Sunday November 19th 2017

DEAD KENNEDYS

Dead_Kennedys_-_Fresh_Fruit_for_Rotting_Vegetables_cover
DEAD KENNEDYS

 

Dead Kennedys are an American hardcore punk band formed in San Francisco, California in 1978. The band became part of the American hardcore punk movement of the early 1980s. They gained a large underground fanbase in the international punk rock community, and were one of the first American hardcore bands to make a significant impact in the United Kingdom. Their eclectic music encompassed their trademark loud and fast hardcore, but also surf music, spaghetti western, psychedelic, garage rock and rockabilly. Jello Biafra’s biting lyrics tackled the sociopolitical concerns of the Reagan era with a distinct sense of morbid humor and satire, following in the footsteps of such earlier rock satirists as Frank Zappa and non-musical countercultural figures like Abbie Hoffman and Lenny Bruce. In the mid-1980s, the band was embroiled in an obscenity trial in the United States over the artwork of their album Frankenchrist (1985), which included the explicit titular subject of H. R. Giger’s Penis Landscape. The band was charged with “distribution of harmful matter to minors”, but the trial ended with a hung jury. Dead Kennedys released five studio albums before disbanding in 1986. In 2001, the band reformed without Biafra, who had been in a legal dispute with the remaining members over royalties. (from Wikipedia)

The Dead Kennedys have been so popular, as least in the punk rock world, that they’re a band I tend to take for granted- kind of like I do The Ramones, but their influence and importance cannot be over stated.  They are a San Francisco punk band that had a lot of social commentary in the lyrics with lots of anti-Reagan sentiments but were not afraid to take swipes at liberals or hippies as well. And their name, referring to President Kennedy and then his brother being assassinated in the sixties, was controversial before controversial band names became common.

They were probably the first punk band that I heard that had the faster, hardcore sound that separated them from the original punk bands. I probably heard Black Flag before them but that was before that band really amp-ed up the speed. Bang and I didn’t check out the Dead Kennedy’s recent show in Cambridge as we saw them with Jello Biafra back in the day and really don’t want to see them with another singer. We saw them once in the early eighties at the Channnel, a big warehouse type club in South Boston that held 1700, and it was the biggest crowd of any show I ever saw there.

Any young guitar player should go just to check out what East Bay Ray does, though. I was unaware of what influence surf music had on some of the bands at the time, like the B-52’s and Blondie amongst others. East Bay Ray’s stuff is all surf licks just changed and twisted in all interesting shapes and ways, just like taking a balloon and making a giraffe- he takes notes and does the same. Along with Billy Zoom from X, those two are probably the most amazing guitarist of the punk bands (I’m gonna add Robert Quine from Richard Hell & The Voidoids as well).      So enough of my blather, let’s check out their tunes.

Here’s a song played in what looks like a practice space but shows the excitement of what this band could unleash live. I think Jello is trying to be Batman’s foe, The Riddler here, but I’m not really sure.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Bleed For Me

 

The next four songs are from their “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables” their first album and probably, their only essential one to have. “Holiday In Cambodia” was probably their most popular song.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Holiday In Cambodia

 

“California Uber Alles” was maybe their second biggest “hit.” Its prediction of liberal politicians being repressive as the conservative ones turned out to be correct with the dawning of all the political correctness nonsense in the years to come. I picked the single version here as it’s a little different from the more familiar album version.

DEAD KENNEDYS
California Uber Alles

 

“Kill The Poor’ was another great track and the lead off song on the album.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Kill The Poor

 

“Viva Las Vegas” was a cover of an Elvis Presley song and happens to be my favorite Elvis movie, as well. And no, the “line” about the coke up the nose was not in the original Elvis song.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Viva Las Vegas

 

Here’s their version of the theme song to “Rawhide” which was a television program about cowboys in the early sixties, I think.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Rawhide

 

The next three songs are my favorite tunes by them. “Too Drunk To Fuck” besides having a great title just is an amazing song. I always think of “Alcohol” by Gang Green when I hear this and the line in that song that goes, “I’d rather drink than fuck.” Alcohol and sex can mix well together but not always.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Too Drunk To Fuck

 

“Nazi Punks Fuck Off” with lyrics here- shows where hardcore was headed, musically, after the style of the early hardcore of their first album became more known.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Nazi Punks Fuck Off

 

Here’s my favorite song by them and my favorite guitar playing by East Bay is on this song, “Police Truck.” It’s all here, the energy and excitement, the excellent pushing, propulsive drums, the social commentary of the lyrics and the surf guitar gone crazy with dissonance and volume galore.

DEAD KENNEDYS
Police Truck

 

Lots of folks would choose Dead Kennedys as the best California punk band of all time. They’re not my favorite, even The Avengers beat them out for best from San Francisco, for me; but they’re still important and their influence cannot be denied and they definitely were one of the best. Let’s take it out with one more live ride on the police truck- hop on!

DEAD KENNEDYS
Police Truck (live)

 

Here’s an added attraction.

DEAD KENNEDYS
The Early Years

 

(Slimedog)

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