The Dead Kennedys 79-86

Looking back at the original run of singles and albums that are more relevant now than when they were first released. #punk

Punk Rock, an often loud and fast rock music form filled with anti-conformist attitude, was first developed on the east coast of the United States in the mid-1970’s and given wings by a slew of British bands before the end of the decade, but had reached its inevitable conclusion by 1979. Record labels shied away from it, preferring to promote a more radio-friendly version of it called New Wave.

This, of course, didn’t stop the music at all. Enterprising bands in the U.S. outside of New York City took the genre to a whole new level, creating the sound of hardcore punk: faster, louder and even more direct than previously heard. One of the bands, The Dead Kennedys, actually formed their own label, Alternative Tentacles in San Francisco and slowly found an audience here and in the U.K.

The Dead Kennedys logo, designed by Winston Smith.

Truly one of the most anti-commercial bands releasing recordings, they flat out refused to buy into the morass and machinery of the music industry. They also had the good fortune of actually being a band that could play, and well. Their lyrical content and album imagery made them easy targets for the rising national conservatism that had taken hold during the 1980’s.

The Dead Kennedys weren’t just another band of lefties, though. They wrote songs that skewered the left, the right and particularly the middle, using humor, sarcasm and wit in a way that other bands simply couldn’t come close to, including songs about President Ronald Reagan, California Governor Jerry Brown, racist punk bands and jock culture. They also used pointed commentary against racists, misogynists and homophobes.

The Dead Kennedys, 1983. (l-r) Klaus Flouride, East Bay Ray, Jello Biafra and D.H. Peligro. Photo by Peter Noble/Redferns.

Unfortunately, this also took its toll on the members, and the crazy scene they helped developed in 1979 was over by 1986, being replaced by bands who had merely become poseurs. Since then, their lead singer, Jello Biafra, has worked with other bands and is also a political activist. The remainder of the band, held steady by guitarist East Bay Ray, bassist Klaus Flouride and D.H. Peligro, a black drummer (a rarity for a punk band in any year), eventually sued Biafra for unpaid royalties, won, and continue on without him.

Biafra has turned down many lucrative offers to reform, and by all accounts, there is still a great deal of animosity between him and the remainder of the band. Biafra has stated that he doesn’t want to be a part of the nostalgia circuit. The story of the Dead Kennedys here today isn’t about reliving the “glory days” through rose-colored glasses. It is about a true D.I.Y. ethic that can fuel any artist to their own greatness.


First Part

  • Holiday In Cambodia, 1980, single A-side
  • Kill The Poor, 1980, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
  • Triumph Of The Swill, 1986, Bedtime for Democracy
  • Jock-O-Rama (Invasion of the Beef Patrol), 1985, Frankenchrist
  • Too Drunk To Fuck, 1981, single A-side
  • Trust Your Mechanic, 1982, Plastic Surgery Disasters
  • D.M.S.O., 1981, single A-side
  • Gaslight (live), recorded 1979/released 2004, Live At The Deaf Club
  • Religious Vomit, 1981, In God We Trust, Inc.
  • Nazi Punks Fuck Off, 1981, In God We Trust, Inc.

Second Part

  • California Über Alles, 1979, single A-side
  • MTV Get Off The Air, 1985, Frankenchrist
  • Halloween, 1982, Plastic Surgery Disasters
  • Night Of The Living Rednecks (live), recorded 1979/released 1987, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death
  • Kinky Sex (Makes The World Go ‘Round), 1982, Wargasm (multi-artist compilation)
  • Police Truck, 1979, B-side of “Holiday In Cambodia” single
  • Riot, 1982, Plastic Surgery Disasters


  • Chickenshit Conformist, 1986, Bedtime For Democracy
To download this program, please click on the three dots at the right of the player.

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner

“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for ‘fair use’ for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top