Last weekend, as the remnants of "tropical depression" Ernesto pelted Long Island with rain and blew enough mangled branchs, leaves and other detritus into my Mom's pool to make it resemble a miniature Loch Ness, I found myself cooped up inside the house with my restless children. As my wife sparred with Oliver over the bottle (see this post for those grizzly details), I repaired to the make-shift playroom in my mother's basement with Charlotte. As my two year old sifted through baskets of old toys that used to belong to my nephews (and my sister and myself before them), I started going through some of the crates I'd unsolicitedly stored there when I moved apartments back in the mid-90's. Without a working turntable at my immediate disposal, I'd packed away all my vinyl into flight cases in the hopes of exhuming them one day when I'd finally procured the suitable stereo equipment (let alone a big enough home) with which to re-visit them. That day hasn't happened yet, but I couldn't resist cracking those cases open to examine my old records.
I'd gone onto to acquire compact disc versions of most of the crucial ones in the ensuing years, but there are still several LPs in there that never made the transition or went out of print before I could get them. One such album that has criminally never seen release as a proper compact disc is Let Them Eat Jellybeans. A compilation of Hardcore Punk and underground noise put out by Jello Biafra's storied independent label, Alternative Tentacles, Let Them Eat Jellybeans was an ear-&-mind opening record. Released in 1981, the album featured a clutch of tracks from (most of ) the preeminent bands of the hardcore scene -- D.O.A., Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Flipper and the Circle Jerks. As a primer to hardcore, it was simply essential, but It also boasted some lesser known acts as Geza X & the Mommymen, the Offs, Half Japanese, Voice Farm, the excellentely named Christian Lunch and the entirely offensive Feederz (whose "Jesus Entering from the Rear" has grown only more ridiculously rude with age). There were a couple of clunkers (I always skipped over "Prostitution" by Really Red), but overall, it was a hugely exciting collection.
I'd only started really getting into Punk Rock a year or so earlier, via bands like the Ramones, Devo, the 'Pistols, Generation X, 999, the Clash, the Vibrators, the Jim Carroll Band and…er...Adam & the Ants. But this stuff was entirely different. First played at me by my friend Brad (a reformed Beatles fan and tobacco-chewin' jock turned unrepentant Punk), the music on Let Them Eat Jellybeans practically leapt off the turntable and grabbed me by the larynx. Harder, faster and decidedlly angrier than their predecessors, these bands didn't play this music because they wanted to entertain you, they played it because they HAD TO GET IT OUT. This was music that sounded -- and largely still sounds -- legitimately dangerous. They might've cribbed a few notes from their Punk forebearers, but this music was bracingly original. It sounded like nothing else in my record collection and certainly unlike anything you'd ever hear on the radio. It even made records by the Sex Pistols and the Clash sound ploddingly conventional. For me, Hardcore started right here. In turn, this record led me to Group Sex by the Circle Jerks, Damaged by Black Flag, the eponymous ROIR cassette by the Bad Brains and the first few records by the almighty Dead Kennnedys (and summarily onto bands like Minor Threat, Fear, the Germs, 7 Seconds, Kraut, Naked Raygun, the Vandals, T.S.O.L, etc. etc. etc.).
In other words, Let Them Eat Jellybeans was, is and ever shall be a favorite of mine. Even now that Punk has been de-fanged, subsumed by the very institution it once sought to destroy and re-packaged as just another fashion statement for rinky-dink bands like Fall Out Boy and A.F.I., Let Them Eat Jellybeans still sounds like positively vital music, which is why it's such a heinous crime that it's so hard to find. I did a bit of snooping around and found the following explanation on the Alternative Tentacles site's F.A.Q. page....
Q. How come you idiots don't re-issue the best punk rock compilation of all time LET THEM EAT JELLYBEANS which you originally released in the early 80's?
A. Because Black Flag will not give us permission to include their track. Also, there has been a falling-out between Jello and one of the other bands on the compilation. Due to those 2 omissions, Jello has decided that it wouldn't really be a true "re-issue" and hence has decided not to re-issue it.
There you have it. Failing the entirely unlikely reconcilliation of those matters, might I heartily suggest tracking down each and every one of these tracks (yes, even "Jesus Entering From the Rear") via whatever means available to you. THIS is Punk Rock!