You thought your job today was hard? Imagine trying to write book about the highly influential, but notoriously litigious political punk band the Dead Kennedys – a group that seemingly thrives on trading insults at each other. That was the task faced by music journalist Alex Ogg and he managed to pull it off quite impressively with the absorbing Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, The Early Years.
The book actually came out of a series of interviews Ogg undertook with band members when he was commissioned to write the liner notes for an 25th Anniversary reissue of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, a release that was stalled thanks to… wait for it… a lawsuit by feuding band members. The interviews reflected here are pretty thorough, covering everything from the band’s founding, the writing and recording of the group’s debut and a tour of England. Recollections on just about everything, from who contributed the music to specific songs to how they came up with the track sequencing, differ greatly depending on the source; Singer Jello Biafra and East Bay Ray disagree vehemently on just about every detail of the band’s early years.
The book is filled out with a slew of cool fliers, collages and other artwork by noted punk artist Winston Smith, as well as photos from the band’s early days.
Even for the casual punk rock fan, the book is a quick compelling read, owning greatly to Ogg’s conversational, humorous writing style, as well as the band’s rocky story. The controversy and inner band turmoil is just starting to boil as the last chapter ends. But don’t expect Ogg to turn in a follow up. “At least two further great albums – as well as lawsuits, police busts, censorship charges, literally riotous gigs, Penis Landscape, Tipper Gore and Oprah Winfrey Show lay ahead,” he writes. “Some other poor bastard can tackle that, though.”
Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, The Early Years by Alex Ogg/Paperback, 224 Pages/PM Press/2014
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