Dead Kennedys — Frankenchrist

Frankenchrist front cover
Frankenchrist as it has existed in my collection all these years — with the original wrapper so I could keep the original warning label, plus a price sticker, plus the receipt from Modern Records.

So, as I was saying during “Too Drunk To Fuck,” while I loved that single, it didn’t send me off in a punk direction and I didn’t pay much more attention to Dead Kennedys for a few years.

Then came the CD revolution, and some willingness on my part to explore new territory. I found a CD that combined their 1981 EP “In God We Trust, Inc.” with the 1982 album “Plastic Surgery Disasters,” a bargain collection and one that I played a lot. “In God We Trust, Inc.” included a timely diatribe against the “Moral Majority,” the (sadly still timely) “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” and an incredible cover of “Rawhide” that showed, again, that this was angry music that still had a bit of a sense of humor. And “Plastic Surgery Disasters” is just a joyride, with “Terminal Preppie,” “Halloween,” “Winnebago Warrior,” and “Moon Over Marin.” Again, punk with a message and music.

Once I had indoctrinated myself in those, I kept on with this album, “Frankenchrist.” Omigod, was this controversial. First, it had a picture of a Shriners parade on the cover; apparently the use was unauthorized and some of the Shriners pictured sued. And that was the less controversial issue. The real problem was a poster by legendary fantasy artist H.R. Giger called “Landscape #XX” or “Penis Landscape,” which, as Wikipedia puts it, depicts rows of penises and vulvae. The cover sticker bears a warning: “The inside fold out to this record cover is a work of art by H.R. Giger that some people may find shocking, repulsive or offensive. Life can sometimes be that way.”

My copy has the poster, and while I’m not going to post it, I can report that yes, it is disturbing, and no, it is not in the vaguest sense sexual (in fact, that’s what makes it disturbing — it has a real factory-farming/slaughterhouse vibe).

Price sticker on Frankenchrist
Price sticker on Frankenchrist – either they didn’t want the poster stolen, or they didn’t want kids to see it.

Funny side story about the poster: as you can clearly see, the sticker that Syracuse’s Modern Records put on the cover made it clear that the album came with the poster, but to ask at the counter (presumably to protect the kiddies who did not shop at the quite expensive land of dreamy imports that was Modern Records). I remember a certain amount of excitement about finding this — I think later editions did not continue to include the poster, as leader Jello Biafra was brought to trial for distributing material harmful to minors. But even though it’s clear the poster is at the counter, inside, on a slip of colored paper that isn’t even a Post-It (because those were barely a thing at the time), I have just now, 33 years later, found a slip of paper:

Question inside Frankenchrist
I just discovered this slip of paper inside my copy of Frankenchrist (it’s not a Post-It, btw). We thought the cover sticker had addressed the question.

Why did I save the receipts for some records I got from Modern? Probably I was just charmed by the old-style (even then) handwritten receipt. Thanks to the receipt, I know that I actually got this after getting “Bedtime for Democracy.” This came out in 1985; I got it in 1987. Bedtime came out in November 1986.

Haven’t even mentioned the music. This is great. Again, Dead Kennedys were tuneful, experimental, angry and fun. This includes the excellent “M.T.V. – Get Off The Air” and “Stars and Stripes of Corruption,” among other great songs. Listening to it for this blog, I am really wondering why I haven’t been listening to it more. Sadly, it is as relevant today as it was in 1985. Maybe more so.

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