Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is the debut studio album by the American hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys. It was first released on September 2, 1980 through Cherry Red Recordsin the United Kingdom and later issued by Jello Biafra's own Alternative Tentacles label in the United States. It has been certified gold by the BPI. The best selling and generally the most critically acclaimed album by the Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables has become a major staple of American punk.


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Lead vocalist Jello Biafra's strong political statements on songs such as "California Über Alles" and "When Ya Get Drafted" launched Dead Kennedys into the political arena.

Musically, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables laid the blueprint for future Dead Kennedys' releases: loud, noisy, fast, but with a sense of dynamics and musical individualism. The surf and rockabilly-inspired riffs owe something to Ramones' most influential recordings, drawing from early American AM pop and rehashing it in the immediate, aggressive context of punk rock. The chorus of "Let's Lynch the Landlord" is a send-up of "Sister Anne" by MC5.[6] The lyrics lend a significant bite to the breakthrough of the already strident musical assault. On the original vinyl version Side A was tracks 1-7 and Side B was tracks 8-14. The songs on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables were recorded with minimal overdubs limited to vocals and the addition of rhythm guitar in places.[citation needed]

The photo on the front cover, showing several police cars on fire, was taken during the "White Night Riots" of 21 May 1979, that resulted from the light sentence given to former San FranciscoCity Supervisor Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.


  • Spin (5/01, p. 112) - Ranked #46 in Spin's "50 Most Essential Punk Records" -"Fresh Fruit scans like an old anarchist newspaper. But 'Kill the Poor' sounds perfect for Dick Cheney's America."
  • Q (5/02 SE, p. 136) - 4 stars out of 5 - Included in Q's "100 Best Punk Albums" -"One of the most fiery, politically explosive diatribes you are ever likely to hear..."
  • Uncut (p. 120) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Dead Kennedys could echo both the weirdness of Beefheart and the sort of spectral pop that came off Spector's production line. Still fresh. No rot."
  • Alternative Press (11/00, p. 144) - Included in AP's "10 Essential Political-Revolution Albums" - "...Biafra takes on the monied classes and the government, and the songs become almost too intricate for punk. Massively influential."
  • Magnet (p. 90) - "Dead Kennedys brought a horror-show vibe to punk that remains more unsettling than the Misfits' comic-book core and battier than My Chemical Romance's make-up."
  • Kerrang! (p. 52) - "[O]ne of the finest slabs of rant 'n' roll ever made."
  • Mojo (p. 114) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he shrill, nervy majesty of FRUIT remains unblemished." Mojo (3/03, p. 76) - Ranked #9 in Mojo's "Top 50 Punk Albums" - "Singer Jello Biafra's vitriolic, merciless verbal lambasting set to a musical backdrop of fervid punk."

The album is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Release variations[edit]Edit

  • The original back cover featured a found photograph of an old lounge band called Sounds of Sunshine, with Dead Kennedys' logo pasted onto the drum kit and skulls and crossbones spliced onto their instruments. The original photograph, as found by Biafra at a garage sale, had no identifying remarks on it whatsoever, and was used because the band thought it was "hilarious". Somehow Warner Wilder, the former vocalist of the defunct lounge band learned of the photo and threatened to sue Dead Kennedys.[7] The back cover was reprinted with the heads of the band members cut off, but this solution was found to be unsatisfactory to Sounds of Sunshine, forcing an entirely different photo of four old ladies in a living room (with the Alternative Tentacles bat mascot pasted over a picture frame).[8] When Cleopatra Records reissued Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables in 2002, the original unbeheaded lounge band picture reappeared.[9] The 25th Anniversary "Deluxe Reissue" co-released by Cherry Red Records and Manifesto Records in 2005 used the old ladies photograph, but with Dead Kennedys' logo substituted for the Alternative Tentacles Bat[10][11]
  • Early IRS pressings featured the cover tinted orange with black lettering. This cover variation was not authorized by the band. According to a late-80s interview with Goldmine magazine, IRS told the band they wanted to make the domestic version different from the Cherry Red import, to which Biafra claimed to have told IRS, "Yeah, inferior to the original — change it back!" [8] During a 1981 performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Biafra mentions, "Some of you stooped so low as to buy our wonderful album, even with the shitty Disneyland orange cover which was not our idea."
  • Post-IRS, pre-Alternative Tentacles pressings on IRS's Faulty Products subsidiary added "Police Truck" to the middle of the Side A sequence, between "Let's Lynch the Landlord" and "Drug Me".[12]
  • Some Cherry Red vinyl pressings added "Too Drunk to Fuck" to the end of Side A.[13]
  • Pirate pressings of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (as well as the next two Dead Kennedys releases, In God We Trust Inc. and Plastic Surgery Disasters) were manufactured in Italy, Spain and Portugal. According to Biafra, these pressings were manufactured by someone who retained the master parts from defunct Italian licensees and put out what Biafra described as "Clorox bottle-quality pressings". These pressings were sold by a cut-out distributor to record stores that were, in Biafra's words, "too snooty" to deal with the independent distributors that Alternative Tentacles dealt with.[8]
  • The run-out groove of the early Alternative Tentacles pressings as well as early Cherry Red pressings includes the text "Well?? Who are the Brain Police???" - a reference to the song "Who Are the Brain Police?" by The Mothers of Invention.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written and composed by Jello Biafra, except where noted. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Kill the Poor(written by East Bay Ray, Biafra) 3:07
2. "Forward to Death" (written by 6025) 1:23
3. "When Ya Get Drafted"   1:23
4. "Let's Lynch the Landlord"   2:13
5. "Drug Me"   1:56
6. "Your Emotions" (written by East Bay Ray) 1:20
7. "Chemical Warfare"   2:55
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "California Über Alles(written by Biafra, John Greenway) 3:03
2. "I Kill Children"   2:04
3. "Stealing People's Mail"   1:34
4. "Funland at the Beach"   1:49
5. "Ill in the Head" (written by 6025, Biafra) 2:46
6. "Holiday in Cambodia(written by Biafra, Greenway) 4:37
7. "Viva Las Vegas(written by Doc PomusMort Shuman; originally performed by Elvis Presley) 2:42
Total length: 33:06

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Eyeballs[edit]Edit

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Eyeballs is the accompanying 55-minute documentary, directed by Eric S. Goodfield, that is included with the Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables 25th Anniversary Edition. It features a brief history of Dead Kennedys' early years up to their first UK tour, never before seen live performances, interviews with Klaus Flouride and East Bay Ray, comments by music journalists, and insights from the key people involved with the recording of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. The video omits references to the origins of songs that would include a mention of Jello Biafra, although his 1979 run for mayor is highlighted.


Additional performers

  • Paul Roessler – keyboards
  • Ninotchka – keyboards, backing vocals
  • Dirk Dirksen – backing vocals
  • Bobby Unrest – backing vocals
  • Michael Synder – backing vocals
  • Bruce Calderwood (Bruce Loose) – backing vocals
  • Barbara Hellbent – backing vocals
  • HyJean – backing vocals
  • Curt – backing vocals
  • Chi Chi – backing vocals


  • Norm – producer
  • East Bay Ray - producer
  • Oliver DiCicco – engineermixing
  • Kevin Metcalfe; Paul Stubblebine - mastering
  • Judith Calson - front cover photo
  • Winston Smith – artwork
  • Annie Horwood – artwork
  • Jello Biafra - artwork
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