Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Jello Biafra, remembering old school punk

I got a little misty-eyed this week as I saw Jello Biafra, former front-man for early American punk rockers "Dead Kennedys", was fronting for the Melvins, they have a CD out that is supposed to be pretty kick-ass, too.

I will never forget my first punk rock record. It was the Dead Kennedy's 1980 release "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables", which is still, in my opinion, one of the best punk records ever, and my favorite DK's album by far. Yes, "Frankenchrist" has some hilarious ditties in Jock-o-rama and MTV- Get Off the Air, but I will forever recognize Fresh Fruit as my introduction to rebellion.

It was first my taste of hearing someone really give an ear full to the establishment. Prior to that, I had heard my dad wailing about the idiocy of the democratic party and just about everyone else in central Massachusetts rambling about the evils of Richard Nixon and the Republicans.

Fresh Fruit maked the first time I had ever heard someone scream at the top of their lungs that it was all bullshit. It had never occurred to me that one side could be wrong, and the other side could be equally wrong. It had never occurred to me before that maybe adults were...lying. it just couldn't be.

Songs like ""This Could be Anywhere" and "Where Do Ya Draw the Line?" both horrified and delighted me. Things these guys were singing about were terrifying, but they were singing about them.

When Jello got a bug up his ass, he wrote a song. He did something.

I remember when he went into the wacko hall-of-fame for me. The DK's had pissed just about every possible authority figure off and the FBI had established a routine of finding reasons to toss his apartment looking for "illegal materials" on a regular basis. The fact that they never found, or planted, drugs, still astonishes me.

This marked the beginning of the PMRC (Parent's Music Resource Center) and its attempts to censor music. What I found most interesting was the recurring focus on Dead Kennedys records, which were basically political in nature. "Cop Killa" and the ilk got attention, but no one drew the repeated wrath of law enforcement and politicos like Tipper Gore like Jello Biafra (aka Eric Boucher).

Particularly galling to the PENROSE and the religious right was a song from the 1981 ep "In God We Trust Inc." called "Moral Majority" in which Jello suggests Jerry Falwell "cram it up his ass" and Anita Bryant "ram up her" um... hoo-ha?

This somehow seemed to justify subsequent investigations and intrusions into Biafra's personal life and business practices. At one point, it dawned on Biafra that they knew there was nothing to find, but in persisting in meaningless lawsuits, they would eventually defeat him by exhausting his financial ability to defend himself from the relentless assault.


That's all I could think... "wow" followed shortly thereafter by "can they really do that?"

"Yes they can, man," is what Jello said to me in New Haven, CT, 1988.

If this had happened to me, I think I would have quit whatever it was I was doing and gone to hide in some far corner of the world, living off the punk $$$ I still had left.

Jello Biafra documented it. Every last thing. He lived, almost got used to it by the sound of things, sitting in his bathrobe, drinking his morning coffee while FBI agents searched his home. I went to see Biafra when he toured in support of his spoken word 1987 album "No More Cocoons".

I hadn't heard the album yet, but drove down expecting fireworks. It was a two hour drive, but I knew it would be worth it to hear the words of a lunatic, a ranter and raver, maybe even a psychotic, if you listened to the right people. But instead I found an incredibly intelligent intellectual type. I found a guy two decades ahead of just about anyone else. I can still remember today thinking he was nuts when he said that since he was bored with drugs and didn't really drink much, someday his pee would be worth a fortune, and discussed the merits of selling it to stock brokers and professional athletes.

I did mention that this was 1987, right?

One thing I trusted about him was his lack of trust for all politicians. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of Jello's ideas are frankly extremely leftist (obviously) and I would;t want him running the country either. He does push the envelope at every turn and is a living, breathing challenge to the first amendment, but that's what I liked about him so much then, and still admire today.

This guy was the first person who encouraged me to ask questions people don't want to answer, and keep asking until you get one or they admit there isn't a good answer. This punker was the first one that told me to think for myself, to not buy into what the government, society, what mom & dad are selling, or even what he was saying.

I can't tell you what any of those bits on "Cocoons" were (although I do recall the title "Why I'm glad the space shuttle bew up"), but I do believe they were what I needed to hear at the time. It seemed like every bit on Cocoons challenged me to think things through and ask myself whether or not they made sense. Surprisingly, I found a lot of B.S. in Jello's ideas, a number of unsubstantiated claims, also a lot of theories that seemed pretty far-fetched, but were definitely somehow linked to truth. Above all... it made me think.

I don't mind telling you that I disagree with many of Biafra's personal theories and beliefs. I am a Christian, and I am grateful for guys like Jello for calling religious hypocrisy out for what it is. I have never grasped the notion of protecting people from ideas. I know who I am and what I believe... do you really think a punk rocker is more powerful than yout savior? Puhleez.

Jesus was a punker in his own right, a total rebel and seemingly a wack-job, thousands of years before punk rock existed. If he had formed a band and sang about his ideas, He would have been investigated by the Pharisees bureau of investigation, I'm sure.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Web Site Counters
Free Web Site Counters