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Virtual Trouser lynches the landlord

By culture editor DJ NRG Raver

Posted July 13, 2012
jello biafra dead kennedys
Welcome to Poland: Jello Biafra in 2010. (Check bottom for credits)

They're doubling up the rent so Virtual Trouser's off to steal people's mail with the Dead Kennedys.

Welcome back to Virtual Trouser, the print/online version of Naked Trouser (NT), the world's greatest alternative music night.

Sadly, the NT collective can't spin the tunes right here, right now but by simply copying and pasting the tracks named in this column into YouTube and the like you can at least listen to some of the stonkers you'd hear at a typical Trouser night.

And this time, to celebrate the arrival on Polish soil of punk legend Jello Biafra, who will be headlining the Jarocin Festiwal this coming July 20-22 with his latest combo the Guantanamo School of Medicine, we head to 1980s California for an audience with the Dead Kennedys (DKs).

Formed in San Francisco in 1978 with an original line-up of Biafra on biting, snide, piss-takey vocals, East Bay Ray on guitar, Klaus Fluoride on bass and Ted on drums (later replaced by DH Peligro), the DKs quickly became kingpins of the burgeoning American Hardcore scene.

The band's 1980 debut album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables set the tone for what was to follow over the next few years as they repeatedly flipped the bird to the Anglo-American political establishment and plastic-apple-pie consumer culture in general.

Instant classics included Forward to Death, Your Emotions, Chemical Warfare, Kill the Poor and Police Truck (dedicated to Biafra's opponent in the 1979 San Francisco mayoral election Dianne 'Banker-Butt-Licker-Margaret-Thatcher" Feinstein, "the Dragon Lady with no f--king heart").

California Über Alles, meanwhile, attacked the fake-hippy environmental authoritarianism personified by then and current California governor Jerry 'Moonbeam' Brown ("Zen fascists will control you/ hundred-per-cent natural/ you will jog for the Master Race/ and always wear a happy face").

Add to this the DKs' best-known song Holiday in Cambodia (click here for an all-action video of a real holiday in Cambodia) and you have one of the greatest punk albums of all time.

dead kennedys in concert
A-a-achoo! Biafra regrets playing on a stage made of pepper. (Check bottom for credits)

The follow-up long-players Plastic Surgery Disasters, Frankenchrist and Bedtime for Democracy plus the compilation Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death all kept up the good work, spawning endless NT classics, such as Too Drunk to F--k, In-Sight, The Man with the Dogs, A Child and His Lawnmower, Terminal Preppie, Buzzbomb, Riot, Moon Over Marin and Nazi Punks F--k Off!.

Another NT favourite, Pull My Strings, addressed the major-label A&R men present at the 1980 Bay Area Music Awards, who had cynically invited the band along to this back-slapping shindig in order to give it some "new wave credibility".

A one-off song played as a guerrilla performance (the DKs were expected to perform California Über Alles), Pull My Strings combined elements of My Sharona by new wave band the Knack with the eternal question "Is my cock big enough, is my brain small enough, for you to make me a star?".

Bizarrely, the assembled suits and record industry pricks, as Zappa might call them, weren't impressed and never asked them back.

Odd that because DK concerts were legendary.

Fortunately, there are a fair few videos of the band's early gigs up on YouTube, so be sure to check some out (especially the one at Mabuhay Gardens) to get a taste of the adrenaline-fuelled stage-invading mayhem.

And while you're at it, have a listen to Full Metal Jackoff, Biafra's epic 14-minute collaboration with DOA from their excellently titled 1989 album Last Scream of the Missing Neighbours.

Jello For President – He'll Get Things Done!

But, of course, nothing gets things done like a few little sweeteners along the way. And when you slip a radio station a few quid to play a record your company's just put out, it's called a 'payola'. Drool. Drool. Drool. Drool. Drool. Drool. Which reminds me, in honour of R&H reader the Bald Destroyer, here's Pull My Strings, embedded from clashman89's pretty punky YouTube channel. We'll see you next time…

The original version of this article first appeared in Point Blank Poznan. Cheers, Steg. Papaya and chips OK?

See also Virtual Trouser fites dem back, posted 22/6/12.

Picture credits

Top, thumb and slide: Jello Biafra by Libertinus Yomango.

Bottom: Jello Biafra by catharine_anderson.

For licensing information click the above links.

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