I didn’t know these demos existed until I saw them mentioned in this book. They are obviously not meant for public consumption (Jello sounds like he’s straining on a few songs, like “Kill the Poor). But it’s impressive just how good the band sounds and how fully formed the ideas are.
I also enjoy how some of the songs are played a wee bit slower which changes the vibe of the lyrics somewhat (especially “California Uber Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia”).
“Kepone Kid”s is a slightly different version of “Kepone Factory” (same basic music but different lyrics.) “Forward to Death” is pretty much the same. “California Uber Alles” is much slower and perhaps a a bt more menacing. “Your Emotions” is pretty similar to the version I’m familiar with. “Kill the Poor” is also pretty much the same
“Holiday in Cambodia” is the most drastically different. In addition to being slower, Jello sings the first verses in a flat monotone. At first I thought that perhaps he wasn’t giving his all, but then it seemed like a deliberate choice–which makes it seems somewhat more sinister a the end–where he goes nuts in the Pol Pot section (even crooning it at one point).
“Kidnap” is new to me–a kind of football chant about kidnapping someone (hard to get the actual lyrics from this demo). “The Man with the Dogs” has that great creepy echoed guitar opening and sounds a lot like the final product (with Ray having some awesome fun with feedback and noise at the end). “I Kill Children” is even more disturbing without the “God” quote at the beginning.
“Dreadlocks in the Suburbs” is a reggae song (!). I can’t really make out the lyrics, but I’ll bet it’s funny. “Rawhide” is a little sloppier than I’m used to, but it really gets to what they are trying to do with the cover. “Mutations of Today” has a very strange guitar set up–intertwining guitar riffs (I assume the second is by 6025) and a very long intro before Jello sings (really oddly even for him) about Mexican monster babies. It’s not a favorite and seems more improvised than anything. “Cold Fish” is simple punk song. I’m not quite sure what its’ about although it seems to be about killing someone (and seems more like a goof than a song).
“Forward to Death” appears again. This later version is a bit more loud and full sounding. And “Viva Las Vegas” ends this set with a fun romp of a cover–it sounds great and raw in this demo.
So it’s interesting to hear these early versions of their songs. There’s a few insights (and I understand that the drummer Ted likes the slower versions of those two big hits) and a few surprises.
[READ: November 16, 2014] Dead Kennedys
When I was a young punk I loved the Dead Kennedys. Jello Biafra was THE MAN! And he still is, although I am less politically motivated as I used to be. I have a bunch of his spoken word albums and all of the DK’s output. I distinctly remember buying Frankenchrist on vinyl at the Flea Market in Elmwood Park and feeling nervous as he slowly put the album in a bag while my parents waited for me to be done.
I haven’t really thought about the DKs that much for a few years. I knew there was some kind of litigation about something, but I didn’t care all that much. Then I saw this book and I thought it would be a fun read. And it was.
I have no idea who Alex Ogg is, although he seems to have some kind of insider information about the band. And this book is comprised of quotes from the band members, recollections from others who were there and all kinds of photos.
As the subtitle says, this is the early years. So it really only covers the band’s formation to the recording and release of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.
Because Jello was the frontman and was very very outspoken, he was always the main focus of the band for me. Although I knew the names of the other guys, I never really thought about East Bay Ray or Klaus Flouride or Ted or 6025 or D.H. Peligro. And honestly I never really thought about the DKs as musicians—I knew I liked the music and that some of it was pretty weird, but I never really thought about it like I did with other bands that I wanted to play. Continue Reading »