Jello Biafra is angry. Not exactly news, I realize, but at least there's a new occasion for his anger– the April 8 “Fab Mab Reunion” concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco, which is being promoted as a revival of the great days of punk rock in SF, featuring the Dead Kennedys. Only it's not exactly the Dead Kennedys, it's the Jello-free zombie version of the original band that broke up in 1986. And Jello himself isn't shy about sharing his opinion about what this means:
Enough people are confused [that] we need to set the record straight. No, it is not a Dead Kennedys reunion. Yes, I am boycotting the whole scam. These are the same greed-mongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting 'Holiday in Cambodia' sold into a Levi's commercial. They now pimp Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach Boys. They despise everything our band ever stood for.
I understand the anger about and the profit-making potential of zombie bands– hell, The Glenn Miller Orchestra is still touring, despite the fact that Glenn Chattanooga Choo Choo'ed into the great beyond in 1944— but the Holiday in Cambodia/Levi's thing has always puzzled me. Not about why Jello refused (against sweatshop labor) or why the other Kennedys wanted to sell the song (against being poor). What I've never understood is why Levi's wanted it. Exactly what part of the song was Levi's going to use?
You're a star-belly sneech
You suck like a leach
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch
So you can get rich
But your boss gets richer off you
It's time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear…
Brace yourself, my dear…
Or perhaps the catchy…
Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot,
Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot…
… because nothing says Buy These Jeans like reminding people about genocide.
Of course, maybe Levi's really wanted to use the song as a motivational tool in it's third world factories…
Well you'll work harder
With a GUN in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers
Till you starve
Then your head is skewered on a stake
That would get the sewing machines humming. And that makes sense, at least a lot more sense than trying to use Holiday in Cambodia to sell jeans. It certainly make a lot more sense than paying $25 to see a Jello-less Dead Kennedys.