“The Dead Kennedys!?” Dad opened the brown paper bag and pulled out the album I’d just purchased. “Why would anyone want to name a band The Dead Kennedys?”
It was autumn1983, and I was a senior in high school. Since I’d gotten my driving license the year before I’d been seeking out record shops, and had finally hit upon a really cool one in Dayton called Renaissance Music Media. I’d just picked up Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables from them earlier that day.
“Oh Dad, it’s just a name,” I rolled my eyes and tried to convince him, “they’re really good!”
“I don’t see how a band named The Dead Kennedys could be any good.”
He turned the album over and began reading the song titles aloud. “Let’s Lynch the Landlord? Stealing People’s Mail?” He looked at me. “Holiday in Cambodia? What kind of stuff is this anyway?”
“They’re just a band,” I lied, not really wanting to delve into the issue of political punk rock with my father.
“They have a song here called Kill the Poor! That’s just not right.” Dad shook his head.
Then he surprised me. He handed the album back to me. “If this is what you want to spend your money on…” he trailed off and shrugged, then continued, “you’re old enough to make up your own mind about this stuff. I trust your judgment.”
Relieved, I grabbed the album and dashed upstairs to my bedroom. I unwrapped the jacket and slid the blue vinyl out. Etched into the runoff groove were the words “WHO ARE THE BRAIN POLICE?”
I realized right then that my Dad was the coolest person on the planet. He could have taken the album away from me. He could have forbidden me to listen to it, to own it. He didn’t. Even though he was pretty sure he didn’t approve of The Dead Kennedys or their message, he let me make up my own mind.
He was not the Brain Police.