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Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys were a band from San Francisco, but were extremely popular during the punk rock era in Boston's history. Their logo, an "X" with a vertical line dissecting it, was probably the most spray-painted symbol along the old elevated Central Artery structure during 1980-1981. Although the band's name was offensive to the Kennedy family name, many of their lyrics often mirrored what the Kennedys stood for back then (be leery of fascist tendencies, more effective government services) which is ironic. The following is a description of the band from Wikipedia:

The Dead Kennedys were an American punk band formed in San Francisco, California in 1978. Pioneers of hardcore punk during the 1980s, the band gained a large underground following in the international punk music scene.

The music of the Dead Kennedys mixes the more experimental elements of British 1970s punk with the raw energy of the 1980s American hardcore punk scene. Dead Kennedys' songs mix the deliberately shocking lyrics of punk with a humorous, acerbic, satirical, and sarcastic commentary on current social and political issues. In the late 1980s, the band was embroiled in an obscenity trial in the US over the 1985 Frankenchrist album, which included a poster with art that depicted penises (Penis Landscape by H. R. Giger). The band was charged criminally with distribution of harmful matter to minors, but the trial ended with a hung jury.

 

 

On March 25, 1980, the DKs were invited to perform at the Bay Area Music Awards in front of music industry bigwigs to give the event some "New Wave credibility", in the words of the organizers. 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 15 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, who all wore white shirts with a big, black S painted on the front, pulled black ties from around the backs of their necks to form a dollar sign, then started playing a new song "Pull My Strings", a barbed, satirical attack on the ethics of the mainstream music industry, which contained the lyrics, "Is my [expletive] big enough, is my brain small enough, for you to make me a star?". The song also referenced 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.

In early 1980, they recorded and released "Holiday in Cambodia". Later that year, the band released their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. It reached #33 in the UK Albums Chart. In January 1981, Ted announced that he wanted to leave to pursue a career in architecture and would help look for a replacement. He played his last concert in February. His replacement was D. H. Peligro (Darren Henley).

Around the same time, East Bay Ray had tried to pressure the rest of the band to sign a major label deal with Polydor Records; Biafra claims he was prepared to quit the group if the rest of the band wanted to sign the deal, though Ray asserts that he recommended against signing with Polydor. Polydor balked after they learned that the Kennedys were planning their next single to be "Too Drunk to [expletive]." In May, the band released the single "Too Drunk to [expletive]". The song caused much controversy in the UK as BBC feared the single would reach the Top 30; this would require a mention of the song on Top of the Pops. However, this never came to be as the single peaked at #31.

With Peligro's propulsive drums behind the band, 1981's In God We Trust, Inc. EP saw them moving toward full on hardcore/thrash. In addition to the EP's controversial artwork depicting a gold Christ figure on a cross of dollar bills, the lyrics contained Biafra's most biting social and political commentary yet, and songs such as "Moral Majority," "Nazi Punks [expletive] Off!" and "We've Got A Bigger Problem Now" put the DKs on the map as the leaders of a social movement, while "Dog Bite," a cover version of Rawhide and various joke introductions showed a much more whimsical side. The following year (1982) they released a full album, Plastic Surgery Disasters. The album's cover features a withered starving African child's hand being held and dwarfed by a white man's hand. This picture won the World Press Photo award in 1980, and was taken in Karamoja district in Uganda by Mike Wells.

The band's music had evolved much in a short time, moving away from hardcore formulas toward a more innovative jazz-informed style, featuring musicianship and dynamics far beyond other bands in the genre. By now the group had become a de-facto political force, pitting itself against rising elements of American social and political life such as the religious right, Ronald Reagan and the idle rich. The band continued touring all over the United States, as well as Europe and Australia, and gained a large underground following. While they continued to play live shows during 1983 and 1984, they took a break from releasing new records to concentrate on the Alternative Tentacles record label, which would become synonymous with DIY alternative culture, independent from and in contrast to the commercialized sterile cultural landscape the world had become since the "cultural revolution" of the '60s faded into the yuppie '80s. The band continued to write and perform new material during this time, which would appear on their next album (some of these early performances can be seen in the Live at DMPO's on Broadway video, originally released by Dirk Dirksen and later reissued on Rhino).

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