It’s been a minute since my last music post, but when #ThrowbackThursday and regressive political grandstanding collides, I have to pull out one of my all time, favorite records: Bedtime for Democracy, by Dead Kennedys.
This band has remained one of my mainstays since my first introduction to them on KPTF’s Funhouse in 1989. Funhouse was my original introduction to punk, hardcore, noise, and early industrial music and while I’ve talked about it before, it always makes me smile to hear from others who still remember that show. The first Dead Kennedys song I ever heard was Straight A’s, which is not on Bedtime, but rather on Give me Convenience or Give me Death. I was instantly hooked on both their sound and their social conscience. Within the next few days, I hit the mall to see if I could find anything by Dead Kennedys. Joyously, I left with Bedtime for Democracy on cassette…and I had no idea what I was in for.
Their lyrics take on everything from consumerism, crass economics, the military/industrial complex, overpopulation, toxic masculinity, the pabulum of the pop music industry, and even level criticisms against problems within punk culture itself. They were never afraid to make enemies and they were always going to do things 100% their way. Prophetic voices tend to be that way.
Personally, it’s hard to label any single song on this record as a favorite, when I can’t ever bring myself to skip any single track and find myself reaching to listen to everything over and over. However to me, stand out tracks have always been Macho Insecurity, Anarchy for Sale, Chickenshit Conformist (like your parents), and Where Do Ya Draw The Line.
If you’re ever in the mood to explore where protest music went after the 60s, it was easily found in punk and rap in the 70s and 80s. Disenfranchised communities with a DIY ethic and reasonably learned distrust of commercial enterprise found its way out of the basement and into the streets. Dead Kennedys will always remain one of my favorites, but they were also the gateway drug to so many other bands and movements. Today, I’ll be spinning this on repeat and thinking about the changes to come, working to create glimpses of light in a darkening world.