Blink 182, a pop-punk group native to the San Diego, California, area, found an audience first with the extreme sport crowd and the suburban youth of the United States and Australia, then went on to claim a worldwide, mainstream following with the 1999 album Enema of the State. Guitarist and singer Tom Delonge, bass guitarist Mark Hoppus, and drummer Travis Barker (who replaced Scott Raynor on drums around 1997), all avid skaters and snowboarders, play Southern California punk rock, a form whose roots trace back to 1960s surfer music. The same style influenced such bands as the Descendente, from the Los Angeles punk explosion of the 1980s, and Pennywise, another 1990s Southern California band who played warp-speed punk music to intelligent and positive-thinking lyrics.
However, Blink 182 took a departure from other punk bands, primarily political-minded acts like Rancid or Green Day. And instead of singing about social problems or rebellion, Blink 182 spoke of the everyday life of adolescents and performing lewd acts. "We're one of the few bands that encompass a full lifestyle," Delonge told Michael Mehle of the Denver Rocky Mountain News. "A band like Black Crowes, they write a bunch of songs about nothing, and who really cares? We bring along a whole Southern California lifestyle, about running around naked and having fun. But we take our music seriously, and we have a lot of thoughts about relationships and what not. It takes an educated listenerto know that we're not just singing about (flatulence) and masturbation. At least not all of the time."
Blink 182 started to take shape in 1991 when Hoppus's sister introduced her brother to Delonge, who at the time worked loading and delivering concrete bags but also possessed a knack for writing "faulty songs about zits and girls not liking me," he recalled to Jeffrey Rotter in Spin magazine. The two quickly became friends, and later asked Raynor to play drums with them in a band. By 1993, they officially named Blink 182 and built a reputation that surrounded their naughty stage shows. The group's performances, held in clubs in and around San Diego, often included wet t-shirt and wet-pants contests.
However, the three men also gained attention for their clean-cut, all-American looks and for playing upbeat punk music. After releasing a cassette-only collection of songs on the independent Kung Fu label, they received and accepted a contract offer from Cargo Music. In 1995, Blink 182 released their first full-length album entitled Cheshire Cat on the Grilled Cheese label, a division of Cargo. Map of the Universe, released on Lime/Parloplan, followed later that year, and in 1996 the band signed a joint venture record deal with Cargo Music and MCARecords.
Also that year and again in 1997-99, Blink 182 joined the Vans Warped Tour, a concert series formed in 1995 featuring bands playing a range of music from metal and punk to progressive hip-hop and swing. Considered a catalyst for propelling bands to greater fame, the Warped Tour boasted future well-known outfits such as No Doubt, Sublime, Limp Bizkit, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. In addition to music, other events at the concert events included skateboarding, BMX bike racing contests, and snowboarders. Introducing the extreme sport lifestyle and music to countries abroad as well, the tour regularly traveled to Europe, Asia, and Australia.
During this time, Blink 182 also toured the United States extensively and made two trips to Australia, where the group's live acts became especially popular. The band's popularity soared, though, with the release of 1997's Dude Ranch, which eventually went platinum in both the United States and Australia and earned gold status in Canada. Mostly appealing to listeners under 20, as well as to those who enjoyed skating and snowboarding, the catchy collection of songs included Blink 182'a first Billboard chart single "Dammit (Growing Up)." The adolescent, whining hit examined the typical jitters and worries of suburban, middle-class teenage life.
Beginning in the summer of 1997 and lasting through late December of 1998, the group toured non-stop to support Dude Ranch. Within this time, Blink 182 lost Raynor, who left the band on good terms to pursue other interests; Barker stepped in as his replacement. After touring, the band returned to San Diego to begin work on their next album at Signature Sound studios in January of 1999. Working with a new producer, Jerry Finn, who also produced albums with Green Day, Rancid, and Pennywise, Blink 182 completed the record within two months.
In the spring of 1999, Blink 182 found mainstream success with the release of Enema of the State, which debuted on the Billboard album charts at number nine. Although the band continued to please their adolescent and high school fans with singles like "What's My Age Again?," "Going Away to College," and "All the Small Things," as well as by featuring an adult film star on the album's cover, they also explored a greater musical and lyrical depth with tracks such as "Adam's Song," which examined the suicidal state of the world. However, keeping true to Blink 182 form, the music video for 'What's My Age Again?" followed the band running naked through the streets of San Diego, while the band chose to spoof the Backstreet Boys in making the video for "All the Small Things." That summer, the band completed a headlining North American Tour, made a cameo appearance in the film American Pie, and joined the Warped Tourfor show in North America and Europe. In addition, Hoppus and Delonge were asked to record Jan and Dean's (a 1960s surfer pop group) "Dead Man'sCurve"for the CBS miniseries The History of Rock 'n' Roll.
Despite the record's popular success, their offers for media tie-ins, and the band's attempts to add more thoughtful lyrics to some of their songs, Blink 182 would not escape without facing some criticism, most of which centered upon the group's stage show antics. As Rotter explained, "Blink's leering, puerile patter would've been pretty common fare at a Motley Crüe show... but punks aren't to say 'Show us your tits!' and get such a warm response." Even though Delonge insisted that his group was simply "keeping it real" and acting "just like those kids out there," the more righteous punk bands and outspoken female punkers refused to see Delonge's logic. Both believe the sexism displayed by Blink 182 and other such groups, especially those who played on the Warped Tour of 1999, give punk music a bad name. Jessica Hopper, a publicity representative for several punk acts and editor of Hit It or Quit It, expressed her concern for the damage done to the punk scene in general. "Every time Blink is called a punk band, or even a pop-punk band," she said to Rotter, "we all get associated with thate all get painted with that big, gross brush."
Moreover, Tristin Laughter of Lookout! Records, former home of Green Day, wrote in a 1999 Punk Planet (an influential music magazine) article, as quoted by Rotter "The treatment of women that [a female fan] is seeing reinforces her own sense that she exists to amuse and be exploited... boys who go see the punk bands on the Warped Tour may be inspired to start their own punk bands. Girls may be inspired to think they could actually be pretty enough to be cheered on when they remove their shirts." Likewise, Billy Spunke of the punk band the Blue Meanies told Rotter, "I think they [Blink 182] are just trying to get in the mindset of a teenager, which means a lot of curiosity about sex. But there are issues of responsibility that go with that."
Nonetheless, Blink 182 seemed unscathed by their critics as the band continued to gain even more fans. Besides music, the trio enjoys skateboarding and snowboarding when they find time, as well as creating and launching a new website. The site, which sells skate products over the internet, eventually grew into an enterprise involving 40 different merchandising companies.
Cheshire Cat, Grilled Cheese/Cargo, 1995.
Dude Ranch, Cargo/MCA, 1997.
Enema of the State, MCA, 1999.
Graff, Gary and Daniel Durchholz, editors, musicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1999.
Business Wire, October 19, 1997.
Denver Rocky Mountain News, July 9, 1999, p. 15D.
Newsday, July 15, 1999, p. C01.
Rolling Stone, July 8-22, 1999, pp. 149-150; September 16, 1999, p. 46.
Spin, November 1999, pp. 116-118.
Washington Post, July 21, 1999, p. C05.
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