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:

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

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

  1. I was at the 1980 one. I think the Leadmill had only just opened, and the area just to the south was undeveloped, just rubble.

  2. I saw the Dead Kenedy’s headline at the Leadmill in 1982 not too long before I left school in May. It was a school night as well and first on were The Mau Mau’s followed by MDC. For pure power and attitude all three bands delivered and it remains the most memorable concert I went to during my punk era. I purchased (and still own) MDC’s debut album that same night before I went home.

  3. I was there both times The Dead Kennedys played Sheffield Leadmill in 1980 and 1982.
    Was very young and underage to attend the first gig but my older brother knew the promoter, Marcus, so I tagged along and got to see the show.

    The DK’s were excellent.

    I especially remember how good the second gig was in 82 with Millions Of Dead Cops as one of the support groups that night.

  4. I was there both times the Dead Kennedys played Sheffield Leadmill in 1980 and 1982…was very young and underage to attend the first gig but my older brother knew the promoter, Marcus ,so I tagged along and got to see the show fortunately.

    The band were excellent both times ,remember especially how good the second gig was with Millions Of Dead Cops as one of the support groups.

  5. I saw the Dead Kennedys at the Leadmill but I’m sure it was later than 1980.
    One of the support bands was another American band, called Millions of dead cops. Which was shortened to MDC, also sure a local band the Mau Maus were on the bill.

    1. I went to the gig at the leadmill it was in 1982 I remember of talking to jello in the audience while millions of dead cops were on stage it was a fantastic night 😁

  6. Marcus Featherby promoted the Leadmill gig, I remember him coming on stage and announcing how proud he was to have bought them to Sheffield. Could have been a slot in on the tour?

  7. Something strange about DEAD KENNEDYS and “lost gigs”. In Australia people say they saw them play a gig in Frankston, Melbourne in 1982. There are no official references to the show on gigographies, etc. Apparently there weren’t many people at the gig but people were adamant they did play. Another one of “Punk’s urban legends”?

    1. According to my brother in law the dead Kennedy’s played the pink pelican in Frankston in 1982 .

  8. 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.

  9. 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

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

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