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‘Night of the Living Rednecks’: Dead Kennedys live in Portland, 1979
09:40 am


Dead Kennedys

While it is still legal to select your own music and video entertainment, why not seize the day? Come join me in YouTube’s deep Dead Kennedys hole. After you’ve exhausted the band’s slender official home video catalog, there’s more than enough not-so-official footage to absorb all the sleepless hours after curfew.

This video of the DKs at Portland’s Earth Tavern on November 19, 1979 captures them in between their first single, “California Über Alles,” and their second, “Holiday in Cambodia”: pre-Peligro (the drummer is Bruce Slesinger, a/k/a “Ted”), but post-6025.

via Division Leap
It’s the second set of the night (and substantially different from the first, to the DKs’ credit), which explains Biafra’s hoarseness. Portland-area YouTube user MikeBrainfollies claims the video is his work, but doesn’t say more; in any case, it’s a two-camera job with the kind of video mixing you just can’t get these days.

If you’re a fan of the Dead Kennedys’ compilation album Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death, “Night of the Living Rednecks,” Biafra’s spoken-word rant about getting hassled by rich dickheads on a previous visit to Portland, comes from this show. After “Chemical Warfare,” East Bay Ray exits the stage holding his guitar—a sunburst Strat?—by the neck; “Ray’s guitar broke,” Biafra complains. Klaus and Ted blow some jazz.

It’s very strange to see a performance you’ve heard on record hundreds of times. When Jello says “His fists didn’t go up so quickly this time,” you can see the person in the audience he’s talking about. You also see Jello using a cigarette as a prop, a strange sight to behold. After Ray finally returns to the stage, Jello asks the audience for a cowboy hat in which to sing “Rawhide,” but has to settle for a beanie that makes him look at once like Mike Nesmith, Bruce Springsteen, and Dumb Donald of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. I appreciate what he says about “clowndominiums.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
There’s an accordion cover version of ‘Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables’ by Dead Kennedys
01:00 pm


Dead Kennedys

It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes—or should I say Dorlock Homes, which is what Daffy Duck calls himself when he pretends to be Sherlock Holmes?—to realize that an album called Fresh Duck for Rotting Accordionists might have something to do with the Dead Kennedys’ album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Sure enough, Fresh Duck for Rotting Accordionists is a track-by-track reworking of the DKs’ 1980 classic album that was released in 2008 by Duckmandu!—complete with exclamation point.

Duckmandu! is a San Francisco-based accordionist named Aaron Seeman, whose repertoire includes “70’s rock, Broadway, klezmer, classical, country, Sousa marches, punk rock, and even a polka or two.” According to Duckmandu!’s website, Klaus Fluoride, the bassist for the Dead Kennedys, reproduces his vocal parts on five of the tracks. Also, Duckmandu! persuaded Winston Smith to do his own duck-centric version of his cover art for the DKs’ In God We Trust, Inc.

Aaron Seeman, a.k.a. Duckmandu!
After warming up to Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra—you know, the majestic music from 2001: A Space OdysseyFresh Duck for Rotting Accordionists then settles into the project of presenting every song on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables in order, although it unaccountably leaves out the DKs’ reworking of Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas,” which closes out the album—maybe there was a legal issue with the rights?

To make up for that, Duckmandu! adds a few other classics from the heady days of the early 1980s, like DEVO’s “Girl U Want,” Black Flag’s “Police Story,” and Minutemen’s “Jesus and Tequila.”

Duckmandu! is justifiably proud of a writeup that appeared in Maximum Rock ‘n Roll, in which Henry Yu wrote that “Duck did a vocal performance that was a warble-for-warble spot-on Jello.”
In 2011 Duckmandu! came out with Quack Rock, which purported to present “five duckades of accordion mega-hits,” ranging from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to “Highway to Hell” and beyond.

“Holiday in Cambodia”:

After the jump, hear “Girl U Want” played on the accordion…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Hollywood Über Alles: Jello Biafra’s acting demo reel
09:43 am


Jello Biafra
Dead Kennedys

In addition to having been the frontperson of one of the greatest American punk bands, Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra is known as a spoken word performer, record label executive, activist, and prankster. He’s also sometimes an actor—his first major role was playing “Mr. President” in the 1986 David Markey film Lovedolls Superstar.

Recently Biafra’s label, Alternative Tentacles, uploaded his “acting demo reel” or “showreel” as they’re called in “the business.”

This reel is typical of the sort of six-ish minute long compilations that actors use to get work in the film industry.

Biafra’s reel contains exceprts from his work in Portlandia, The Hipster Games: Blowing Smoke, Death and Texas, I Love You… I Am the Porn Queen, Skulhedface, Virtue, The Widower, and Tapeheads among others. In Tapeheads Biafra plays an FBI agent who gets to (gleefully, I’m sure) deliver the line, “Remember what we did to Jello Biafra?”—referencing his own raking over the coals in a 1985 obscenity trial over the H.R. Giger poster that was included with the Dead Kennedys’ album Frankenchrist.

Biafra as an FBI agent in “Tapeheads”
If you happen to know any bigshot Hollywood casting directors, forward this reel.

Biafra needs more screentime!


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Jello Biafra meets the UFO cult: The Lost Footage found!
Jello Biafra for Mayor of San Francisco, 1979: ‘If he doesn’t win, I’ll kill myself!’

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Jello Biafra for Mayor of San Francisco, 1979: ‘If he doesn’t win, I’ll kill myself!’

Jello Biafra, the sardonic front-man for the Dead Kennedys, both in his writing and live performances, was an expert at assuming villainous roles to reveal greater truths about society—whether it be as a serial murderer (as in the song “I Kill Children”) or as a military advisor (as in the song “Kill the Poor”) or as a stumping politician (as in his failed 1979 bid for Mayor of San Francisco).

In what might have been equal parts prank, publicity stunt, and actual desire to force social change, Biafra threw his hat into the mayoral ring in 1979, running against Dianne Feinstein, Quentin Copp, and David Scott, among others.

Writing in the 33 1/3 series book, Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Michael Stewart Foley describes the anarchic DIY nature of Biafra’s campaign:

Dirk Dirksen hosted a “Biafra for Mayor” benefit on September 3, and raised the necessary $1,125 in filing fees. Consistent with the punk ethos, the volunteers who made up the campaign staff ran it as an entirely DIY affair. Dirk Dirksen, Brad Lapin, Ginger Coyote, Mickey Creep, Joe Target Rees, Klaus Flouride and plenty of others held meetings at Target Studios on South Van Ness to plot strategy.

The actual campaign events were few, but got plenty of media attention. A “whistle-stop tour,” for example, started with a rally at City Hall, followed by stops along the BART line down Market Street. Kathy “Chi Chi” Penick, Dead Kennedys’ new manager, carried a sign that said “If He Doesn’t Win, I’ll Kill Myself.” Other inspiring placard slogans included “Apocalypse Now,” and “What if He Wins?” Biafra, led the procession, “kissing hands and shaking babies.”


Using the slogan “There’s always room for Jello,” Biafra got onto the ballot In San Francisco. Any individual could legally run for mayor if a petition was signed by 1500 people or if $1500 was paid. Biafra paid $900 and got enough signatures to become a legal candidate, meaning his statements would be put in voters’ pamphlets and he would receive equal news coverage.

Original art for Biafra campaign buttons from Flickr user “Wackystuff”
This past Monday, Joe Rees of Target Video, the de facto documentarian of the San Francisco punk scene, uploaded an edit of eleven minutes worth of TV clips from this news coverage. Being somewhat of a Jellophile myself, I had previously seen a few of these clips which had been included on old Target Video VHS compilations back in the day, but some of this stuff is brand new to me—and I suspect also unseen by many of our readers. It’s a treat that Rees is still opening up his archives to the public like this.

It’s remarkable how serious young Biafra appears in some of these snippets, while at the same time completely mocking the political process. Pay particular attention to Biafra’s campaign platform, which is utterly absurd, but probably resonated with many 1979 San Francisco voters.

Biafra finished an incredible fourth out of a field of ten, receiving 3.79% of the vote (6,591 votes).  His participation in the election caused a runoff between Dianne Feinstein and Quentin Kopp which resulted in Feinstein’s election.

Here it is. One of the great punk rock pranks of all time:


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Hear the Dead Kennedys as a five-piece with KEYBOARDS, play a Rolling Stones cover

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Hear the Dead Kennedys as a five-piece with KEYBOARDS, play a Rolling Stones cover
09:25 am


Dead Kennedys
Paul Roessler

I recently finished reading Michael Stewart Foley’s excellent 33 1/3 series book on the Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables album. 

Rather than merely analyzing recording minutae or picking apart lyrical content song-by-song, the book documents the socio-political climate of late ‘70s San Francisco, exploring the environment that existed which precipitated the need for a Dead Kennedys. It’s incidentally got me on a personal kick of revisiting a lot of DK music, particularly from that early, formative era—when Jello Biafra was writing songs instead of diatribes.

When I’m not wasting my time obsessively A/B-ing different pressings of Fresh Fruit to detect subtle differences in the mastering quality, I’m double checking to see what blessings the gods of the Internet have offered up as gap fillers in the Kennedys’ historical record. A few months ago I wrote here about an incredible 1982 live video from Vienna. Although the recording I’m presenting today is audio-only, it’s a far more interesting historical artifact than even that Vienna show (which totally blew me away). Today we’re going to listen to Terry Hammer’s recording of Dead Kennedys from Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco from June 14, 1980.

Dead Kennedys played with Paul Roessler’s band, Bent, and the Subhumans from Canada.
Terry Hammer was an audio engineer during the heyday of first wave punk in San Francisco. He maintains a mind-blowing YouTube channel upon which he has graciously decided to share dozens of live recordings he engineered for Bay Area radio stations KALX, KTIM, KSAN, KSJO, KUSF, and KSFS. The channel features no less than five different (crucial) Dead Kennedys recordings—all worth investigating.

I’ve previously gushed all over Dangerous Minds about Hammer’s recordings of DEVO and Husker Du. The quality of this recording exists somewhere in between those two, preserving, with remarkable clarity, this point in the Kennedys’ history where they were feeling more comfortable in their arrangements and picking up the tempos (but before going full hardcore with the replacement of original drummer, “Ted,” with D.H. Peligro).

But what’s really, truly astounding about this recording is the inclusion of Paul Roessler on keyboard for the final five songs of the gig. At twenty-eight and a half minutes in, Jello sardonically introduces Roessler (brother of Black Flag’s Kira Roessler) as the “Remora of Rock and Roll.” Roessler was known up to that point for his work with the Screamers, Nervous Gender, Mommymen, Bent, and Silver Chalice. Bent had opened for Dead Kennedys on that night’s bill.

“Torture those keys,” directs Biafra, and Roessler does, with distorted organ sounds blaring even more raw, jagged and cutting than East Bay Ray’s bright surf-overdrive guitar damage. Roessler performs on “Stealing People’s Mail,” “Drug Me,” “Holiday in Cambodia,” “Too Drunk to Fuck,” and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.”

The keys are particularly effective on “Too Drunk To Fuck,” changing the entire vibe of the song, giving it a campy horror sound, not far from the early death rock of bands like 45 Grave (whom Roessler was also a member of).

Roessler had previously worked with Dead Kennedys, in the studio, where he played keyboard tracks on “Drug Me” and “Stealing People’s Mail” for the Fresh Fruit LP. According to Alex Ogg’s book Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: The Early Years, “Stealing People’s Mail” was musically influenced by Roessler’s group the Screamers.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Dead Kennedys edition: The world will never run out of ‘newly uncovered’ (insert name here) videos
11:41 am


Jello Biafra
Dead Kennedys

Last week here at Dangerous Minds, we had a post discussing the fact that we’ll never “run out of stuff” to feature. That post, “The world will never run out of “newly uncovered” David Bowie videos,” pointed out that the Internet is constantly making new discoveries, or rediscoveries, and eventually everything bubbles to the surface. There’s just so much to be unearthed and always some fan out there who makes it a labor of love to share “the good shit” with the rest of the world.

In today’s edition of “the world will never run out of ‘newly uncovered’ _____ videos,” we’ll be taking a look at some incredible, recently uploaded, Dead Kennedys footage. I thought I’d seen everything out there on the Dead Kennedys, one of my life-long favorite bands, having done decades worth of tape trading in the pre-Internet, pre-DVD era, but nope: the Internet provides and, as we’ve said, “the world will never run out…”

Man, this fucking video. Captured at the height of their musical intensity, this 1982 show was recorded in Austria between the releases of In God We Trust, Inc. and Plastic Surgery Disasters. Arguably the group’s creative peak, they were still writing excellent songs, as opposed to diatribes, and pushing the speed envelope to keep up with the punk zeitgeist’s transition to hardcore. The band is absolutely raging here in this Vienna squat. Perhaps it had something to do with the differences between European and American audiences, but Jello’s propensity for edging into goofiness is dialed back and the anger is turned way up. His performance is mesmerizing.

Despite a couple of brief volume drop-outs and interference by crazy Austrian punks grabbing the microphone, this professionally shot and edited document has incredibly clear audio quality. The video is only a little over fifteen minutes long, leaving us wanting so much more, but this is what we’re thrilled to get:

1) Nazi Punks Fuck Off
2) California Uber Alles
3) Police Truck
4) Interview excerpt (Jello & Klaus)
5) Let’s Lynch The Landlord
6) Chemical Warfare
7) Interview excerpt (Jello & Klaus)


This is a song about fascists.
If you’re a punk, you’re not a fascist.
If you’re a fascist, you’re not a punk.
This is called “Nazi punks fuck off!”

You’ll be the first to go, unless you think!


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
In God We Trust, Inc: Amazing footage of Dead Kennedys in the studio, 1981

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘Records Collecting Dust’: New doc on collecting vinyl with Jello Biafra and other fanatatics

As record collecting’s resurgence continues to grow, so does the sub-industry of proffering opinions about the phenomenon. Annual pro- and anti-Record Store Day think pieces seem to proliferate at a faster pace than vinyl sales themselves, the photo book Dust & Grooves is slated for a third printing this summer, and documentary films on the vinyl collecting hobby are growing in number, as well. That micro-genre’s 21st Century godfather is 2000’s Vinyl, noteworthy for predating the vinyl renaissance by several years, also noteworthy for painting a dismal picture of record collectors as sad old men who, having failed to connect with human beings in their pitiable lives, turn to hoarding media to fill an emotional gap or grasp at a sense of purpose. I frankly and flatly reject the implication that a love of collecting music lumps one in with doleful and socially isolated alterkakers who need suicide watch more than they need turntables. In mitigation, Atom Egoyan and Harvey Pekar are among the collectors interviewed, and that’s damn cool. Watch it here, if you like.

A more recent offering, 2008’s I Need That Record! offers a view of the obsession from a different sociological perspective, looking at the thinning of ranks in indie record stores (that retail niche has obviously rebounded since), seeking input from indie-famous crate diggers like Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore, with a helping of righteous corporation-slapping from Noam Chomsky. And it offers a much more upbeat view of the collector.

And there is a new contender: Riot House has released musician Jason Blackmore’s (Sirhan Sirhan, Molly McGuire) hour-long Records Collecting Dust, which asks a laundry list of punk and indie luminaries questions like “what was the first record you bought?” “What was the last record you bought?” “If there was a gun to your head and you had to pare your collection down to five albums, what would they be?” It’s a really fun watch, and not just for the trainspotting. It’s a gas to see Keith Morris extol the virtues of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to see Jello Biafra wax rhapsodic about Space Ritual, Mike Watt raving about American Woman, and David Yow talking about baffling his teacher and fellow schoolkids when he brought the Beatles’ trippy, bluesy b-side “For You Blue” to show and tell. One truly wonderful sequence joins Rocket From the Crypt/Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes guitarist John “Speedo” Reis in showing off his favorite children’s LPs on a toy turntable, and there’s even a segment with Dangerous Minds’ own Howie Pyro. I always enjoy tales of musical discovery, all the more so when they’re told by people who’ve made the music that warped me, and Records Collecting Dust is FULL of that, plus live performances by Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine, the Locust, and Big Business.

Though enjoyable, the film has its imperfections. It suffers from an abiding and ultimately irritating L.A.-centrism. I’d love to hear more tales of life-changing finds from people who hail from more culturally isolated areas, and so couldn’t just go to someplace like Wherehouse or Licorice Pizza whenever they felt like it, and had to really work for their scores. One other thing screamed out at me, though it’s not a flaw in the film as such, but more a consequence of the hobby’s demographic: the levels of vinyl-stockpiling depicted seem overwhelmingly to be a male phenomenon, so out of 36 interviewees listed in the credits, exactly two women appear, namely former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler, and Frontier Records’ Lisa Fancher. Roessler makes one of the funniest observations in the whole doc when she describes how record stores magically cause men to shop in a manner stereotypically associated with women.

Another of the film’s truly brilliant moments is this fabulous sermon from Jello Biafra, which I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing in its entirety, because I 100% agree with every damn word of it:

I think part of the magic that vinyl, and records, and blundering into cool music you never knew existed still holds for me. I’m still a fan, and keep in mind “fan” comes from the word “fanatic.” I love to keep exploring, and even though I’ve got way too many records, I never buy one unless I intend to listen to it when I get home—I don’t always have time to listen to ‘em all now, but that’s the idea. I don’t buy it to scam or speculate, I buy it to listen to it. And there, that way, I never run out of cool music to listen to. I have no patience for these people who say “Oh, the whole scene died when Darby Crash died,” or “yeah, there’s no good bands anymore.” WROOOOOONG. Good sounds are where you find it so start looking, OK? Don’t be afraid to blunder into something cool. You never know what it might do to your life, or even your own music, or your band may finally start sounding different from all the other bands you like.

Records Collecting Dust began screening in California this month. Remaining showings though March are listed on its web page . If you’re on the fence about checking it out, perhaps these trailers will help nudge you one way or the other.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Dead Kennedys’ ‘International’ punk event, 1984
12:47 pm


Jello Biafra
Dead Kennedys

Recognize this guy?

Incendiary pro-shot video Dead Kennedys set from the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, 1984. This was the infamous “International Event” concert held on August 10th that ended in a riot (like many hardcore shows in Los Angeles did at that time, especially ones held at the Olympic, once a boxing arena, now a church). Note that tickets were just $7.50!

Also on the bill that evening were Italy’s Raw Power, BGK from the UK, Finnish hardcore group Riistetyt, Mexico’s Solución Mortal and Reagan Youth.

Dig Biafra’s boss Carl Jr.‘s tee-shirt. Now THIS is a front man!

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The roots of San Francisco punk: The Deaf Club, 1978-1980
02:38 pm


Dead Kennedys
The Deaf Club

When punk hit San Francisco in the late 1970s, it needed a venue. Typically, the S.F. venues generally gave punk the cold shoulder, so a more creative solution proved necessary. Robert Hanrahan, manager of The Offs, was able to take over what had actually been a club for the deaf that had existed in that location (16th and Valencia) since the 1930s and turned it into a vital, scorching venue for bands like Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., The Subhumans, Tuxedomoon, X, Flipper, and The Germs. It didn’t last long, but while it was open it provided the Bay Area punk scene with its first legendary venue. It opened on December 9, 1978 and closed in the mid- to late 1980. As Jello Biafra himself said, “The magic of the Deaf Club was its intimate sweaty atmosphere, kind of like a great big house party.”

Robert Hanrahan remembered finding the place: “I bought a burrito at La Cumbre and noticed a sign on the fire escape across the street. It said ‘Hall for Rent.’ I went up the flights of stairs and saw two guys watching TV with the sound off. After a very short while, I realized we weren’t going to communicate, so I wrote on a piece of paper that I wanted to rent the place. Bill—I never knew his last name—was a mustachioed, lascivious, cigar-chewing character who apparently was in charge. He wrote ‘OK & $250,’ so I wrote ‘OK.’”

On Found S.F., there is an invaluable page describing some of the history of the Deaf Club. The first show featured The Offs, The Mutants, and On the Rag. The show was “dark & very crowded.” Sensing a fracas, the cops showed up but didn’t stick around. My favorite bit from account of the first night: “Lots of hand signals between old & young club members.”

A possibly unique aspect of the club was the constant presence of actual deaf people in the hall, who didn’t know what to make of their unruly musical cohorts—but counterintuitively, they did seem to enjoy the music. Indeed, punk music might be tailor-made for deaf people to enjoy, because of the constant frenetic thudding of the 4/4 beat that can be sensed as vibrations. As Penelope Houston of The Avengers said, “It was kind of amazing. I think they were dancing to the vibrations. The deaf people were amused that all these punks wanted to come in and rent their room and have these shows.” According to artist Winston Smith, “They put their hands on the table and they could hear the music. It was music they could appreciate because it was so loud.”

Nothing was easy for a venue like the Deaf Club, whose main strategy for staying open was to keep a low profile. Essentially it was scarcely known outside the punk community. The cops, however, frequently instigated temporary closures due to complaints about the noise from neighbors. The Chicano community in the vicinity “resented what they considered a “punk invasion” of their territory — like one night 3 young machos gangbusted up the stairs & immediately started slugging men & women alike until they were finally forced out by sheer numbers of a surprised/rallied crowd just drinking & dancing.”

In 1980 Gammon Records released Can You Hear Me? Music from the Deaf Club, a compilation featuring many of the club’s mainstays, including the Offs, the Mutants, Pink Section, Dead Kennedys, and so forth. In 2004 the Dead Kennedys released Live at the Deaf Club. Interesting aspects of the show include the purportedly “disco version” of “Kill the Poor” as well as their closing covers—the Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas.”
Some terrific full-length concerts from the Deaf Club after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
5th grade girl discovers Dead Kennedys CD at school library; writes diary entry about it
03:23 pm


Dead Kennedys

Dead Kennedys photo by ©Laura Levine
Okay, so this adorable letter supposedly written by a 5th grade girl has been making the rounds on the Internet the past few days. I hesitated posting it because there was no real information about its provenance. Is it too good to be true? I don’t know.

Click here to read larger image.
Here’s what Vanyaland has to say about it:

A 20-year-old from Indianapolis named Taylor-Ruth has a much cooler story — discovering Dead Kennedys at the library when she was in 5th grade, and on September 26 of that year she sat down to write pretty much the best grade-school letter anyone has ever written. Though the note was posted to her tumblr last year, it was recently retweeted by Jason Isbell, and the other day Devin Faraci of Badass Digest did some sleuthing to piece it all together.

Now some folks are calling shenanigans on the letter because they say there’s no way a librarian is going believe a 5th grader is a 15-year-old teen. I’m not too sure about that, I got a tattoo when I was 12 years old. The tattooist asked me if I was 18 years old, I said “Yep!” and she then said, “Hop in the chair then, and let’s do this.” When I got home, let’s just say… my parents were not pleased. But what were they going to do about it at that point. Besides that, my father had gotten one when he was just ten…

Below, “The Beatles” perform “California Über Alles”:

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Dead Kennedys: ‘The Early Years,’ live and in the studio
12:18 pm


Dead Kennedys

Jello Biafra is obviously one of punk’s legendary frontmen. In retrospect it’s surprising how much of a reaction he could elicit with so very little. If you were exposed to Dead Kennedys on record only back in the day, the mental image his vocal style summoned had little relation to the spazzy, cherubic, spiky-haired mountebank Biafra actually was in concert. You’d expect him to have props, perhaps a GWAR-style mask, but no, his own purposefully odious personality was all he required. All Biafra needed was to take off his shirt and don a pair of green rubber gloves, and he would get all the impact he could ever want.

Dead Kennedys:The Early Years Live has been kicking around for quite a while; it was released by Target Video on VHS in 1987 and then on DVD in 2001. True to its longtime existence as a widely traded pirate video, someone has posted it on YouTube for all to see.

The video begins with the cheeky disclaimer “Caution: The following material contains violent imagery taken from actual everyday life. This program could be offensive to those individuals who prefer not to deal with reality.” The compilation has its share of non-concert material. After the third song there is a brief news report on Biafra’s 1979 run for mayor of San Francisco—worth it if only for the brief shots of him vacuuming the sidewalk in then-mayor Dianne Feinstein’s tony neighborhood. There’s also a quick video joke about Ronald Reagan, and “Holiday in Cambodia” features liberal use of horrifying footage clips from the Vietnam War—it’s pretty inspired work.

Track listing:
“California Über Alles,” Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1979
“Kill the Poor,” 330 Grove Street, SF 1979
“Drug Me,” Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1979
“The Man with the Dogs,” Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1980
“Insight,” Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1980
“Let’s Lynch the Landlord,” Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1980
“Bleed for Me,” Target Studios, SF 1981
“Holiday in Cambodia,” Target Studios, SF 1981
“Viva Las Vegas,” Sproul Plaza, Berkeley 1978

Meanwhile, Matthew Perpetua at his blog Fluxtumblr recently linked to a bit of fabulous footage of DK in the studio working on “We Got a Bigger Problem Now,” circa 1981. I can’t improve on Perpetua’s description: “I really love this clip, in part because I guess I never realized that Jello Biafra and the rest of the band were kinda…adorable?” The audio is maddeningly out of sync, but it doesn’t really matter, as the band segues effortlessly from some aimless fooling around to a ferocious rendition of one of their signature tunes “California Über Alles.”

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Deconstructing ‘Holiday in Cambodia’: Dead Kennedys in the studio
Cartoon Beatles performing Dead Kennedys’ ‘California Über Alles’

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Jello Biafra on his days as a newbie punk

It seems unlikely that anyone even slightly familiar with American punk would need an introduction to the legendary iconoclast Jello Biafra. From his days as the brains, conscience and leader of the notorious and incendiary leftist punks Dead Kennedys, to his lengthy string of superb collaborative albums, to his politically charged spoken word performances, to his most recent work with The Guantanamo School of Medicine, Biafra (born Eric Boucher) has left a bigger stain on American counterculture than most. Unrepentantly opinionated (and to my reckoning, usually dead-on correct), Biafra can typically be heard issuing proclamations in a strident cadence that rings of Fred Schneider trying to imitate Mark E. Smith. Which was why it was actually quite refreshing to see this interview in Denver’s alt-weekly WestWord, wherein Biafra’s focus isn’t on politics, but rather a remembrance of his youth as a new initiate into the punk scene in his hometown of Boulder, CO. His journey to venerated counterculture elder statesman began with a stint as a hanger-on and later roadie for a The Ravers - a little-remembered band that later found much wider recognition under the name The Nails - which led to his ultimate Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment: seeing the Ramones in concert.

As far as I know, [The Ravers were] Colorado’s first punk band and one of the very first anywhere. It was more rooted in ‘60s garage than it was in Ramones or Sex Pistols and still an important part of my life and many other people’s. I’d been reading Marc Campbell’s reviews in the Colorado Daily, and he was much more brash and up front about what he liked and didn’t like.

So he was memorable instantly. Later, I found out he was the singer in the Ravers. They kind of centered around the old basement location on Broadway of Trade A Tape and Records in Boulder where I got a lot of my vinyl. They rehearsed in a back room and Rick Scott, one of the clerks there, was their manager.

Word got around, probably through Rick, that the Ramones were gonna come through Denver and play at Ebbets Field, opening for a major-label attemped flavor-of-the-month called Nite City. Ironically, it had to have Ray Manzarek and a pre-Blondie Nigel Harrison in it, among other people. It was an attempt at an instant FM rock hit, and the opening band was the Ramones.

So the handful of us who kind of knew who the Ramones were in the front row. Ebbets Field was a small, intimate place where everyone was expected to sit down. That’s what people did at concerts; everybody was supposed to sit down. Bill Graham would throw you out for dancing in San Francisco, and so would Barry Fey and Feyline security.

You undoubtedly know Rocky Mountain Low; Joseph Pope was one of the people in the front row with me. At the time, I didn’t really take the Ramones that seriously. I knew they rocked, but I would sit around playing the Ramones with my friends, and we would giggle at the lack of guitar solos and these boneheaded lyrics like “beat on the brat with a baseball bat” and “now I wanna sniff some glue.”

It had an impact enough to go down and see them. And out come these four, kinda degenerate looking guys in leather jackets—which is something you didn’t see very often then. One chord on Jonny’s guitar, and we knew it was going to be a louder than anyone of us were prepared for. We braced ourselves and instead of being goofy, the Ramones were one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life.

We were three feet from the stage and forced to sit down, of course. Not only were they really, really good, but half the fun was turning around and watching the Ebbets Field, country-rock glitterati, the guys with the neatly trimmed beards, Kenny Loggins-feathered hair and corduroy jackets, with patches on the elbows, as well as the cocaine cowboys and their women, with their 1920s suits with flowers, because that’s what Joni Mitchell was wearing at the time—they looked horrified. They had nowhere to go. Because Ebbets Field was so small, you couldn’t go hang out in the lobby because there wasn’t one. They just had to endure the Ramones.

It never would have occurred to me to try to go back stage and talk to the band. I didn’t know you could talk to rock bands. I was a wide-eyed teenager used to going to see arena rock at the Denver Coliseum or McNichols. At any rate, Joseph came back at one point and said, “Oh yeah, I was just back talking to The Ramones.” “What?! You can talk to the Ramones?”

That was the punk rock thing—we’re all from the same place. And that was the beauty of the live shows, too—my god, they’re so powerful, they’re so simple, anyone could do this. Shit, I could do this. Maybe I should. And that’s how it affected a lot of people in the room. The Ramones stayed an extra night and Ebbets Field let them headline, and the Ravers were going to open the show. Luckily, The Ravers needed what was then called “roadies.” So I me, Joe, Sam Spinner, and, I think, John Trujillo, were anointed “the roadies” on the spot.

Suddenly I thought, “All you people who thought I was a loser in school, now I’m somebody. I’m a roadie for the Ravers!” That meant many good times at other Ravers shows like playing with the Nerves and the big one playing on the top floor of the ex-elementary school at 9th and Arapahoe. Which was Driver which became The Nightflames and the Front.

By the way, if you’re curious about that Ray Manzarek/Nigel Harrison band Biafra mentions, I don’t recommend you trouble yourself with finding it, it’s horrible, horrible stuff.

Regular readers of this blog may have recognized that the Marc Campbell mentioned in the interview is Dangerous Minds’ own. I actually didn’t - DM‘s poo-bah Richard Metzger pointed it out to me. This, young aspiring writers, is why we have editors. Marc had this to add to Jello’s reminiscences:

The Ramones were traveling with a woman (Johnny’s girlfriend I think). She was dressed in fish nets and leather mini-skirt and reading a Nazi torture porn novel something like “Ilsa, She Wolf Of The SS.” Totally silent. Dee Dee kept talking about how scary it was flying so close to the Rocky Mountains. An animated goofball full of manic energy. Joey, Johnny and Tommy didn’t talk much. They were intimidating. All theater, seamless and perfect.

The Ramones’ show at Ebbet’s Field was a religious experience for me. Perhaps the most important rock show of my life in that it solidly re-connected me to what I loved about the music and made me want to continue playing it. Months later, The Ravers were on their way to Manhattan and CBGB and Max’s. Eric helped load up the van and saw us off. He was too young to make the trip with us, or at least his parents thought so. I think I remember him waving bye as we sped toward our destiny. But that may be the movie version. Jello will have to correct me if I’m wrong.

For a look at what that Colorado kid evolved into, enjoy “Sing Along with the Dead Kennedys,” a bonus feature from the Dead Kennedys - The Early Years Live DVD.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
In God We Trust, Inc: Amazing footage of Dead Kennedys in the studio, 1981
02:05 pm


Jello Biafra
Dead Kennedys

When Dead Kennedys went into the studio in 1981 to record In God We Trust, Inc., their “tribute” EP to the faster, thrashier “hardcore” musical style associated with the Washington, DC punk scene (think Minor Threat) the first sessions were laid down on defective tape stock, so they had to go back to the studio to record it again a few months later.

In 2003, videotapes of the band working out the arrangements and recording the songs during that initial session (taped for a documentary on punk rock) were released as The Lost Tapes on DVD. A raw mix was fed directly into the line inputs of the camera, so the audio is immediate and powerful. Using techniques that did not exist in 1981, five of the eight songs recorded during the first In God We Trust, Inc. session were eventually restored.

For In God We Trust, Inc., the group updated their anti-Jerry Brown screed, “California Über Alles” as a cocktail jazz redux inserting-newly inaugurated President Ronald Reagan’s name in for the young governor who had succeeded him. (Brown was re-elected California’s governor in 2010.) Jello Biafra and the rest of the band, of course, don’t see eye to eye today, but the band captured during that ill-fated studio session was absolutely raw and on fire. Drummer D.H. Peligro had just joined the group at this time and he brought a lot to the DK’s sound.

I bought In God We Trust, Inc. on a music cassette. The b-side was blank and the label bore the words “Home taping is killing record industry profits! We left this side blank so you can help.” LISTEN TO THIS LOUD!


Thank you kindly, Mr. Clam!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Art of Punk: Great new short documentary on Winston Smith and Dead Kennedys

The third and final installment of “The Art of Punk,” MOCA-TV‘s great web series that looks at the increasingly historically important graphic design of the punk era. This time around, Jello Biafra and Winston Smith talk about the “look” of Dead Kennedys’ posters, handbills and record covers and explain how the logo came about.

There’s a wonderful moment here when Biafra—generously giving credit where it’s historically due—explains his “aha!” moment, when he realized that collaborating creatively with Smith would allow him to present foldouts, posters and booklets ala Crass, but funny.

I thought that was really interesting. Another fun fact: The cover for In God We Trust, Inc. came before the EP did.

Previous installments of Bryan Ray Turcotte and Bo Bushnell’s production have concentrated on Raymond Pettibon’s distinctive pen and ink work on behalf of Black Flag and Dave King’s logo and Gee Vaucher’s militant collages that defined Crass visually. Three fun short docs totally worth your time. As a viewer, I really appreciated that they went out of their way to tell stories that you haven’t already heard ten million times before…


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Music History in GIFs


2007.  Les Savy Fav releases Let’s Stay Friends. Not only does Les Savy Fav treat you to sweaty, powerful performances with plenty of partial nudity and plenty of beard, they also treat you to some of the finest songs ever written.

Music History in GIFs is exactly what the title says. The 8-bit animations are by Brooklyn-based guitarist Joshua Carrafa who’s in the band Old Monk.

Below each GIF is a caption written by Carrafa.


1986.  Jello Biafra and Alternative Tentacles are dragged in to court and charged with “distributing harmful matter to minors” over the visual and lyrical content of the Dead Kennedys album Frankenchrist.  After the police raid Biafra’s house and lawyers probe through the album, they remember there is some law or something that says you can’t censor that kind of stuff.



1979.  Frank Zappa releases Sheik Yerbouti. He masters the combination of humor and music, and it becomes his most successful album.  His song titles are dead serious though, like “I Have Been In You,” “Broken Hearts Are for Assholes,” and “Jewish Princess.”

Via Post Punk Tumblr

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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