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© stonerphonic 2008 - 2010

If "pure, unadulterated bullshit on a stick" had a blog page,
then it would probably look something like [this]. (Actual quote, stonerphonic's mother)

Sunday, 20 June 2010

HEROES - Part 4: Jello Biafra

Thinking for myself...

I'll never forget 1994. Big changes happened to me then. I moved out of Queensland to go live in the Northern Territory in November 94. 1994 was the last time i had any interest in "non-exotic" women (read into that what you will). In 1994 I totally de-shitted myself of all the things that held me back from reaching my full potential & stopped me from embracing the me I wanted to be.

And in 1994 I actually got to meet one of my heroes face to face.


As far as music goes, 1977-1979 opened a whole new canvas for musical expression. Hell, for self expression. Because that's when punk spat itself clean into the public eye. And whilst I fully appreciate the cleverly crafted UK scene courtesy of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, the Sex Pistols can kiss my ass. In fact the Pistols are eloquently summed up in the title of one of their songs - Pretty Vacant.

For me, real punk has never (my never) been expressed as fully and complete as it was in a group of San Francisco Baysiders who embodied the real ethos of punk in every nerve and fibre of the body of their work.... the Dead Kennedys. From their name to their sound and more importantly the content and focus of their lyrical output, these guys were real 'punk'. Every album cover, every song title, every information inclusion was deliberate, directed, and damn well made you think.  And that was the whole point. In fact if I had to choose a song or a lyric to truly represent what Dead Kennedys means to me, it would have to be the 1st line from 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' – "Punk ain't no religious cult, punk means thinking for yourself” *(1)

Encapsulated in that single line is for me the true spirit of intelligence and forward endeavor – think for yourself. And I've carried that with me around the world, and it's gotten me in and out of trouble for sure, but by the same token it's kept me honest and true to who I am. And in 1994 at a little university lecture theatre I finally got the opportunity to meet someone who made me think. Really made me think. And question too...

By 1994 Jello Biafra had already left behind a deluge of controversy and carnage from the Dead Kennedys era, and the obscenity trial that brought about the group's demise. He was now fronting and guesting for a number of different bands, collaborating with some of the best industrial musos in the business, as well as carving out a niche on the spoken word circuit, which was the reason for his one and only Brisbane performance. It was like a dream come true. I finally found myself in the front row, dead smack in the middle, and out leaped Jello straight into his famous “Marshall Law” monologue, the one used by Ice-T on the 'Home Invasion' album. And for the next 2 ½ hours he enthralled us all with his unique style of 'edutainment' delivered with his instantly recognizable nasally high pitched vocal style. The delivery was faultless, peppered with rhetorical questions and thought provoking suggestion. Damn, it was almost perfect, marred only by some dumb-ass goth metal wannabe chick 5 seats up from me who passed out and hit the floor face first. Too much speed? Not enuff speed....

Best bit of it all was question time at the end.  There's about 400 fully decked out punk/metal/ goth heads packed in here, about 5 media pundits, 3 4ZZZ radio kids recording it all for posterity, and me. And guess who got 1st shot at question time? Yeah baby!

So..... I asked this punk rock living legend, this famed singer, this dude who helped define a soundscape and musical template for generations to come, I asked Jello Biafra about Californian governor Pete Wilson's efforts to introduce proposition 187 into effect in California.


You could have heard a pin drop in the joint. Here was my big chance to tell Jello "oh dude you've changed my life" or "hey man, when the hell are LARD gunna tour" or "dude, will you sign my records for me", and I asked some totally fucking obscure question about an unknown American politician and an unknown American law (remember, this was in 1994, Brisbane, Australia), none of which meant anything to anyone in the audience. Chris, what a fucking fool, what WAS I thinking, what a waste of a perfect opportunity to score my 15 minutes of fame.

HA! Fuck that shit.

My seemingly obscure question made this worn and weary performer instantly pep up and launch into an extra 45 minutes of amazingly animated monologue about this particularly evil and bigoted man and his stupid proposition (go on, Google proposition 187). It reinvigorated the entire afternoon, but most important for me is I put a shine into Jello's eyes. Cause he knew I knew the deal, and the absolute best bit it was all recorded for posterity by Radio 4ZZZ. And then yes, 27 other bozo's asked those dumb old banal and pointless questions anyway. And when all was said and done, 400 drug fucked music whores converged onto the stage to have Jello sign their record, CD, shirt etc. and I just stood way back behind them all, to watch poor old Jello signing his life away frantically, all the time noting him scanning the crowd like crazy, neck outstretched, and then **POW** we caught each other square in the eye. He smiled and nodded, I returned the acknowledgement, and as he tried to make his way through the crowd of forward lurching bodies, I casually walked away.....

My biggest regret in connection with "meeting" Jello was not my 'stupid' question, or the fact that I walked away when the dude obviously wanted to come up and say hi. Rather, my biggest regret happened a few years earlier. Just so happens I'd been given as a gift 2 exceptionally rare pieces of vinyl. They were transparent copies of the Dead Kennedy's 'In God We Trust Incorporated' and 'Plastic Surgery Disasters', both pressed in Italy. I also have in my possession (to this very day) a copy of an interview with Jello in some el-cheapo music magazine from the 90's. And in amongst all the questions thrown at him was 'if you could have any piece of memorabilia from the Dead Kennedy's days, what would it be?' And you know what he answered? Yep, the very 2 pieces of vinyl I had sitting in milk crates in a cupboard at my parents house.

Had being the operable word...

Cause during a huge cleanup one day at my folks place, they just happened to find themselves in the bottom of a box that went to the dump. I so would have loved to have been able to walk up to Jello on that day in 1994 and say thank you to him for all he's done for me as far as inspiration goes over the years, and then to hand those pieces of vinyl over, to be able to actually give back to someone who has given so much throughout his life. I'm sure there's an old saying that goes 'there's more happiness in giving than in receiving'.

But even if I couldn't thank him in the way I wanted to, for a brief moment in 1994 I got to connect with a person who has really inspired me, and continues to inspire me to this very day.

A little while ago the remaining Dead Kennedys took Jello to court so they could sell their old songs to big business corporations and 'cash in' on the resurgence of the 'old punk spirit', something which at the basest of levels goes totally against what that 'old punk spirit' was all about in the 1st place. And of course Jello said no, and 1 great big shit fight ensued. But, regardless of the outcomes, Jello Biafra never sold out. Ever.

And THAT, my friends, is punk. Real punk.
That sort of attitude and principled belief is what truly inspires me.
Stuff the mighty dollar.
Stuff the whole 'scene'.
It's about principles.
Being right. Being true. Thinking.

And I can't think of a better way than close this piece than with the last line from 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' -

You'll be the first to go
You'll be the first to go
You'll be the first to go
Unless you THINK... *(1)


NEXT WEEK: HEROES - Part 5 - Cat Stevens
If you're still here... thank you.

Please feel free to comment on my pieces. I willingly accept constructive criticism and comments on all my work. Hell, I'll take non-constructive criticism too. It's not life or death stuff y'know...

I believe in respect. I'm not asking you to agree with anything in this piece, but please allow me to have my opinion. Remember, I openly admit I don't read other peoples stuff. Hey, you don't have to read mine, and I'm happy to let you write yours.

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All the words & mindless ramblings in BORDERLINE (c) 2008 - 2010 stonerphonic unless otherwise stated.
Find my punk ass - http://www.facebook.com/stonerphonic
Write my punk ass - stonerphonic@hotmail.com



Matt-suzaka said...

That's pretty awesome and I myself grew up a huge fan of the Kennedys and still love what they represented. All of the punk and "hardcore" of that era was so true and real, now most of it is weak and lacks any sense of what it's all about to be "punk." Biafra encapsulates all that is missing from the scene, unfortunately.

I remember the first time I heard DK was In God We Trust at this older kid's house that I used to skate with. I was blown away and hearing songs like Dog bite and Nazi Punks was one of those moments where music would once again change for me.

stonerphonic said...

@Matt Thanks heaps for taking the time to read. And comment. Yea, hearing DK for the 1st time changed my life, defined a part of a who I am, and helped me get thru some pretty difficult times.

And I fully agree Matt that punk, hardcore, and hell, pretty much all of the music industry today lacks the real "punk" ethos, the real spirit of "thinking for yourself"...

thhjasmine said...

cool read*

Morgan said...

Awesome story! Love Jello!

stonerphonic said...

@THHJasmine Thank you ;)

@Morgan I love Jello too. With ice cream. And chocolate topping. Hell, and with pancakes...

toko baju muslim said...

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