Song Of The Day 8/14/2014: The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy - "California Über Alles"



Quarterly Covers Report: The Dead Kennedys' "California Über Alles" from 1979 is punk's most versatile multi-tasking song, if your particular songwriting stock-in-trade is limited to anthems about Golden State governors. The original was a perverse satire on the perceived hippie fascist state then-and-now Governor Jerry Brown was supposedly inflicting on California. I don't recall this at all. I lived in Sacramento at the time but was way too young to perceive that subplot happening, if it did. I vaguely remember people calling him "Governor Moonbeam," but as far as I know that was the extent of his far-out-ness.* Predictably, Jello Biafra revisited "California Über Alles" throughout his career and adapted it to suit new targets: The Kennedys re-recorded it as "We've Got A Bigger Problem Now" about President Reagan, and Jello teamed with The Melvins for "Kali-Fornia Über Alles 21st Century" about Governor Schwarzenegger.

Before Michael Franti finally cracked the Top 20 with Spearhead and the irrepressible 2010 hit "The Sound Of Sunshine" he fronted the far less chirpy Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy. Their sole, ingenious album Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury from 1992 contained their own reworking of "California Über Alles," this one a referendum on gently prissy Governor Pete Wilson. Statistically, that means the only California governors in the last 47 years who have never been the target of some version of "California Über Alles" are George Deukmejian and Gray Davis. And Davis lost a recall election, so he got off light.

(*Biafra, in an interview with The A.V. Club in 2010: "I realized I was off-base with Jerry Brown when the Reaganoids stormed in in 1980.")

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