Alex Ogg, Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, The Early Years
Oakland: PM Press, 2014; 224pp; ISBN 978-1-60486-489-2
Alex Ogg is a Dead Kennedys fan, and his book covering the first few years of the band's history (up to 1980) is aimed squarely at fellow DKs' fans. I am one such fan, so was delighted to read this enjoyable little book.
And it is a little book, despite filling out 224 pages. Ogg's written content occupies only eighty-nine pages (including ten pages of endnotes). There are eleven pages of blatant filler, with 'celebrities' gushing about how influential the Dead Kennedys were--though the opinions of Elijah Wood and Phil Collins are unlikely to weigh too heavily with most readers. Graphic material and photographs make-up over one-hundred pages of the book's content: with artwork by Winston Smith (including a substantial amount of material from his Fallout magazine, in addition to his Dead Kennedys work); several excerpts from the Dead Kennedys issue of Hard Rock comic by Deena Dasein and Joe Paradise; dozens of photographs by Ruby Ray and Mick McGee; and, for the obsessive record collectors, numerous album sleeves and labels from various international releases of Fresh Fruitfor Rotting Vegetables. The book layout is excellently arranged (curated, even) by Russ Bestley who also contributes a short section discussing Winston Smith's work (pp195-198). This focus on 'graphic anarchy' valuably sets the tone of the aesthetic assault that was at the centre of the DKs' output. It is surprising that Bestley doesn't get a co-authorial credit for his efforts here, because this graphic material makes a huge contribution to the book (though admittedly Smith and Ruby Ray are credited on the cover).
The text itself is an engaging read, helped along by Ogg's journalistic style, which (usually) avoids too much cliched hyperbole. All five Dead Kennedys from the Fresh Fruit era are interviewed, and extensively quoted throughout, which lends the book a certain degree of authority, but also displays the antagonisms and tensions that exist...