The three came up with the idea while working together at Dairy Queen. Spence, who named the band after his favorite expression, took on the role as the lead vocalist, with the Madness-inspired Eric playing keyboard. Spence was known as an energetic frontman, doing backflips and wild screams on the stage.
On December 21, 1987, at the age of 18, Spence committed suicide by shooting himself with a gun in a deserted parking lot located in Anaheim, California. The band found out about his death a few days before they were set to play a show at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood. A two-page suicide note was found. The reason behind his suicide was believed to be anxiety stemming from the pressure he put on himself as the frontman of a band.
After the Roxy show, the remaining members of the band announced their breakup. Several days later they decided to continue playing instead, and some time later Gwen became the new lead singer. The band briefly replaced Spence after his death with a member of their horn section, Alan Meade, but Meade left the band shortly thereafter. During his short time as lead singer, Meade wrote the song "Dear John" about Spence. This recording is very rare, and was featured fifth of five songs on a demo tape the band recorded in 1988 and sold at their performances.
In the booklet for No Doubt's 1992 self-titled release, the dedication page states that the album is dedicated to Spence, and includes a cartoon of him performing his signature flip and scream. The song "Move On" refers to his death with the line "5 reached the side/One step below zen".