The Dead Kennedys only recorded songs together for about eight years, but they left an indelible mark on the music industry as a whole. Formed in 1978, the California-based punk rock group quickly turned casual listeners into fans. Even today, there is still a dedicated fanbase. Perhaps even more importantly, younger audiences are discovering their music for the first time.
As a direct result, the group’s music is experiencing something of a resurgence in popularity. If you haven’t already heard some of their work, you might be surprised at what you hear. Below are 10 of their best songs. It just might be time to give them a listen and see what they have to offer.
10. Holiday in Cambodia (1979)
This band did a lot of things well, but one of the things they seemingly did better than most was sing about the things they thought needed improving in society. As you might have already guessed, this song is really about the Vietnam war. More specifically, it centers around the immense amount of damage done to the lives of all affected by this war. It also blurs the lines of right and wrong, reminding you of the stark reality of war. More importantly, it reminds you that there are real people on both sides- the idea that one side is the “good” side quickly falls away here.
9. Police Truck (1979)
The group never seemed to be terribly fond of police officers. This particular song showcases that fact in a way that few others ever would (although they did release a number of songs with a similar theme). After all, the band were punk rock performers during the 1970s and 80s. Therefore, you probably expect songs like this one to show up in their repertoire.
8. Kill the Poor (1979)
Despite what the title sounds like, this is not a song about actually killing poeple who don’t have a lot of money, at least not directly. However, it is a tune related to the lack of care these individuals receive from the federal government and society alike. In that way, it does become a song about killing off the poor. In fact, they basically state this as a fact throughout the piece, claiming that both society as a whole and the government have been trying to kill them off for years, largely through a distinct lack of care. The song also deals with the shunning that often takes place when one doesn’t have a great deal of money.
7. Soup Is Good Food (1985)
Is this song really about soup? Oddly enough, some people have argued that it is about this and nothing more. Others have said that the soup serves as representation for the things that nourish our souls. Imagine what life would be like if every person focused on those things, not just for themselves but also for all of society. Perhaps that is precisely what the song has been about all along.
6. Moon Over Marin (1982)
This was a popular song when it was first released during the early 1980s. Over the years, it has only served to increase in popularity. It’s a bit of a departure from many of the songs performed by the group, as it doesn’t seem to have quite as much anger and resentment as many of their other pieces. It also shows that the individuals in this band had some versatility regarding both their musical ability and overall creativity.
5. I Fought the Law (1986)
This is arguably one of the songs that most people have heard, even if they don’t immediately know who sings it. It’s been used in countless examples of movies, television and even commercials. In addition, it has seen more than its fair share of airtime on radio stations, even all these years later. At its core, it serves as a lively reminder that when you decide to go up against the establishment, the establishment is probably going to win.
4. Government Flu (1982)
It should be rather obvious by now that the group was never terribly fond of the government. This song also perpetuates that theme. When a person gets the flu, they don’t feel well and they don’t perform well with regard to their daily responsibilities. According to the song, the government has had a severe case of the flu for some time and there is no end in sight. It’s just their little way of saying they don’t approve of the way things are run in this country.
3. Winnebago Warrior (1982)
What would it be like to live in a WInnebago and travel all over the place? For some, it would probably be a dream come true. For others, not so much. It all depends on your personal outlook and the types of things you enjoy doing. In reality, this song was written to document the ups and downs of performing all over the country and being on the road all the time. As it points out, there are some good things about traveling to new places, but there are also some definite drawbacks.
2. I Am the Owl (1982)
Some listeners have traditionally been confused about the meaning of this song. For the most part, it’s generally agreed that the song is about realizing when someone else is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It would seem the band wants their fans to understand that just because someone says something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.
1. Terminal Preppie (1982)
It would only make sense that a punk rock band isn’t terribly fond of someone who can be seen as a preppie, right? If there was ever any doubt, this tune should clear it up for you. According to the lyrics, the band feels like preppies are primed to listen to “the man” as opposed to thinking for themselves and doing their own thing.
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