Dude Ranch (album)
|Studio album by Blink-182|
|Released||June 17, 1997|
|Recorded||December 1996–January 1997 at Big Fish Studios, Encinitas, California|
|Singles from Dude Ranch|
Dude Ranch is the second studio album by American pop punk band Blink-182. Recorded at Big Fish Studios in Encinitas, California with producer Mark Trombino, the album was released in the United States on June 17, 1997, jointly through independent label Cargo Music and major label MCA Records. MCA signed the band in 1996 following moderate sales of their debut Cheshire Cat (1995) and growing popularity of the trio in Australia. Dude Ranch was the band's final recording released on Cargo and their last with original drummer Scott Raynor before he was dismissed from the band in 1998.
The band recorded the album during the winter of 1996–1997. With lyrical material written on the band's nonstop tours over the previous years, as well as completed songs, the band recorded with Trombino in sessions that lasted for five weeks. During the production for Dude Ranch, the members of Blink-182 were plagued with difficulties only made worse by the rushed schedule: bassist Mark Hoppus and guitarist Tom DeLonge, co-vocalists for the band, were having vocal problems and Raynor had to record his drum tracks with both heels broken, on crutches.
Promoted by lead single "Dammit", the record was released in the summer of 1997 and was a success. "Dammit" became a rock radio hit single and helped the band gain mainstream credibility as they toured worldwide on the Vans Warped Tour. The band toured exhaustively behind the album, creating tensions which led to the firing of Raynor in mid-1998. Three more singles were released, with "Josie" gathering MTV play and charting highly in Australia. Dude Ranch eventually grew in sales and was certified platinum in the US by the end of the decade.
After moderate sales of their debut album Cheshire Cat (1995), released on independent record label Cargo Music, Blink-182 enjoyed a small amount of success. Throughout 1994 and 1995, the trio vigorously toured nonstop and grew in popularity, mostly in Australia, where audiences embraced the band's irreverent sense of humor and stage shows. When the trio grew frustrated when fans lamented the inability to purchase Cheshire Cat at their respective local record stores, they began to turn toward other record labels to achieve wider distribution than Cargo. By the end of 1995, problems had become apparent between the trio and the label, who regarded the band as a joke not to be taken seriously.
The San Diego trio did however accumulate a genuine buzz among major labels, and a bidding war for the band began in March 1996. Several labels courted the band, sending A&R reps to shows and inviting the band to stop by the office for lunch meetings. Through the several labels interested, Blink-182 seriously considered Interscope, Epitaph, and MCA Records (the latter of which had just purchased Interscope and was in the process of buying Cargo). The band spent much time during the spring and summer of 1996 contemplating options. The three had no qualms signing to a major label, and were wary of purists attempting to define "punk". The band felt a great affinity for Epitaph, as many of their favorite acts (Pennywise, The Vandals, NOFX) were signed there. The band felt they were nothing but honest regarding their ambitions: "I try and tell kids, 'The Clash, Sex Pistols and the Ramones did it, so how come we can't?" guitarist Tom DeLonge reasoned. "If people are bummed, we don't care. It's normally critics. Older critics."
MCA at the time was riding out a dead spell, and was derisively referred to in the music industry as MCA — Musicians' Cemetery of America. Despite this, MCA's persistence and sincerity won the band over, as well as their promise of complete artistic freedom. The trio signed a joint venture deal with MCA to distribute their sophomore album with Cargo. Drummer Scott Raynor was happy for the band's signing, but was uneasy with signing to a major label — he much preferred Epitaph, and when the band passed over the label, he began to feel only half-invested in the band. Raynor was not, however, difficult about the band's mainstream growth: "I didn't measure success in terms of oppositional credibility. I loved being on the radio and MTV. We were certified products of pop culture, born and bred in suburbia." Thanks to the band's established fan base and merchandising, MCA did not intervene much in the band's activities. Although the label had granted the band artistic freedom in their contract, MCA did step in and warn the band when they planned to feature a spoof of the "Macarena" on Dude Ranch, humorously titled "Hey Wipe Your Anus".
The trio released two 7-inch EP recordings with Cargo during the interim. By the summer of 1996, "Wasting Time" had been released as a single to keep matters moving along nattily. The track was the final single from the Cheshire Cat sessions, and the band would soon return to their native home state to record a follow-up. Before recording of the album began, the band booked time at DML Studios in Escondido, California, where they perfected the songs for Dude Ranch. Most of the lyrics for the album had been written over 1995 and 1996, while touring. "I remember writing most of those songs in my living room, sitting on a curb, whatever," recalled DeLonge in 2001. "Back then, each song was pretty much written with a specific girl or event in mind."
Recording and production
Blink-182 entered Big Fish Studios in Rancho Santa Fe, California in December 1996 to record Dude Ranch. Big Fish was a converted guesthouse which had just survived a wildfire months before. However, the gloomy atmosphere did not faze Blink-182 at all, and what was a tragedy to local individuals became fodder for jokes for the group; bassist Mark Hoppus had just bought a new video camera and he filmed stunts with guitarist Tom DeLonge on the burnt landscape in spare time such as having Mark run around naked as Tom explained to the camera what happened in the fire and that it's "Mating Season". Thanks to improved economics, the band had more time in the studio to record the album they wanted to make. The trio were listening to music such as Jawbreaker, Bad Religion and Lagwagon, setting the backdrop for the recordings under guidance of Mark Trombino, who provided additional piano and keyboards on Dude Ranch. The trio picked Trombino based on his work he had done on Jimmy Eat World's Static Prevails (1996). The group spent much time trying to get Trombino to laugh at their antics, to no avail. Hoppus' sister, Anne Hoppus, described Trombino as very quiet and "very much his own person." In addition to the record, Trombino produced "I Won't Be Home for Christmas", a holiday song recorded during the Dude Ranch sessions.
Despite the creative boom while writing lyrics for the album, all three members of Blink-182 faced setbacks while recording Dude Ranch. DeLonge was having vocal problems and spent much time recording and re-recording vocal tracks, and Hoppus realized he too was having difficulty singing after losing his voice during a one-off Christmas concert. Forced to cancel the final week of recording in December 1996, Hoppus realized the magnitude of the situation and quit smoking in order to take care of his voice, which was stressed due to lack of vocal warm-ups, full days of vocal tracks, and the strain of singing for "Dammit", which was accidentally written just outside Hoppus' vocal range. Meanwhile, Raynor had broken both heels and was in a wheelchair. Raynor was well enough to record the drum tracks for the album while on crutches. Aside from the recording, the band spent time playing Crash Bandicoot and "reading the articles from the shelves and shelves of Playboys that the studio had thoughtfully provided." The group ate lunch nearly each day at Sombrero, a local Mexican restaurant namedropped in "Josie", and Chinese for dinner from Encinitas' Pick Up Stix.
It would be January 1997 until the band would be able to wrap up sessions for Dude Ranch, eventually amounting to five weeks of recording. For the final touches, Unwritten Law frontman Scott Russo donated a few vocal tracks to "Josie", and Trombino let Blink-182 record a couple of jokes between songs using his sound-effects machine. The group contacted Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise to find someone to remix a few tracks from the album, and he suggested Donnell Cameron of Track Recording Studios. The band went in to Track and re-recorded Raynor's drum tracks for several songs. Hoppus recalled "I remember when we finished Dude Ranch I was so proud. That was the first time we could take the time and whatever to make a good record." Representatives from MCA dropped by on occasion and were excited by the material they heard. "When we were in there mixing, the A&R person would come by," remembered Cameron. "I don't think the band really knew what they had but certainly the label knew they had so many good songs on the record." DeLonge remembered it differently: "[Label executives] fucking hated pop-punk. They wanted nothing to do with it. They were into Pavement or whatever." After production completed, the album was mastered by Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood.
Music and packaging
"And while later pop-punk bands such as the Promise Ring will implausibly deny their emo tendencies, the scrupulously unpretentious Blink actually name one of their bitter anthems after the frequently derided genre," wrote Rolling Stone. Emo is characterized by expressive, confessional lyrics, and the trio named the song after DeLonge's favorite band, Jimmy Eat World.
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According to music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Dude Ranch is an album of "juvenile, adrenaline-fueled punk-pop." Billboard magazine's Doug Reece described it as "a collection of machine-gun-quick, energetic punk songs—sometimes with a puerile slant—about such topics as girlfriends, broken hearts, and fights with one's parents." At Alternative Press, it was characterized as a "killer skate-punk record". Greg Simpsons at Punknews.org agreed with the skate punk label, stating that the album "set blueprint for their style of poppy, goofy skate punk that they would later bring to the masses. DeLonge considered the album a step up in terms of songwriting, with "Dammit" proving the breakthrough.
"Pathetic" is a tale of "abject self-pity in the face of collapsed relationship." The distinctive riff of "Dammit" was created when Hoppus was forced to skip over the missing two strings on an acoustic guitar. The song's themes include maturity and the refrain, "Well I guess this is growing up." "Dick Lips" was named after an insult bandied around at Big Fish during recording. It was written about DeLonge's experience when he was kicked out of Poway High School for showing up to a basketball game while intoxicated. "Waggy" was a word Hoppus created while belching, prompting him to name the song with it. "Untitled" is inspired by the emerging ska punk scene, and "Emo" by its namesake, which is partly a tribute to DeLonge's favorite band, Jimmy Eat World.
"Apple Shampoo" was inspired by Elyse Rogers of Dance Hall Crashers, whom Hoppus dated; the title is culled from a particular brand of shampoo she often used. "Josie" makes further reference to Dance Hall Crashers and the band Unwritten Law ("My girlfriend likes UL and DHC"). "A New Hope" takes the standard rock subject matter of a hopeless crush and rewrites it with details of the Star Wars series. The original Star Wars trilogy were popular during Hoppus' childhood into the late 1970s and early 1980s, and a theatrical re-release in the late 1990s reinvigorated interest in the series. "Degenerate" is a re-recording of a track that first appeared on the band's demo cassette Demo #2. "Lemmings" is another re-recorded track, which had previously only been available on a 7-inch. The band felt the song was strong enough that it should not be limited to those owning record players.
The cover art, a collage by Lou Beach, features a bull with the band's name branded on its rear end, while the packaging is decorated by images of the band as cowboys on a "dude ranch". The gatefold packaging features a painting stating "Greetings from the Blink-182 Dude Ranch," which was intended to be a pastiche of both "cheesy postcards" and a parody of Bruce Springsteen's Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.. Art direction for the album was headed by Tim Stedman, with Stedman and graphic designer Ashley Pigford designing the package. The disc art, a revolver chamber, was designed by artist Victor Gastelum, while the band photography was done by Steven Shea. DeLonge recalled in 2012 that the only "bad" aspect of Dude Ranch in retrospect were the jokes found within the inside artwork: "I remember sitting at the Sombrero taco shop going, 'Fuck, we’ve got to finish off our album cover, let’s just write some jokes to these cowboy pictures.' Why did we do that? We should have had better jokes for those pictures."
Dude Ranch was released on June 17, 1997, through Cargo Music. The record, at first, largely passed without notice from audiences outside their established fan base. With fan support and the trio touring nonstop, the album's sales began to improve. The momentum from touring helped Dude Ranch sell 3,000–4,000 units a week, and the record sold 40,000 copies by August. Dude Ranch was promoted by the label through board-sport magazines and tie-ins between surf shops and record retailers. At retail, MCA and Cargo organized midnight sales promotions on the West Coast. The popularity of the trio in Australia has been cited as the sign that alerted major record companies of Dude Ranch's commercial potential; at the time, Dude Ranch had spent five months on the charts and the band became famous for their staged show while on the 1997 Warped Tour. Thanks to increased recognition, the band dropped Cargo and fully signed with MCA in 1998 to handle increased distribution. Hardcore punk purists asserted the band were betraying their indie roots by even considering major label proposals and began to address the band as "sell-outs".
Sales improved considerably when the record's lead single, "Dammit", began making rounds at rock radio. MCA's marketing strategy involved waiting until after the band's Warped Tour performances wrapped in order to have a retail story to back up radio promotion efforts. The label first serviced "Dammit" in August 1997 and several SoCal stations were quick to pick up the single, finding it to be a good match alongside Green Day and The Offspring radio hits. The song was added to the playlist of Los Angeles-based radio station KROQ, after which the song began to be played across the country. Mainstream rock received "Dammit" in November, and MTV picked up the "Dammit" video, bumping it into stress rotation in December. This led to feature stories in magazines such as Billboard and Rolling Stone. Radio-wise, "Dammit" achieved great commercial success, peaking at number 11 on the US charts in 1998. The year-end Billboard Airplay Monitor Report (BDS) stats indicated that "Dammit" earned top spins at many key radio stations. In addition, its success knocked Dude Ranch onto the album Billboard 200 album chart for the first time, where it peaked at number 67 in February 1998.
Dude Ranch, which became the trio's first gold record in January 1998, yielded three more singles, which did not attract the same commercial success as "Dammit". "Apple Shampoo" was the second single release from Dude Ranch, released in October 1997. "Although it didn't have the impact of "Dammit", it hardly mattered as the former was still receiving heavy play on radio and TV stations across the nation", wrote journalist Joe Shooman. "Dick Lips" was released in February 1998 but failed to register on charts. "Josie" became the record's fourth and final single in November 1998. Its music video also received MTV airplay and the single charted at number 31 in Australia. For the single release of both "Dammit" and "Josie", the songs were remixed and remastered by Tom Lord-Alge. The unreleased Dude Ranch cut "I Won't Be Home for Christmas" was released as an international single in 2001, only successful in Canada, but charting for six non-consecutive weeks at number one. Dude Ranch was certified platinum for the first time in 1999.
Dude Ranch was released when the band was only achieving moderate success, therefore very few critical reviews of the record were published in 1997. A CMJ write-up commented, "Dude Ranch has the hooks and sonic wallop to rocket Blink-182 into stadiums throughout the nation." British rock magazine Kerrang! published an early review, albeit negative: the reviewer laments the disc's "little depth, passion, soul and even vaguely memorable hooks." Later reviews were subsequently more positive. Rolling Stone regarded Dude Ranch as the moment the trio focused and refined their pop punk sound, summarizing the record's themes: "bassist Mark Hoppus plays the straight man, singing sturdily and deadpan, while the squeakier-voiced Guitarist Tom DeLonge bleats urgently about romance gone wrong." In 2007, Channing Freeman of Sputnikmusic attributed the album's unique sound to the band's young age at the time, commenting "Ten years ago, blink-182 were just breaking through as a young band whose sound was a bit rough around the edges, not too polished or refined yet. […] On Dude Ranch, blink-182 were kids being kids, and that’s precisely what they should have been doing." The website AbsolutePunk placed the album on their "Absolute Classics" list in February 2009, calling it a "classic mix" that was successful due to timing. In 2011, Total Guitar referred to the record as "a genuine modern punk classic." Alternative Press called Dude Ranch a "quantum leap in sonic quality and songwriting."
Trevor Kelley of Alternative Press credited the album for "reigniting" the pop punk movement while calling it a "huge source of inspiration for a new generation of bands," such as Midtown and New Found Glory. Panic! at the Disco guitarist Ryan Ross has cited the album as his first influence: "I wanted to learn how to play like Tom DeLonge."
|Alternative Press||United States||Class of 1997: 10 Albums That Shaped the Punk of Today||2007||*|
|Kerrang!||United Kingdom||51 Greatest Pop Punk Albums Ever||2015||15|
* denotes an unordered list
Beginning in the summer of 1997, Blink-182 would enter an extended period of touring. The group had played a handful of dates on the Vans Warped Tour 1996, a lifestyle tour promoting skateboarding and punk rock music. However, upon Dude Ranch's release and popularity, Blink-182 would play every date of the 1997 tour worldwide with influences Pennywise, NOFX, and Social Distortion. "The Warped Tour is really more of a traveling-band barbecue," commented DeLonge. "You hang out with the other bands all day, you play your set, and then hang out again." In late 1997 and early 1998, the band would be on the road for nine months straight, only coming home to San Diego for days at a time before striking out on the next tour. "When we did our longest tour stretch, it was right when I started dating my fiancee," recalled DeLonge. "We were all new and in love, and I had to leave. It was just, 'Hey, I'll see you in nine months.' It was really hard." In addition to the hefty touring schedule, the trio grew tired of other commitments, including interviews and TV appearances due to the success of "Dammit".
Desperate for a break, the overworked band began to argue and tensions formed. Raynor, who was at the center of this drama, had been commenting of his desire to attend college for years, and had been taking homework out with him on tour to try and complete his high school diploma. The tension came to a head in February 1998 as the band embarked on SnoCore 98, described as "a winter version of the Warped Tour." Sharing the stage with Primus, the band was enjoying more success than ever before, but the drama between the musicians had grown substantially. The band reached a low point when the band engaged in a fight on a Nebraska date after SnoCore's conclusion. Shortly after the conclusion of SnoCore was a short minitour along the western coast, most notably Southern California, the band's favorite place to play. The tour ended with the band headlining a sold-out show at the Palladium in Hollywood, California, where the band had dreamed of performing at for years.
Raynor suffered a "tragic loss" during the West Coast minitour and flew home, forcing the band to find a fill-in drummer: Travis Barker of the ska punk support band The Aquabats. Barker learned the drum tracks for the band's set in only 45 minutes prior to his first show. Raynor returned for the band's Hollywood Palladium performance, and the band became increasingly uneasy and arguments grew worse. To offset personal issues, Raynor began to drink heavily and it began to affect the band's performances. Following a largely successful Australian tour in the spring, Hoppus and DeLonge presented an ultimatum: quit drinking or go to an in-patient rehab. Raynor agreed to both and informed the band of his decision after taking the weekend to mull options. According to Raynor, he was fired through a phone call despite his agreement to rehab. Despite this, he felt no malice toward his former bandmates and conceded they were "right" to fire him.
The band would minimize the impact of the situation in future interviews and remained vague regarding his departure. The "Josie" CD single, released in the US in November 1998, was the first Blink-182 release to feature Barker in any capacity (he is pictured on the back cover alongside Hoppus and DeLonge). Barker would join Blink-182 full-time in the summer of 1998 and toured with the band for the remainder of the year, playing sold-out shows across America on the humorously named PooPoo PeePee Tour.
|12.||"A New Hope"||3:45|
|Japanese and Australian version|
|16.||"Dog Lapping" (hidden track)||7:07|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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turning out 15 tracks of juvenile, adrenaline-fueled punk-pop.
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