Thursday December 14th 2017

Dead Kennedys – “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables”

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Dead Kennedys – “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables”

 

The Dead Kennedys were, in my alcohol soaked recollection, the first hardcore punk band that became popular (at least in Boston) and looking back, paved the way for all the heavy hardcore, politically conscious hardcore bands we have today.

Andy Bang picked the album this week. This was their first album and their best. They had words the mainstream bands were too scared to utter. They had music that made The Ramones seem slow.

Plus, one of the best, truthful front men around in Jello Biafra. An awesome rhythm section with a black drummer- an oddity in rock at the time. And a guitar surf-rock hero in East Bay Ray, probably the second best guitarist in those days, second only to Billy Zoom of X.

So sit back, strap-on yourself in. We’re taking off to another planet, where dual texting is not only allowed but encouraged. A world filled with a kaleidoscope of dreams, nightmares and joys. A world TNB courageously encounters. (We now enter our discourse already in progress.)

 

Slimedog- He said he jerks off when he reads it.

Andy- Although he’d better make sure he doesn’t spooze his computer. It could malfunction.

Slimedog- It’s in the newest live review, though he is unnamed. Do you want to start it off?

Andy- I thought we already started.

Slimedog- Ha! Say something about the Dead Kennedys or I’ll nail your scrotum to a tree.

Andy- Ok, ok. So this evening let’s talk about the album, “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables.” The debut album by the great hardcore band from San Francisco, the Dead Kennedys.

Slimedog- I’m not sure who was the first hardcore band I heard. It was probably Angry Samoans or Black Flag. But Dead Kennedys were the first popular hardcore band I knew.

Andy- Yeah, I’m pretty sure Black Flag was around a few years earlier. The DK’s formed in ’78 and the album came out in ’80. They had already released “Holiday In Cambodia” as a single.

Slimedog- I think they were one of the first punk bands that had a truly offensive name. I remember that was a big deal at the time.

Andy- Apparently the band claimed the name was not trying to insult the Kennedy family but instead bring attention to the end of the American dream.

Slimedog- That’s probably true but it’s funny how it’s almost the norm in hardcore now to have an outrageous name and they were quite popular. Do you remember their show at the Channel?

Andy- They were not only popular in the US but the UK as well. At the time they were one of the few California bands driving the hardcore scene. Yes I remember the Channel show like it was yesterday.

Slimedog- That show at the Channel (maybe ’83) had the largest crowd of any of the many shows I saw there.

Andy- The DK’s were very popular in Boston. I remember the show was one of the best I’d seen there. Their songs were quick, catchy and controversial.

Slimedog- They had radio hits as well- like “Holiday In Cambodia” and “California Uber Alles.”

Andy- Yes, their brand of hardcore was a bit more stylish than others. Delving into poppy tunes with catchy melodies. I think East Bay Ray was the sound of the band while Jello presented their non-conformist, anti-establishment attitude.

Slimedog- At the time I was unfamiliar with sixties surf instrumental music but that is what Ray was working from, just with a bit more echo and volume. Lots of bands at the time had surf influences like The B-52’s, The Cramps and Blondie.

Andy- Yeah that makes sense. Especially in a tune like “Holiday In Cambodia”. However they would also put forth high energy quick hitters like the first tune we’ll talk about called, “Kill The Poor.” A fairly simple tune, but Jello and his lyrics make the difference.

Slimedog- Who else sounds like Jello? Maybe the guy from Fear or Johnny Rotten but not really. Totally unique voice and biting, sarcastic lyrics.

Andy- True. He’s got a kind of a whiny, nasally quality with an odd vibrato at times. But it all works perfectly. I remember us cranking the tunes in my car and headbangin’ all the way to our next stop.

Slimedog- And I would recommend folks checking out some early DK’s on Youtube. Next to Iggy, I believe he was the best front man at the time, and that’s beating our great ones like Rotten, Joe Strummer, Lux Interior from The Cramps.

Andy- Definitely. Another tune from the album that doesn’t quite fit the traditional hardcore theme, but is none the less an awesome tune, is “California Uber Alles.”

Slimedog- That song was against hippies and political correctness, before that was a term. Totally on point. Even my punk daughter has had the same experience with young hippies trying to control how she acts so I guess it hasn’t changed much. “Mellow out or you will pay!”

Andy- Yes, once again we see how the lyrics and Jello’s inflections take a simple song and make it great. I think the next two tunes on our hits list are my favorites from the album, “I Kill Children” and “Stealing Peoples Mail.” The absurdity of the lyrics combined with a more traditional hardcore vibe makes them a lot of fun.

Slimedog- Both great tunes. I’d like to also mention two songs by them, not on the album but from that time, one is “Police Truck”- “Hey, guys are you doin’ something wicked? No siree, we’re just giving tickets.”

Andy- Yes that is a great song, kind of reminded me of my dad who was also a police officer named Lou.

Slimedog- Gee, I hope he was a little better behaved. And the other favorite is “Too Drunk Too Fuck.”

Andy- One can only hope. Another great tune which is a fine example of how controversial lyrics can shock and endear at the same time.

Slimedog- My new song is called, “I Don’t Give A Fuck About Fucking.” To sum it up, the Dead Kennedys were an incredible band and though most bands do not betray an influence of them, it’s hard to imagine the politically conscious current hardcore bands without them existing before.

Andy- My new song is “Too Fucked To Drink.” Yes the DK’s were hard hitting in both music and lyrics. Controversial yet highly entertaining. They only lasted in their most potent form for a few short years, but it was fun while it lasted.

Slimedog- Excellent choice this week. Much better than my suggestion of “Air Supply” and their album “Our Music Floats Away In The Air.” Next time I think I’ll choose Uriah Heep’s “Dancing In The Magicians Nostrils.”

Andy- Cool.

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