Bay Area punk band the Dead Kennedys still get airplay for their classic thrash anthems “Holiday in Cambodia” and “California Über Alles.” Though the band still tours, lead singer/songwriter Eric “Jello Biafra” Boucher has not played a Dead Kennedys show since 1986. In 2000 and 2003, Biafra lost court cases against the other original members who went on without him and who now have the right to use the Dead Kennedys name.
Since parting ways with Biafra, the band has been fronted by two people, including former child actor Brandon Cruz (formerly of ABC’s Courtship of Eddie’s Father and ex-singer for Dr. Know). Ron “Skip” Greer, formerly of the Bay Area—based Wynona Riders, will front when the band appears June 7 at House of Blues.
DJ Steve West played Dead Kennedys records on 91X when they were first popular; he now plays them on his Resurrection Sunday show. He thinks a Dead Kennedys sans Biafra is bogus.
“Ask any Dead Kennedys fan, and they’ll tell you that it’s all about Jello. He was the driving force behind the band.”
West uses the “key member” test to determine if it’s okay for one ex-member to go on and perform under the band’s moniker. For instance, he says the recent appearance of lead singer Buster Bloodvessel as Bad Manners at Brick by Brick was fair because he was the essence of that British band.
“The same thing with Mike Score of Flock of Seagulls. [But] if you had members of Pearl Jam playing without Eddie Vedder, you’d have to call it ‘Members of Pearl Jam.’ You really don’t have Pearl Jam without Eddie Vedder.”
West gives a pass to local Dave Wakeling, who played in the English Beat. (“Dave has always been the front man.”) What about Ranking Roger, Wakeling’s fellow singer in the English Beat and General Public?
“It was my understanding that Roger could use the [English Beat] name in England, but Wakeling can use it in the U.S.… They aren’t talking. When I spoke to Wakeling last year [on the radio], he suggested they were going to patch things up. But I guess they haven’t.”
– Ken Leighton