On this day in music history: September 2, 1980 - “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables”, the debut album by the Dead Kennedys is released. Produced by Norm and East Bay Ray, it is recorded at Möbius Music Studios in San Francisco, CA from May - June 1980. The Dead Kennedys are formed after guitarist East Bay Ray (Raymond Pepperell) decides to put a band together after attending a show at the Mabuhay Gardens in SF. Taking out a newspaper ad, it is answered by Eric Reed Boucher (“Jello Biafra”) (lead vocals), Geoffrey Lyall (“Klaus Flouride”) (bass), Carlos Cadona (“6025”) (rhythm guitar) and Bruce Slesinger (“Ted”) (drums). Their name generates controversy immediately, with SF Chronicle columnist Herb Caen criticizing the Dead Kennedys for their moniker being in poor taste. Like the bands lyrics which often carry stinging political commentary and a highly satirical world view, their name comments on “the death of the American Dream” after the assassinations of JFK and Robert Kennedy. Jello and Ray form their own label Alternative Tentacles Records. Shortly after, they release their first single “California Über Alles”, taking a satirized jab at California governor Jerry Brown, comparing his “hippie-fascist” vision of America to the German Third Reich. It is followed by the equally controversial “Holiday In Cambodia”, a dig at the lifestyles upwardly mobile “self righteous Americans” juxtaposed to the brutal genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge by Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. Re-recording their first two singles, their first album consists of thirteen originals and a cover version of Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas”. The front cover features a photo of several police cars on fire. The picture is taken during the White Night Riot in SF, with members of the gay community rioting after former city supervisor Dan White’s light sentence, for the murders of Mayor George Moscone and openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk. The original back cover features a photo of the band Sounds Of Sunshine, is used after Klaus Flouride finds it at a garage sale. It’s altered placing The Dead Kennedys logo on the drum kit, and skulls and crossbones on the other instruments. The band are threatened with a lawsuit when the unauthorized use is discovered. The cover is reprinted with the SOS band members heads chopped off. Eventually, the photo is removed and replaced with an image of four elderly people sitting in a living room with the Alternative Tentacles logo affixed to a picture on the wall. Though receiving a poor reception from mainstream critics and never charting in the US, the album becomes an underground classic, and is regarded as a seminal and landmark punk rock album. Reissued numerous times over the years and even bootlegged when out of print, it is most recently remastered and reissued in 2008 by Cherry Red Records. “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables” peaks at number thirty three on the UK album chart.
Happy birthday to this classic