• The Cream of The Crate - Record #38: Dead Kennedys

      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      "Punk ain't no religious cult, Punk means thinking for yourself?"(East Bay Ray)

      The album cover

      This is number thirty eight in the series of albums I'm featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my personal collection. The series is called, "Cream of The Crate", and they represent vinyl albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

      The greater majority of the 'Crate' reviews have featured artists from the fifties and sixties, from the seventies. For # 38 I am moving for the first time into the 1980's.

      The album is "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables" by the Dead Kennedys. This album was released by Alternative Tentacle Records in 1980 (Virus 1). Alternative Tentacles was a small Indie label co-founded by Kennedys singer/writer, Jello Biafra in 1979.

      Album label

      So, who were the Dead Kennedys?

      Formed in San Francisco in 1978, the group was put together by “East Bay Ray” (aka Raymond Pepperell). Having got the taste for the quickly developing punk style of music, he advertised in a local newspaper and found his singer in “Jello Biafra (aka Eric Boucher), with the bass being filled by Klaus Flouride (aka Geoffrey Lyall) and “Ted” (aka Bruce Slesinger) on drums. East Bay was the groups guitarist.

      Klaus Flouride, Jello Baifra, East Bay Ray & Ted on drums

      Noting the sound was not as full as they would have liked, about a month after forming they accepted “6025” (aka Carlos Cadona) as the second guitarist.

      The Dead Kennedys played their first show the same month as recruiting “6025”, and gigs and popularity followed very quickly – controversy also followed at what might be considered, as a pace even faster than fame!

      It was always going to be that way, apart from the sneers, the accidental and sometimes deliberate ‘misplaying’ of their instruments, their clothes and general ‘fuck you’ attitude, there was THE name!

      The fact of the matter was, that most middle class Americans still held the name of the “Kennedys” in the highest esteem, and here comes (what appeared to be) a bunch of foul mouthed, often drunk, misnamed ‘musicians’, with the name “Dead Kennedys”.

      It is probably one of the most brilliant names ever taken by a band because as the old adage goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and did that name generate bad publicity! So much so, the band would sometimes have to use the name ‘DK’s” to get gigs, and other group pseudonyms used included "The Sharks", "The Creamsicles" and "The Pink Twinkies".

      The band they never intended to denigrate the name of the Kennedys, in fact according to Biafra the name was appropriate because it was, "to bring attention to the end of the American Dream"

      After a very short time 6025 “left” the group – he simply wasn’t needed!

      The Dead Kennedys were among the more quality 'Punk' bands and absolutely left their mark for all times. Certainly on par with the Clash, and just a touch behind the Sex Pistols, among the albums the Dead Kennedys released, this stand first up effort is totally brilliant!
      Left wing anarchism with a strong dash of manic guitar, shaken well with a total lack of respect, in fact, totally replaced with bitingly focused sarcasm and punctured with the voice of Jello Biafra. This was punk at it's finest!

      Rear cover

      Track Listing

      Side 1.
      A1. Kill the Poor 3:07
      A2. Forward to Death 1:23
      A3. When Ya Get Drafted 1:23
      A4. Lets' Lynch the Landlord 2:13
      A5. Drug Me 1:56
      A6. Your Emotions 1:20

      A7. Chemical Warfare 2:58

      Side 2.
      B1. California Uber Alles 3:03
      B2. I Kill Children 2:04
      B3. Stealing Peoples' Mail 1:34
      B4. Funland at the Beach 1:49
      B5. Ill In the Head 2:46
      B6. Holiday in Cambodia 4:37
      B7. Viva Las Vegas 2:42

      Side 2 of the disc had no printing, just a logo

      There are some utterly fantastic tracks on this album, and among my favorites are "Kill the Poor", "California Uber Alles" (California Above Everything Else), "Holiday in Cambodia" "Ill In The Head" and "Viva Las Vegas". I'm certain that other fans of the DK's will have their favorites and they may very well be a different selection.

      Energy literally pours from the music of the Dead Kennedys and I love them for that, but, there is also a fantastic element of musicianship despite the fallacy that punk music is without talent! There is some simply superb guitar work, very tight bass and drum backing and, vocals that may not exactly be the domain of Nat King Cole, but are spat out with passion and (here's that word again!) ENERGY! Holiday in Cambodia has all these elements.

      Holiday in Cambodia

      So you been to school for a year or two
      And you know you've seen it all
      In daddy's car thinkin' you'll go far
      Back east your type don't crawl
      Play ethnicky jazz to parade your snazz
      On your five grand stereo
      Braggin that you know how the niggers feel cold
      And the slums got so much soul

      It's time to taste what you most fear
      Right Guard will not help you here
      Brace yourself, my dear

      It's a holiday in Cambodia
      It's tough kid, but it's life
      It's a holiday in Cambodia
      Don't forget to pack a wife

      Your a star-belly sneech you suck like a leech
      You want everyone to act like you
      Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
      But your boss gets richer on you
      Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back
      For a bowl of rice a day
      Slave for soldiers til you starve
      Then your head skewered on a stake
      Now you can go where people are one
      Now you can go where they get things done
      What you need my son:

      Is a holiday in Cambodia
      Where people dress in black
      A holiday in Cambodia
      Where you'll kiss ass or crack

      Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot [etc.]

      There is a lot to like about the artwork associated with the album. I particularly enjoyed perusing the large fold-out that comes with it, far to big to reproduce in its entirety, here is parts of.

      Insert side 1

      Insert side 2
      Consisting of a collage newspaper clips, photo's and bits of quotes for the DK's, some 33 years later it's no longer just a great piece of artwork, it is a historical snapshot of the elements of society that gave birth to the whole punk movement.

      A close up of part of the insert

      The DK's were not, and still will not, be to everyone's taste! And I guess that would probably please the band. For me it is the energy, the utter disregard for the 'propriety' of the white middle class, the cleverness of the lyrics and the mastery of their instruments - you wanna here 'surf music as interpreted in the 1980's - listen to "Mr Pepperell's guitar work!

      The final track I chose to play you is “Ill in the Head”. In my mind it stands out from the rest, not that it is the 'best', but it represents a more abstract and personal song from Dead Kennedys. Usually distancing himself from his material with humor, Biafra breaks convention and writes confessionally. He sings, “I want my own home/ I want my own girl/ Help me hate the world/ Own and love my life,” hinting at a sadness and longing behind the wit and vitriol. To me, this is the most revealing track on Fresh Fruit, and possibly the most honest. Certainly the unusual guitar rift that is played, almost de-tuned, gives the whole track a 'psychotic' feel.

      Ill in the Head

      Despite the band's moderate success, large following, and the release of three more studio albums and one EP (that's an extended play vinyl record for anyone born after 1990), the band decided to call it quits in 1986.

      Dead Kennedys Poster

      2001 saw the band reunite with Ray, Peligro, Flouride, and Brandon Cruz replacing Biafra on vocals. The band embarked on a tour across the states, Europe, Asia, South America, and Russia. Cruz left the band in May 2003 and was replaced by Jeff Penalty.

      The new incarnation of the Dead Kennedys released two live albums on Manifesto Records: “Mutiny on the Bay” and “Live at the Deaf Club,” which was both moderately successful. By 2008 the band decided to take a break from touring and played selective shows and festivals. 2010 saw the band hit the road again for a tour of the east coast with performances in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Portland, Maine and Hawaii.

      During one of these shows the band debuted a new song, “You're Such a Fake,” which the fans embraced. Currently the band are working on solo projects and writing new material.

      Somehow though, the idea of a Punk band simply playing the old material and manufacturing ' punk' almost 33 years after it's formation, is kinda defeating the whole ethos of the punk movement, and the reason it was so exciting in the first place.

      A dose of 'Corporate Punk" anyone?

      The vinyl album is available for between $75.00 and $35.00 (depending upon quality) and a more recent CD version can be obtained for around $20.00. Get the vinyl, the cover and insert alone make the extra dollars worthwhile, and besides, I still believe vinyl sounds best!

      VIDEOS - I have included two videos, one is the track "California Uber Alles" and the other "Kill the Poor"

      California Uber Alles

      Kill the Poor

      Previous Cream of The Crate Albums

      #1 – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues

      #2 – Otis Redding: Otis Blue/ Otis Redding Sings Soul

      #3 – Dr John The Night Tripper: Gris Gris

      #4 – Spectrum: ROYGBIV

      #5 – Son House: The Real Delta Blues

      #6 – Cruisin ‘61

      #7 – Live At The Station Hotel

      #8 – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young: Déjà Vu

      #9 – Moon Mullican: Rock it to the Moon

      #10 – Billy Thorpe: Time Traveller

      #11 – Bobby and Laurie: Cum Sum Ambulant (Hitch Hiker)

      #12 – Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland

      #13 – The Beatles: The Beatles Collection

      #14 – Johnny O’Keefe: 20th Anniversary Album

      #15 – Jimmy Cliff (and others): The harder They Come (The Soundtrack from the movie by the same name)

      #16 – Frank Zappa: Roxy and Elsewhere

      #17 – Junior Walker & The All Stars: Roadrunner

      #18 - The Moonglows, Flamingos & The Orioles: Jump

      #19 - King Federal - Rockabillys: Various Artists

      #20 - Max Merritt and The Meteors: Max Merritt & The Meteors

      #21 - Planet Gong: Camembert Electrique

      # 22 - Earth, Wind & Fire: Head To The Sky

      #23 - Ellen McIlwaine: We The People

      #24 - The Easybeats: Absolute Anthology

      #25 - Rainbow Generator: Dance Of The Spheres

      #26 - Martha and the Vandellas: Greatest Hits


      #27 - Buddy Holly: A Rock and Roll Collection

      #28 - The Who: Quadrophenia

      #29 - Elvis: The legend (1954 - 1961)

      #30 - Col Joye: Let's Rock With

      #31 - The Yardbirds: For Your Love

      #32 - Eddy Cochran: The Singles Album

      #33 - Krozier & The Generator: Tranceformer

      #34 - Pink Floyd: A boxed set of LP's

      #35 - Jackie Wilson: Jackie Sings the Blues

      #36 - Cream: Wheels of Fire: In The Studio


      #37 - Masters Apprentices: Masterpiece