That Time a Metal Band With Nazi Armbands Opened for the Dead Kennedys


If you’ve read Steven Blush’s excellent tome, American Hardcore: A Tribal History, you might remember this quote from Jello Biafra in the DEAD KENNEDYS chapter.
In Philadelphia, we had a Metal band with nazi armbands open for us because they were friends with the promoter. A Mafiosi band did the same in Pawtucket, Rhode Island because they provided a free P.A. – and nearly beat everyone up after the show. We didn’t want that to happen again.
I’m assuming the majority of people who read this quote probably thought little of it and just excused it as an unfortunate situation that happens in underground music scenes from time to time. After all, every punk/metal/whatever club has its contingent of malcontents who either hold nefarious beliefs or just get off on shocking people.

And, hopefully, that’s the message Jello had intended to send, because without knowing the entire story which I’m about to tell you, one could get the impression that the underground music scene, and especially the metal scene, was full of, shall we say, less “enlightened” bands who felt no compunction about slapping on swastika armbands to go with their biker leathers, studs, and gauntlets.

I mean, what did YOU picture when you read the quote? I see some MANOWAR or VENOM lookalikes who use swastika armbands as part of their “shtick.” And, is it hard to believe such a thing is possible, considering that SLAYER call their fanclub the Slaytanic Wehrmacht, use what at least looks like an SS bolt in their logo, and have at least four songs dealing in some aspect of the Third Reich (“The Final Command”, “Angel of Death”, “Behind the Crooked Cross”, and “SS-3”, in case you were wondering)? Not to mention a handful of songs which just kinda sound fascist, like “Beauty through Order”, “Death’s Head”, “Hate Worldwide”, and “Supremist” (sic). 

I could easily picture Peter Steele’s pre-TYPE O NEGATIVE band CARNIVORE doing the same thing with their Road Warrior getup, Nietzschean and Social Darwinist philosophy, and songs like “Male Supremacy”, “Race War”, and “Jesus Hitler.”

Hell, Peter Steele and Lemmy even collected Third Reich swag, Lemmy can be seen in 70s photos wearing his swastika necklace, and the cover of the first MOT
ÖRHEAD album has a swastika on it.

Before anyone shouts at me, let me say that I’m a big fan of SLAYER and CARNIVORE, and MOTÖRHEAD is one of my favorite bands. I’m well aware that none of these bands hold any type of Nazi or fascist sympathies, that Tom Araya is of Chilean descent, that Dave Lombardo is from Cuba, that Slayer sing about a variety of historical atrocities (“Jihad”, “Unit 731”), that Peter Steele played in TYPE O NEGATIVE with Jewish keyboardist Josh Silver, and that Lemmy regularly made anti-racist statements and bragged about his two black girlfriends; so clearly none of these bands were trying to push any type of Aryan agenda. I’m just explaining how these things could be interpreted if taken at face value.

But, on top of that and not too surprisingly, the hard rock and metal scene wasn’t exactly a bastion of progressivism in the first place. As recalled in the TWISTED SISTER documentary We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, during their club days, Twisted Sister would hang an effigy of BARRY WHITE as a symbolic attack on disco, and some audience members wouldn’t get the metaphor, assuming it’s just an attack on black people, shouting racial slurs and reveling in what looked like the hanging of a black man. The group dropped this from their act, but it doesn’t change the fact that these kinds of people were at their shows. 

So, given all that, and the fact that metal bands already entertained crowds with Satanism, violence, blood, gore, fire, and sadomasochism, it’s not exactly hard to fathom that, somewhere across the great American landscape in some blue collar burb, there existed a metal band who wore swastika armbands when playing in dinky dive bars in front of their 50 or so hardcore fans.

Being the resourceful (nerdy) fellow that I am, I went on the prowl to discover who this swastika-wearing metal band could be. What was their name? Did they play often? Is there any photographic, or, hell, video evidence of such a band? If this band existed, did other well-known bands have the misfortune of playing with them? Did they put out any music? If they released an album, did their label force them to leave the swastikas out of their pictures? Or, is there some extremely rare LP out there by some swastika wearing metal band that’s now become an expensive collector’s item? Not that I’d ever listen to or buy such a thing, mind you! 

The first person I asked about this was Blush himself. He had no clue. I guess he didn’t feel this was important enough to bother finding out; though when I told him I got the whole story, he said, “impressive!” I couldn’t tell if he really thought it was “impressive” or if he was just humoring me. But, regardless, it clearly wasn’t on his radar.

Then I went looking for any Philadelphia-based metal bands I could find from the early 80s. Could any members of either BRITNY FOX or CINDERELLA have been a part of this infamous swastika-wearing metal band? Hell, could this swastika-wearing metal band have been an earlier incarnation of either of these popular hair metal acts? After all, M
ÖTLEY CRÜE was certainly more shocking and outrageous during their early club days, and STRYPER didn’t start out as a Christian band!

Alas, the answer is a resounding
NO. In fact, the actual story is far, far less controversial than anything thus implied in this here article. So, don’t get your anti-hate boners up; the rest of this story is just a case of an honest misunderstanding.

By googling the list of every DEAD KENNEDYS show, I found out that, in 1981, they played a club in Philadelphia called Omni’s. In every gig listing, it gives the other bands that the DKs played with, either punk bands that were local to whatever city the DKs were playing or bands they were touring with; but in the case of the Omni’s gig, there was no opener listed. Interesting!

I googled the heck out of this Omni’s club, and eventually stumbled upon one of the three dudes who ran it; a guy called Frank Moriarty who also played in a PA based punk band called INFORMED SOURCES. I went to his website at http://frankblankmusic.com/iswelcome.html, dropped him an email, and, bless his kind soul, he told me the whole damn story, which is copied and pasted below with his permission:

OK, so Omni’s was located at 9th and Walnut Streets in downtown Philadelphia. It was run by three people: Lee Paris, Denise Herman, and me. Aside from being a funny and irreverent guy, Lee was a well-known and influential DJ on WXPN, and handled most of the booking. Lee and I alternated as DJs within the club. Over the months the club was open, we had everybody from DOA to Bauhaus play there.

As for the DKs, when we booked that show we knew it was going to be one that a lot of local bands were going to be demanding the opening slot. The sound guy at Omni’s, Kenny, was a really nice guy who played bass in a heavy metal band called Earthling. He didn’t really know anything about punk rock, but rolled with the punches and was fascinated by the scene. He was constantly telling Lee and me that we should let Earthling play at the club. One night Lee, Denise, and I were talking about the DKs show and who would open, when one of us jokingly said, “Hey, why don’t we let Earthling open?” It went from a joke to reality, as Lee thought the dichotomy of having heavy metal and West Coast punk on the same bill would be great. In those days, why not? We were always happy to mix genres. There was just one problem – the guys in Earthling were completely clueless about punk with the exception of the exposure Kenny had gained working the mixer. So their idea of punk was whatever pictures they’d seen of the Sex Pistols and Sid in particular. As a result, their somewhat logical conclusion was punks occasionally wear swastikas to be shocking, so we will, too. I think you can see where this went. Biafra was not amused.
EARTHLING??!! A METAL band called EARTHLING??!! Not to knock on the name or the spacey image on the button in the photo (below) that was sent to me, but that looks like something closer to HAWKWIND than the violent neo-barbarian, crypto-fascist Viking conqueror motif associated with metal; and it certainly doesn’t seem like a band that promotes Nazism!


Ain’t that a hoot, though? The ONE show where they put on the swastikas because they think that’s what punk rockers did, and they get semi-immortalized in print as “a Metal band with nazi armbands.”

But, what really bugs me about the whole thing is just the way in which Jello Biafra talked about the incident, without giving any background or context. I understand the greater point he was making; that the Dead Kennedys wanted to have their own promoters and book their own shows, so such things wouldn’t happen again, but I also get the feeling that Biafra wanted to make the incident seem far more dramatic than it needed to be.

Incidentally, the Dead Kennedys put out one of their most popular songs, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, around this time. I REALLY hope it was not inspired by this incident, because that, my friends, would be downright dishonest.

By the way, after going through all of that, I have NO desire to find out who the Mafiosi band in Pawtucket is! If you want to, though, feel free to let me know!


Edwin Oslan
Revenge of Riff Raff
9th February, 2021

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3 comments:

  1. Good shit. I fuckin love this and these kind of holistorical researches back into deep gritty REAL happenings and experiences into the 80's 70's, before the Jewish early alt rock Sadducees and Pharisees took over the underground and began hen penning the un-pc outsiders and more raw true rebels that embraced song writing from more of a Slayer, SOD,early Screwdriver, Carnivore, ACTUALLY much TRUER OPEN MINDED and broader perspective of lyrical topics concepts and construction. Unafraid to tackle any and all subject matter that these songwriters were passionately interested in, before leftist scene political institutionalizationbecame too militant in politically correct allowability. Before punk bands were forced to become beholden and solidly branded to Jello's leftist bullshit, which we still actually fairly politically INCORRECT in light of it's leftist Californian transplanted from Colorado post but still basically a hippie- bullshit.

    Btw, HAWKWIND used tons fascist symbology. From their early 70's Doremi dark art deco Hawk logo to the use of Moorcock's black sword swinging and non Melnibone slaying tall blonde albino, Arioch summoning mystical motherfucker. NOOOOO, there's no heavy peppering from NAZI mysticism there is there? I'm not saying HW were a NAZI hippie band necessarily. But bomb throwing machine gun toting radical torroristic anti peace n love British bohemian proto punks escaping to outer space certainly had nothing to do with HAWKWIND now did it?
    Lmao.
    Now everyone knows HW were a lefty band for the time, but handing out acid and letting a giant naked hippie chic with death mask(black metal) face paint dance in front of you while you blast people with deadly dark acid metal wouldn't fly in today's lefty underground. Today's lefty underground IS NOT their grandfather's lefty underground, and thank God for that. Because FUCK today's so called lefty underground.

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha, Nazi redneck fuck off. Thank you.

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    2. Indeed, the woke have taken over the underground and made it less fun. Say the wrong thing and, CANCELLED!!! Thanks, Chris. You're not a Nazi redneck and don't fuck off!

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