CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (8)

By: Jessamyn West
August 8, 2020

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite punk songs, c. 1974–1983.

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“KILL THE POOR” | DEAD KENNEDYS | 1980

My relationship to punk music has always been complicated. I was an angry rural teen without a lot of larger context for the issues in society, or my family, that invoked that anger. I only heard the Dead Kennedys at friends’ houses; we had to go into the city to have even a chance of buying these albums for ourselves. “Kill the Poor” was an angry song about rich people hating poor people, and having weapons to do something about it.

The sun beams down on a brand new day, no more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light

I wore my Newbury Comics-purchased In God We Trust Inc. t-shirt to my suburban high school every chance I got.

I left home, moved to a city, ran into Jello Biafra at an Anarchist Book Fair. DK had broken up, coming to terms with the scene that they saw — a lot of white supremacist shitheads making the shows suck for everyone else. Biafra was on his own spoken-word tour, and I was struck at the time by his overwhelming masculinity, which seemed both apropos and out of place in the anarchist scene at the time. The only specific people mentioned in “Kill the Poor” were women.

Behold the sparkly of champagne, the crime rate’s gone, feel free again
Oh life’s a dream with you, Miss Lily White

In the late ’90s it was easier to get pop music from Napster than punk music, but I had better access to record stores. Hearing punk on CD felt wrong.

By the time DK reformed minus Biafra, I was living back in a rural area, dating a bass player in a jam band. His background was more metal than punk; we’d grown up in the same general area, listening to the same general music. Ten years later, he gets some news just after his 50th birthday: one of the Dead Kennedys is actually his biological dad. We dive back into the music, listening now for nostalgia and connection reasons.

A planned meet-up at a local show is cancelled due to COVID. The police are in the streets harming and murdering people of color, journalists. Biden is offered as the liberal solution and we’re supposed to ignore his handsiness, his more-of-the-sameness.

Jobless millions whisked away, at last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

All the old songs take on new meanings when you find they’re sending royalties to your amiable septuagenarian relative. The most popular song of theirs this season? “Kill the Poor.”

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CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): Series introduction by Josh Glenn | Mimi Lipson on Flipper’s “Sex Bomb” | James Parker on The Jam’s “Going Underground” | Dan Fox on The Cramps’ “Human Fly” | Adrienne Crew on Bad Brains’ “I and I Survive” | Devin McKinney on Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never” | Deb Chachra on The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” | Mark Kingwell on The Demics’ “New York City” | Jessamyn West on Dead Kennedys’ “Kill the Poor” | Douglas Wolk on The Homosexuals’ “Soft South Africans” | Josh Glenn on The Freeze’s “This is Boston, Not L.A.” | Stephanie Burt on Sorry’s “Imaginary Friend” | Luc Sante on Public Image Ltd.’s “Public Image” | Miranda Mellis on X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” | Adam McGovern on The Clash’s “Washington Bullets” | Mandy Keifetz on Germs’ “Forming” | Gordon Dahlquist on The Sex Pistols’ “Problems” | Anthony Miller on The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” | Deborah Wassertzug on The Mekons’ “Where Were You?” | Tor Aarestad on Gang of Four’s “Return the Gift” | Marc Weidenbaum on The Pop Rivets’ “Dream of ’63” | David Smay on The Rezillos’ “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures” | Vanessa Berry on The Cure’s “So What” | Chelsey Johnson on The Slits’ “Typical Girls” | Lynn Peril on Crass’s “Smother Love” | Mike Watt on The Dils’ “You’re Not Blank”.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): Animated TV series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

Categories

Enthusiasms, Pop Music, Punk

What do you think?

  1. Gosh this song was so important to me as a teen; it taught me the power of sarcasm just as had Daniel Dafoe and Alexander Pope. Thank you for writing about it so well.

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