Jello Biafra is set to return to our shores this week with the Guantanamo School Of Medicine, to play a set that will include some classic Dead Kennedys' hits, along with original material. The occasion will mark the first time Jello has fronted Australian audiences to sing Dead Kennedys tunes live since 1983. Sure there was a tour by a band named the Dead Kennedys' back in 2011, but we all know, NO JELLO = NO DKS. We figured it was about time to pay tribute to this historic occasion.
Given that the tour occurred over 30 years ago, finding a plethora of photos, videos or flyers was a little hard to do. We have managed to round up all we could find from the band's visit.
The below photos were taken at the Sydney Trade Union Club
The August 1983 tour is often quoted as a highly influential one in the Australian punk rock history books, as it opened a lot of people's eyes and ears to the new LA punk sound coming out the USA. At the Manly Vale Hotel show it is reported that singer Jello Biafra stagedived into the assembled crowd. Having never seen anyone stage dive before, the crowd quickly parted and Jello hit the deck.
Three members of the Dead Kennedys touring party were arrested during the visit, you can read about those incidents further on.
Below was lifted from the Cronulla Surf Museum:
It was 1983 when Cronulla Beach saw its first riot after a Dead Kennedys concert at the Workers Club. The notorious punk band with the offensive name were popular with many Surfers. The DKS were renown for their radical political stance and wild concerts worked the crowd into a frenzy. After the show the party continued onto the street where the Police were called and things got out of hand. There was fighting, a few windows were smashed and several Police cars were damaged as the crowd went crazy with a few of the more drunken revellers carted off and arrested.
*UPDATE - I spoke with Ernie from Straight To A Tomb who snuck into some of the Dead Kennedys shows as a 16 year old on this tour and he confirmed the riot at the Cronulla show and the stabbing. He went on to mention the shows were completely wild basically everywhere.
Full tour dates below..
Dead Kennedys Australian Tour August / September 1983
August 11 - Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
August 12 - Seaview Ballroom, Melbourne, Australia
NZ Tour Dates Inbetween.
August 26 - The Venue, Melbourne, Australia
August 30 - The Tivoli, Brisbane, Australia
August 31 - Cronulla Workers Club, Cronulla, Australia
September 01 - The Settllement, Chippendale, Australia
September 02 - Manly Vale Hotel, Manly, Australia
September 03 - Thebarton Town Hall, Adelaide, Australia
*As pointed out by Sean Lipsett, there was also a Canberra show on the tour. He has the flyer to prove it too.
Check out an interview with the band done by a very young Charles Stewart during their tour.
Also the band appeared on an episode of "After Dark" with host, Donnie Sutherland. A couple of minutes of the interview feature in the clip below.
Below are some reflections on the 1983 tour...
From Alternative Tentacles:
Dead Kennedys also crack open Australia, finding a much more diverse scene than narrow-minded macho U.S. hardcore audiences will allow. Most bizarre of all is Adelaide's Grong Grong, whose singer screams at the audience wearing a balaclava and a cowboy hat. Their album is later released on Alternative Tentacles. The Aussies take on Detroit/garage rock is at its peak, and Biafra absorbs their sounds accordingly, being possibly the first person to bring their records into the United States.
Check out Grong Grong supporting The Dead Kennedys in 1983 in Adelaide at Thebarton Town Hall.
From Black Rose Anarchist Bookshop:
In 1983, on the first anniversary of Black Rose opening, the collective ran bookstalls at gigs of San Francisco punk band 'The Dead Kennedys'. The band were asked to do a benefit gig for the bookshop. They rang back to give the go ahead with just 48 hours notice with a stipulation that the venue be accessible to all ages - ie no alcohol licence restrictions on who could attend. The Black Rose Collective managed to organise a successful benefit at the Settlement in Chippendale.
Below is a photo of the band outside the Black Rose shop.
From Oral History of Brisbane Music:
Dead Kennedys; Festival Hall, The Johnnys
The Dead Kennedys were supported by the Johhnys who didn't get received too well and were bleeding when they left the stage. The Dead Kennedys then played a blistering set that was one of the highlights of my rock and roll experiences. Anyway after the show we walked outside to find maybe 50 of Queensland's finest lining the streets around the venue (corner of Albert and Charlotte Streets). Apparently their aim was to generally intimidate the fans and a few people were arrested for the heinous felony of jay-walking. The next morning I read in the paper that the Dead Kennedy's drummer (Darron Peligro) was arrested for having a beer on the street outside. The Dead Kennedys continued their Australian tour and a conviction was recorded a few weeks later (he didn't show for the court hearing). Welcome to Joh Bjelke Petersen's Queensland, overseas guests!
Dead Kennedys' drummer arrested in Queensland, 1983
Songs like Holiday in Cambodia and California Uber Alles made the Dead Kennedys underground legends in thousands of sharehouses by the time they toured Australia. When singer Jello Biafra threw himself into the audience at the Manly Vale Hotel in Sydney, everyone scattered and he crashed to the floor - crowd surfing hadn't caught on yet in Australia. The reception wasn't quite so warm in Queensland, where police arrested black drummer D. H. Peligro on the street for "public drinking". "His can of beer was unopened," Biafra told US magazine Maximumrocknroll. "When Ray, our guitarist, tried to intervene, he was thrown in another police car and taken away." The tour continued after the drummer was bailed out by promoter Roger Grierson but the incident left its mark. "Summing up Brisbane, all I can say is it was the closest thing to a heavy, heavy, junta-style police state I've ever been in," said Biafra.
From an interview with Melbourne stalwarts, Depression:
It was around this time that Depression managed to score a support gig with the Dead Kennedys on the band’s now legendary 1983 Australian tour. “I used to go a lot into Missing Link at the time when it was owned by Nigel Rennard, and he was heavily involved in the tour, so we got the gig through him,” Smeer says. Dead Kennedys lead singer Jello Biafra liked Depression so much that he included a Depression song on his Welcome to 1984 compilation. “Jello was pretty intense,” Smeer says. “To tell you the truth, I was a bit overwhelmed. I actually ran into him again a few years later, and ended up taking him for a drive in my muscle car. He’s still a really intense, full-on guy, really into politics.”
Below is a complete tour diary written by frontman Jello Biafra for issue #10 of Maximum Rock n Roll. It is quite an interesting outsider's look into the early days of the Australian punk scene.
Dead Kennedys Tour Down Under from Maximumrocknroll #10, 1983
BY JELLO BIAFRA
We started out in Sydnedy, which is the largest city, and probably the main cultural hub, with Melbourne fairly close behind. Both cities have populations in the millions, and both, in the fine tradition of Los Angeles, are very, very spread out... meaning that in order to play to different people in Australia without going the arena-rock route, it meant spending 5 weeks there, basically concentrating on 4 or 5 cities, and playing all these neighborhood areas. It's kind of like spending two weeks in L.A., playing the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, Orange Co., Pomona, Long Beach, Fullerton, Vertura, Oxnard--the land of no toilets, from what I've heard.
Australian mainstream culture is a very bizarre bastardization of the worst of American advertising and fads, with the British emphasis on superficial practicality on top of it. Imagine Texas with bastardized English accents. Access to straight media there is much greater for counter-cultures than it ever would be over here. The college newspapers there are much more radical... in Melbourne, for example, there was a very clever and viciously funny issue of one dedicated almost entirely to the issue of sexism. We were also allowed to talk to some of the straight papers and appeared on the TV news. The editing of what we said was far less idiotic than what would happen in the States, and far less sensationalistic. There was a documentary on nuclear war on the national television network that was far more scathing than anything you'd see on "60 Minutes". It was partly co-ordinated by someone, whose name I foolishly forgot, who was the American in Vietnam who Colonel Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now" was modeled after. He is now a full-time anti-war and anti-nuclear activist there. There seemed to by many Americans who have defected from their original jobs as mercenaries or exploitive businessmen, and taken refuge there.
However, your average "silent majority" Australian eats up what he's shown on TV, and reads the National Enquirer-type dailies. So he's even more apathetic than his U.S. counterpart because the economy is relatively comfortable. There's a pleasure-seeking mentality, similar to people who move to Florida. But the people who fight against all that are more tenacious and knowledgable than your average rebellious American.
Ever since rock music began, Australians have pretty much had their own scenes going - there were early rock and rollers like Johnny O'Keefe, who were as hardcore and authentic as you could come by. And then in the mid-60's they had garage bands that were as good as any American band, such as early MASTERS APPRENTICES, PURPLE HEARTS, and the MISSING LINKS (not to mention the EASYBEATS). There are many many 60's garage albums that are very collectable and are being slowly re-issued. A lot of the influences come from the outside, but records imported from England, let alone America, are monstrously expensive. Generally, people only find out about the big underground bands. The EXPLOITED, A.N.L., were very well-known, and CRASS was the most respected. The English pin-up mag, "Punk Lives", was very popular there, and even sold in train station news stalls. We were known because we had our albums domestically released there. And, oddly enough, FLIPPER is known over thre. A lot wanted to see BLACK FLAG, a few requests for the CIRCLE JERKS, and an isolated pocket in Melbourne who were catching on to American thrash bands. There was a homemade 7 SECONDS t-shirt at one show. There are two bands who are also hardcore skateboarders, called CIVIL DISSIDENT, and the MAD FLOWERS, who play American-style thrash, including a couple of covers. C.D. does MDC's "Dick for Brains", and MAD FLOWERS does "No Words" by the FARTZ and "Glue" by SSD, as well as their own material. Because so few bands make it over there... in fact, we found, to our horror, that we were the first punk band, unless you count the CLASH, to ever tour Australia - no DAMNED, no UK SUBS, no EXPLOITED, no DISCHARGE, nothing... that's the only way a lot of people will ever hear those songs. One other generalization that needs to be made is that there are only 4 or 5 major Australian cities... Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra (the capital, a model city built in the middle of nowhere), Adelaide. They're all on the eastern side. The only city on the western side is Perth. There is Darwin too, on the northern coast, but it's so far away nobody seemed to be able to tell me what goes on there. The size of the continent is bigger than the size of the continental U.S., meaning it takes ages to travel from city to city. So there's very little communication between the different scenes. There's starting to be a few record distributors getting them around, but that's about it. There is an exchange between garage rock bands in Sydney and Melbourne, and a little bit in Adelaide, but the punk bands are pretty much kept to their own cities, to the point where only one person I knew in Sydney had ever heard of DEPRESSION, the main band in Melbourne; and nobody in Melbourne had heard of PROGRESSION CULT or WORLD WAR XXIV in Sydney. One thing helping co-ordinate the punk scenes in both Melbourne and Sydney are anarchist bookshops, who besides carrying a wide variety of literature, also bring in Crass label and Spiderleg material, and sell it cheaply.
Also, there are few underground promoters like a Paul Rat, who are willing to try and build up the bands. There are people who can keep very small venues alive, and there's more power-hungry promoters who concentrate on promoting more record-company bands. But very little exists in between, and very few people are willing to take action to remedy the situation. Many of the bands make so little money, they don't make an effort to save and record their own record. They figure that no one would help them distribute it anyway, and wait for Godot to come along and record them. So most of the recent punk records are poorly produced, and are very hard to get ahold of.
Now to the cities. Sydney has two very interesting facets to it. It does have a good street-level punk scene, plus a wilder and slightly more violent outer-suburban scene, where WW XXIV comes from. The main bands associated with political activism and anarchy are PROGRESSION CULT, who have an EP out, and a more abrasive post-punkish one called BOX OF FISH, which is now beginning to transcend its BIRTHDAY PARTY influence. The other interesting side of Sydney is a huge and actuve musical cult devoted to American 60's and 70's garage music... meaning their main influences are the STOOGES, BLUES MAGOOS, and the CRAMPS and GUN CLUB. Plus they produced a big one of their own in the late 70's, RADIO BIRDMAN, and there are several RADIO BIRDMAN clones and offshoots now. It's the most fruitful garage rock scene I've ever run across. They put an emphasis on making it sound hard and severe, rather than the glossy side of psychedelia being pushed in this country. These bands are also better at getting their own records out and travelling as well. They include the recently fomed LIME SPIDERS, who are the most extreme band of its type I'bve ever heard, as far as taking sixties punk and making it more abrasive and annoying as any way possible. Also, the recently defunt MINUTEMEN, whose last gig I saw, and were kind of a more morbid psychedelic RADIO BIRDMAN. Others of this ilk include the CHESTERFIELD KINGSish HOODOO GURUS, and SCREAMING TRIBESMAN, who are more popish and the CELIBATE RIFLES, who come from a coastal suburb, and completely "take the piss" out of the relaxed Australian mentality. Their sound is very RADIO BIRDMAN and VELVET UNDERGROUND influenced, which they readily admit to, but unlike the macho pretensions of many of those bands, their songs are distinctly anti-macho, anti-war, and their real forte is very vicious social satire aimed at their own scene, and complacent Australian lifestyles. Also, they are the only band of the hard-edged rock n roll scene who mix well with the punks, and are respected by the punk element as well. WORLD WAR XXIV is more of an oi-influenced dance band doing a lot of covers like "Banned From the Pubs" by PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES, and some of our songs. There are two very interesting fanzines in Sydney. "Treason", which is mainly political, and "Trousers in Action". The guy from "Trousers" loves to make tapes for people, and is also putting out a compliation album. One other band from Sydney of note, who sound like the WILD WOMEN OF BORNEO at times, or the more esoteric side of SAVAGE REPUBLIC, are called WRONG KIND OF STONE AGE, and are one of the best morbid-ambient post-punk bands I've ever seen or heard. Melbourne has the more intense of the punk scenes of the two big cities. The dominant band is DEPRESSION, who are also probably the most powerful punk band we saw in all of Australia; the one band who could probably tour anywhere in the world. They have a killer album up their sleeve, I just wish they'd record it. Their sound is similar to the L.A. STAINS or the EFFIGIES, with a bit more rumbling bass and deep-throated gutsy vocals as well. The guitarist is similar to Earl of the EFFIGIES in that he comes from a heavy metal background and is very very good at his instrument. But the way he bends his guitar makes their sound very, very unique. They are the most complete in terms of good stage presence. Their lyrics are not probably on a CRASS or MDC level, but generally in the right place with a lot of anti-corporate and anti-brutality songs. There's also a heavy-duty CRASS-styled anarchist band there, who only after two or three gigs had one of the most powerful sounds in Australia. They were called END RESULT, and they put out a mag called "Tribal Noise" that's extremely thought-provoking.
Also in Melbourne are the first bands that concentrate on American style thrash music. Both are very new. CIVIL DISSIDENT seemed to be better rehearsed, and they share equipment and practice space with the MAD FLOWERS. They are both avid skateboarders and most interested in U.S. bands, and they would probably be the most interested in corresonding with people in the States, exchanging tapes and records.
Melbourne is also the city that gave us the BIRTHDAY PARTY, formed out of the punk band BOYS NEXT DOOR. They are a big cult thing over there. A couple of bands very influenced by them are SCRAP MUSEUM and the SCARED COWBOYS, who have 2 singles out. Also a pretty important part of the Melbourne scene is a rockabilly revival cult, headquarted at Hound Dog's Bop Shop, which has more obsure rockabilly re-issues than I've seen anywhere else in the world. Two bands that I can think of that have sprung from there are the CORPSE GRINDERS, who are heavily into the CRAMPS and the METEORS, and are great fun live! One of the CORPSE GRINDERS' guitarists was my rock idol in Australia... Arthus, who looks like Sherman of "Mr. Peabody" fame. He had a black leather jacket with an elaborate CRAMPS thing on the back, with what looked like a kind of Pusheadish painting on it. The other band are called the WILDCATS, who sound so much like a 1957 Texas rockabilly band or Sun-style band, it's not even funny... right down to the Southern accents. They're very devoted to whatever culture they're into--very authentic.
Adelaide is considered the most eccentric of the cities, meaning even most of the punks both tolerate and support some very, very unusual bands. On the punk end there is PERDITION, who are primarily slower, British influenced, and some of their material is very strong. They were formerly known as the SKUNKS, who put out a 4-song EP, one song of which appears on the "Gervious Musical Harm" compilation cassette put out by XCentric Noise in England. PERDITION is more thoughtful than the SKUNKS were, who had a reputation for starting fights at their shows. I found that hard to believe after seeing them live. Also, the Sydneyans and Melbournians shake their heads at certain bands of eccentrics, such as the STINK POTS, who have been known to use vacuum cleaners as instruments, and their sister band PURPLE VULTURE SHIT. They share members too. Harry Butler, one of the main people behind the STINK POTS, puts out one of the longest running and most bizarre fanzines in Australia. Another band there is GRONG-GRONG. One thing about Australia, theyr'e the only country outside of the U.S. with a warped enough sense of humor to creat something like FLIPPER. On the surface, GRONG-GRONG sound a wee bit like BIRTHDAY PARTY, until you realize they're repeating the same riff over and over and over again, till people can't take it anymore. But in Adelaide, a lot of people liked them. Imagine, if you can, a singer with a black ski mask pulled over his head, with a cowboy hat, pacing back and forth on the stage growling at people for 45 minutes straight; a guitarist who just plays the same riff over and over and looks like a parody of a 50's greaser; a bass player whose sound was very similar to Will Shatter's and visually looked like Randy from the ALLEYCATS if he'd been in a mental institution doing speed for 10 years; and a drummer with a carefully quaffed 50's pompador that looked like a younger version of Tim Y. I lay awake for about two nights after seeing GRONG-GRONG, still wondering if I actually saw what I really saw.
We were supposed to go play Perth, which is about 6 hours by plane from Adelaide. It's a place where many recent British immigrants have moved to, and apparently many moved there to get away from racial tolerance in their own country. So they brought their National Front mentality with them. There were a lot of threats coming towards us, and whether anything would have happened to us, we'll never know. The Perth police, two weeks before our scheduled visit, came in with clubs, tear gas, shields, etc, and beat the living daylights out of people at a ROSE TATTOO heavy metal show. The police then hand-delivered notes to our promoters, saying something to the effect that "if you think we had fun at ROSE TATTOO, wait till you see what we're going to do to you." Both the shows were cancelled. The only band I even heard about from there are the QUICK AND THE DEAD, who supposedly are very, very Oi!, and have an EP out. Also, the major psychedelic garage band based in Sydney, who I forgot to mention earlier, are the SCIENTISTS, woh originated in Perth.
The last city we'll deal with is up north, and is Brisbane, capital of Queensland. It's the state that's referred to, in other parts of Australia, in hushed tones, because it's so openly racist and repressive. It's run by a state dictator, a kind of Huey Long, named Joh Bjelke-Petersen. His National Party hardly holds any power anywhere else in Australia because they're considered the right-wing lunatic fringe. But at home he's been able to keep in power by outrageous forms of gerrymandering, and is widely rumored to have rigged every election. He has beefed up the police force, and given them carteblanche to do what they want to keep people from questioning things. In Australia, there is no constitution and no laws about search and seizure, so the cops can, and do, kick in your door, and smash up your house, if they want. They've been known to break up conversations on the streets involving three or more people, cause they didn't want any assembly on the street. I met many people in Sydney who had fled Brisbane because they were being pulled over and detained for a holf hour or so every day. I met a lot of very warm people there, very radical in the head, but very afraid to talk. I felt safer walking around on the streets of East Berlin than I did in Brisbane.
Brisbane is also where Darren, our drummer, was picked out of a crowd of about 15 white people, and arrested for drinking in public, even though his can of beer was unopened. When Ray, our guitarist, tried to intervene, he was thrown in another police car and taken away. Also, Bjelke-Petersen's people are trying to take away the Aborigine's right to vote and own land, claiming they "haven't gotten that far up the evolutionary scale." And still, his party is kept in office. Some of his cronies, in fact the head of the Chamber of Commerce, wants to enact forced sterilization laws to kill off the Aborigines.
Bandwise, there was one very radical band that re-formed to play with us, called the BLACK ASSASSINS, who include as members people of all ages and cultural identification. Another band, who have some American thrashish tunes was PUBLIC EXECUTION, and were probably the most maniacial of the Australian bands I saw. The singer was a genuine nut on stage, with a really demented look in his eye, something you only usually find in Americans. Then tere was MYSTERY OF SIXES, a very crude psychedelic band with a singer who did things with his voice that reminded me of Middle Eastern music. And they had some satanic overtones to them, along with a plastic doll they brought on stage with them with "666" on its forehead.
There is no real scene in Brisbane at the moment, but in the '77 Australian punk scene, the wildest bands were from there... the SAINTS (who conquered the world), PSYCHO SURGEONS (later to become the LIPSTICK KILLERS), and the VICTIMS. Summing up Brisbane, all I can say is it was the closest thing to a heavy, heavy, junta-style police state I've ever been in. I was looking over my shoulder a lot!
11/08/1983 Dead Kennedys Monash University, Melbourne Setlist:
The Man With The Docs
Well Paid Scientist
I Am The Owl
Let's Lynch The Landlord
Bleed For Me
Holiday In Cambodia
Nazi Punks Fuck Off
Viva Las Vegas
We've Got A Bigger Problem Now