Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is the debut studio album by the American punk rock band Dead Kennedys. It was first released on September 2, 1980, through Cherry Red Records in the United Kingdom, and I.R.S. Records in the United States. It was later issued by Jello Biafra's own Alternative Tentacles label in the United States. It is the only Dead Kennedys studio album to feature drummer Bruce Slesinger and (on one track) guitarist Carlo Cadona.

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
A black-and-white photograph of a burning car outdoors at night. In the upper-left corner are the words "Dead Kennedys" in Gothic script.
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 2, 1980 (1980-09-02)
RecordedMay–June 1980
StudioMöbius Music in San Francisco
LabelCherry Red, Alternative Tentacles, Faulty Products, Manifesto
ProducerNorm and East Bay Ray
Dead Kennedys chronology
Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
In God We Trust, Inc.
Singles from Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
  1. "California Über Alles"
    Released: June 1979
  2. "Holiday in Cambodia"
    Released: May 1980
  3. "Kill the Poor"
    Released: October 1980

Recording and release


The photo on the front cover, showing several police cars on fire, was taken during the White Night riots of May 21, 1979, that resulted from the light sentence given to former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. When Biafra ran for mayor, one of his policies had been for a statue to be erected to Dan White, and for eggs, tomatoes and stones to be available nearby for pelting it.[3] In addition, the band's version of "I Fought the Law" has rewritten lyrics making reference to the incident.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [1]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [4]
The Great Rock Discography9/10[5]
Mojo     [6]
Q     [8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [9]
Tiny Mix Tapes5/5[10]
Uncut     [11]
The Village VoiceC+[12]

Among contemporary reviews, Jon Young of Trouser Press found that the style and content of the album derived from the Sex Pistols and "will sound dated to the trend-conscious", but concluded that the album "may be the only legitimate companion piece to the Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks."[13] Young concluded that the album "works largely because of Jello Biafra, a distinctive and remarkable singer" who "thrives on extreme attitudes."[13] Andy Gill of NME compared the album to music by the British punk group U.K. Subs, writing that Dead Kennedys "hardly come across as anything but smarter, both musically and intellectually ... Despite [the Dead Kennedys'] grasp of dynamics and their highly-ordered arrangements, there's really only one track here which makes effective use of their mannerisms and devices, and that's 'Holiday in Cambodia', already available in single form, and probably the biggest (musical) reason for this album's presence in the charts."[14] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice stated that he found Biafra poor as a vocalist, likening his singing to Tiny Tim's.[12]

The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[15] In 2013, NME ranked it at number 365 in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[16]

Release variations

  • The original back cover featured a found photograph of an old lounge band called Sounds of Sunshine, with Dead Kennedys' logo pasted onto the drum kit and skulls and crossbones spliced onto their instruments. The original photograph, as found by Flouride at a garage sale,[17] had no identifying remarks on it whatsoever, and was used because the band thought it was "hilarious". Somehow, Warner Wilder, the former vocalist of the defunct lounge band, learned of the photo and threatened to sue Dead Kennedys.[18] The back cover was reprinted with the heads of the band members cut off, but this solution was found to be unsatisfactory to Sounds of Sunshine, forcing an entirely different photo of four old people in a living room (with the Alternative Tentacles bat mascot pasted over a picture frame).[19] When Cleopatra Records reissued Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables in 2002, the original unbeheaded lounge band picture reappeared.[20] The 25th Anniversary "Deluxe Reissue" co-released by Cherry Red Records and Manifesto Records in 2005 used the old people photograph, but with Dead Kennedys' logo substituted for the Alternative Tentacles Bat.[21][22]
  • Early I.R.S. pressings featured the cover tinted orange with black lettering.[23] This cover variation was not authorized by the band. According to a late '80s interview Biafra did with Goldmine magazine, I.R.S. told the band they wanted to make the domestic version different from the Cherry Red import, to which Biafra claimed to have told I.R.S., "Yeah, inferior to the original — change it back!" [19] During a 1981 performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Biafra mentions, "Some of you stooped so low as to buy our wonderful album, even with the shitty Disneyland orange cover which was not our idea."[17]
  • Post-I.R.S., pre-Alternative Tentacles pressings on I.R.S.'s Faulty Products subsidiary added "Police Truck" to the middle of the Side A sequence, between "Let's Lynch the Landlord" and "Drug Me".[24]
  • Some Cherry Red vinyl pressings added "Too Drunk to Fuck" to the end of Side A.[25]
  • Pirate pressings of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (as well as the next two Dead Kennedys releases, In God We Trust Inc. and Plastic Surgery Disasters) were manufactured in Italy, Spain and Portugal. According to Biafra, these pressings were manufactured by someone who retained the master parts from defunct Italian licensees and put out what Biafra described as "Clorox bottle-quality pressings". These pressings were sold by a cut-out distributor to record stores that were, in Biafra's words, "too snooty" to deal with the independent distributors that Alternative Tentacles dealt with.[19]
  • The run-out groove of the early Alternative Tentacles pressings as well as early Cherry Red pressings includes the text "Well?? Who are the Brain Police???"—a reference to the song "Who Are the Brain Police?" by the Mothers of Invention.[23]
  • Manifesto Records released a fully remixed version of Fresh Fruit in September of 2022, remixed by Chris Lord-Alge. The release, instigated by the band member partnership's manager (who had personal ties with Lord-Alge) and approved by band members Ray Pepperell, Klaus Flouride and Darren Henley (the latter of whom was not a member of the band at the time), was criticized by Biafra in a July 2022 press release.[26] Biafra also noted that, while respecting Lord-Alge's track record, did not feel Lord-Alge was the right person to remix any Dead Kennedys material.

Track listing


All tracks are written by Jello Biafra, except where noted[27]

Side one
1."Kill the Poor"music: Biafra, East Bay Ray; lyrics: Biafra3:07
2."Forward to Death"60251:23
3."When Ya Get Drafted" 1:23
4."Let's Lynch the Landlord" 2:13
5."Drug Me" 1:56
6."Your Emotions"Ray1:20
7."Chemical Warfare" 2:55
Side two
1."California Über Alles"music: Biafra; lyrics: Biafra, John Greenway3:03
2."I Kill Children" 2:04
3."Stealing People's Mail" 1:34
4."Funland at the Beach" 1:49
5."Ill in the Head"music: 6025; lyrics: Biafra2:46
6."Holiday in Cambodia"music: Dead Kennedys (Ted, Ray, Biafra, Flouride); lyrics: Biafra[28]4:37
7."Viva Las Vegas" (Elvis Presley cover with altered lyrics)Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman2:42
Total length:33:06

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Eyeballs


Fresh Fruit for Rotting Eyeballs is the accompanying 55-minute documentary, directed by Eric S. Goodfield, that is included with the Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables 25th Anniversary Edition.[29] It features a brief history of Dead Kennedys' early years up to their first UK tour, never before seen live performances, interviews with Klaus Flouride and East Bay Ray, comments by music journalists, and insights from the key people involved with the recording of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.[29] The video omits references to the origins of songs that would include a mention of Jello Biafra, although his 1979 run for mayor is highlighted.



Dead Kennedys

Additional performers

  • 6025 – rhythm guitar on "Ill in the Head"
  • Paul Roessler – keyboards on "Drug Me" and "Stealing People's Mail"
  • Ninotchka (Therese Soder) – keyboards on "Drug Me", backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • Dirk Dirksen – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • Bobby Unrest – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • Michael Synder – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • Bruce Calderwood (Bruce Loose) – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • Barbara Hellbent – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • HyJean – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • Curt – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"
  • Chi Chi – backing vocals on "Chemical Warfare"


  • Norm – production
  • East Bay Ray - production
  • Oliver DiCicco and John Cuniberti – engineering, mixing
  • Kevin Metcalfe; Paul Stubblebine - mastering
  • Judith Calson – front cover photography
  • Winston Smith – artwork
  • Annie Horwood – artwork
  • Jello Biafra - artwork


Weekly chart performance for Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
Chart (1980) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[30] 98
UK Indie Chart[31] 2



In 2010, it was certified diamond by the Independent Music Companies Association which indicated sales of at least 250,000 copies throughout Europe.[32]

Certifications for Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[33] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[34] Gold 500,000

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – Dead Kennedys". AllMusic. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  2. ^ Larson, Thomas E. (2014). History of Rock and Roll. Kendall Hunt. p. 270. ISBN 978-1-4652-3886-3.
  3. ^ Silvers, Emma (November 4, 2014). "35 Years Ago Today, Jello Biafra Came In Fourth In the S.F. Mayoral Race". SF Weekly. USA. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Dead Kennedys". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  5. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2004). "Dead Kennedys". The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Canongate Books. ISBN 1-84195-551-5.
  6. ^ Mehr, Bob (March 2006). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". Mojo. No. 148. p. 114.
  7. ^ Schiller, Mike (November 29, 2005). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Special 25th Anniversary Edition)". PopMatters. Archived from the original on June 7, 2015. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  8. ^ "The 100 Best Punk Albums of All Time – Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". Q (special ed.). May 2002. p. 136.
  9. ^ Considine, J. D. (2004). "Dead Kennedys". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 221. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  10. ^ Chadwicked. "Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  11. ^ "Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables". Uncut. No. 69. February 2003. p. 91. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (May 4, 1981). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Young, Jon (June 1981). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (IRS SP70014)". Trouser Press. Retrieved November 1, 2016 – via Rock's Backpages.
  14. ^ Gill, Andy (September 27, 1980). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables; UK Subs: Crash Course". NME. Retrieved November 1, 2016 – via Rock's Backpages.
  15. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (March 23, 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  16. ^ NME: The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time : October 2013
  17. ^ a b Ogg, Alex. (2014). Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: The Early Years. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-60486-489-2.
  18. ^ George Gimarc, Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970–1982. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005. ISBN 0-87930-848-6
  19. ^ a b c Jello Biafra interview with Goldmine magazine, February 1989, reproduced at[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Los Angeles/San Francisco/London: Cleopatra Records/Decay Music/Cherry Red Records, 2002
  21. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: 25th Anniversary Edition Los Angeles: Manifesto Records, 2005.
  22. ^ Neither the 2002 nor the 2005 editions of Fresh Fruit ... were done with the consent or participation of Jello Biafra; various interviews and press releases issued by Biafra stated that the singer/songwriter did not receive royalties from the 2002 edition, possibly due to the legal battle between Biafra and the rest of the band.
  23. ^ a b Nate Goyer (March 14, 2016). "Ep023: Dead Kennedys Klaus Flouride Interview & The Story of the "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables" LP". The Vinyl Guide (Podcast). Event occurs at 16:06. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  24. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, Los Angeles: Faulty Products, 1982.
  25. ^ Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, London: Cherry Red Records, ca. 1981–82.
  26. ^ Jello Biafra (July 12, 2022). "Jello Says "Buyer Beware" On DKs Fresh Fruit Remix Album". Alternative Tentcles Records. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  27. ^ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (liner notes). Dead Kennedys. 1980.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  28. ^ Ogg, A., 2014. Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: The Early Years. 1st ed. Oakland, United States: PM Press. p. 87;97. ISBN 978-1-60486-489-2.
  29. ^ a b Schiller, Mike (November 29, 2005). "Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Special 25th Anniversary Edition)". PopMatters. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  30. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 85. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  31. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980–1989. Cherry Red Books. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  32. ^ "Color". Archived from the original on August 14, 2017. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  33. ^ "British album certifications – Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables". British Phonographic Industry.
  34. ^ "American album certifications – Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved December 18, 2023.