Wednesday, September 2, 2015

fresh fruit for rotting vegetables

Dead Kennedys paraded their snazz to make you taste what you most fear in the hardcore humor of their controversial chemical warfare.   The band was started in 1978 in San Francisco, California, when Raymond Pepperell (East Bay Ray) put an ad in a local paper.  Eric Reed Boucher (Jello Biafra), Geoffrey Lyall (Klaus Flouride), and Bruce Slesinger (Ted) rounded out the original lineup.   Carlos Cadona (6025) also joined the band during their formative years.  Their tendentious moniker made it difficult for them to book shows.  

Biafra reveals:   "It was suggested by two friends at the same party, one of whom was a guy called Rick Stott.  The other one was Radio Pete...[We picked it] to bring attention to the end of the American Dream and the beginning of the decline and fall of the American empire."

Ray says:  "People were just sitting around thinking of cool Punk Rock names and that one had suitable shock value."

In June of 1979, their first single, "California Über Alles" was released on the independent Alternative Tentacles label set up by Biafra and Ray.   "Holiday in Cambodia" followed in May of 1980.  Their debut album was recorded right after.  Norm and East Bay Ray produced the sessions at Möbius Music in San Francisco during May and June of 1980 with engineer Oliver DiCicco.   'Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables' credits  Jello Biafra on lead vocals;   East Bay Ray on lead guitar;   Klaus Flouride on bass and backing vocals;  and  Ted on drums;   with   6025 playing rhythm guitar on "Ill in the Head", and "Viva Las Vegas";   Paul Roessler on keyboards;  Ninotchka on keyboards and backing vocals;  and  Dirk Dirksen,  Michael Synder, Bruce Calderwood (Bruce Loose),  Barbara Hellbent,  HyJean,  Curt,  and  Chi Chi on backing vocals.  

Biafra considers:    "[The macho, conservative, self-satisfied attitude that rock & roll stood for] was part of the thing that drew me to punk so much – finally there was the true spirit of rock & roll brought back again – it was scaring the shit out of all the right people, plus the lyrics didn’t have to be so stupid any more. I’ve never liked love songs. I hated them when I was a seven-year-old in second grade and first discovered rock & roll in the fall of ’65. Then as a teenager I realised that love songs weren’t just stupid, they were lying to me! Romance didn’t work like that at all! All it did was string people along on false hope like hope-dope dealers or something ... We made five dollars the first time we played.  That was in '78.  We were able to live off the band after about a year ad three motns or so.  We had to be skilled at living cheap - better than working in an office all day and tending the the band every once in a while at night.  We were a minor trend waiting to happen.  In 1980 when we were approached by several  labels about signing, we said, 'Well, money isn't that important, but we want our artistic control.'  And the reply was, 'Of course you can have your artistic control, as long as you change your name.'  So much for artistic control!"

'Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables' 
found its way to number thirty-three in New Zealand and the UK.    The iconic cover photo depicting several police cars in flames was taken during the White Night riots on May 21, 1979, after a light sentence given to former City Supervisor Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

"California Über Alles" reached number four on the UK indie singles chart.

Biafra:   "I was trying to find myself as a lyricist, after my friend John Greenway, who co-wrote the original lyric for "California Über Alles," was kind of the alpha dog of these two warped mystic kids who hung out together in Boulder, Colorado. He didn't come to San Francisco when I did. But I realized, "God, now I'm going to have to write the lyrics, too. If I'm going to write them, then I guess I'd better be good...So Third World War was an influence there. With Alice Cooper, I thought, 'Wow, I'm a very political animal. And the San Francisco punk scene is very political, and I relate to that, too. But what would happen if instead of writing about monsters and vampires and horror and screen horror like Alice Cooper did, what if I wrote about real monsters like the police? Or Latin American dictatorships and stuff?'...So I applied it that way. And I didn't realize till much later, long after Dead Kennedys was gone, how much all the method acting training I had as a teen worked. We had very demanding directors as a high school in summer stock playing one off against anybody in the city, and we held our own. But I think that helped influence the way I write a lot of "you are there" lyrics or lyrics coming from somebody else besides myself. You can whine 'til kingdom come about the evils of nuclear bombs and nuke plants and everything else, but why not write it from the Dr. Strangelove Pentagon point of view and thus out comes "Kill the Poor"? And things like that."

I am Governor Jerry Brown
My aura smiles
And never frowns
Soon I will be president

Carter power will soon go away
I will be Führer one day
I will command all of you
Your kids will meditate in school 

California Über Alles
 Über Alles Alles California 

Zen fascists will control you
A hundred percent natural
You will jog for the master race
And always wear the happy face
Close your eyes, can't happen here
Big Bro' on white horse is near
The hippies won't come back you say
Mellow out or you will pay 

California Über Alles
 Über Alles Alles California 

Now it is 1984
Knock knock at your front door
It's the suede/denim secret police
They have come for your uncool niece 

Come quietly to the camp
You'd look nice as a drawstring lamp
Don't you worry, it's only a shower
For your clothes here's a pretty flower

Die on organic poison gas
Serpent's egg's already hatched
You will croak, you little clown
When you mess with President Brown 

California Über Alles
 Über Alles Alles California

"Holiday in Cambodia" went all the way to number two on the UK indie singles chart. 

Biafra:   ""Holiday in Cambodia" was one of the few that actually was group-written - or at least group-constructed...The original "Holiday in Cambodia" is more a straight punk song. We called them "chainsaws" back then, "chainsaw punk" after the Ramones song ["Chainsaw"]. The other guys didn't like it. They didn't want to play it. I was heartbroken, I was crestfallen, they'd never done that to me before. And then Klaus began noodling around on what became that signature bass line. I thought, 'Hey, wait a minute. That's cool. What would happen if we swiped everything from my 'Holiday in Cambodia' song - verse, chorus, bridge - but used that as the original root rhythm?'...Actually, we had a three-chord chorus and bridge that came from the original, and then the verse we swapped out. Eventually, Ray [guitarist East Bay Ray] came up with that signature guitar part when he enters the song. It was taking a while; we didn't even play it at our first show, although we knew we had it under our belt. It was a pretty chief song for making me decide I ought to stick with these guys and it might turn into something really unusual, because I was playing around with some other people, too.  Before we played, I came back out of the bathroom and back to Ray's garage and heard that lick, and I was like, 'Yow!' And Ray told me he'd seen Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett at Winterland when he was a kid, and I took note of that. So when I was trying to get something to put on top of Klaus' riff, I kept trying to get it to fit there, and fit there, and fit there, and finally, it appeared."

'Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables' 
full album:

All songs written and composed by Jello Biafra, except where noted. 

Side one
1. "Kill the Poor" (East Bay Ray, Biafra) 3:07
2. "Forward to Death" (6025) 1:23
3. "When Ya Get Drafted"   1:23
4. "Let's Lynch the Landlord"   2:13
5. "Drug Me"   1:56
6. "Your Emotions" (East Bay Ray) 1:20
7. "Chemical Warfare"   2:55
Side two
1. "California Über Alles" (Biafra, John Greenway) 3:03
2. "I Kill Children"   2:04
3. "Stealing People's Mail"   1:34
4. "Funland at the Beach"   1:49
5. "Ill in the Head" (6025, Biafra) 2:46
6. "Holiday in Cambodia" (Biafra, Greenway) 4:37
7. "Viva Las Vegas" (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) 2:42

Total length:   33:06

The original back cover used a photo of a band that Biafra found at a garage sale with the band logo superimposed on the drum kit.  A former member of the band  Sounds of Sunshine sued to have the photo removed.    

bonus track: 
"Too Drunk to Fuck"

The next issue of the album used the same photo with the head of the members cut off.   

Biafra interview 

Still another issue of the album used a completely different photo of a group of old ladies with the Alternative Tentacles logo superimposed on the wall behind them.

'Fresh Fruit for Rotting Eyeballs' documentary

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