Thoughts on the Dead Kennedys amidst a painting haze...

I'm still listening. I just haven't been able to write it all down lately.

The past month or so, I've been a painting and patching fool, readying the nursery for the newborn. Naturally, there's nothing my stereo hasn't been pushing through its speakers over the countless hours I've spent in a fumy haze while thinking a lot about nothing in particular, or thinking very little at all and just letting the sounds carry me through the task at hand.

The Dead Kennedys' Plastic Surgery Disasters, one of those relics from a discontented teenagehood, shuffled into place at one point and inspired a fluid stream of nostalgia followed by internal debate.

It was on a cold morning while walking across Pickering Field to the bus stop when I first heard DK as they pummeled their way through a somewhat sloppy version of David Allen Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It." A kid at school had lent me a dubbed cassette. Further adding to the audible drawbacks with which this music essentially reveled in, I recycled a blank cassette, scribbled DEAD KENNEDYS sloppily over whatever band or album name noted the tape's previous residents, hit record and then let my Walkman do the talking the next day. It was the morning punk rock dug itself a foxhole in my frontal lobe, and it's hung out there ever since.

Digging around, I actually found the tape. Evidently, I'm a pack rat.

It's amazing what you remember when you're under the influence of plaster dust and KILZ.

That tape was a staple for a couple years until I finally graduated to a CD player, which didn't happen until I was about 16. Overwhelmed with all the music I had to buy now that I had digital means, I criminally slacked on picking up the DK catalogue. And now, if I want to be a good little punk rocker, I have to spend a shitload to avoid the REISSUED DK catalogue.

For those who don't know the entire story, Jello Biafra and the rest of the band were in legal battles for years over royalties and allegations of fraud regarding Biafra's label, Alternative Tentacles. Biafra lost the rights to the music and has since built himself up as hardcore's martyr, protesting the reformed Dead Kennedys and doing his damnedest to discredit and boycott the remastered and reissued discography that was put out by Manifesto Records. Seeing "Manifesto" printed on a DK can't help but feel like you're buying a fake but a lot of that has to do with Biafra, who looks to be hemorrhaging money anytime a Manifesto reissue is picked up at the local BORDERS.


So, for a while now, I've been scouring the Internet in search of legitimate DK releases and coming up shorter and shorter as time goes by. And the cost is climbing. I found a copy of Frankenchrist on CD for $168. You have to wonder if Biafra, being a fairly loud and proud opponent of wealth and the wealthy, ever thought there'd be a time when the only people that could afford his records were his rich enemies.

The truly sad aspect of this whole thing, as is the case in any divorce, is that the most exploited and damaging weapon also winds up neglected and ultimately abandoned. Isn't it usually the kids that get caught up in the drama, suffering at the hands of their parents who find no fault in appropriating their children as bargaining chips? Don't they usually bare the emotional scars?

It's disheartening that, in order to satisfy an agenda, the music will be eventually lost or unattainable. Perspective like this almost makes acquiring the reissues somewhat justifiable, if only to preserve the band's legacy and provide others the same sort of enlightenment that shook my world so long ago.

Or, bootleg the fuck out of the records so NOBODY gets any money. That would be more their style anyway, at least in the days of yore. The cassette release of the In God We Trust, Inc. EP was recorded on one side only. The other side of the cassette had a note regarding the negative impact that duping tapes was having on the entertainment industry, the punchline being:

"Therefore side two of this tape has been left blank for your convenience."

Letters From A Tapehead


hmmm said…
le sigh...

how soon we forget what is important.
Anonymous said…
Cool, glad to see your back!
Sean Caldwell said…
To hmmm,

I understand that, when it comes to money, no one likes to feel like they're being ripped-off. But, I do think that an amicable agreement could've been made and maybe the music could still be accessible. Or, maybe not.

To Anonymous,

It's good to be back. Thanks for being patient.

Letters From A Tapehead

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