Holiday in Cambodia
||This article possibly contains original research. (October 2013)|
|"Holiday in Cambodia"|
|Single by Dead Kennedys|
|from the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables|
|Genre||Hardcore punk, gothic rock, post-punk|
|Length||4:38 (album version)
3:43 (single version)
|Label||Cherry Red / Alternative Tentacles|
|Writer(s)||Jello Biafra/John Greenway|
|Dead Kennedys singles chronology|
"Holiday in Cambodia" was the second single by the American punk band Dead Kennedys. The record was released in May 1980 on Alternative Tentacles with "Police Truck" as the b-side. The title track was re-recorded for the band's first album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980), and the version that appeared on this single, as well as the single's b-side, are available on the rarities album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (1987). The cover picture of the single is taken from the 6 October 1976 Massacre in Thailand, and depicts a member of the right-wing crowd beating the corpse of a student protester with a metal chair.
This song is socially conscious in that it criticizes white privilege and capitalism and the American Dream. The song begins with a critique on class privilege and how those who have money, and therefore more resources, have never really known true struggle by relating it to the wars going on in east Asia during the 1980s, specifically in Vietnam and Cambodia. The song then goes on to critique the appropriation of Black culture. These privileged people are able to enjoy the jazz music produced by Blacks, but will never know what it is like to be Black in America. They simple enjoy the benefits of Black culture while avoiding the struggle and discrimination that Black people go through. There is also commentary on capitalism and the contradiction of the American Dream. In the lyrics, "Kiss ass while you bitch/ So you can get rich/ But your boss gets richer off you" refers to the fact that many people are unsatisfied with their jobs, yet continue to suffer in that job at the chance of attaining the American Dream and becoming rich. The sad reality is that the only person that benefits off one's hardwork is those who control you at the administrative level. The song also comments on the similarities between these people working corporate jobs they hate and P.O.W.'s. In a sense, according to the Dead Kennedys, both are stuck to suffer similar fates. Both work hard to hope for a better outcome, only to find that their hard work, in the end, does not get them what they want. That is the tragedy of the American Dream that is often the reality for many.
The song attacks both Eastern totalitarianism and Western complacency. The song's lyrics offer a satirical view of young, self-righteous Americans and contrast such a lifestyle with a brutal depiction of the infamous Pol Pot regime of Cambodia.
The re-recording of this song that appears on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is different from the single version, being fifty-five seconds longer and featuring an extended guitar noise intro as well as an extended solo. While the original performance includes the satirically quoted word "niggers", subsequent performances by the reformed Dead Kennedys, and other artists listed here have substituted the word "brothers" in its place. Biafra, however, has often in the past and currently, replaced the word with "blacks".
In October 1998, Jello Biafra was sued by former members of the Dead Kennedys.1 According to Biafra, the suit was a result of his refusal to allow "Holiday in Cambodia" to be used in a commercial for Levi's Dockers; Biafra opposes Levi's due to what he believes are their unfair business practices and sweatshop labor. However, the other members claimed that their royalties had been defrauded. "The record industry has been skimming royalties owed artists since the beginning," according to Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray. "This case is no different from blues musicians being taken advantage of in the twenties and thirties. Many people doubted the claims we made against our former record label back in 1998 but with this announcement there is no denying we were the victims here." 2
- It is covered by Earth Crisis, Lääz Rockit and Boysetsfire.
- It is parodied by Richard Cheese to resemble Christmas song.
- It is parodied by Clarence "Blowfly" Reid as "R. Kelly in Cambodia" on the 2006 album Blowfly's Punk Rock Party. Biafra makes a cameo as a trial judge and also released the album on his Alternative Tentacles label.
- Instrumental version of it appears on Bay Area pianist DJ Lebowitz's Beware of the Piano.3
- At the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, on September 9, Foo Fighters, along with Serj Tankian (on vocals) covered the song in The Palms Casino Hotel,in one of the Fantasy Suites. Serj Tankian and the Foo Fighters have played the song while Tankian supported the Foo Fighters on their UK tour. Tankian has played it while touring solo. Foo Fighters released it as a b-side to their "Long Road to Ruin" single.
- A cover of the longer album version appeared in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, with "niggers" changed to "brothers" in this case.
- Released in October 12, 2010, the Covers of the Damned EP by Atreyu and their fellow tour-mates (Blessthefall, Chiodos, Endless Hallway and Architects) contained a cover of this song as its second track.
- Punk rock band Office of Future Plans and Damon Locks of The Eternals performed a version of the song in December 2011 for The A.V. Club's Holiday Undercover series.4
- It is featured in Class, Neighbors, Punk's Not Dead, Spider and Rose, Boy Meets Girl, and in the end credits of Double Take.
- It is featured in an episode of Druckfrisch.
- It is referenced on disc Tercer asalto of the Spanish group Def Con Dos.
- Master track is downloadable content for the video game Rock Band.
- Altered cover version of its album version is featured in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
- V. Vale, Ex-Dead Kennedys vs Jello Biafra, RE/Search Publications.
- "Record Label Drops Legal Action Against Dead Kennedys". Dead Kennedys News. 2004-07-14.
- Einhart, Nancy (2002-04-03). "The Keys to Success". SF Weekly.
- "Office Of Future Plans and Damon Locks cover "Holiday In Cambodia"". Retrieved 13 April 2013.