33 Years Later, Re-Election of Gov Jerry Brown Makes Dead Kennedys Lyrics Sound New AgainSeptember 20th, 2012
Old-school punk rockers certainly recall the Dead Kennedys’ classic political hardcore punk anthem “California Uber Alles.” Released in June of 1979, the ominous opening bass riff foreshadowed a savage lyrical thrashing of the ’70s California political establishment.
The song is a satire sung in the perspective of then-Governor Jerry Brown. In the first verse, Jello Biafra delivers in his signature brassy style, “I am Governor Jerry Brown/My aura smiles and never frowns/Soon I will be President/Carter power will soon go away/I will be Fuhrer one day/I will command all of you.”
Fast forward 32 years, and career politician Jerry Brown was re-elected Governor of California in 2011. As fate would have it, young teenage punks can once again sing the lyrics to “California Uber Alles” as if it were written about current events.
There’s Always Room for Jello
Classic Dead Kennedys ex-frontman Jello Biafra is one of the most well-known activist punks in the history of the movement. His articulate debates against Tipper Gore’s censorship initiatives in the ’80s are the stuff of First Amendment history. He even faced criminal charges for a Dead Kennedys poster which featured some controversial images from an HR Giger piece. His indie label Alternative Tentacles set the bar for DIY musicians to follow.
When it comes to politics, both left and right wing establishment figures fear Biafra’s scathing commentary. “California Uber Alles” has been remade several times from the perspective of other politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, each new Jello Biafra project usually features a new live version of the song, updated to satire a more current figure.
The Meaning Behind “California Uber Alles”
The song satires Jerry Brown as a hippie-style fascist, terrorizing citizens with mandatory jogging and consumption of natural products. “Now it’s 1984/Knock-knock at your front door/It’s the suede-denim secret police/They have come for your uncool niece.” In this satirical narrative, Brown outlines a plan to put “uncool” people in concentration camps where he will have them killed by certified-organic poison gas.
In a time when Bloomberg is banning large Cokes and citizens can only use certain types of light bulbs, these lyrics mocking those who would impose their lifestyles on others through the force of government are just as fresh and relevant as they were all those years ago.
Even more surreal is the fact that career politics has gotten so out of control that Jerry Brown has actually been elected Governor of California once again, over 3 decades later, making one of the earliest and most well-known political punk anthems of all time as contemporary and relevant as any new release by bands coming out today.
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