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Dead Kennedys

Idioma disponível: inglês
The Dead Kennedys merged revolutionary politics with hardcore punk music and, in the process, became one of the defining hardcore bands. Often, they were more notable for their politics than their music, but that was part of their impact. The Kennedys were more inspired by British punk and the fiery, revolutionary-implied politics of the Sex Pistols than the artier tendencies of New York punk rockers. Under the direction of lead vocalist Jello Biafra, the Dead Kennedys became the most political and -- to the eyes of many observers, including Christians and right-wing politicians -- the most dangerous band in hardcore. By the mid-'80s, the band had become notorious enough to open themselves up to a prosecution for obscenity (concerning a poster inserted into their 1985 Frankenchrist album), and the ensuing court battle sped the band toward a breakup, but they left behind a legacy that influenced countless punk bands that followed. The Dead Kennedys formed in 1978 in San Francisco when Biafra (vocals; born Eric Boucher) and bassist Klaus Flouride responded to a magazine ad placed by guitarist East Bay Ray. Drummer Ted (born Bruce Slesinger) joined soon after and the band played locally for the first two years of their career, occasionally venturing outside the Bay Area. Within a year, the band released their first independent single, "California Über Alles," an attack on the then-current governor, Jerry Brown. It was followed shortly afterward by their second single, "Holiday in Cambodia." In 1979, Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco; he finished fourth. By this time, the band had become quite popular in both the American and British underground. Finally, in 1980, the band released their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, on IRS Records. After its release, Ted left the band; he was replaced by drummer Darren H. Peligro (aka D.H. Peligro). Following the release of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, the Dead Kennedys formed their own independent record label, Alternative Tentacles, in 1981. The first release on the label was the Kennedys' EP, In God We Trust. That same year, the single "Too Drunk to Fuck" scraped the bottom of Britain's pop Top 40, despite being banned from airplay. In 1982, the Kennedys released their second full-length album, Plastic Surgery Disasters. After its release, the band took a hiatus, during which bandmembers -- most notably Klaus Flouride -- performed with various side projects. During that time, Alternative Tentacles began to establish itself as a major force in the American underground. The Dead Kennedys returned in 1985 with Frankenchrist, which was the record that earned the band its greatest notoriety. Included with the album was a poster of the Swiss artist H.R. Giger's Landscape #XX, a garish illustration of penises and anuses. A year after the release of the album, the Kennedys and Alternative Tentacles were prosecuted under revised Californian anti-obscenity laws for distributing pornography to minors because of the poster. For the next two years, the band was embroiled in a bitter legal battle, during which Biafra emerged as one of the most articulate advocates for free speech and vocal opponents of the PMRC. In the summer of 1987, the case ended with a hung jury and was dismissed. Although the Dead Kennedys emerged victorious from the court battle, they didn't remain a band for much longer. Just before the prosecution began in 1986, the band released Bedtime for Democracy, which turned out to be their last official album. After the case was settled, the Kennedys split, releasing the posthumous compilation Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death in 1987. Biafra embarked on a solo career, releasing musical and spoken-word recordings sporadically over the next couple decades. Flouride returned to his fledgling solo career, releasing two albums in the late '80s and early '90s. The DVD Dmpo's On Broadway, documenting the Dead Kennedys' June 1984 performance marking the closing of San Francisco's avant-garde theater and nightclub, was released in May 2000. In 1997, an employee at Alternative Tentacles discovered Biafra's bandmates had been underpaid on royalties over the previous ten years, with the musicians owed $76,000. Biafra didn't let his fellow former Kennedys know about the shortfall, and when they learned they were owed money by AT, they attempted to negotiate with Biafra. When that failed, they filed a lawsuit against the label. A jury found Alternative Tentacles guilty of fraudulent conduct, and as a consequence control of the group's recorded catalog and publishing was declared to be shared equally among the four members. With East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride, and D.H. Peligro voting as a block, they struck a new deal with Manifesto Records to distribute the DK's back catalog. Manifesto also released a pair of archival live albums, 2001's Mutiny on the Bay (taken from four shows in San Francisco, recorded between 1982 and 1986) and 2004's Live at the Deaf Club 1979 (capturing a show at the iconic SF punk venue the Deaf Club, which was located a social hall for the severely hard of hearing). Meanwhile, in 2001, Ray, Flouride, and Peligro reunited the Dead Kennedys for an international concert tour; to the surprise of no one, Biafra refused to participate, and Brandon Cruz, a former child star who sang with the band Dr. Know, came aboard as their new lead singer. Cruz stayed in the lineup until 2003, when Jeff Penalty took over for him on the vocal mike, and Penalty was in turn replaced in 2008 by Ron "Skip" Greer, formerly of the Wynona Riders. Manifesto continued to work the DK's catalog, issuing the "best of" album Milking the Sacred Cow in 2007, while Iguana Studios Rehearsal Tape: San Francisco 1978 came from a practice session from the era when Ted and 6025 were still working with the group. 2019's DK 40 was a box set that featured three unreleased live concerts (Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1982, Munich, Germany in 1982, and San Francisco in 1985). By the time it arrived, the group's touring activities slowed as Flouride and Peligro were dealing with health problems, with both occasionally sending understudies on the road. September 2022 brought the release of a new edition of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, with the 40-year-old album boasting a new mix by Chris Lord-Alge. D.H. Peligro died in his home in Los Angeles on October 28, 2022 after suffering head trauma, brought on by an accidental fall. He was 63 years of age.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Mark Deming /TiVo
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