The World's Greediest Karaoke Band

In his younger years the author of these words used to like to relax by listening to the music of The Dead Kennedys, their left wing, frenetic, vitriolic punk songs were a refreshing change to the mainstream mediocrity of the era.

Their lead singer, the great Jello Biafra, quit the band in 1986 going on to pursue solo projects. As is the case with many other bands who have split up, legal arguments arose as to how much royalties each band members should be receiving. The legal case was bitter and Biafra was cast against his three ex band mates, accused of underpaying them over a number of years. He lost the dispute and the end result of the case saw the rights to the albums turned over to the other band members. This is in spite of the fact that Biafra was credited as sole songwriter for most of their songs.

The remaining band members then acted less than honourably by selling the rights to other record labels. Biafra, fiercely anti capitalist and loyal to the band's original left leaning philosophies was horrified when he discovered that the rights to one song "Holiday In Cambodia" might have been sold to make a Levi jeans commercial.

If this wasn't enough, The Dead Kennedys then reformed, with Brandon Cruz replacing Jello Biafra on vocals. They then embarked on a tour, using some of the most fraudulent marketing ploys in musical history. From the Alternative Tentacles site:

"The booking agency which represents Biafra's former band mates is reportedly selling the band as Dead Kennedys, asking $10,000 guarantees, and "forgetting" to tell promoters that Biafra is not in the band, unless specifically questioned. The band photo that the agency has circulated features Jello Biafra instead of the...singer Brandon Cruz. Most of the tour dates have been sold to the public as "Dead Kennedys", with at least one advertisement featuring the photo which contains Biafra. Another tactic reported is that venues such as the Gothic Theater in Denver (and their sponsor, Twist & Shout) start out advertising the show as Dead Kennedys then downgrade the ads to "DK Kennedys", with members listed, two or more weeks after tickets have gone on sale.

Jello Biafra states, "In my opinion, this is the real great rock and roll swindle. They have a right to play cover versions of Dead Kennedys songs. Everyone does. But I feel really badly for all the people paying ticket prices, reported to be as high as $25, thinking it's the real Dead Kennedys, and wind up getting stuck with the world's greediest karaoke band."

On top of that, those who paid to see the band were far from impressed. Aside from the inept music and singing from a band who by their own admission had not rehearsed for 13 years, spectators were horrified to see the Cruz introduce "Holidays In Cambodia"by saying

"This song goes out to all the U.S. troops overseas in Afghanistan. We support President Bush's actions in Afghanistan."

For the song's vehemently anti war and anti Bush author, Jello Biafra, this must have felt like a stab in the heart.

The Dead Kennedys are still preforming and selling out each week. The author of these words is of the opinion that any Dead Kennedys release on a new label is unworthy of purchase and that money spent on attending one of their concerts would be better spent in assisting Jello Biafra's legal challenge.

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