Three Anti-Reagan Punk Bands From San Francisco
The 1980s are well known for the rise in political hardcore punk. Reagan was president, the nuclear war was looming and the kids were disenfranchised and mad. No American punk scene was as political as the San Francisco Bay Area at this time. Bands and punks from around the country moved to San Francisco to join into this political punk movement.
Reagan was an all-American hero. He represented a throwback to the 1950s, when everyone pretend that America was perfect and good. He ignored the AIDS crisis, fueled drugs into urban cities, illegally armed right-wing terrorists, and ensured the rich got richer. He was a bastard and the punks knew it. So they wrote angry songs about it and held protests and did what they could to make change.
Three of the most influential Bay Area Punk bands of that time were staunchly anti-Reagan.
The Dead Kennedys are one of the most iconic 1980s Bay Area punk bands. They were explicit in their leftist politics. Most of their songs have lyrics dealing with war, capitalism, society, imperialism, etc. Over time, the shocking nature of their very name has dulled, but in the 1980s, calling a band "Dead Kennedys" was enough to piss off most Americans.
DK quickly became the most well known Bay Area punk band. During their peak, they were more popular than other California bands such as Black Flag and Circle Jerks.
They put out one of the first punk rock compilation albums, and mocked Reagan in the title. Jellybeans were Reagan's favorite candy. The compilation was named "Let Them Eat Jellybeans". The album cover featured the creepy smiling face of Reagan.
If there was a single band that united the punks against Reagan more than any other it was The Dead Kennedys. During the 80s they put out numerous anti-Reagan songs, including "Moral Majority", "We've Got a Bigger Problem Now", "Bleed for Me", and "Dear Abby".
Though they formed in Texas, MDC moved to San Francisco in the 1980s. Their name stood for "Millions of Dead Cops", but they went by MDC as venues refused to book a band with such an offensive name.
MDC brought a much larger political view to the punk scene. While some bands focused on generic anti-Reagan songs, MDC criticized all of capitalist society. Some bands keep their lyrics purposefully vague to allow the listener to form their own interpretation. MDC did the opposite. They explicitly explained what they were singing about about why it was fucked. Take their most famous song "John Wayne Was A Nazi". There's no chance of anyone misinterpreting that song.
Not only were they anti-government, they were explicitly vegetarian, anti-corporate and anti-capitalist. They went well past liberal politics and were full on radicals.
MDC went on to cross the country as part of the "Rock Against Reagan" tour. Their 1987 album "This Blood's for You" is a criticism of all that is Reagan America.
Crucifix were one of the original San Francisco peace punk bands. Peace punk was a kind of reaction against the violent hardcore scene that was prevalent at the time. Peace punks were not interested in going to shows to violently slam dance and beat each other up. They were a pacifist crowd that wanted to be able to enjoy the music without getting hurt or hurting others. They were proponents of vegetarianism, pacifism and anarchism.
Crucifix were another band on the "Rock Against Reagan" tour. They were influenced by British bands like Crass, and had a different aesthetic than many of the hardcore bands at the time. Though the band broke up well before Reagan left office, their songs influenced the Bay Area political punk scene and well beyond. They inspired many anarchy-punk bands to form and oppose Reagan's rule. Dehumanization is their most well known record.
There were of course numerous other anti-Reagan punk bands in the Bay Area during his eight year reign as president. These three are probably the most influential and explicitly political bands of the time.