Live At The Deaf Club
In the summer of 1978, a guitarist named East Bay Ray placed an ad in a California music paper to which Jello Biafra and Klaus Flouride responded. After adding a drummer (Ted) and a second guitarist (6025), Dead Kennedys were formed. Eight months later, they played a show at a San Francisco club for the handicapped called the Deaf Club. The venue could only hold about 200 people and was specially designed so that vibrations could be felt through the floor. Twenty five years later, the recording of that night’s performance is available to the public.
Live At The Deaf Club predates even the release of Dead Kennedys’ first single, “California Uber Alles.” It is the earliest recording of the band that went on to change the face of the California hardcore scene, marrying politics with punk in a way that had never been done before. Largely responsible for this fusion was vocalist Jello Biafra, who left the band in 1986, but whose presence is preserved here in one final DK recording.
The setlist for the night’s gig, which put the band on a bill with The Germs, included a disco version of “Kill The Poor,” an early rendition of “When Ya Get Drafted” called “Back In Rhodesia” and an unreleased song called “Gaslight.” The sound quality is surprisingly good; you can even hear the banter between the crowd and the band, which has always been a large part of DK’s performance.
The rest of the 14 tracks include some classics (“Police Truck,” “Holiday In Cambodia,” “Straight A’s”) and some covers (“Have I The Right” by The Honeycombs, “Back In The USSR” by The Beatles and “Viva Las Vegas,” which begins with a hilarious dedication to Germs’ vocalist Darby Crash).
A lot has changed within the band since 1979. They are no longer a 5 piece lineup, for one. This performance was the final show guitarist 6025 played with the band. Drummer Ted was later replaced by D.H. Peligro, who had briefly played for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. And, sadly, Jello Biafra and the band parted and have only recently wrapped up a series of legal battles over and money the rights to the DK catalog. Jello has taken over the bands’ original record company, Alternative Tentacles, and he continues to put out great music (including a recent collaboration with The Melvins) and spoken word recordings. The remaining 3 members had first recruited vocalist Brandon Cruz (of Dr. Know), and now Jeff Penalty, to fill the hole left by Biafra.
Forget about all of the lineup changes and the court battles. This CD is a reminder of a less complicated time. A time when Dead Kennedys were a brand new band, and Darby Crash was still alive. I would have only been 2 years old when this show took place, still I wish I could say, “I was there.”