November 22, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This post is part of a series that will run throughout this year focusing on songs that address the JFK assassination.
Fear was a key group in the Los Angeles punk rock scene in the 1970s. AllMusic credits Fear, along with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, with shaping the distinctive sound and style of punk rock in L.A. Fear has been around more or less continuously since 1977 (that is to say Lee Ving, frontman and the only continuous member of the band, has returned to Fear from time to time over the years), but they released only one 7″ record with their original line up of Lee Ving (vocals), Derf Scratch (bass, vocals), Burt Good (guitar) and Johnny Backbeat (drums). On the A side was “I Love Livin in the City” and on the B side was “Now Your Dead (Musta Bin Somthin You Said)”. Both songs were written by Lee Ving so it’s hard to say whether the band shared his disdain for apostrophes. The 7″ came out in 1978 but “Now Your Dead” was not issued on CD until it was included on reissues of More Beer (now available on Fear’s own record label).
“Now Your Dead” is something of a punk version of “Abraham, Martin and John” only without a reference to Abraham Lincoln and without the sentimentality. In concise two-line verses, Lee Ving’s lyrics cover the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby each get a verse, as well. The subtitle of the song appears to blame the victims for their fates (“musta bin somthin you said”). As is evident in Penelope Spheeris’s 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, however, Lee Ving was primarily a provocateur and he delivered his lyrics—as well as baited his audience—in a tongue-in-cheek manner (Trouser Press compares his stage presence to insult comic Don Rickles). Still, choosing to write a song about the assassinations of the progressive leaders of an earlier generation suggests a certain amount of reverence, and Lee Ving even expresses some anger about the lack of justice in these cases. Lee Ving credits “the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA” with carrying out JFK’s assassination. The reason a conspiracy of this magnitude hasn’t been exposed is that the public is too willing to believe the “lone nut” explanations for these crimes (“And now fools believe what they read”).
Fear baiting the audience in The Decline of Western Civilization