|> JELLO BIAFRA|
|< Relator of V|
It may come as quite a
surprise to find
Jello Biafra's name more than just once on the
Robert Calvert site.
But apart from the one meeting and it's consequences that Jello Biafra wrote about for this site, there are many more connections between the strategies and subjects that can be found in the works of Robert Calvert and Jello Biafra.
rise - that let him become the leading figure of US - Hardcore and Punk
rock - which he still is - began -of course- in the earliest days of the
UK - Punk movement hitting the States. The Damned
(also later collaborators of Robert Calvert) had
toured the States in early '77 - the Sex Pistols
followed at the end of the year - and split up at the end of this tour,
with Jello Biafra being a witness of this....
The influence of these groups on Biafra is obvious - in early 1978 he founded the band that was to become - and remain the spearheading band of US Punkrock: The Dead Kennedys, who played their first gig in July 1978.
But the first strange
coincidence - and another major influence happened several months before.
The importance of these experiences and meetings can't be missed in Jello Biafra's work.
Calvert's and Hawkwind's raw energy has been quoted by various punk bands as a seminal influence - listen to Urban Guerilla [one of the definite proto-punk-songs, both in terms of sound and certainly the lyrics] or Orgone Accumulator. Songs like these could have easily been the hymns of Punk-rock bands - had they been released 5 years later....
crash-course of provocation and 100% outspoken-ess is already apparent
in the name of the band. Consequently, from the minute they started, the
band became a love-to-hate target of the right-wing-self-acclaimed-moral-majority
part of the US. Their gigs were constantly under the sign of aggressive
police presence - which targeted the band and its audiences alike.
Jello Biafra's outspoken and explicit lyrics - whose main concerns have always been all branches of politics and their social consequences - only helped to raise the attention of the conservative / fascist parts of the US society and political system.
Biafra and his
partner of Alternative Tentacles were charged
Harmful Matter to Minors" -
the police and jugdes undertook a huge effort sniffing through all of
Biafra's former activities, lyrics etc. and
added a number of other
The District Attorney's
office stated that this trial would be:
BIAFRA: "I've been wearing Lenny Bruce's shoes for over a year, and I don't think they fit very well." he said, referring to the late comedian, who died after his career had been crushed due to several obscenity charges and arrests.
However, the 'casualties'
along this long and wearing affair were high. Not only had Biafra's
leagal fees piled up to a total of more than $55,000.... - under the accumulating
pressure - both in financial and mental terms -
This trial is actually another relation to Calvert - who had to undergo a similar but not THAT severe type of running-the-gauntlet after the release of the single Urban Guerilla in 1972.
Robert Calvert: "It didn't surprise me that it was banned by the BBC at all. In fact I expected it to cause a lot of controversy - it made front pages of the newspapers. I was heavily taken to task - I had to give interviews which were quite embarrasing."
Ever since Jello Biafra's activities have spread into more and more different areas. One of the most important of them are his spoken words performances - which, since a few years, he is also releasing regularly on records.
from his friends he took up the art of ranting on stage about anything
he liked - preferably vehement government bashing conspiracy ridden anecdotes
on everything from drug legalization to Bush and the Iran-Contra scandal
to the old Dead Kennedys days.
And yet again - the work in the field of spoken words performances is another strong connection between Calvert's and Biafra's work. Another interesting coincidence is, that they both started to dive into it, after a major break in their career. Biafra after his trial and the end of the DK, Calvert after his final departure from Hawkwind.
For Calvert, however, it was more like going back to his roots when he was performing with the street theatre group Street DaDa Nihilismus. But after the split from Hawkwind, he took the spoken word / performance concept much further. These works were highlighted in the early 80's with his Krankschaft Cabaret show and The Kid from Silicon Gulch - Calvert's "Electronic Musical for the Cybernetic Age".
With the Krankschaft
set-up a highly entertaining and many-sided performance collage, featuring
a selection of songs, poems and sketches - all held together by his virtuoso
stand-up comedian / conferencier act. His ability to bring all these different
elements together in one act, allowed him to touch a wide variety of subjects
to be performed in as much different styles. The shows offered the chance
to display his manifold talents and inspirations: His biting satirical
wit, his sharp political consciousness, his songwriter/performer abilities
and the poetical side of his work.
This latter quality
and the wider variety of Calvert's subjects and performance styles are
the greatest differences to Jello
Biafra's work in this field.
Calvert's and Biafra's meeting point is the HUMOUR. Though Calvert's stage acts featured all different kinds of performance-modes and moods, the dominating tone was a humourous one - according to his nature and the delight he always took in corresponding with his audience in the style of a stand-up comedian.
The political engagement
is another obvious similarity between Calvert and Biafra.
This becomes very apparent with Calvert's solo record FREQ
from 1984. The album deals mainly with the condition of workers in the
machine age - an age where machines and computers are rapidly taking over
all kinds of work- and living spaces.
A remark for which
Biafra would have probably faced another charge...
The last years have
seen collaborative releases of Jello Biafra
with the bands D.O.A. / No Means No and Tumor
Mr. Biafra's distinctive voice hasn't lost an ounce of his force - still cutting like a scourge - and the power of the recent LARD albums is amazing.
But that is STILL not all... - ACTING is taking up a bit of Jello Biafra's time as well. Jello showed up in several cameo-roles - in Tapeheads as an FBI agent, a corporate-junkie power-mad head of the Secret Police (as well as getting the soundtrack rights and doing the actual soundtrack with D.O.A. and NoMeansNo) in the Vancouver-produced Terminal City Ricochet, and more recently as the arch-villain in GWAR's new movie Mr. Skulhed.
Personally, I wish
he'd taken the lead vocals... - but his background vocals alone give this
song another splendid extra-kick.
How to end this text on Mr. Biafra? I guess the best way is to finish with one of my favourite Biafra replies to silly-questions:
Biafra: I hope not.