Members: Jello BIAFRA, EAST BAY RAY, KLAUS FLOURIDE, D.H. PELIGRO, BRANDON CRUZ,JEFF PENALTY, Ted
DEAD KENNEDYS were one of the most popular and important American hardcore punk bands of the late '70s/early '80s. They formed in San Francisco in 1978 when EAST BAY RAY placed an ad in a music paper that vocalist JELLO BIAFRA responded to. They were soon joined by bassist KLAUS FLOURIDE, drummer TED and a second guitarist known to posterity simply as 6025. The latter departed in March 1979, while Ted was replaced at the very end of 1980 by D.H. PELIGRO
Dead Kennedys' early success led them to record their first single, "California ber Alles," in 1979, a blistering attack on the then governor of California, Jerry Brown. It was released on their own label in the USA, Alternative Tentacles Records, set up by East Bay Ray. That single was later issued in Britain on the indie label Fast Products. "Holiday in Cambodia" (1980) followed and is perhaps the band's definitive moment - a perfect mix of hilarious yuppie-baiting lyrics and evil-sounding music. Almost as essential were "Kill the Poor" (1980) and "Too Drunk to Fuck" (remarkably, a British Top 40 single in 1981) and the debut LP, FRESH FRUIT FOR ROTTING VEGETABLES (1980). That LP went on to be awarded a Gold Record in Britain.
Underpinned by an acute sense of humor, early songs such as "Let's Lynch the Landlord," "I Kill Children" and "Chemical Warfare" satirized the twin elements of extreme violence and conservatism that characterize much of American life. Dead Kennedys' inflammatory name and provocative behavior (in one 1979 prank, Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco - and came in fourth) attracted the attention of a number of far-right politico-religious groups. The band's problems with these self-appointed moral guardians were compounded by a confrontational relationship with US authorities, ensuring an aggressive police presence at most of their gigs.
But the band continued to expand their audience by playing at a mix of underground venues in different corners of the USA and Canada. They did their first British tour in late 1980, which established the band there as a figurehead for an audience long deprived of the Pistols, Biafra stage-diving to great enthusiasm. Dead Kennedys went on to tour worldwide, covering the continents of North America, Europe and Australia.