.

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Interviewees include Joseph I/H.R. and Earl Hudson, H.R.’s wife Lori, Bad Brains manager Anthony Countey, Positive Force founder Mark Andersen, Dischord’s Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi), Fishbone’s Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher, former Maverick Records label boss Guy Oseary, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, producer Ron St. Germain, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and Corey Glover, Questlove of the Roots, Ras Michael of the Sons of Negus, and members of Bad Brains, Black Flag, 311, Sublime, Deftones, the Wailers, Cro-Mags, Dead Prez, Murphy’s Law, P.O.D., Michael Franti & Spearhead and more.

Sadly, guitarist Gary Miller — a.k.a. Dr Know — or bassist Darryl Jenifer both declined to participate in the documentary.

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Read more about Finding Joseph I below.

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The original Bad Brains — Joseph I/H.R. Hudson, his brother Earl Hudson, and friends Gary Miller (better known by his stage name Dr. Know) and Darryl Jenifer — set out to form the fastest hardcore punk band in the world when they were still teenagers, forming in Washington, D.C. in 1977.

They’d originally sought out to fuse jazz with punk, calling themselves Mind Power. The idea was to combine difficult-to-play fast-paced music styled after some of their jazz-fusion influences (like Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke) and combining this precise playing style with rapid-fire rock guitar-drums-bass riffage similar to what British punk outfits like the Sex Pistols and the Damned were playing. They were also interested in adding in a bit of funk, hip hop, soul, and heavy metal in their sound too.

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Over time, Bad Brains began to incorporate elements of reggae, which was introduced to them via their former manager Nick English, who turned them on to classic reggae artists of the ’70s like Bob Marley and the Wailers. Along with the music came the political consciousness associated with the music, and some of the band members also began to heavily embrace the Rastafari movement.

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Eventually, though, Joseph I/H.R. and Earl Hudson began to pull away from their bandmates, Jenifer and Dr. Know, who wanted to continued playing the heavy punk-influence rock, while they continued to be devoted to playing reggae. After a few years of making reggae music outside of Bad Brains, Joseph I/H.R. and Earl left the band for first time.

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Bad Brains continued on with new members, but today only Dr. Know and Jenifer are from the original lineup.

In 2017, and for the first time, Bad Brains were listed on the ballot of nominees for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (they were not amont the five chosen artists/bands who will be inducted later this year).

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As we learn in Lathos’s documentary, the charismatic Joseph I/H.R.’s bandmates in Bad Brains often had to deal with his unpredictable, abnormal behavior.

For a time many close to Joseph I believed he was suffering from what appeared to be increasing mental health issues, perhaps even schizophrenia, which continued to cause problems for the band as his performances became more and more erratic. Along with the unpredictable behavior and occasional disappearing acts, Joseph I/H.R. dealt with drug use and flashes of violence and volatility.

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Somewhat counter-intuitively, at the same time, Joseph I/H.R. also continued to focus on sharing enlightening messages about what it meant to maintain a mantra of “P.M.A.” — for “positive mental attitude” — a concept first developed and introduced in 1937 by Napoleon Hill in his self-help book Think and Grow Rich.

Bad Brains’ early song “Attitude” would famously address this power of positive thinking in their lyrics:

Hey, we got that P.M.A.!
Hey, we got the P.M.A.!
Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!
I Don’t care what you may say
We got that attitude!

Joseph I/HR — as you can see in this clip below of Bad Brains performing “Attitude” during an explosive and raucous set at West Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre — often hurled himself into crowds, convulsing and even peforming back-flips on stage:

The documentary is actually a companion piece to the oral-history book titled Finding Joseph I: An Oral History of H.R. from Bad Brains written by Howie Abrams & James Lathos and published by Lesser Gods books.

Watch Finding Joseph I: The H.R. from Bad Brains Documentary, and other music documentaries, on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.