In February 1994, Brett Gurewitz was on his way home in Studio City, Calif., To his 1984 Volvo station wagon, listening to the final mixes of Smash, The Offspring‘s next third album. With the tape recorder thrown as loud as possible, he circled the block “may be 20 times “to listen to the music “over and over and over and over again â. When he finally slowed the vehicle to a stop, he walked through his front door and greeted his then-wife, Maggie, with the words, “Honey, everything is going to be different now.
Then as now, Brett Gurewitz was the owner of Epitaph Records, the punk rock brand with which The Offspring was signed. The release of Smash in April 8, 1994 has seen the fortunes of the company (and not to mention the group) change dramatically. Previously, the Orange County quartet had moved somewhere in the region of 30,000 copies of Ignition, their impressive second LP. Epitaph’s most successful artist Bad Religion, for whom Brett Gurewitz plays guitar, may have sold 100,000 records, but he still saw Smash’s 50,000 worthy to be honored with an ice cream cake party. You see, Brett saw such a number as being “punk rock gold â. The reason was, he said, “because we could never have a real gold record!
He was wrong. At the end of 1994, Smash had become the ninth best-selling album in the United States, as well as a – um – smash around the world. Powered by ubiquitous debut single, Come Out And Play, the album, starring Green Day’s Dookie, propelled American punk rock onto mainstream America for the first time in its 18-year of history. The difference between the two groups, however, was that unlike Green Day, who had signed to Warner Bros., The Offspring’s success was achieved on a small independent label.
With demand for the album taking off, Brett re-mortgaged his house in order to pay for the pressing of additional copies. In the summer, pallets of the disc were stacked high on the sidewalk outside Epitaph’s headquarters on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, as well as in hastily rented spaces across town. The sales figures were so impressive that Sony Music offered Brett an eight-figure sum for a 49 percent of his company’s capital, an approach that was refused.
With over ten million sales to its name, Smash remains the best-selling indie rock album of all time. Not only that, he’s also one of the eternal great bangers of punk rock. This is the story of the fall …
Dexter Holland (The Offspring, vocals / guitar): “Before Smash, a lot of things happened that seemed arbitrary at the time, but ended up making a big difference. Getting new equipment was one of them. The equipment we had was sub-professional. We weren’t able to make a record that sounded good enough to be considered by the people who ran the radio. It seemed like a good idea to call [Offspring guitarist] Noodles and say: ‘Can we take some of the band’s money and buy an amp to share? ‘ And that’s literally what it was: an amp and a cabinet. And I think Ron [Welty, former drummer] borrowed money for new drums. But it wasn’t like, ‘We have to do it because our future depends on it! ‘ It was a case of, ‘It sounds like a good idea. ‘ In hindsight, this ended up being quite important.
Noodles (The Offspring, guitar): “It wasn’t like we spent a lot of money recording Smash. We couldn’t even afford a hotel room for our producer [Thom Wilson]. He must have been sleeping in an RV the whole time we were making the record!
Jim lindberg (Pennywise, vocals): “I first heard Smash when The Offspring backed us up on tour, just before the album came out. I had a feeling the album was going to be huge. I could tell that something was going on so catchy and perfect for radio.
Noodles: “I never listen to The Offspring songs unless I play with them!
Dexter: “[Prior to Smash] the real measure of where the punk bands were was Bad Religion, which were the kings of Epitaph. And they sold 100,000 records. It seemed to be the limit; it was as far as anyone in the world could go. One hundred thousand was that. So that was about all I thought we could do. “
Brett Gurewitz (epitaph): “I couldn’t believe how good the songs were, or how good they soundedâ¦ We sent Come Out And Play to [LA radio station] KROQ and they literally called my office and said, ‘We put that in power rotation. They called me personally and told me that, and the next thing you know you couldn’t turn the radio on in THE without hearing the song. This was the first time this had happened for a group on Epitaph.
Dexter: “It was very surprising when things started to move so quickly. A few years ago, there was no punk rock in the mainstream at all. And we knew it, and we had chosen our fate. We said it, ‘Well, what are we gonna do? Are we going to move to Sunset Boulevard and become a hair metal band? ‘ Well no, because it’s not usâ¦ and then suddenly we were all over the radio, and on MTV too much.”
Noodles: “Before Smash, we were pretty much a part-time band. Even when we blew up I didn’t even quit my job [as aÂ janitor at the Earl Warren School in Anaheim] plain and simple – I took a three-year leave. I was still working on it when we were blowing up ‘because I had promised my boss that I would not quit until the end of the school year. There was this high school girl that I knew [there] and she saw me in the morning and said to me: ‘Man, what are you doing? I just saw you on MTV! ‘â
Dexter: “I remember the USC [University of Southern California] The marching band started playing Come Out And Play. I was shocked! I was on the couch on a saturday watching TV and sort of doze off, and I thought I heard us as the camera was going commercial. And I thought, ‘Wait!’ I never had a serious connection with the school band when I was at USC, so I sent them a letter and told them, ‘Hey I’m very flattered maybe we can be friends. Apparently they thought it was a joke from a rival university! So I had to call them up and go over there and say, ‘No, no, it’s me! I think it’s cool. I do not want anything !’
Noodles: “There were a lot of things then that we weren’t doing. We didn’t have a late night TV watch until Days Go By [in 2012]! On Smash, we turned down Saturday Night Live, simply because we didn’t think we were good enough. Again I think it has something to do with the fact that we were a part time band. ”
Dexter: “I remember having a big talk with Jim [Guerinot], our manager, and he said, ‘You know this is very new to you guys. I’ve seen how the industry can really chew people up. Look at Kurt Cobainâ¦ ‘I felt there was a change where people wanted to back down from any exhibition. And there can be a personal cost to all of this. And he was, like, ‘Why not take it slow and see how things go? ‘ “
Noodles: “We did the Billboard Awards, which were the TV, but it has not been widely seen. The organizers were pissed off that we played Bad Habit rather than one of the hits, but we thought, ‘We are punks. We are not a pop group. Let’s go out and screw things up a bit. ‘â
Dexter: “We actually considered playing Too Drunk To Fuck. [by Dead Kennedys] at the Billboard show. At the end, we played Bad Habit. But we played raw, and in the end I got into the crowd. I remember the looks on the faces of the people up front as I was doing this, and thinking, ‘Wow, these are not the same people who come to see us when we play [punk venue] Gilman Street! “
Noodles: “I’m not a nostalgic person, but I remember enjoying this year , for sure. There was a lot of heady things going on, and there was stress too, but it was such an exciting time. I remember that the groups of our friends were also more noticed. We were touring with Rancid at the time and Madonna wanted to sign them. She even came to one of the showsâ¦ she watched Rancid then left before us!
Brett: “As punks, our allegiance went to independent stores … [and] suddenly these stores were flourishing because they could buy The Offspring’s Smash, and they were selling tons of stuff. It helped independent retail. It helped fanzines and magazines. It raised the sea level throughout the punk community. There are distributors in Europe and Australia who cite this time as the time when their businesses grew and were given the opportunity to establish themselves. So it had a very powerful ripple effect. They are my people, so I’m really proud to have played a part in all of this.
Dexter: “The fact that we did it independently seems even more significant now. This is the part I’m most proud of. The success we had came from our own legs. There wasn’t this huge promotional machine behind it. And promotion doesn’t take anything away from a record’s quality – sometimes you just need a helping hand to get people to hear something worth hearing. But we didn’t have that. We had to go it alone. I loved that time. No matter how good things were afterwards – and there were some good times – there was only one time where we went from next to nothing to all the top. It was an amazing thing to be a part of it.
Posted on April 8, 2021 at 10:59 a.m.