Everything from the classic punk chord progression, to the fast paced drumming, and grimy singing in this song screams hardcore punk. This was a band that was way before their time. They defined hardcore punk, while simultaneously staying true to their identity as a band. The self- titled debut Bad Brains album which features “Sailin’ On” was a perfect mix of reggae and hardcore punk: staples of Bad Brains music. They didn’t care if it made sense to make music from two completely different genres and put it on one album; they were just being themselves and having fun, disregarding anyone who couldn’t understand their performances including the city of Washington D.C.**
This song is fast, short, and simple, but it’s so powerful. The energy the song exudes makes me spaz, and I can only imagine how crazy it would’ve been to see them play live. Front man and lead singer, H.R. (Human Rights), was notorious for riling up audiences with his back flips and seizure like spasms, creating a riot atmosphere. It wasn’t like H.R. was a spectacle for the crowd to watch; he got the audience involved by jumping in the crowd during performances as well as bringing members of the audience on stage. I linked a live version along with the recorded track version so you can see what I’m talking about.
**By 1979 Bad Brains were unofficially banned from playing at any clubs or music venues in Washington D.C., forcing them to solely play at house parties; this uprooted and planted them in New York City at CBGB. I linked a video of them playing at CBGB below the video for the song “Sailin’ On”.