Last week, the Dead Kennedys announced an indefinite hiatus from touring, due to health issues suffered by bassist Klaus Flouride and drummer D.H. Peligro. Although I was fangirl-thrilled to meet East Bay Ray at a coffee shop a couple years back, I personally find it depressing when bands tour without key original members. A Jello Biafra-less DK would just bum me out.
Sometimes a group of people come together to make a great creative team, but only small portions of the group are really driving forces. The DK thing is not really one of those disputes. Drummers sometimes spontaneously combust and that never makes it seems like a band should hang it up. I think the thing which bothers me the most about Jello Biafra not exactly being in the Dead Kennedys any more is that you know there was a hot moment in time when they must have felt like a galvanized special unit in the war against conformity and oppression. There must have been a time when the Dead Kennedys felt like they could take on the world . . . together.
For anyone who is unaware of the legal squabble, the Dead Kennedys had a falling-out partly over whether or not their songs should be licensed to sell various things. Most notably Levi’s wanted to use “Holiday in Cambodia” in a Dockers commercial and Jello Biafra rejected their advances without consulting the rest of the band. Lawsuitarity ensued. Levi’s did not get the song, but Alternative Tentacles is no longer allowed to sell full length DK products. I am torn on how I feel about that. I have lived in not one, but two, punk rock group houses named after the “Holiday in Cambodia” song. Not like thirteen punks living in a townhouse had to get a license to call the place Cambodia, so maybe we only helped by buying cassette tapes and T-shirts, but we would not have considered Levi’s to be, ya know, punk.
On the one hand, I feel like there should be more benefit to artists who create important seminal works. On the other hand, I am uncomfortable with certain types of mainstream corporate interests co-opting and diluting counterculture. It seems like there have to be ways to monetize art without giving it to a company who would demean its original purpose. The Dead Kennedys MySpace page announced this spring that Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death had managed to go gold in both the USA and the UK, without major label support. Keeping in mind that Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death came out in 1987, I’m guessing it hasn’t been buying mansions in the meantime.
So maybe nothing pure can last without pain, but here is a video shot at a 1981 Dead Kennedys (with Jello Biafra) performance of “Too Drunk to Fuck” in Finland. And, as you probably got from Blue Blood board members Buster Friendly and Mr. Karl’s posts, if you did not know it already, the Buckcherry “Too Drunk to Fuck” is not a cover of the DK song, any more than the Katy Perry “I Kissed a Girl” is a cover of the Jill Sobule tune. The Finnish video may be amateur, but it is complete with punk rock snogging.