43 Years Later Dead Kennedys Make History With Their Debut Album

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1980: Photo of Dead Kennedys
Anne Fishbein/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It took over 40 years but the San Francisco Bay punk rockers Dead Kennedys hit music gold status recently with their 1980 album release of Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that the record hit gold status by selling 500,000 copies.

While recently answering a poll on a friend’s social media post inquiring what album got you into punk rock, I didn’t even have to think about it, I immediately put Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables as my answer. I recall first hearing it at the age of 13 — my mom’s boyfriend actually introduced me to the album. [Yes, I am a typical Gen-X kid whose parents divorced at a young age.] When I first heard it I was amazed, as I had never heard anything like it. I went from loving pop music like Madonna to heavy metal overnight, if it wasn’t Metallica, forget it! The Dead Kennedys’ album, however, broke the doors down for me to start getting more into punk music. Of course, there was good company back then with bands like Minor Threat, Misfits, Black Flag and Bad Brains, just to name a few. But let’s get back to how this album — after being released 43 years ago — FINALLY achieved gold status.

Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys

John O’Hara/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Dead Kennedys first broke out onto the scene in 1978 with Fresh Fruit being the bands debut album, which included original band members Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray, Klaus Fluoride and D.H. Peligro. Originally released on Cherry Red Records the album has been redistributed through many other labels throughout the years, including the band’s own label, Alternative Tentacles.




View this post on Instagram


A post shared by East Bay Ray (@eastbayray1)

Of course if you are a fan of the band you know there has been much controversy surrounding them from day one, like the name of the band for starters to the heavy political subject matter of their songs to inner circle lawsuits between Jello and the other band members. However both still occasionally tour, individually of course, and Jello still owns Alternative Tentacles. Maybe, just maybe, this honor can be the nudge to get them back together. Nah, especially since he hasn’t even made mention of it but one long time fan can dream.

There’s an interesting story behind how the band got their name that Westworld contributor, music manager and coauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Band, Mark Bliesener, shared back in 2011.

“One afternoon, we were in Eric’s [Eric Boucher who had a variety of names but most know him as Jello Biafra] bedroom at his parents house in Boulder recording onto cassette 7-inch singles, which he’d recently brought back from a trip to the U.K., fresh slabs of vinyl unavailable here by groups like the Vibrators, Cortinas and X-Ray Spex,” Bliesener shared. “So we’re talking about bands and the names of bands, and I happened to mention that I’ve kept a running list of new band names for years, and inspired by my girlfriend’s teddy bear, named Ted Kennedy, that I had come up with the greatest band name no one could ever use — “The Dead Kennedys.” After I said it, the name just sort of lay there in the room … In 1978, when I heard of the fantastic first DK’s shows, I thought it was so cool that the name was finally being used. I still do.”

That’s just one theory, as Jello has stated it was an homage to the end of the American dream.

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables Tracklist:

Kill The Poor

Forward To Death

When Ya Get Drafted

Let’s Lynch The Landlord

Drug Me

Your Emotions

Chemical Warfare

California Über Alles

I Kill Children

Stealing Peoples’ Mail

Funland At The Beach

Ill In The Head

Holiday In Cambodia

Viva Las Vegas (Elvis cover)

Don’t own it? You can listen to it here

 Oh What A Year: 1980
Want More?

Oh What A Year: 1980

January 2020

Take a look back at our retrospect of the year 1980 where we celebrate the hottest in movies, music and TV.

Buy This Issue
More Of This: