In May 1980, the Dead Kennedys released 'Police Truck'. A bruising attack on police brutality, it concerned an incident in the late 1970s in which two police officers based in Los Angeles drank on the job, ironically then beat up drunks, and raped prostitutes. Told from the perspective of the officers themselves, the lyrics are harsh, stark, and frankly horrifying.
The song may not mention attacks based on race, but the general theme of police brutality remains relevant to this day. In the current climate, with George Floyd becoming the latest in a terrifyingly long line of black people to be unnecessarily killed, the subject of police brutality is a hot topic and this song, unfortunately, is proof that this is not just a recent phenomenon.
'Police Truck' includes lines such as "It's the round-up time where the good whores meet/We're gonna drag one screaming off the street" and "Let's beat you blue 'til you shit in your pants". Replace the "whores" with the N-word and there would be absolutely no lies told. It's a scary world we live in when, forty years down the line, a song about those who are supposed to uphold the law being horrfic people is still relevant.
Dead Kennedys were always a politically-charged band, and their songs have had a tendency to remain relevant. 'California Uber Alles', for example, was also a satirical attack, this time on then Govenor of California Jerry Brown. Brown later reclaimed that position in 2011 and held it all the way until 2019, giving the song a new lease of life.
What is this indicative of? Are the Dead Kennedys just that good at choosing topics, or does the USA never change? Will Smith has said that "racism isn't getting worse, it's getting filmed", basically saying that nothing is new and nothing has changed. It seems shocking when you think about it; how have these attitudes not changed? But when you consider the USA, what with slavery, the confederacy and how the country even came to be, racism is institutionalized there. It's going to take a Hell of a lot more work to fix it.
The brash lyrics of 'Police Truck' hold as much clout now as they did upon release in 1980. They're bold, to the point and, though it doesn't address the racism of the police in the USA, it is still hauntingly familiar to black people. When a song about police brutality is still relevant forty years after it was released, there are real, real issues within that sector. Let's make sure we do what we can to aid the black community; sign the petitions, use your social media platforms, and show your support strongly. After all, you certainly don't need to be black to care about this. Black lives matter.
While you're here, we'd like to make a request. We currently run this website on the tightest of budgets, and whilst we gladly do it because we love music, we need money like any other business. We have set up a patreon which is linked below. If you read and enjoy our content, please give it a look and consider donating what you can to help keep us running. Thank you.