30 Years of the Offspring’s ‘Smash’

The Offspring‘s “Come Out and Play” (you know, the “gotta keep em separated” song) was all over MTV in 1994 — with a video that cost all of $5,000. The Nineties were full of unlikely breakthrough acts, but the Offspring were one of the few bands of the era who made it to the mainstream without even leaving their indie label, Epitaph. 

In the new episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, Offspring frontman Dexter Holland looks back on his band’s hit-packed 1994 album Smash, which turns 30 this year. Go here for the podcast provider of your choice, listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or just press play below. Some highlights from the interview follow.

Holland wrote most of the songs on Smash in a 1979 Toyota Pickup. Holland was commuting every day at the time to his biochemistry Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California, which he put on pause after the band’s success —  and ended up finishing years later. “I had a really old, really shitty car and the radio didn’t even work,” says Holland. “And so I had an hour to kill twice a day. And I was just thinking about the songs, rolling them over in my head. You would just make up parts in your head and hum them into the tape recorder and figure out how to play it on the guitar later.”

Holland was convinced that the songwriting in most punk rock simply wasn’t good enough. “We loved the energy and the rebelliousness of it and the attitude and all that,” he says. “But I didn’t feel like there were a lot of great songs. Like, there wasn’t a lot of catchy stuff. And of course there are exceptions, classic albums like the Sex Pistols and the Clash and stuff. But I really wanted to try to write good songs.”

The spoken word “keep ’em separated” bit on “Come Out and Play” was recorded by a fan of the band. “It’s a friend of ours named Jason McLean,” says Holland. “Jason used to come to the shows, snd he was just this obnoxious fan who wanted us to play one of our old songs called ‘Blackball.’ But it wasn’t in my head to use him for the part at first. What I wanted to do is to use a voiceover guy … But this guy, Jason, was shouting in my face every weekend at these shows. And I said, ‘Why don’t you come on down? We’ll just have you give it a try.’ He’s never been in a band. He just likes punk music, no experience, no musicality at all. And he came down and he tried it once and it sounded really great. And he did it a second time and that was it. So it was the second take. It was amazing. It’s just one of those things where it just fell together. It’s very cool when that happens in life.” 


Holland still can’t believe that one of his favorite bands, Agent Orange, accused the Offspring of biting the “Come and Play” riff from one of their guitar solos. “It’s very much in that zone of Dick Dale or Ventures guy, all that stuff,” says Holland. “Which is very California, and is probably where Agent Orange got it from.  Because they’re a California band and into the surf thing and stuff. Every band that uses a blues scale is not ripping each other off. And this was like that as well. But I think everything is all fine with them now. I still admire what they contributed to punk rock.”

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