Dead Kennedys are not dead

Door Charlotte Saintoin | Video van de dag | 27 mei 2019

San Francisco, 1978. A troubled Jello Biafra stumbles upon guitarist East Bay Ray’s ad in the paper. Along comes bassist Klaus Flouride and D.H. Peligro at the end of 1980.

After coming in fourth place in the municipal elections of San Francisco in ‘79, Biafra and his bandmates galvanized the Californian scene with Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, merging polemics and punk, rockabilly and surf, released one year later on their label Alternative Tentacles. Within can be found the classics California Über Alles and Holiday in Cambodia.

Precursors to militant hardcore rock, the Dead Kennedys display a radical political activism, the polar opposite to the declining utopian hippy movement. Next came Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982) followed by Frankenchrist (1985) of which the poster Penis Landscape, the scandalous work of H.R. Giger, ended up putting them in court and precipitating the band’s demise. There would be just enough time for the release of Bedtime for Democracy. Burdened with internal quarrels and conflicts regarding royalties, the band didn’t reform until twenty years later, albeit with little success and without Biafra. They remained, however, dedicated to activism, their label and close to the Melvins.

On the initiative of East Bay Ray, DK40 revisits three live shows: Paradiso Club (Amsterdam), Alabama Hall (Munich ’82) and The Farm (San Francisco ’85). The guitarist confesses to have passed through more than thirty different bands before he found the quintessence of the Dead Kennedys. The unedited recordings allow one to feel the vicious heat of Biafra who, forty years later and in a completely different America, carries a one-of-a-kind resonance.


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