Let’s just look at this one as an anomaly, as this is one of the very few singles I’m going to feature. There’s a good chance I became aware of Dead Kennedys through Trouser Press or NME, both of which I was able to occasionally put my hands on around 1981 when this came out. Neither one was ever a regular purchase — too much content I didn’t care about and couldn’t even comprehend for that — but I did like trying to keep up with the dizzyingly huge and largely underground (from a commercial point of view) music scene they described. I’m far from anti-commercial or anti-pop, as my collection attests, but I also liked knowing there was some creative, independent stuff out there, and the only way to know about most of it was through one of those magazines.
In any case, I must have seen this up front at Desertshore Records in Syracuse, whose main trade in new records was in New Wave and punk 45s, which for some reason were and are a huge market. Punk isn’t really my thing. Ramones punk: yes. Clash punk: yes. Most other punk: hard no (especially hardcore). Just not that musically interesting, and I poured my angry young man energy into alcoholism and mania, not aggro music. Nevertheless, gave this a try and loved it. Loved it. Loved the B side, too. “Too Drunk to Fuck” is gross, a tad offensive, and funny, a bit of self-parody, or at least not casting the narrator, who is, after all, too drunk to fuck, in the best of lights. There’s some self-awareness here. It most certainly resonated with me because I was then quite trapped in alcoholism, seeing no way out, and angry about it. This song definitely tapped into being angry about being drunk. And it’s a good song. The B side, “The Prey,” hit me right in my Twilight Zone feelings, right in my creepy urban dystopia feelings, right in my “you fucking suburbanites wouldn’t last 10 minutes on the mean streets of the Salt City” feelings. (Hey, I said I was angry.)
At some point I also picked up the single “Halloween,” which I still have tucked away somewhere. I loved its derisive sneer: “Better plan all week, better plan all month, better plan all year! ‘Cause it’s Halloween….” For whatever reason, that really resonated with me. (And to anyone who knew me then — and I have tried to apologize to as many in person as possible — sorry for my derisive sneers. And everything else.)
But like a lot of things, I didn’t pursue it much further. Frankly, I wasn’t sure anything they could do would be as satisfying to me as those two songs, and this was around the time I was on a Clash / Eddie Cochran / Sleepy LaBeef kick. A single PiL album (“Album”) notwithstanding, I wasn’t really going down a very punk road.
I must have loved this, because I kept it in incredibly pristine condition compared to my other 45s, and ended up storing it in with the albums. And I’m pretty sure this is the only 45 that has a lyric sleeve insert in my collection.