ThURGHsday! #14 – Dead Kennedys

As with many of the bands in URGH!, this was the first I knew or saw of Dead Kennedys. I didn’t know they were punk rock. They just seemed weird. Well, Jello did, anyway. The bass player and guitarist simply seemed geeky.

Jello’s intro monologue for the song “Bleed For Me” didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at the time; I didn’t know anything about the politics of Argentina or how the US figured into that, but it came across as sinister. I still don’t know if there’s punk rock in Nebraska. 😉 Jello sure is charismatic, though.

Later on in junior high and high school my friends and I listened to Dead Kennedys more, especially their Bedtime for Democracy album. (Who doesn’t love the “Take This Job and Shove It” cover?) I didn’t listen too much to the lyrics to understand what Jello was on about, though. “Holiday in Cambodia” sounded sinister but…where was Cambodia? Who was Pol Pot? “California Über Alles” had German in the title but how was California connected to Nazis? I understand it now, but at the time I was just a high school kid more concerned with drinking on the weekends than doing a deep dive into DK lyrics & dyspepsia.

The lore around URGH! is that two songs were recorded for each band, I guess to make sure they had at least one good tune to use for the movie. After “Bleed For Me,” the video above has footage & audio for another song recorded at the same show called “Government Flu.” I’d love to see an URGH! 2 film of all the second (or more?) song footage.

Where URGH They Now?

The band broke up in 1986 following Bedtime for Democracy. I followed more of Jello’s post-Kennedys career when I was in college radio, due to his spoken word record I Blow Minds For A Living and his work with Al Jourgensen in the thrash industrial band Lard. (One of my favorites of the genre)

College radio is also where I played the Cha Cha Cha With Mr. Flouride record by the band’s bass player, Klaus Flouride.

Guitarist East Bay Ray played on numerous musical projects throughout the 90’s and also found work producing and mixing albums for other artists. He’s on Twitter now, too.

D.H. Peligro, the main drummer for the band (he replaced founding drummer Ted in 1981), had a brief (and I do mean brief) stint in the Red Hot Chili Peppers before guesting on a few records and fronting his own band Peligro.

Ray, Flouride, and Peligro are still touring as Dead Kennedys following a lawsuit against Jello Biafra. They re-formed in 2001 and have had a few different singers, with “Skip” Greer from the Wynona Riders as the current vocalist.

I met Jello once at a show that featured my friend Adam Gimbel. I forget the details but Adam asked me to bring my black & white Rickenbacker 360 and play on a cover of Ride’s “Vapour Trail.” I was thrilled at the opportunity. We had a great time.

One of the show openers was singer/songwriter Wesley Willis, who was on Jello’s Alternative Tentacles label. I best remember Wesley’s song “Hootie and the Blowfish”:

Jello was there, I’m not sure if he was managing Wesley’s or just there to hang out at the local show of one of the label’s artists, but we talked a bit and he was a really nice guy. For whatever that’s worth. 😄

Jello has continued to create music and spoken word projects, working with Mojo Nixon, Nomeansno, The Melvins and others.


Last ThURGHsday! – The Go-Go’s – “We Got the Beat
Next ThURGHsday! – Steel Pulse – “Ku Klux Klan”

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