Dead Kennedys

This page is about the band; see Kennedy family for the political dynasty, or The Kennedy Curse, which inspired the name "Dead" Kennedys
Missing image
From Left to Right: Klaus Flouride, Jello Biafra, D.H. Peligro and East Bay Ray

The Dead Kennedys were a punk rock band from San Francisco, California Attacking assumptions of the political left and right with humor, their music mixed arty elements of English punk with the energy of the American punk scene. Lead singer Jello Biafra was also responsible for releasing many other punk and alternative bands on his Alternative Tentacles record label.



The Dead Kennedys formed in June 1978. They consisted of Jello Biafra on vocals, guitarist East Bay Ray, bassist Klaus Fluoride, and drummer Ted (Bruce Slesinger). They played numerous shows at local venues, and in June of 1979, released their first single, "California Über Alles", on Alternative Tentacles. They followed with a well received east-coast tour.

Prior to the release of their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Dead Kennedys were invited to perform at the Bay Area Music Awards in front of music industry big-wigs to, in the words of the organizers, give the event some "new wave credibility". The day of the show was spent practicing the song they were asked to play, the underground hit "California Über Alles". In typically subversive, perverse style, the band became the talking point of the ceremony when after about 10 seconds into the song, Biafra said "HOLD IT! We've gotta prove that we're adults now. We're not a punk rock band, we're a new wave band." The band then tore into the previously unheard "Pull My Strings", a barbed, satirical attack on the ethics of the mainstream music industry. As well as containing the lyrics "Is my cock big enough, is my brain small enough, for you to make me a star", the song also sent-up The Knack's biggest new wave hit, "My Sharona". The song was never recorded in the studio but this performance, the first and only time the song was ever performed, was released on the posthumous compilation album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death... and the band was never invited to play the awards show ever again.

After their debut album, drummer Ted was replaced with D.H. Peligro. Throughout the 1980s, they toured all over the United States as well as Europe, gaining a large following in the underground music scene. The EP In God We Trust, Inc. (1981) and album Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982) showed a development in musical style, and their music became a political force, pitting itself against rising elements of American social and political life such as the religious right and Ronald Reagan.

The release of the album Frankenchrist (Alternative Tentacles; Virus 45) in 1985 caused a fervor with the newly formed PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center), and in 1986, the Dead Kennedys were brought to trial for "distribution of harmful matter to minors" due in part to an H.R. Giger illustration ( included with the album. Biafra says that during this time government agents invaded and searched his home. The band members were each faced with up to a year in jail and a $2000 fine. In 1987, the charges were dropped after a three-week trial. The album, however, was banned from many record stores nationwide.

After the release of Bedtime for Democracy in late 1986, the band called it quits. Biafra went on to become a highly active political force, appearing on numerous television shows and releasing a number of spoken-word albums.

Internal conflicts

Recently, the Band has been involved in legal wrangles over royalty fees, particularly after most of their catalogue was transferred to the 'Decay' record label.

The band reformed in 2001 without Biafra under the name 'DK Kennedys' and embarked on an American tour.



Post-trial DK records releases


Bootleg/unauthorized albums

See also


  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Dead Kennedys (". All Music Guide. Retrieved May 10, 2005.

External links

fr:Dead Kennedys pl:Dead Kennedys


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