I was 14. The year was 1993. I grew up in a rural part of Pennsylvania, the Poconos. There was one record store near me, and it was decent, but they didn’t have any Dead Kennedys albums in stock. However, I had heard of this band, and their name alone was like a big fuck you to the established order around me. I knew I was a fan before I heard a note.
So, one day, it was the summer, my parents decided to stop at the Phillipsburg Mall in Jersey, on the way back from a trip to see my grandmother. Like any budding music obsessive, I found my way to the record store, where I found, much to my delight, the CD Frankenchrist by the Dead Kennedys. I bought it. I would have stolen it if that’s what it took.
Upon opening this treasure, there was a note from Jello about the whole legal controversy surrounding the artwork. There were lyrics and my cursory reading told me this was the best fucking thing I’d ever heard. I still hadn’t heard a note.
I don’t recall knowing what to expect, or what my expectations were, but I remember the first time I heard Jello’s voice, and falling in love. Here was a motherfucker that was sarcastic, contemptuous of society, and brilliant. Here was a guy that had a lot to say, and sounded awesome saying it. Here was Jello fucking Biafra, the punk I was looking for. He wasn’t singing about girls, or relationships, or making vacuous political statements because it was trendy. This dude was squeezing essays into 3 minute punk songs. This guy was fucking shit up. I had a new hero.
Here we are, years later, and I can still throw on Frankenchrist and enjoy the shit out of it. Jello no longer seems to me like an idol on a pedestal, but as a fellow artist who remains unafraid to speak his mind.