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Dead Kennedys

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.

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 F**k" 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 format of Dmpo's On Broadway, the Dead Kennedys' June 1984 performance marking the closing of San Francisco's avant-garde theater and nightclub, was released in May 2000. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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For me the DKs haven't really stood the test of time like the ' Pistols, Avengers, etc will still listen to stuff like Holiday inn Cambodia, but it doesn't raise the same feelings that other bands still do. Saw them once, they had the two worst opening bands in the history of punk rock; the bass player for one of them spent more time puking on stage than playing the bass. I guess he was Too drunk to F**k...
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plastic surgery disasters is my favorite 80s punk album!
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Ahead of their time. Musically speaking, untouched by any band to this day. Uncanny musicianship /Superb musicality.
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Kill kill kill kill kill the poor tonight.
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NAZI PUNKS
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Sid couldn't even play.
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Sid was ahead of his time dead Kennedys good but not as pure as the pistols my opinion
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Fugazi radio needs more dc band.s kingface soulside shudder to think rites of spring gray matter marginal man ......get it??????
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That's not necessarily true it depends on opinion
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Dead Kennedys are better then the Sex Pistols.
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Artier newyorkers?? Huh?
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DK has been my milk and gram crackers since 79' to name one of many greats...
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I'm sorry I take that back... but that landlord was a stone cold b**ch!!!!!
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Lynch the landlord is about the landlord of the farm (big punk hub in 80's) she kicked them out even if they had enough money to buy the farm. My (punk) dad did a documentry about the farm (it's on youtube)
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My dad knows Jello!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! (Who is so awesome)
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Jello u think I can eat a b**ch out on stage?... Oh yeah i can
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Yeah the Dead Kennedys are a great punk band-about the only good one to come out of the Bay Area. T.S.O.L. stomps the life out of all the all of you. And the band was great also.
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Jerry Brown is back! God help CA
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Skip SUUUUCKS we want Jello
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Jello called it look where that station is now.
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If you dont like dks dont listen to the song long enough to whine. And these guys are awesome.
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DK's are the original proper punk bands of all time. Intricate yet dirty, truth tellers with no fear. Wish I could see them together but it will not be:(
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Dead Kennedy s are out. Music is phenomenal, with punk roots from the late 70s to 80s. Listening to sp and black flag. Minuemen are gone yet their music is legend
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j.e.mathers3 .. you say.. The Kennedys suck... you appear to be a glam rocker and you like Gorillaz... you are a poser.
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The Kennedys suck
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tbad that the man wins again
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To f**ked to drunk
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Reagan youth moo
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Obama and Bush are the same. Both suck ballz. Kiss your freedom goodbye. Ron Paul was the only good politician and he's retired.
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good band.
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he's got a cool voice
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Soup is good FOOOOOOOD!
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Punk rock as it was meant to be!
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One of my all time favorite bands social punk real deal punk like it should be
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more than hears the ear
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Why did everyone hate them.irony I guess.
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Punx not dead in cuba clandestine punk bands at risk of arrest and instruments confiscated listen to porno para ricardo band no longer together but the band is true punk in an opprsed society
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jvrieker hey dumb fvck if obama was a dictator who could post that bs and still be alive, go suck bush kawk
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Let's be honest guys, they'd tear any president apart no matter how good or bad they were. Every president makes mistakes and these guys would be the first to point them out. Love this band for their fast, aggressive and politically charged playing. They made some valid points about our society in general while still having some great punk music behind it. The original line up is nothing short of punk royalty.
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they would hate bush more, Obama is better than Bush
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jvrieker
I listen to the DKs more now that Obama is dictator than I did in the 80s. The dks would shred Obama and the Democrat's fascism.
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the way Pandora takes out spaces and paragraphs is really annoying.
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@rkgrajeda14 Being alive in modern American society IS being a sell-out. its about realizing it.

truth.

Unless you live off the grid (including no computers, genius) and wear homespun, you're sucking the Man's corporate dick. every hour. every day. taste good? mmmm, cheetos and Tecate...

The original DKs deserve respect for being one of the early and loudest voices spreading the truth. and for giving others a hand up do the same.
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best band ever
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If you are going to use homophobia in the name of the dk's, jackieo2, learn to spell (thow). Otherwise, dick-suckers like me will correct you in front of all your internet friends.
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Jello would spit on the pistols.and even thow east bay ray and the rest were good musicians they can all suck a dick for trying to think they can capitalize of punk .
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Saw them at Bond's (NYC) in 1981 , I was a wee lad, still remember those 15 days that claim to have started the Time Square Riot of 1981.All before NYC turned to shite.
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mydogismuklu k s
Rock on Joseph Shepard.
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I love this band and they're not sellouts they are just doing their own s**t nowadays but everyone still loves them too much of the few people who don't can go f**k themselves not that I really care about them or anything but I just have a traumatic brain injury and have been drugged up so that I have not able to say anything to anyone in person in a really long time so I just got my tablet back so I decided to go ahead and write a review on here and now I have to go back to therapy because my n
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Jello for prez.
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