Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

25 Apr

Dead Kennedys
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
Produced by Norm, East Bay Ray

Jello Biafra – vocals
East Bay Ray – guitar
Klaus Flouride – bass
Ted – drums

1. Kill The Poor
2. Forward To Death
3. When Ya Get Drafted
4. Let’s Lynch The Landlord
5. Drug Me
6. Your Emotions
7. Chemical Warfare
8. California Uber Alles
9. I Kill Children
10. Stealing People’s Mail
11. Funland At The Beach
12. Ill In The Head
13. Holiday In Cambodia
14. Viva Las Vegas

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is the debut studio album by the Dead Kennedys. It was first released on September 2, 1980 through Cherry Red Records in the United Kingdom and later issued by Jello’s own Alternative Tentacles label in the United States. It has been certified gold by the BPI. The best selling and generally the most critically acclaimed album by the Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables has become a major staple of American punk.

Biafra’s strong political statements on songs such as California Über Alles and When Ya Get Drafted launched Dead Kennedys into the political arena.

Musically, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables laid the blueprint for future Dead Kennedys’ releases: loud, noisy, fast, but with a sense of dynamics and musical individualism. The surf and rockabilly-inspired riffs owe something to Ramones’ most influential recordings, drawing from early American AM pop and rehashing it in the immediate, aggressive context of punk rock. The chorus of Let’s Lynch the Landlord is a send-up of Sister Anne by MC5. The lyrics lend a significant bite to the breakthrough of the already strident musical assault. On the original vinyl version Side A was tracks 1-7 and Side B was tracks 8-14. The songs on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables were recorded with minimal overdubs limited to vocals and the addition of rhythm guitar in places.

The photo on the front cover, showing several police cars on fire, was taken during the “White Night Riots” of May 21, 1979, that resulted from the light sentence given to former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

If you don’t have it, give it a listen!

Rating: ** * two out of three stars

On to the story . . .

As a youngster, I didn’t like horror films, sports or cars. Everything that my twenty-something father loved. So, when I was five years old, in an effort to butch me up, my dad enrolled me in a wrestling class at Pierce College. I didn’t care one way or the other if I went. My mom would drop me off and I would learn how to wrestle/become a man.

Now, here’s where I failed at this: One of the kids (for some reason I keep thinking his name was “Kenny”) was very hyper. Even when it was two of the other kids’ turn to demonstrate the move we were just taught, Kenny would move up and down the line of kids waiting for their turn and would attempt to do a headlock/choke hold on us. No big deal, right?

It just so happened that my father had enrolled himself in a night class at Pierce a few days after my enrollment. His class let out and he came to check on his son’s new masculinity. What did he see? Me, pressed up against the wall with Kenny performing his best date rape techniques on me.

When I finally wrestled away from this kid, all I saw is my dad looking over at me, shaking his head in disgust and then walk away. Hmmm . . . not good. Once I got home, I heard my dad and mom talking in the other room. It went something like this: “I go to check on him and he’s busy hanging all over the other boys.” I wasn’t old enough to understand exactly what was being said, only that my dad was disappointed.

Fast-forward nine years to mid-way through the eighth grade. I had this tough PE teacher, I think his name was Mr. Santiago. Santiago was also the football coach at Canoga High School. So, our PE regime was not that of an eighth grade class. He would have two kids hold up this pole and we would come running from one end of the gym to this pole, then vault over it, into a mid-air somersault and land on a mat. I tried it twice and belly-flopped both times.

Then he switched modules and we would be wrestling for the next month. I was stressing, my last wrestling experience was kind of screwed. Santiago pairs me against the biggest guy in the class on the first day. He was a skinny white boy like me, I thought I had it in the bag. He beat me.

The whole wrestling thing messed with my head. My dad was disappointed in me and now the coach was too. I made this weird goal in my head that I was going to beat that skinny white boy, either on the mat or outside of school. The loss screwed me up a bit. A week later, after Santiago paired everybody off, he asked if anybody wanted to wrestle? I jumped up, then he asked who I wanted to wrestle? I pointed to the white guy. I wrestled like this guy robbed my family and burnt out house down and left our dog pregnant. I pinned him in about twenty seconds. The guy was shocked and the coach high-fived me.

I’m not sure why I was so worked up about winning, but I was.



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2 Responses to “Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables”

  1. 1
    Eddie Cook Says:

    Mike~ great review and great story ~eddie

  2. 2
    Mike Essington Says:


    As always, thanks for reading and for writing in!

    Mike Essington

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