It was probably freshman year of high school. That would make it around 1993. My friend Brian had this cool Uncle Steve who was always interested in what we liked musically. One day Brian and I were hanging out at his house, probably watching "Stand By Me" for the 150th time, when Uncle Steve came over with a pile of old punk records from the late 70's/early 80's. Among The Stooges, The Jam and many others we found "In God We Trust Inc." by the Dead Kennedys.
While we enjoyed the mid tempo, rock-esque, vibe of those aforementioned bands, it was when we put on the "In God We Trust Inc" record that our hair blew back (well, Brian's hair didn't move, it never does, but figuratively speaking of course). "Religous Vomit" blew open the record with angry discordant hits and blasted off into a 100 mile per hour run of quick vocals and full speed guitar. It flew by and everyone in the room just sat there in awe. "Moral Majority" opens with it's parody on the Mickey Mouse club before exploding into yet another punk blast of upbeat tempos and quick vocal delivery. These songs had hooks and catchy lyrics that got caught in our heads.
We listened further as songs like "Hyperactive Child", "Kapone Factory" and "Dog Bite" flew by and maintained the same velocity. We were getting sonically punched in the face over and over by something we couldn't explain. Our minds couldn't formulate how fast these guys were playing.
Then came "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" and we all lost it. The song spoke in straight and blatant terms about Nazism in the punk scene and tore it apart with ease. The delivery was amazing and had my spine tingling at the line "You'll be the first to go, unless you think".
By the time the jazzy interlude of "We've Got A Bigger Problem Now" came on, it occurred to me that this was punk for people who wanted to think. Sure, these guys probably endorsed their fair amount of drug use and nihilism, but this was music that was asking questions and pointing out critiques in a very smart and witty manner. It wasn't until later that we found out that vocalist, Jello Biafra, had run for mayor of San Francisco and was, in fact, a knowledgeable and well spoken guy. Sure you can date these lyrics due to their content (lots of references to Ronald Reagen and Jerry Brown), but topics like the corruption of religion, abuse of authority and fascism are just as relevant today as they were then.
That whole week the line "Welcome to 1984, are you ready for the third world war?" was stuck in my head.
Welcome to 1984
Are you ready for the third world war?!?
You too will meet the secret police
They'll draft you and they'll jail your niece
You'll go quitely to boot camp
They'll shoot you dead, make you a man
Don't you worry, it's for a cause
Feeding global corporations' claws
Die on our brand new poison gas
El Salvador or Afghanistan
Making money for President Reagan
And all the friends of President Reagan
California Uber alles
Uber alles California
Brian would later obtain a vhs cassette tape (that's how we had to do it back then) of a Dead Kennedys live show that featured just about all of these songs. The energy of the band's live show was up on screen in front of us, and though it was a 10 years old performance, it was still filling us with enthusiasm and ideas.
Download it here.