How Blink-182 Went to the Top of the Charts By Keeping Their Minds in the Gutter

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DeLonge, meanwhile, was driving a diesel truck and lugging around concrete and pipes to construction sites. He remembers, "I hated, hated, hated my job. You know those people who hate their job? That was me." When Green Day went mega, Blink-182 found themselves courted by a bevy of A&R reps searching for other marketable punkers. The minute Blink-182 signed with MCA, DeLonge quit his job. 1997's Dude Ranch was a big step forward: The songs were catchier, funnier, more poignant. On the strength of "Dammit," a rueful, up-tempo breakup song with the chorus "I guess this is growing up," Dude Ranch went platinum.

Raynor left the band; Hoppus doesn't want to talk about it, citing legal concerns. Then he relents: "Yeah, Scott was kicked out of the band." For musical reasons? "Well, it was what was going on outside of that, but it was affecting his performances." They drafted Aquabats drummer Travis Barker. He's the band's most skilled musician, with training in everything from jazz to madrigals. The day before he started high school, his mother died; on her deathbed, she told him, "I just want you to play the drums and be happy." Barker plans to go to music school and laments that the band doesn't really practice. Born November 14th, 1975, Barker is the trio's quietest member. On the Blink-182 tour bus, he doesn't hang out and crack jokes – he just puts on his headphones and listens to CDs.

On last year's album Enema of the State, Blink-182 put it all together for thirty-five action-packed minutes. They've learned to harmonize effectively, and they've honed their hummable songs about adolescent frustrations to a lethally sharp point. Although their song titles include "Aliens Exist" and "Dysentery Gary," Blink-182 object to being characterized as a joke band. "I think we're a pretty serious band with most of our lyrics," Hoppus points out, and in fact he is correct: Two favorite Blink lyrical themes are breakups and loneliness. In particular he cites "Adam's Song," which is essentially a suicide note set to music.

Although Blink-182 don't proselytize, they make a point of thanking God on their albums. "I'm a believer in Jesus Christ," says DeLonge with complete sincerity. "I pray before we go onstage, and I pray at night," adds Hoppus. He doesn't subscribe to any single faith, but he absolutely believes in a higher power – one that he hopes is nonjudgmental about his behavior.

Blink-182 worried about forever being known as "the naked band" after they ran around starkers for the "What's My Age Again?" video (and doffed their clothes during BMX races and concerts). But their "All the Small Things" video – with perfect parodies of clips by 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Ricky Martin – proves they are even funnier with their clothes on. It gets played every day on Total Request Live alongside the videos it satirizes; it doesn't hurt that Hoppus and DeLonge are hunky enough to fulfill some of the show's heartthrob quotient. Some may see this as crassly commercial positioning, but Blink-182 are proud to introduce a new generation to punk's marriage of loud guitars and singalong melodies. "The biggest compliment of all is a kid saying we opened up his eyes to a new style of music," says Hoppus. "We're kind of like Fisher-Price: My First Punk Band."

Hoppus on DeLonge: "Tom is totally, 100 percent faithful to his girlfriend. He's pretty straightforward: He hangs out with his girlfriend, and he believes in aliens. Honestly, he believes anything he reads. You could say, 'I read in a magazine that an alien landed in Australia. A doctor found him and did an autopsy – there's footage on the Internet.' And Tom wouldn't even question it. He would take it as gospel and go around telling everybody."

DeLonge on Hoppus: "I think most people look at Mark and say, 'He's a good-looking guy in a fairly successful band. He's on top of the world.' But he's not. He's an insecure guy – he's real sensitive, you know? He always wanted a girlfriend that he could fall in love with, and he finally found one. He's a rad guy. He confides in you a lot and cherishes other people's opinions. He's my best friend in the world."

A few weeks after their Loveline appearance, Blink-182 play a concert at New York's Roseland Ballroom. DeLonge warns me, "The way I describe our show is, 'What would a fourteen-year-old do if he got a microphone?'" The band marches onstage to Samuel L. Jackson's recitation of Ezekiel 25:17 from Pulp Fiction and plays a rousing version of "Dumpweed," a song about an ambivalent guy imagining the pain and the freedom of breaking up with his girlfriend, set to an unstoppable staccato rhythm. After that, Blink-182 glory in their suspended adolescence. They caution the crowd that circumcisions are best left to professionals. They ogle appreciatively when one female fan flashes her breasts. They spew curses, even playing a short song in which every lyric is a profanity. They ask the audience to hold questions until the end of the show. And almost as an afterthought, they play seventeen more songs. Barker doesn't contribute any tomfoolery, but his drumming is exceptional, the motor that drives the band. DeLonge sings more songs than Hoppus, who specializes in a spastic dance in which his legs go flailing out behind him as he plays bass and the clown simultaneously. Two thousand sweaty teenage fans mosh in a state of punk bliss. On nights like this, Blink-182 play so masterfully at being dumb rock guys, even they may not realize how smart they really are.

After the show, DeLonge is glowing with the satisfaction of a job well done. "I really feel that we're blessed," he says. "I'm so lucky God let us be here. But I don't think he's happy about the words we say onstage."

This story is from the January 20th, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.

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