Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

[Manifesto; 1980]

Styles: American punk
Others: Minor Threat, Black Flag, Operation Ivy

Christopher Sonnabend sat next to me in science class in sixth grade.  Rather than on the teacher, his attention was on his desk.  He’d both draw and etch tiny symbols into the surface.  The symbols were like some aboriginal carving, with sharp angles and thin lines.  The symbol read DK.  I inquired one afternoon and Sonnabend informed me the symbol was that of the band Dead Kennedys.  I joked:  “I thought it stood for Donkey Kong.”  An avid rap fan at the time (and stubborn towards anything else), I continued to inquire about the symbol and mistook it for meaning Donkey Kong.  This was done in jest.  Sonnabend would eventually tire of my antics and change his seat in the classroom.  I managed to accost him in the halls one day and immediately asked him about DK and whether or not he thought hopping barrels was a well-paid entry-level position for Mario. 

Other kids in school left swastikas on the desks.  A student would raise his or her hand and draw the Nazi emblem to the teacher’s attention.  The teacher would instruct the student to add four short lines to the swastika, thereby creating a box formed from four squares.  This was a clue.  As Jello Biafra would later say:  “You still think swastikas look cool/ the real Nazis run your schools."

It had to have been mere coincidence, but creepy nonetheless.  A major and time-consuming hobby of mine at the time was calligraphy.  I had a set of pens with extra fine nibs and additional burgundy ink cartridges, as well as a stack of Panache parchment paper.  I practiced daily.  If I had taken a moment to turn down whatever D.I.T.C. record I was listening to and borrow Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables from Sonnabend, I would’ve noticed the band name in yellow calligraphy on the cover, directly above the burning automobile.

I would’ve also been exposed to what has become a punk standard for brilliance””panoramic in its coverage of racism, class struggle, domestic/foreign affairs, and personal strife.  It was a foray into shushing of government.  Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is like a newsflash for spoiled youth.  It’s furious politics and Jello’s swirling vocals.  It’s inspired angst.  It’s drafts and landlords, shouting out politicians’ names, and all in how you pronounce that second über.  It’s rising up, strapping on, and strumming hideously as you chant kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor.  It has remained fresh, while society remains rotten ”” its excesses, errors, and injustices leaking through the slits of a wooden crate on a loading dock, a flatbed truck, and a shipping clerk’s gloves.  History repeats, but so does this record.

1. Kill the Poor
2. Forward to Death
3. When Ya Get Drafted
4. Let's Lynch the Landlord
5. Drug Me
6. Your Emotions
7. Chemical Warfare
8. California Uber Alles
9. I Kill Children
10. Stealing People's Mail
11. Funland at the Beach
12. Ill in the Head
13. Holiday in Cambodia
14. Viva Las Vegas