Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

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Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
A black-and-white photograph of a burning car outdoors at night. In the upper-left corner are the words "Dead Kennedys" in Gothic script.
Studio album by Dead Kennedys
Released September 2, 1980 (1980-09-02)
Recorded May–June 1980
Studio Möbius Music in San Francisco
Genre Hardcore punk[1][2]
Length 33:03
Label Cherry Red, Alternative Tentacles, Faulty Products
Producer Norm and East Bay Ray
Dead Kennedys chronology
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
In God We Trust, Inc.
Singles from Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
  1. "California Über Alles"
    Released: June 1979
  2. "Holiday in Cambodia"
    Released: May 1980
  3. "Kill the Poor"
    Released: October 1980

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is the debut studio album by the American punk rock band Dead Kennedys. It was first released on September 2, 1980 through Cherry Red Records in the United Kingdom and later issued by Jello Biafra's own Alternative Tentacles label in the United States. It has been certified gold by the BPI. The best selling and generally the most critically acclaimed album by Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables has become a major staple of American punk. It is the only Dead Kennedys album to feature drummer Ted and the only one to feature guitarist 6025.


Lead vocalist Jello Biafra's strong political statements on songs such as "California Über Alles" and "When Ya Get Drafted" launched Dead Kennedys into the political arena.

Musically, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables laid the blueprint for future Dead Kennedys' releases; loud, noisy, fast, but with a sense of dynamics and musical individualism. The surf and rockabilly-inspired riffs owe something to Ramones' most influential recordings, drawing from early American AM pop and rehashing it in the immediate, aggressive context of punk rock. The lyrics lend a significant bite to the breakthrough of the already strident musical assault. On the original vinyl version Side A was tracks 1–7 and Side B was tracks 8–14. The songs on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables were recorded with minimal overdubs limited to vocals and the addition of rhythm guitar in places.[citation needed]

The photo on the front cover, showing several police cars on fire, was taken during the White Night riots of 21 May 1979, that resulted from the light sentence given to former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

In 2014 the album became the subject of a book, released in the UK, US, Brazil, Finland and Germany, written by author Alex Ogg.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[1]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[3]
The Great Rock Discography 9/10[4]
Mojo 4/5 stars[5]
Pitchfork Media 7.0/10[6]
PopMatters 8/10[7]
Q 4/5 stars[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[9]
Uncut 5/5 stars[10]
The Village Voice C+[11]

In contemporary reviews, Trouser Press found that the style and content of the album derived from the group The Sex Pistols and "will sound dated to the trend-conscious." but the album "may be the only legitimate companion piece to the Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks.[12] The review concluded that "The band works largely because of Jello Biafra, a distinctive and remarkable singer" who "thrives on extreme attitudes."[12] The NME compared the album to music by the British punk group the UK Subs, stating that the Dead Kennedys "hardly come across as anything but smarter, both musically and intellectually ... Despite [the Dead Kennedys] grasp of dynamics and their highly-ordered arrangements, there's really only one track here which makes effective use of their mannerisms and devices, and that's 'Holiday In Cambodia', already available in single form, and probably the biggest (musical) reason for this album's presence in the charts."[13] Robert Christgau of the Village Voice stated that he found vocalist Jello Biafra poor, comparing his vocals to Tiny Tim if he were an out of work actor.[11]

Release variations[edit]

  • The original back cover featured a found photograph of an old lounge band called Sounds of Sunshine, with Dead Kennedys' logo pasted onto the drum kit and skulls and crossbones spliced onto their instruments. The original photograph, as found by Flouride at a garage sale,[14] had no identifying remarks on it whatsoever, and was used because the band thought it was "hilarious". Somehow Warner Wilder, the former vocalist of the defunct lounge band learned of the photo and threatened to sue Dead Kennedys.[15] The back cover was reprinted with the heads of the band members cut off, but this solution was found to be unsatisfactory to Sounds of Sunshine, forcing an entirely different photo of four old ladies in a living room (with the Alternative Tentacles bat mascot pasted over a picture frame).[16] When Cleopatra Records reissued Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables in 2002, the original unbeheaded lounge band picture reappeared.[17] The 25th Anniversary "Deluxe Reissue" co-released by Cherry Red Records and Manifesto Records in 2005 used the old ladies photograph, but with Dead Kennedys' logo substituted for the Alternative Tentacles Bat[18][19]
  • Early IRS pressings featured the cover tinted orange with black lettering. This cover variation was not authorized by the band. According to a late-80s interview with Goldmine magazine, IRS told the band they wanted to make the domestic version different from the Cherry Red import, to which Biafra claimed to have told IRS, "Yeah, inferior to the original — change it back!" [16] During a 1981 performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Biafra mentions, "Some of you stooped so low as to buy our wonderful album, even with the shitty Disneyland orange cover which was not our idea."
  • Post-IRS, pre-Alternative Tentacles pressings on IRS's Faulty Products subsidiary added "Police Truck" to the middle of the Side A sequence, between "Let's Lynch the Landlord" and "Drug Me".[20]
  • Some Cherry Red vinyl pressings added "Too Drunk to Fuck" to the end of Side A.[21]
  • Pirate pressings of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (as well as the next two Dead Kennedys releases, In God We Trust Inc. and Plastic Surgery Disasters) were manufactured in Italy, Spain and Portugal. According to Biafra, these pressings were manufactured by someone who retained the master parts from defunct Italian licensees and put out what Biafra described as "Clorox bottle-quality pressings". These pressings were sold by a cut-out distributor to record stores that were, in Biafra's words, "too snooty" to deal with the independent distributors that Alternative Tentacles dealt with.[16]
  • The run-out groove of the early Alternative Tentacles pressings as well as early Cherry Red pressings includes the text "Well?? Who are the Brain Police???" - a reference to the song "Who Are the Brain Police?" by The Mothers of Invention.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Jello Biafra, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Kill the Poor" (East Bay Ray, Biafra) 3:07
2. "Forward to Death" (6025) 1:23
3. "When Ya Get Drafted" 1:23
4. "Let's Lynch the Landlord" 2:13
5. "Drug Me" 1:56
6. "Your Emotions" (Ray) 1:20
7. "Chemical Warfare" 2:55
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "California Über Alles" (Biafra, John Greenway) 3:03
2. "I Kill Children" 2:04
3. "Stealing People's Mail" 1:34
4. "Funland at the Beach" 1:49
5. "Ill in the Head" (6025, Biafra) 2:46
6. "Holiday in Cambodia" (Biafra, Greenway) 4:37
7. "Viva Las Vegas" (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman; originally performed by Elvis Presley) 2:42
Total length: 33:06

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Eyeballs[edit]

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Eyeballs is the accompanying 55-minute documentary, directed by Eric S. Goodfield, that is included with the Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables 25th Anniversary Edition. It features a brief history of Dead Kennedys' early years up to their first UK tour, never before seen live performances, interviews with Klaus Flouride and East Bay Ray, comments by music journalists, and insights from the key people involved with the recording of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. The video omits references to the origins of songs that would include a mention of Jello Biafra, although his 1979 run for mayor is highlighted.


Additional performers

  • 6025 – rhythm guitar on "Ill in the Head"
  • Paul Roessler – keyboards on "Drug Me" and "Stealing People's Mail"
  • Ninotchka – keyboards on "Drug Me", backing vocals
  • Dirk Dirksen – backing vocals
  • Bobby Unrest – backing vocals
  • Michael Synder – backing vocals
  • Bruce Calderwood (Bruce Loose) – backing vocals
  • Barbara Hellbent – backing vocals
  • HyJean – backing vocals
  • Curt – backing vocals
  • Chi Chi – backing vocals


  • Norm – producer
  • East Bay Ray - producer
  • Oliver DiCicco and John Cuniberti – engineer, mixing
  • Kevin Metcalfe; Paul Stubblebine - mastering
  • Judith Calson - front cover photo
  • Winston Smith – artwork
  • Annie Horwood – artwork
  • Jello Biafra - artwork


Chart (1980) Peak
UK Indie Chart[22] 2


  1. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – Dead Kennedys". AllMusic. Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ Larson, Thomas E. (2014). History of Rock and Roll. Kendall Hunt. p. 270. ISBN 978-1-4652-3886-3. 
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8. 
  4. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Canongate Books. ISBN 1-841-95615-5. 
  5. ^ Mehr, Bob (March 2006). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". Mojo (148): 114. 
  6. ^ Byrom, Cory D. (November 9, 2005). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  7. ^ Schiller, Mike (November 29, 2005). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Special 25th Anniversary Edition)". PopMatters. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". Q (190): 136. May 2002. 
  9. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Dead Kennedys". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 221. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  10. ^ "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". Uncut (69): 91. February 2003. 
  11. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (May 4, 1981). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Young, Jon (June 1981). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (IRS SP70014)". Trouser Press. Retrieved November 1, 2016. (subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ Gill, Andy (September 27, 1980). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables; UK Subs: Crash Course". NME. Retrieved November 1, 2016. (subscription required (help)). 
  14. ^ Ogg, Alex. (2014). Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: The Early Years. p. 119. ISBN 978-9781604864892.
  15. ^ George Gimarc, Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970–1982. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005. ISBN 0-87930-848-6
  16. ^ a b c Jello Biafra interview with Goldmine magazine, February 1989, reproduced at
  17. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Los Angeles/San Francisco/London: Cleopatra Records/Decay Music/Cherry Red Records, 2002
  18. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: 25th Anniversary Edition Los Angeles: Manifesto Records, 2005.
  19. ^ Neither the 2002 nor the 2005 editions of Fresh Fruit ... were done with the connsent or participation of Jello Biafra; Various interviews and press releases issued by Biafra stated that the singer/songwriter did not receive royalties from the 2002 edition, possibly due to the legal battle between Biafra and the rest of the band.
  20. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Los Angeles: Faulty Products, 1982.
  21. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, London: Cherry Red Records, ca. 1981–82.
  22. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980–1989. Cherry Red Books. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]