Dead Kennedys

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Dead Kennedys
Origin San Francisco, California, U.S.
Years active
  • 1978–1986
  • 2001–present
Associated acts
Members East Bay Ray
Klaus Flouride
D. H. Peligro
Ron "Skip" Greer
Past members Jello Biafra
Brandon Cruz
Jeff Penalty
Dave Scheff
Greg Reeves

Dead Kennedys are an American punk rock band that formed in San Francisco, California, in 1978. The band was one of the defining hardcore punk bands during its initial eight-year run. [4]

Punk rock is a rock music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as "proto-punk" music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels.

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, US

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is a city in, and the cultural, commercial, and financial center of, Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th-most populous city in the United States, and the fourth-most populous in California, with 883,305 residents as of 2018. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second-most densely populated large US city, and the fifth-most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is also part of the fifth-most populous primary statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.


Dead Kennedys' lyrics were usually political in nature, satirizing establishment political figures (liberal and conservative) and authority in general, as well as popular culture and even the punk movement itself. During their initial incarnation between 1978 and 1986, they attracted considerable controversy for their provocative lyrics and artwork. Several stores refused to stock their recordings, provoking debate about censorship in rock music; in the mid-1980s, vocalist and primary lyricist Jello Biafra became an active campaigner against the Parents Music Resource Center. This culminated in an obscenity trial between 1985 and 1986, which resulted in a hung jury.

Jello Biafra American singer and activist

Eric Reed Boucher, better known by his professional name Jello Biafra, is an American singer who is the former lead singer and songwriter for the San Francisco punk rock band Dead Kennedys. He is a musician and spoken word artist.

Parents Music Resource Center

The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was an American committee formed in 1985 with the stated goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to have violent, drug-related or sexual themes via labeling albums with Parental Advisory stickers. The committee was founded by four women known as the "Washington Wives" – a reference to their husbands' connections with government in the Washington, D.C. area. The women who founded the PMRC are Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The PMRC eventually grew to include 22 participants before shutting down in the mid-to-late 1990s.

A hung jury or deadlocked jury is a judicial jury that cannot agree upon a verdict after extended deliberation and is unable to reach the required unanimity or supermajority.

The group released a total of four studio albums and one EP before disbanding in 1986. Following the band's dissolution, Biafra continued to collaborate and record with other artists including D.O.A., NoMeansNo and his own bands Lard and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, as well as releasing several spoken word performances.

D.O.A. (band) Canadian hardcore punk band

D.O.A. is a Canadian punk rock band from Vancouver, British Columbia. They are often referred to as the "founders" of hardcore punk along with Black Flag, Bad Brains, Angry Samoans, the Germs, Negative Trend, and Middle Class. Their second album Hardcore '81 was thought by many to have been the first actual reference to the second wave of the American punk sound as hardcore.

Lard is an American hardcore punk/industrial band founded in 1988 as a side project by Jello Biafra, Al Jourgensen, Paul Barker, and Jeff Ward .. Over the years, several other members of Ministry played with Lard, namely Bill Rieflin, Mike Scaccia, and Rey Washam.

In 2000 (upheld on appeal in 2003), Biafra lost an acrimonious legal case initiated by his former Dead Kennedys band mates over songwriting credits and unpaid royalties. In 2001, the band reformed without Biafra; various singers have since been recruited for vocal duties.


Formation of the band (1978–79)

Dead Kennedys formed in June 1978 in San Francisco, California, when East Bay Ray (Raymond Pepperell) advertised for bandmates in the newspaper The Recycler , after seeing a ska-punk show at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco. The original band lineup consisted of Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher) on vocals, East Bay Ray on guitar, Klaus Flouride (Geoffrey Lyall) on bass, 6025 (Carlos Cadona) on rhythm guitar and Ted (Bruce Slesinger) on drums and percussion. This lineup recorded their first demos. Their first live show was on July 19, 1978 at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco, California. They were the opening act on a bill that included DV8 and Negative Trend with The Offs headlining.

East Bay Ray American musician

Raymond John Pepperell, better known by his stage name East Bay Ray, is a guitarist best known for his membership in the San Francisco Bay area-based punk band Dead Kennedys. His guitar work was heavily influenced by surf music, jazz and rockabilly. Alongside Jello Biafra's astute lyrics and unique vibrato-based vocal style, East Bay Ray's playing was one of the defining factors of the music of the Dead Kennedys, and by extension, of the "second wave" of American punk. He is also the only Dead Kennedy to remain a constant member of the band since its formation.

The Recycler was first published in July, 1973, under the name "E-Z Buy E-Z Sell" by Canadians Gunter and Nancy Schaldach after they moved to Los Angeles. They modeled their paper after a similar publication in Vancouver.

Mabuhay Gardens San Francisco nightclub

The Mabuhay Gardens was a San Francisco nightclub located at 443 Broadway, on the Broadway strip of North Beach, an area best known for its striptease clubs.

Dead Kennedys played numerous shows at local venues afterwards. Due to the provocative name of the band, they sometimes played under pseudonyms, including "The DK's", "The Sharks", "The Creamsicles" and "The Pink Twinkies". The band's real name generated controversy. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote in November 1978, "Just when you think tastelessness has reached its nadir, along comes a punk rock group called 'The Dead Kennedys', which will play at Mabuhay Gardens on Nov. 22, the 15th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination." Despite mounting protests, the owner of Mabuhay declared, "I can't cancel them NOW—there's a contract. Not, apparently, the kind of contract some people have in mind." [5] However, despite popular belief, the name was not meant to insult the Kennedy family, but according to Biafra, "to bring attention to the end of the American Dream". [6]

<i>San Francisco Chronicle</i> newspaper serving the San Francisco Bay area

The San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California in the United States. It was founded in 1865 as The Daily Dramatic Chronicle by teenage brothers Charles de Young and Michael H. de Young. The paper is owned by the Hearst Corporation, which bought it from the de Young family in 2000. It is the only major daily paper covering the city and county of San Francisco.

Herb Caen American newspaper columnist

Herb Caen was a San Francisco journalist whose daily column of local goings-on and insider gossip, social and political happenings, painful puns and offbeat anecdotes—"a continuous love letter to San Francisco"—appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle for almost sixty years and made him a household name throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Nadir direction pointing directly below a particular location

The nadir, is the direction pointing directly below a particular location; that is, it is one of two vertical directions at a specified location, orthogonal to a horizontal flat surface there. Since the concept of being below is itself somewhat vague, scientists define the nadir in more rigorous terms. Specifically, in astronomy, geophysics and related sciences, the nadir at a given point is the local vertical direction pointing in the direction of the force of gravity at that location. The direction opposite of the nadir is the zenith.

6025 left the band in March 1979 under somewhat unclear circumstances, generally considered to be musical differences. In June, the band released their first single, "California Über Alles", on Biafra and East Bay Ray's independent label, Alternative Tentacles. The band followed with a poorly attended East Coast tour, being a new and fairly unknown band at the time, without a full album release.

California Über Alles single

"California Über Alles" is a song by Dead Kennedys. The single, which was the group's first recording, was released in June 1979 on the Optional Music label, with "The Man with the Dogs" appearing as its B-side. The title track was re-recorded in 1980 for the band's first album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, and the original recording as well as the B-side were later included on the 1987 compilation Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death.

Alternative Tentacles American record label

Alternative Tentacles is an independent record label established in 1979 in San Francisco, California. It was used by the Dead Kennedys for the self-produced single "California Über Alles". After realizing the potential for an independent label, they released records for other bands as well. Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray and vocalist Jello Biafra formed Alternative Tentacles, but Biafra became the owner in the mid-1980s. Alternative Tentacles no longer owns the rights to Dead Kennedys recordings after a 2000 lawsuit.

East Coast of the United States Coastline in the United States

The East Coast of the United States, also known as the Eastern Seaboard, the Atlantic Coast, and the Atlantic Seaboard, is the coastline along which the Eastern United States meets the North Atlantic Ocean. The coastal states that have shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean are, from north to south, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980–81)

A live performance photo. Dead-kennedys-live.jpg
A live performance photo.

In early 1980, they recorded and released the single "Holiday in Cambodia". In June, the band recorded their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables , released in September of that year on the UK label Cherry Red. The album reached number 33 on the UK Albums Chart. Since its initial release, it has been re-released by several other labels, including IRS, Alternative Tentacles, and Cleopatra. The newest reissue-- the special 25th anniversary edition-- features the original artwork and a bonus 55-minute DVD documenting the making of the album as well as the band's early years [7] .

On March 25, 1980, Dead Kennedys were invited to perform at the Bay Area Music Awards in an effort to give the event some "new wave credibility", in the words of the organizers. The day of the performance was spent practicing the song they were asked to play, the underground hit "California Über Alles". The band became the talking point of the ceremony when after about 15 seconds into the song, Biafra stopped the band—in a manner reminiscent of Elvis Costello's Saturday Night Live appearance—and said, "Hold it! We've gotta prove that we're adults now. We're not a punk rock band, we're a new wave band." The band, all wearing white shirts with a big, black S painted on the front, pulled black ties from around the backs of their necks to form a dollar sign, then started playing a new song titled "Pull My Strings", a barbed, satirical attack on the ethics of the mainstream music industry, which contained the lyrics, "Is my cock big enough, is my brain small enough, for you to make me a star?". The song also referenced The Knack's song "My Sharona". "Pull My Strings" was never recorded for a studio release, though the performance at the Bay Area Music Awards, which was the only time the song was ever performed, was released on the band's compilation album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death .

In January 1981, Ted announced that he wanted to leave to pursue a career in architecture and would help look for a replacement. He played his last concert in February 1981. His replacement was D.H. Peligro (Darren Henley). Around the same time, East Bay Ray had tried to pressure the rest of the band to sign to the major record label Polydor Records; Biafra stated that he was prepared to leave the group if the rest of the band wanted to sign to the label, [8] though East Bay Ray asserts that he recommended against signing with Polydor. Polydor decided not to sign the band after they learned that Dead Kennedys' next single was to be entitled "Too Drunk to Fuck".

When "Too Drunk to Fuck" came out in May 1981, the song caused much controversy in the UK as the BBC feared the single would reach the Top 30; this would require a mention of the song on Top of the Pops . It was never played although it was called "'Too Drunk' by the Kennedys" by presenter Tony Blackburn.

In God We Trust, Inc., Plastic Surgery Disasters and Alternative Tentacles Records (1981–85)

After Peligro joined the band, the extended play In God We Trust, Inc. (1981) saw them move toward a more aggressive hardcore/thrash sound. In addition to the EP's controversial artwork depicting a gold Christ figure on a cross of dollar bills, the lyrics contained Biafra's most biting social and political commentary yet, and songs such as "Moral Majority", "Nazi Punks Fuck Off!" and "We've Got a Bigger Problem Now" placed Dead Kennedys as the spokesmen of social protest, while "Dog Bite", a cover version of Rawhide and various joke introductions showed a much more whimsical side. In 1982, they released their second studio album, Plastic Surgery Disasters . The album's cover features a withered starving African child's hand being held and dwarfed by a white man's hand, a picture that had won the World Press Photo award in 1980, taken in Karamoja district in Uganda by Mike Wells.

The band's music had evolved considerably in a short time, moving away from hardcore formulae toward a more innovative jazz-informed style, featuring musicianship and dynamics far beyond other bands in the genre (thus effectively removing the music from that genre). By now the group had become a de facto political force, pitting itself against rising elements of American social and political life such as the religious right, Ronald Reagan and the idle rich. The band continued touring all over the United States, as well as Europe and Australia, and gained a large underground following. While they continued to play live shows during 1983 and 1984, they took a break from releasing new records to concentrate on the Alternative Tentacles record label, which would become synonymous with DIY alternative culture. The band continued to write and perform new material during this time, which would appear on their next album (some of these early performances can be seen in the DMPO's on Broadway video, originally released by Dirk Dirksen and later reissued on Rhino).

Frankenchrist and obscenity trial (1985–86)

The release of the album Frankenchrist in 1985 showed the band had grown in musical proficiency and lyrical maturity. While there were still a number of loud/fast songs, much of the music featured an eclectic mix of instruments including trumpets and synthesizers. Around this time Klaus Flouride released the similarly experimental solo EP Cha Cha Cha With Mr. Flouride . Lyrically, the band continued their trademark social commentary, with songs such as "MTV Get Off The Air" and "Jock-O-Rama (Invasion of the Beef Patrol)" poking fun at mainstream America.

However, the controversy that erupted over H.R. Giger's "Penis Landscape", included as an insert with the album, dwarfed the notoriety of its music. The artwork caused a furor with the newly formed Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). In December 1985 a teenage girl purchased the album at the Wherehouse Records store in Los Angeles County. [9] The girl's mother wrote letters of complaint to the California Attorney General and to Los Angeles prosecutors. [9] In 1986, members of the band, along with other parties involved in the distribution of Frankenchrist, were charged criminally with distribution of harmful matter to minors. The store where the teen actually purchased the album was never named in the lawsuit. [9] The criminal charges focused on an illustration by H.R. Giger, titled "Work 219: Landscape XX" (also known as Penis Landscape ). Included as a poster with the album, Penis Landscape depicts nine copulating penises and vaginas. [10]

Members of the band and others in the chain of distribution were charged with violating the California Penal Code [11] on a misdemeanor charge carrying a maximum penalty of up to a year in county jail and a base fine of up to $2,000. Biafra says that during this time government agents invaded and searched his home. The prosecution tried to present the poster to the jury in isolation for consideration as obscene material, but Judge Susan Isacoff ruled that the poster must be considered along with the music and lyrics. [12] The charges against three of the original defendants, Ruth Schwartz (owner of Mordam Records), Steve Boudreau (a distributor involved in supplying Frankenchrist to the Los Angeles Wherehouse store), and Salvatore Alberti (owner of the factory where the record was pressed), were dismissed for lack of evidence. [9]

In August 1987, the case went to the jury with two remaining defendants: Jello Biafra and Michael Bonanno (former Alternative Tentacles label manager). [9] However, the criminal trial ended with a hung jury, split 7 to 5 in favor of acquittal. District Attorneys Michael Guarino and Ira Riener made a motion for a retrial which was denied by Judge Isacoff, Superior Court Judge for the County of Los Angeles. [13] The album, however, was banned from many record stores nationwide.

After the break up of the band, Jello Biafra brought up the court case on The Oprah Winfrey Show . Biafra was on the show with Tipper Gore as part of a panel discussion on the issues of "controversial music lyrics" and censorship. [14]

Bedtime for Democracy and break-up (1986)

In addition to the obscenity lawsuit, the band became increasingly disillusioned with the underground scene as well. The hardcore scene, which had been a haven for free-thinking intellectuals and downtrodden nonconformists, was attracting a more violent audience that imposed an increasing level of brutality on other concertgoers and began to alienate many of the bands and individuals who had helped pioneer the movement in the early 1980s[ citation needed ]. In earlier years the band had criticized neo-Nazi skinheads for trying to ruin the punk scene, but just as big a problem was the popularity of increasingly macho hardcore bands, which brought the group (and their genre) an audience that had little to do with the ideas/ideals they stood for[ citation needed ]. In January 1986, frustrated and alienated from their own scene, Dead Kennedys decided to break up to pursue other interests and played their last concert on February 21. The band continued to work on songs, with Biafra penning songs such as "Chickenshit Conformist" and "Anarchy for Sale", which articulated their feelings about the "dumbing down" of punk rock.

During the summer they recorded these songs for their final album, Bedtime for Democracy , which was released in November. The artwork, depicting a defaced Statue of Liberty overrun with Nazis, media, opportunists, Klan members, corrupt government officials, and religious zombies, echoed the idea that neither America itself or the punk scene were safe havens any more for "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free". The album contains a number of fast/short songs interspersed with jazz ("D.M.S.O."), spoken word ("A Commercial") and psychedelia ("Cesspools In Eden"). The lyrical focus is more introspective and earnest ("Where Do Ya Draw The Line?"), with an anti-war, anti-violence ("Rambozo The Clown") bend, moving away from the violent imagery of their early records, while remaining as subversive as ever ("I Spy", "D.M.S.O."). In December, the band announced their split. Biafra went on to speak about his political beliefs on numerous television shows and he released a number of spoken-word albums. Ray, Flouride, and Peligro also went on to solo careers.

Reforming of new band line-up

In 2001, Ray, Peligro, and Flouride reformed the Dead Kennedys, with former Dr. Know singer Brandon Cruz replacing Biafra on vocals. The band played under the name "DK Kennedys" for a few concerts, but later reverted to "Dead Kennedys" permanently. They played across the continental United States, Europe, Asia, South America, and Russia. Brandon Cruz left the band in May 2003 and was replaced by Jeff Penalty. The band has released two live albums of archival performances on Manifesto Records: Mutiny on the Bay , compiled from various live shows including a recording from their last show with Biafra in 1986, and Live at the Deaf Club , a recording of a 1979 performance at the Deaf Club in San Francisco which was greeted with more enthusiasm.

On October 9, 2007, a best of album titled Milking the Sacred Cow was released. It includes two previously unreleased live versions of "Soup Is Good Food" and "Jock-O-Rama", originally found on Frankenchrist.

Jeff Penalty left the band in March 2008 in what he describes as a "not amicable split." [15] In a statement released, Jeff said that, following a series of disputes, the band had secretly recruited a new singer and played a gig in his neighbourhood, although he also stated he was "really proud of what we were able to accomplish with Dead Kennedys". [15] He was replaced by former Wynona Riders singer Ron "Skip" Greer. D.H. also left the band to "take some personal time off". He was replaced for a tour by Translator drummer Dave Scheff. [16]

Break from touring

On August 21, 2008, the band announced an extended break from touring due to the health-related issues of Flouride and Peligro. They stated their plans to collaborate on new projects. The band performed a gig in Santa Rosa, California in June 2009, with Peligro returning to the drum kit. [17]

In August 2010, Dead Kennedys announced plans for a short East Coast tour. The lineup assembled for this tour contained East Bay Ray, Peligro, Greer, and bassist Greg Reeves replacing Flouride, who was taking "personal time off" from the band. [18] [19] The tour dates included performances in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Portland, Maine and Hawaii. [20] The band has played a reworked version of their song "MTV Get Off the Air", re-titled "MP3 Get Off the Web", with lyrics criticizing music piracy during their October 16, 2010, concert at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C.. [21]

Back on the road

Dead Kennedys at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago, June 2014 Dead Kennedys live in Chicago at Bottom Lounge on west Lake June 27, 2014 23-32 -01 (14530182562).jpg
Dead Kennedys at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago, June 2014

Dead Kennedys had world tours in 2013 and in 2014, the latter mostly in North American cities. In 2015 and 2016 they toured again, including South America, where they had not played since 2001.

In 2017, East Bay Ray revealed that the band and Jello Biafra had been approached by the Punk-oriented music festival Riot Fest about a potential reunion. While Ray and the rest of the band expressed interest in the concept, Biafra refused. [22]

On April 26, 2019, the group released DK40, a live compilation album celebrating 40 years since the band formed. [23]

Conflicts between members

Royalties lawsuit

In the late 1990s, former band members discovered problems with the payment of royalties they had received from Alternative Tentacles. East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride, and D. H. Peligro claimed that Jello Biafra had conspired to pay lower royalty rates. Although both sides agreed that the failure to pay these royalties was an accounting mistake, the other members were upset that Biafra failed to inform them of the mistake after he and his co-workers discovered it and additionally claimed he intended to use the money against them. [24]

A jury found Biafra and Alternative Tentacles "guilty of malice, oppression and fraud". [25] Malice was defined for the jury as "conduct which is intended to cause injury or despicable conduct which is carried with a willful and conscious disregard for the rights of others". [26] Biafra's appeal was denied; he had to pay the outstanding royalties and punitive damages, [27] and was forced to hand over the rights to the majority of Dead Kennedys' back catalogue to the Decay Music partnership. The jury and judges also noted, in their words, that Biafra "lacked credibility" on the songwriting issue and found from evidence presented by both sides that the songwriting credits were due to the entire band. [28]

This dispute was hotly contested by all concerned who felt passionately for their cause, and the case caused minor waves within punk circles. Biafra claims that East Bay Ray had long expressed displeasure with Alternative Tentacles and with the amount of money he received from them, thus the original incentive for the discovery of the back payments. It was found out that Alternative Tentacles was paying Dead Kennedys less per CD than all the other bands, including Biafra himself, and not informing his other bandmates, which was the fraud. Biafra accused the band of wanting to license the famous Dead Kennedys song "Holiday in Cambodia" for use in a Levi's jeans commercial, which the band denied. [29] However, an instrumental loop from "Holiday in Cambodia" was part of the 1981 movie "Neighbors," but wasn't included on the soundtrack.

Biafra's former bandmates maintain that they sued because of Jello Biafra's deliberate withholding of money, though when pressed they have acknowledged that the payment was an accounting mistake, but insist that Biafra was wrong in failing to inform the band directly. Details about this issue remain scarce. The band also maintains that the Levi's story was completely fictitious and invented by Biafra to discredit them. [30]

Disputes over new commercial activities

Matters were stirred up even further when the three bandmates invited Jello Biafra to "bury the hatchet" in the form of a band reunion. Jello Biafra felt it was unprofessional because no one contacted him directly. In addition, Biafra was disdainful of the reunion, and having long expressed his disdain for nostalgia and rock reunion/oldies tours in particular, argued that the whole affair was motivated by greed. [29]

Several DVDs, re-issues, and live albums have been released since the departure of Biafra most recently on Manifesto Records. According to Biafra, the live albums are "cash-ins" on Dead Kennedys' name and his music. Biafra also accused the releases of the new live material of having poor sound quality. Furthermore he has stated he is not receiving any royalties from the sale of any Manifesto Records releases. Consequently, he has discouraged fans from buying any Dead Kennedy reissues. The other band members denied Biafra's accusations regarding the live releases, and have defended the mixes as an effort of hard work. Biafra dismissed the new group as "the world's greediest karaoke band." Nevertheless, in 2003, Klaus Flouride said of performances without the band's former frontman: "There hasn't been a show yet that people didn't really like." [31]

Biafra further criticized them for advertising shows using his own image taken from the original 1980s incarnation of the band, which he labeled as false advertising. He attacked the reformed Dead Kennedys in a song called "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)", which appears on his second collaboration with sludge metal band the Melvins, Sieg Howdy! .

Biafra told an audience at a speaking gig in Trenton, New Jersey, that the remaining Dead Kennedys have licensed their single "Too Drunk to Fuck" to be used in a rape scene in a Robert Rodriguez movie. The reference is to a lounge cover of the song, recorded by the band Nouvelle Vague, played during a scene in the Planet Terror segment of Grindhouse , although no rape takes place, and in fact the would-be rapist is killed by the would-be victim. The scene in Planet Terror has would-be rapist, "Rapist No. 1" (Quentin Tarantino) order one-legged stripper "Cherry Darlin" (Rose McGowan) to get up off the floor and dance. At this point Tarantino hits play on a cassette recorder and Nouvelle Vague's cover of "Too Drunk To Fuck" plays.

Jello, clearly disapproving of the situation, later wrote, "This is their lowest point since Levi's... This goes against everything the Dead Kennedys stands for in spades... The terrified woman later 'wins' by killing Tarantino, but that excuse does not rescue this at all. I wrote every note of that song and this is not what it was meant for.... Some people will do anything for money. I can't help but think back to how prudish Klaus Flouride was when he objected to H.R. Giger's painting on the "Frankenchrist" (sic) poster, saying he couldn't bear to show it to his parents. I'd sure love to be a fly on the wall when he tries to explain putting a song in a rape scene for money to his teenage daughter... The deal was pushed through by a new business manager the other three hired." [32]

The reformed Dead Kennedys followed their court victory by releasing reissues of all Dead Kennedys albums (except Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables , to which they did not have the rights until 2005), releasing several new archival concert DVDs, and licensing several songs to The Manchurian Candidate remake and the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game. East Bay Ray claims he received a fax from Alternative Tentacles purporting Biafra approved the licensing for the game. [33]

The band claims on their website that they still pay close attention to an anti-corporate ideology, despite performing on September 5, 2003 at a festival in Turkey that was sponsored by Coca-Cola, noting that they have since pulled out of a show in Los Angeles when they found that it was being sponsored by Coors. [34] However, Biafra claims the above mentioned licensing deals prove otherwise. Some have found difficulty reconciling this claim when Biafra also licensed to major corporations, approving with the other band members use of Dead Kennedys’ songs in major studio film releases such as Neighbors , Freddy Got Fingered , and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas . [35]

"DK" logo Dead Kennedys (logo).jpg
"DK" logo

The original logo was created by Winston Smith. He later contributed artwork for the covers of In God We Trust, Inc. , Plastic Surgery Disasters , Frankenchrist , Bedtime for Democracy , Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death , the back cover of the "Kill the Poor" single and the Alternative Tentacles logo. When asked about the "DK" logo in an interview, Jello Biafra explained, "...I wanted to make sure it was something simple and easy to spray-paint so people would graffiti it all over the place, and then I showed it to Winston Smith. He played around with it, came back with a bunch of designs that had the circle and slightly 3-D looking letters and he had ones with different patterns behind it. I liked the one with bricks, but ultimately I thought simple red behind it was the boldest and the best." [36]

Music and lyrics

Dead Kennedys have been described as a hardcore punk band. [37] Dead Kennedys were noted for the harshness of their lyrics, which generally combined biting Juvenalian social satire while expressing a staunchly left-wing view of contemporary America. [38] Unlike other leftist punk bands who use more direct sloganeering, Dead Kennedys' lyrics were often snide. For example, "Holiday in Cambodia" is a multi-layered satire targeting both yuppies and Cambodia's recently deposed Khmer Rouge regime.



Dead Kennedys



See also

Related Research Articles

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Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is the debut studio album by the American punk rock band Dead Kennedys. It was first released on September 2, 1980 through Cherry Red Records in the United Kingdom and later issued by Jello Biafra's own Alternative Tentacles label in the United States.

<i>Bedtime for Democracy</i> 1986 studio album by the Dead Kennedys

Bedtime for Democracy is the fourth and final studio album released by Dead Kennedys. Released in 1986, songs on this album cover common punk subjects often found in punk rock lyrics of the era as conformity, Reaganomics, the U.S. military, and critique of the hardcore punk movement. The album's title refers to the 1951 comedy film, Bedtime for Bonzo starring Ronald Reagan and also reflects the band's weary bitterness from the financially and emotionally draining trial they were being subjected to at the time over the controversial art included with their previous album. By the time recording of Bedtime for Democracy had begun, the Dead Kennedys had already played what would be their last concert with Jello Biafra and announced their breakup immediately after the release of the record, whose opening track is a cover of David Alan Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It."

Darren Henley, better known by his stage name D. H. Peligro, is an American punk rock musician, most commonly known as the drummer for the Dead Kennedys along with a brief stint as the drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Holiday in Cambodia 1980 single by Dead Kennedys

"Holiday in Cambodia" is a song by American punk rock band Dead Kennedys. The record was released as the group's second single in May 1980 on Optional Music with "Police Truck" as its B-side. The title track was re-recorded for the band's first album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980); the original recording of the song, as well as the single's B-side, are available on the rarities album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (1987). The photograph in the front cover of the single was taken from the Thammasat University massacre in Thailand, and depicts a member of the right-wing crowd beating a hanged corpse of a student protester with a metal chair.

<i>In God We Trust, Inc.</i> 1981 EP by Dead Kennedys

In God We Trust, Inc. is a hardcore punk EP by the Dead Kennedys and the first of the group's albums with drummer D.H. Peligro. The record is a screed against things ranging from organized religion and Neo-Nazis, to the pesticide Kepone and government indifference that worsened the effects of Minamata disease catastrophes. In God We Trust, Inc. is also the first Dead Kennedys album released after the presidential election of Ronald Reagan and features the band's first references to Reagan, for which they—and hardcore punk as a genre—would become notorious.

<i>Plastic Surgery Disasters</i> 1982 studio album by Dead Kennedys

Plastic Surgery Disasters is the second full-length album released by punk rock band Dead Kennedys. Recorded in San Francisco during June 1982, it was produced by the band's guitarist East Bay Ray and punk record producer Thom Wilson. The album is darker and more hardcore-influenced than their debut album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables as a result of the band trying to expand on the sound and mood they had achieved with their 1980 single "Holiday in Cambodia". It was the first full-length album to feature drummer D.H. Peligro, and is frontman Jello Biafra's favorite Dead Kennedys album.

The No WTO Combo punk rock band

The No WTO Combo was a one-shot punk rock band started by Krist Novoselic. The band consisted of Jello Biafra ; guitarist Kim Thayil of Soundgarden; and the rhythm section of Sweet 75, with Gina Mainwal on drums and Novoselic on bass.

The Crucifucks were a Lansing, Michigan-based punk band formed in 1981. They were noted for their political agitation, provocative lyrics, and unusually shrill vocals by band leader Doc Corbin Dart. Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra signed them to his independent Alternative Tentacles label.

<i>Mutiny on the Bay</i> 2001 live album by Dead Kennedys

Mutiny on the Bay is a live album by the Dead Kennedys. It was compiled and released after a lengthy lawsuit, which resulted in the rights to the Dead Kennedys' catalog being transferred from lead singer/songwriter Jello Biafra's record label, Alternative Tentacles to the other three members of the band. Its quality has been criticized by Jello Biafra.

Police Truck 1980 song performed by Dead Kennedys

"Police Truck" is a song by the Dead Kennedys. The song was originally released in May, 1980, as the B-side of the "Holiday in Cambodia" single and later released in June 1987 on the DKs' compilation album, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. The song is a satirical attack on the actions of two police officers, and takes a first person view from the authorities themselves. The song was inspired by an incident that occurred in Los Angeles in the late 1970s in which two police officers performed illegal activities such as drinking on the job, beating up drunks, and raping prostitutes. It also functions more generally as an attack on police corruption and brutality and the police's support for a capitalist system.

<i>Penis Landscape</i> painting by H. R. Giger

Penis Landscape, or Work 219: Landscape XX, is a painting by H. R. Giger. Created in 1973, airbrushed acrylic on paper-covered wood, it measures 70 by 100 centimetres. It depicts a number of penises entering vaginas, arranged in an alternating pattern. One is wearing a condom. It came to a greater level of attention during the trial of vocalist Jello Biafra after his band the Dead Kennedys featured it as a poster included with their 1985 album Frankenchrist.

Geoffrey Lyall, better known as Klaus Flouride, is best known as the bassist and backing vocalist for the San Francisco, punk rock band Dead Kennedys from the group's inception in June 1978 until the band's break-up in December 1986. He also produced four solo albums during the 1980s and 1990s.

Life After Life was a self-described gypsy punk band, active from 1993–1998 and based in San Francisco, California. The group featured Jim Čert, an accordion-playing folk singer originally from the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Erno Šedivý, a Czech drummer noted for his collaborative work with Plastic People of the Universe, and four American musicians involved in the Bay Area rock scene.

<i>Milking the Sacred Cow</i> 2007 compilation album by Dead Kennedys

Milking the Sacred Cow is a compilation album released by the Dead Kennedys in October 2007. It is composed of songs from all studio albums of the band's career, except for their final album, Bedtime for Democracy. It also contains two previously unreleased live tracks, "Soup Is Good Food" and "Jock-O-Rama", the studio versions of which can be found on the album Frankenchrist. The album has been criticized by former lead singer Jello Biafra.

Burning Image band

Burning Image are an American deathrock band formed in Bakersfield, California in 1982. Burning Image first released a 7" single with the songs "The Final Conflict" and "Burning Image, Burning" in the summer of 1984. The compilation 1983-1987 in 2004 and album Fantasma (2009) were both released on Alternative Tentacles, record label owned by former Dead Kennedys singer, Jello Biafra, with album Oleander (2011) being self-published. Burning Image celebrates 36 years as a band, in 2018, with a new album and a tour.


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