Dead Kennedys in concert at Old Waldorf in San Francisco, recorded on October 25, 1979. For all the Punk and post-Punk era bands I’ve been running over the years, I haven’t really given a lot of attention to American bands from the period – there’s no excuse and there’s no good reason to exclude them from a pivotal time in Rock music.
I mentioned a few days ago, when I posted the Gang of Four Concert (also from the Bay Area), that most of the UK bands were politically active and their music was overwhelmingly about protest. But, I didn’t indicate there were similar bands doing relatively the same thing in the U.S. – though not commercially as successful as say, The Clash – bands like Dead Kennedys created a stir and helped put American Punk on the map, at least coming from the West Coast.
No doubt about it- Dead Kennedys were aggressive, raw and searing with angry energy over the then-current political climate in America. We had a lot to complain about – we had poverty just as bad as everybody else. We were going through the shock of Watergate and we about to enter into the Reagan years -just about the same time the UK entered into the Thatcher years.
And The Dead Kennedys were actively political. Fronted by Jello Biafra, who would run for President on the Green Party ticket in 2000. they skewered politics of the right as well as left as well as Popular culture and even the Punk Movement.
The band would last from 1978-1986 when an acrimonious split caused Biafra to take his bandmates to court and effectively ending his relationship with the band – and in turn, losing one of the most distinctive voices in Punk.
Fortunately for everyone, this concert was recorded for posterity by UC Berkeley station KALX-FM and broadcast shortly after. Like many of the U.S. bands during the Punk period, precious little has managed to survive – and even less in listenable sound quality.
So this one is a rarity and a fascinating glimpse into what the West Coast was up to when Punk came of age.