Q Magazine

Dead Kennedys' 'Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables' Certified Gold, 43 Years Later

Originally released in September 1980, the band's debut album is now officially at gold status.

Source: Press

Dead Kennedys, circa 1980

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Despite all the controversy, lawsuits and button-pushing lyrics, influential hardcore punk rockers Dead Kennedys have finally achieved gold album status for their debut Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. The 1980 album was named one of the "100 Best Punk Albums of All Time" by Q in 2002.

The band announced the milestone via social media. Gold and platinum album statuses are awarded by the Recording Industry Association of America, with gold designating 500,000 units sold.

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Source: © Manifesto Records / Alternative Tentacles / Cleopatra

Dead Kennedys - 'Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables' (2022 Remix)

Remarkably, this is not the band's first RIAA certification: their 1987 compilation Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death went gold in 2007.

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Source: Imelda Michalczyk/Photoshot/Newscom/The Mega Agency

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Dingwalls, London, August 12, 2013.

Formed in San Francisco in 1978, the group released a total of four studio albums and one EP before the original members disbanded in 1986. Considered part of the West Coast wave of U.S. punk (alongside Black Flag, X, the Germs and others), the band (with lead vocalist Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride and (with the change in drummers in 1981) D.H. Peligro), tackled hot-button political issues with heavy doses of irony and intentional lyrical shock value.

Their first single, 1979's "California Uber Alles," was an acerbic, sardonic put-down on then-California governor Jerry Brown, sung from his perspective as a fascist leader of America. The band's second single, "Holiday in Cambodia," with its lyrical skewering of Western youth, was composed as a response to the Thammasat University massacre in October 1976. Both tracks were re-recorded for the debut album with a much fuller, more combative sound.

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The band's sound was propelled by Biafra's shrill incantations and the band's unrelenting, high-speed surf-influenced slant on guitars and drums. As tough as it was on the ears, their messages got through with virtually no radio airplay or promotion, mostly relying on the group's live performances as the catalyst for recognition. Biafra as the flashpoint leader often courted both criticism and adulation for his scathing takes on the political atmosphere in San Francisco. (He infamously once ran a surreal campaign for San Francisco mayor against Dianne Feinstein.) The cover of Fresh Fruit depicts the White Night riots of May 21, 1979, which resulted from the manslaughter conviction given to former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

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Source: ℗ Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd. / YouTube

Dead Kennedys - Live in San Francisco, 16-06-1984.

In June 1986, Biafra (and others) were charged with violating the California Penal Code in the "distribution of harmful matter to minors" as a poster reproduction of H.R. Giger’s Work 219: Landscape XX was included in 1985's Frankenchrist. More than a year later, the case — which could have led to jail time — ended in a hung jury. The album, however, was banned from many record stores nationwide. The DKs were growing disillusioned with the underground hardcore scene, which had grown increasingly violent, but the damage from the trial was done and the group disbanded in November 1986.

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Following the band's dissolution, Biafra continued to collaborate and record with other artists including D.O.A., NoMeansNo and his bands Lard and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, as well as releasing several spoken word performances. In 2001, the band reformed without Biafra while various singers have been recruited for frontperson duties. They have not released any new material since their fourth studio album, Bedtime for Democracy, in 1986. Peligro died in 2022, after a fall at his home.


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