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Clip: Joel Selvin on the Jello-free Dead Kennedys (and other incomplete reunions)

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  • Carl Z.
    I like to think of these not-quite-reunions as a generational development, only now the Cars have become the Platters. (Or at least the Temptations, who I
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 8, 2006
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      I like to think of these not-quite-reunions as a generational
      development, only now the Cars have become the Platters. (Or at least
      the Temptations, who I think have one original member in the touring
      show.)

      Flipper's reunited? Who's left alive from 1986?

      Carl Z.

      <http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/04/07/DDGIDI3GHD17.DTL&type=music>

      It happens: Great rockers split and bands adapt. But the Dead Kennedys
      minus Jello Biafra? That's not right.

      Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic

      Friday, April 7, 2006

      Like many bands on the reunion concert circuit these days, when the
      '80s San Francisco punk rockers Dead Kennedys take the stage this
      weekend for the soldout Fab Mab show at the Fillmore Auditorium, the
      group will be missing one original member -- in this case, its best
      known member, vocalist Jello Biafra.

      But the Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra would be like the Grateful
      Dead without Jerry Garcia. Wait a minute: They've done that, too.

      Since the death of the first bandleader, musicians have continued to
      perform in bands without key members. As the rock 'n' roll generation
      moves into senior citizenship, this inevitability is taking a sharp
      increase. The announcement that the Cars would do a reunion tour this
      summer, as the New Cars, has prompted much comment.

      Not only is lead vocalist and primary songsmith Ric Ocasek MIA from
      the tour, but the band will also make do without the service of
      bassist Benjamin Orr, the only other member to ever sing one the
      band's hits ("Drive" and "Just What I Needed"). Orr died of cancer in
      2000. In their place, the other two members -- quick, name them --
      have drafted, of all people, Todd Rundgren, who typically made no
      bones about why he is taking the job.

      "So now an opportunity has arisen for me to pay my bills, play to
      larger audiences, work with musicians I know and like, and ideally to
      have some fun for a year," he wrote on his Web site.

      Also paying their bills on the road this summer without the signature
      sound of the band's original lead vocalists are the Doors -- who were
      stopped from using that name by a lawsuit from the band's drummer in
      an unexpected display of integrity -- and Queen, who solved the
      problem of vocalist Freddie Mercury having died from AIDS in 1991 by
      simply appropriating the lead vocalist from another British rock group
      of the era, Paul Rodgers of Bad Company.

      As the ranks of '60s rockers thin, fans are being treated to such
      indignities as half a Who, a Four Tops with only two, an Allman
      Brother band, a Beach Boys without a Wilson. The Creedence Clearwater
      Revisited led by the drummer and bass player actually outdraws
      performances by the band's original singer, songwriter and bandleader,
      John Fogerty. The other members of Journey have worked their way
      through a procession of Steve Perry impersonators.

      The surviving members of INXS probably still have mortgages on their
      Italian villas, and it's not their fault that vocalist Michael
      Hutchence's 1997 death ended their careers prematurely, so they did
      that dumb reality TV show. Judas Priest replaced that band's original
      vocalist with someone from a Judas Priest tribute band, before
      bringing the original guy back.

      The surviving members of the Grateful Dead had the decency to retire
      the name with the death of the group's centerpiece, guitarist Jerry
      Garcia, although after a few years of touring under the unwieldy name
      of the Other Ones, the musicians decided to reclaim at least a portion
      of the old name and call themselves the Dead. Just because Garcia went
      and died shouldn't mean that the other guys in the band have to give
      up their not unsplendid livelihood, especially if there are still fans
      willing to pay to see them.

      But the Kennedys is a somewhat different case. With its fiercely
      independent stance and resolute viewpoint, the band stood for
      something and mouthy Biafra was its fearless spokesman. Confronting
      censorship or political issues, he was always frank, pointed and slyly
      humorous. The other three members could easily be seen as
      semi-competent instrumental backing to his inspired agitprop ravings.
      But they won a lawsuit against Biafra in 2000 that has been a sore
      subject for Biafra since the day it began.

      He issued a statement concerning the latest reunion concert. "These
      are the same greed-mongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me
      for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting 'Holiday in
      Cambodia' sold into a Levi's commercial," Biafra wrote. "They now pimp
      Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over
      and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach
      Boys. They despise everything our band ever stood for.

      " 'Money Uber Alles' is what all these bands used to stand against.
      Back in Mabuhay days, no one was more upfront about not selling out to
      Bill Graham than Dead Kennedys and Flipper, especially Will Shatter
      (RIP). (Another S.F. punk group also appearing in the Fillmore reunion
      show without a key member.) Now Bill Graham Presents has been
      swallowed and the name is being used as a front for Clear Channel, as
      nasty a corporate predator as Fox News and Wal-Mart."

      The Dead Kennedys issued a statement, too: "We're sick of hearing the
      tired and baseless claim that the DK lawsuit was motivated by our
      desire to put music into a commercial. Our record label was stealing
      royalties from the band! Do we need anymore motivation than that? Are
      folks just suppose to lie down and let the school bully steal their
      lunch money? And have you noticed any Dead Kennedys' music in any
      commercials lately? Or ever? News Flash: Jello uses rumors and
      misinformation to cover up his own wrongdoing!"

      But to Biafra, this is not a simple betrayal by former associates, but
      nothing less than a global matter of corporate collusion and
      capitalistic greed. And that's why Jello Biafra is still the real deal
      and, without him, the Dead Kennedys aren't.
    • Jason Gross
      ... Good article. I saw Flipper do a show at CBGB s last year and they were actually good though poor Bruce Loose has definitely seen better days. Best, Jason
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 8, 2006
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        >
        > Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2006 09:37:20 -0400
        > From: "Carl Z." <zimm28@...>
        >Subject: Clip: Joel Selvin on the Jello-free Dead Kennedys (and
        >other incomplete reunions)
        >
        >I like to think of these not-quite-reunions as a generational
        >development, only now the Cars have become the Platters. (Or at least
        >the Temptations, who I think have one original member in the touring
        >show.)
        >
        >Flipper's reunited? Who's left alive from 1986?

        Good article. I saw Flipper do a show at CBGB's last year and they
        were actually good though poor Bruce Loose has definitely seen better days.

        Best,
        Jason

        Perfect Sound Forever- online music magazine since 1993- now new and
        semi-improved!
        <http://www.perfectsoundforever.com>
        Yei Wei Blog aka Wild Taste: <http://yeweiblog.blogspot.com/>
        Crazed by the Music blog: <http://blogs.popmatters.com/crazedbythemusic/>
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