Dead Kennedys – Did They or Didn’t They?

I went to Sheffield Polytechnic to study a trendy new subject that also included a lot of work on how memory works. I wish I had my notes now, because I’ve been driven mad by a memory I was sure of, but that the Internet seems to deny.

I chose Sheffield for the bands. That’s why I went there. One of my anecdotes is to list the bands I saw in my first few weeks as a student. And it includes my first proper punk gigs – Siouxsie and the Banshees (confirmed. It DID happen) and the Dead Kennedys at The Leadmill. But there seems no trace of that DK gig in 1980. My recall of the queuing, the sweaty leather, the macho rucking and above all else, the gobbing is clear and, when I wrote my blog post on gobbing, that was the gig which inspired it.

dead kennedys

So, did the Dead Kennedys play the Sheffield Leadmill in 1980, or didn’t they?

The Leadmill history website makes a lot of its reopening later, in 1982, when the Dead Kennedys played. So am I wrong? Is my memory 2 years out? Mystified, I checked the Dead Kennedys own history. Here’s the gig list for 1980 on their official site:

1980
02-09 – Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, CA 
03-08 – Whisky A Go Go, Hollywood, CA 
03-22 – Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, CA
03-25 – Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA
04-05 – Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, CA 
04-25 – Barrington Hall, CA
06-03 – Fleetwood, Redondo Beach, CA
06-14 – Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, CA 
06-21 – Dew Drop Inn 
06-26 – Whisky A Go Go, Hollywood, CA 
06-28 – Whisky A Go Go, Hollywood, CA
07-03 – Fleetwood, Redondo Beach, CA
07-12 – California Hall, CA 
08-15 – Santa Monica Civic Center, CA 
08-19 – Whisky A Go Go, Hollywood, CA
09-29 – Brady’s, Liverpool, England 
09-30 – Nottingham, England 
10-08 – Music Machine, London, England 
10-11 – Cromer, Norfolk, West Runton, England 
10-15 – Rheinterasse, Bonn, Germany 
10-16 – SO36, Berlin, Germany 
10-17 – Rothenburg, Germany 
10-20 – Les Baines Douches, Paris, France
10-21 – Les Baines Douches, Paris, France 
12-12 – Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, CA

No Sheffield gig listed there. I must have been wrong. But they were in England between 29th September and 11th October, with only four official gigs. Maybe they did play, as a last minute or warm-up and it’s just been left off the archives?

dead kennedys ticket

Like a furious flea-infested dog that can’t stop scratching, I dug and dug until I found what I needed. Pink Flag fanzine’s website confirmed with a review of the Dead Kennedys at The Leadmill on Friday 3rd October 1980. The writer’s comment:

“The only way really that you could appreciate the feeling of the gig was to be there and it is therefore futile to try and describe that atmosphere in print.”

is partially true, but with the benefit of nearly 38 years’ hindsight, I would just add that the U.S. political climate charged through this performance. Ex movie-star Ronald Reagan had just started to campaign for president and there seemed to be a real threat of a belligerent showman running the country. The DKs were intelligent,  and communicated their analysis brilliantly to the Northern punks. It  was a sweaty hot night, hence the topless on-stage pictures and the band endured the most jets of gob I’ve ever seen in my life. The tricky balance between excitement and threat was maintained and there were some amazing punk girls hanging out in the ladies toilets.9977887985_d7fd5413bc_c

3 thoughts on “Dead Kennedys – Did They or Didn’t They?

  1. The Leadmill gig on 3rd Oct also gets a mention in the book ‘Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables – The Early Years’ by Alex Ogg.
    Page 136 refers to Leadmill gig on 3rd Oct where they had to be billed as the Ded Kennedy’s to appease the local council.
    I wasn’t there but was at the Liverpool one a few days earlier which was equally wild and legendary.
    P.S. the books well worth a read

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    1. yes the Ded bit does ring a bell. I’ll try and get the Ogg book.

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  2. what a night that was, great gig, one of the few punk bands i saw in 1980 as not much was happening on the UK punk scene at the time. We were hanging around inside the Leadmill after the gig as we were figuring out how we would get home to Doncaster. As we stood around talking Jello and the rest of the band came over to us and and started talking, can’t remember much about what we said, made our night, great bunch of guys.

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