Dead Kennedys are the pioneers of hardcore punk. A speeding rhythm drives biting satire and a vitriolic attack on church, state, media and their very own punk scene.
Inspired by the anti-establishment nature of British punk rather than the art school punk of New York that preceded it, the San Francisco band first got started in 1978.
Their first single, California Über Alles, was a blasting attack on the Californian governor Jerry Brown. Released in March of 1979, the song set them apart from all the punk bands that had proceeded them in terms of the sheer speed and ferocity in the way the song was played. Clever, funny and biting, it proved to be an excellent template of what was to come. The release of Holiday In Cambodia, their second single, shortly after proved that this certainly wasn’t a fluke.
The band threw themselves into a flurry of activity. Their original singer and songwriter Jell Biafara (AKA Eric Reed Boucher) pitted himself against the establishment by trying to subvert it from within. He ran in the San Franciscan mayoral election and finished in fourth position. Somehow, the band also found the time to record their debut album. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables was released in 1980 through IRS Records.
The band formed their own label, Alternative Tentacles, and released the EP In God We Trust during 1981. The EP attacked Christianity, the then President Ronald Reagan and the rise of neo fascism in punk. The band continued to attract controversy with the single Too Drunk To Fuck released the same year. Unable to be given any mainstream airplay or to be stocked in many record stores due to the title, the song still managed to land #36 in the UK Singles Chart.
By the time of the release of their second album, Plastic Surgery Disasters in 1982, the band were a dominant force in terms of music and a means of political agitation. However, the band were still not without their problems. The use of HR Giger’s artwork on the 1985 album Frankenchrist saw the band prosecuted under obscenity laws, forcing the band into a long drawn out legal battle which resulted in a hung jury.
Bedtime For Democracy proved to be their final official album and was released in 1986.
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