California rockers Blink-182 are one of the most iconic bands of the last 30 years. The trio’s lineup currently consists of vocalist/bassist Mark Hoppus, vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba and drummer Travis Barker, and they continue to pack out stadia across the world.
However, you cannot question that they seem to be lacking the power that they once had when original guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge was still in the band before he went on a US government-funded hunt for aliens.
Undoubtedly, the lineup that featured DeLonge was their most potent, and between he, Hoppus and Barker, they created some of the most iconic modern rock tracks, taking their cues from a range of alternative heroes such as Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Descendents, The Cure, Dinosaur Jr, and Depeche Mode.
This wide variety of influences instilled the band with a density that many of their pop-punk peers could only dream of, and it was this that allowed the band to flirt with styles outside of their immediate realm, allowing them to retain an authenticity that remains so influential to this day, 17 years after the original lineup first decided to call it a day amidst a rapidly changing musical landscape.
The story of how the band formed is a famous one. DeLonge, who was something of a troublesome teenager, but no more than usual, was expelled from Poway High for being drunk at a basketball game and was forced to attend another local school for one semester, Rancho Bernado High School. Whilst there, he performed at a Battle of the Bands, and it was there that he first met Scott Raynor, who would become the original drummer of Blink-182.
Around this time, he also befriended Kerry Key, who was massively into punk music. Key’s girlfriend at the time was Anne Hoppus, the sister of Mark, and when she introduced the pair, the two hit it off and quickly began writing songs.
The band was formed in the summer of 1992, and in 1994, they released their debut alum, Buddha. They went from strength to strength across the ’90s, but personal tensions between the trio arose after the success of their sophomore album, Dude Ranch in 1997, causing Raynor to be fired by Hoppus and DeLonge in mid-1998. Travis Barker of The Aquabats joined not long after, learning the 20-song setlist in just 45 minutes before the first show, and the rest was history.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2013 about the foundation of the band, DeLonge remembered those heady times fondly: “We had a lot of fuckin’ fun. We were out all night skateboarding. We were out throwing food and drinks at security guards who were chasing us through malls, skateboarding at four in the morning, eating doughnuts at places making hot doughnuts near the beach, breaking into schools and finding skate spots in dark schools or slaloming down parking garages naked and shit in downtown San Diego.”
This fun bled into the majority of the band’s music, and notably, one of their early classics, ‘Dammit’, the second single from Dude Ranch, is coloured by the energy of the early days of the band.
Interestingly though, the lyrics are somewhat bleak, in opposition to the upbeat music. Written by Hoppus, they are concerned with maturity and his thoughts about growing older, and in the song, he discusses a fictional breakup and the difficulty of seeing a former partner with another person.
The song marked a turning point for the band, as they started to mesh the energy of their early work with mature themes. Here, they laid the foundation for their next masterpieces, Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.
It may come as a surprise to you to hear that the song was actually written very quickly, as, at the time, the band were hitting their creative stride, and their material seemed to come with ease. In an interview, Tom DeLonge explained how the track came to fruition: “Mark had this song, and he just had this thing that was the most basic chord progression that we’ve used a thousand times (plays progression), and he came in, and he goes, ‘What if I did a riff over it?’ (plays ‘Dammit’ riff’)”.
That was that. With the addition of Travis Barker, Blink-182 would build on the foundations they laid with ‘Dammit’ producing punk staples such as ‘Mutt’, ‘What’s My Age Again?’ and ‘Adam’s Song’, and thus rising into the stratosphere.
Watch DeLonge explain ‘Dammit’ below.