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BAD, really good, wins British award; here's why

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When punk rock careened its self-taught musical way onto the London club scene a decade ago, Don Letts was as charged up by punk's energy as the next young bloke. But while most everyone else around him was picking up a guitar or bass, Mr. Letts's inspiration took a slightly different tack. He picked up a Super-8 movie camera and though unschooled in filmmaking,documented the times in ``The Punk Rock Movie.'' Several years and more than 100 music videos later - videos which featured some of the most influential bands of the period, such as the Clash and the Sex Pistols - Letts is still winging it, so to speak. Only now he's on the other side of the camera, collaborating with ex-Clash member Mick Jones in Big Audio Dynamite (BAD) - a mixed-race, mixed-music group that was recently named Band of the Year for 1986 by England's Melody Maker magazine.

``We were in a club one night,'' said Letts at the end of a recent three-week tour of the United States, in explaining how he wound up in BAD, ``and Mick said to me, `Well, what about you?' And I said, `I can't play anything, Mick.' And he said, `Look, take these colored stickers and put them on the keyboard and we'll work it out.'

``I'm not very technically capable, I'm more of an ideas man. It was the same thing in film,'' he explained.

Letts, who sings some vocals and co-writes with Mr. Jones, also masterminds the various synthesized sound effects and tape loops that have become a hallmark of BAD's infectious cross-cultural blend of influences ranging from rock to hiphop.

``I don't know all the ins and outs or what all the machines are called,'' continued Letts. ``But there's plenty of technique out there, and not enough ideas.''

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