IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (34)

I’ve decided to have a bit of a breather from the normal run of things as I’m off on holiday for a wee while (Barbados since you’re asking, Dirk) and have decided that while I’m away, and for a few days beyond so that I can recover from the jetlag, I’m going to resurrect the ‘Cracking Debut Single’ series (albeit the usual Saturday/Sunday features will still be delivered in the usual way…..)

Here’s what you’ve had thus far:-

1. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Perfect Skin
2. PJ Harvey – Dress
3. Six Pistols – Anarchy in the UK
4. The Cure – Killing An Arab
5. The Sundays – Can’t Be Sure
6. Roxy Music – Virginia Plain
7. Orange Juice – Falling and Laughing
8. Teenage Fanclub – Everything Flows
9. Talking Heads – Love → Building on Fire
10. New Order – Ceremony
11. The Specials – Gangsters
12. Fun Boy Three – The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum
13. Magazine – Shot By Both Sides
14. James – JimOne EP
15. Pavement – Slay Tracks 1933-69 EP
16. The Libertines – What A Waster
17. Aztec Camera – Just Like Gold
18. Curve – Blindfold EP
19. The Police – Fall Out
20. The Damned – New Rose
21. The Monkees – Last Train to Clarksville
22. The Skids – Charles EP
23. A Certain Ratio – All Night Party
24. The Strokes – Hard to Explain
25. The Waltones – Downhill
26. Violent Femmes – Gone Daddy Gone
27. The Who – I Can’t Explain
28. Nirvana – Love Buzz
29. Eels – Novocaine For The Soul
30. U2 – U2-3 EP
31. Subway Sect – Nobody’s Scared
32. Buzzcocks – Spiral Scratch EP
33. Suede – The Drowners

I really should feature The Smiths given that Hand In Glove was such an astonishing statement of intent, but this blog firmly remains a Moz-free Zone.

#34 in the series is a song released around the time of my 16th birthday in June 1979, to be later re-recorded for inclusion on the band’s debut album in 1980. It has a very distinct subject matter, being a satirical attack on a real-life politician. It was an incendiary and controversial release as the title clearly alluded to former stanzas within a national anthem that have been withdrawn in modern history due to them being linked with Nazism. It’s a song that was (and is), in its 7” vinyl form, quite rough and unpolished, and with the lead singer not making much of an effort at the time to explain himself, nor make any concessions to those who were incensed and offended by the name of his group it ended up being banned from most radio stations across the globe.

The song dated from 1977 when two members of The Healers co-wrote it for that band, but it was never properly recorded until the singer hooked up with another guitarist to form a new punk/surf band based out of San Francisco. The name they took caused controversy and led to difficulties in them getting bookings without the use of one or more pseudonyms. The singer had to explain that they were as far removed from a far-right, fascistic and hateful band as could be imagined and that their name was not meant as an insult to the memory of one of the great American political dynasties but simply drew attention to the fact that the late 70s were seeing the end of the American Dream.

Despite all this, no American label would touch them which led to the formation of Alternative Tenatacles on which the debut single (and all subsequent material for the next eight years) was released.

mp3 : Dead Kennedys – California Uber Alles
mp3 : Dead Kennedys – The Man With The Dogs

The single was licensed in the UK by the Edinburgh-based Fast Product, selling enough copies, without much radio support, to go Top 5 in the UK indie charts. It proved to be the only release by the band on Fast as the following year saw Cherry Red sign a deal to release a subsequent single and the debut album on which a harder and faster version was issued:-

mp3 : Dead Kennedys – California Uber Alles (album version)

Worth mention here that in 1981, Dead Kennedys recorded an EP entitled In God We Trust, Inc.. The first six songs were around a minute or so in length before the centrepiece was revealed, an updated version of the debut single, now specifically about President Reagan, with a lounge-jazz sound, alternative lyrics and a much slower pace (well for bits of the song, anyway):-

mp3 : Dead Kennedys – We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now

There have been numerous covers/interpretations of California Uber Alles over the years, with many versions updating the lyrics so that they feature more contemporary politicians. Here’s a couple of my favourites, one being a straighforward cover and the other just a bit different:-

mp3 : The Delgados – California Uber Alles
mp3 : The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – California Uber Alles

I promise something a little bit less frantic and controversial tomorrow,

JC

5 thoughts on “IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (34)

  1. Will never ever get tired of this song. (say hello to my son if you bump into him as he flies out there today! I’ve been telling him all his life that this is a cracking single.) Frantic and Controversial is good.

  2. Pah … Barbados! Much too warm there for my liking … I’m not jeleaous at all!! And the ‘In God We Trust’ – version of ‘CÜA’ is an all-time favourite of mine!

  3. The DK’s were so extreme they could have been a novelty act if their music wasn’t excellent. My teenage self loved the irreverence. Little did I know I’d move to California 10 years later.

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