Holiday in Cambodia

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"Holiday in Cambodia"
Dead Kennedys - Holiday in Cambodia cover.jpg
Single by Dead Kennedys
from the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
B-side"Police Truck"
ReleasedMay 1980
  • 4:38 (album version)
  • 3:43 (single version)
Producer(s)Dead Kennedys
Dead Kennedys singles chronology
"California Über Alles"
"Holiday in Cambodia"
"Kill the Poor"

"Holiday in Cambodia" is a song by American punk rock band Dead Kennedys. The record was released as the group's second single in May 1980 on Optional Music with "Police Truck" as its B-side. The title track was re-recorded for the band's first album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980); the original recording of the song, as well as the single's B-side, are available on the rarities album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (1987). The photograph in the front cover of the single was taken from the Thammasat University massacre in Thailand, and depicts a member of the right-wing crowd beating a hanged corpse of a student protester with a metal chair.


The song is an attack on a stereotypical, moralizing, privileged American college student. Its lyrics offer a satirical view of young, well-to-do and self-righteous Americans, contrasting such a lifestyle with the genocidal dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot (mentioned in the lyrics), which is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of some two million people[1] in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

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, at a higher tempo and featuring an extended, surf-influenced intro, as well as an extended bridge and guitar solo. While the original lyrics include the satirically quoted word "niggers", subsequent performances by the reformed Dead Kennedys (post-2001, without vocalist Jello Biafra) and various other artists who have recorded the song over the years have omitted it substituting other words in its place. In performances over the years with other groups, Biafra has often used "blacks".[citation needed] The song also mentions the Dr. Seuss short story "The Sneetches".


In October 1998, Biafra was sued by former members of Dead Kennedys.[2] 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.[3] 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."[4] Biafra lost the lawsuit and as the owner of Alternative Tentacles was ordered to pay $200,000 in damages to the other band members.[5]

Track listing[edit]

  • Optional Music — OPT4[6]
Side A
1."Holiday in Cambodia"3:43
Side B
1."Police Truck"2:24

In other media[edit]

Covers and other versions[edit]


Chart (1980) Peak
UK Indie (Official Charts Company)[10] 2


  1. ^ Khmer Rouge#Number of deaths
  2. ^ V. Vale, Ex-Dead Kennedys vs Jello Biafra, RE/Search Publications.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Record Label Drops Legal Action Against Dead Kennedys". Dead Kennedys News. 2004-07-14. Archived from the original on 2012-01-26.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Dead Kennedys – Holiday In Cambodia (Vinyl)". Discogs. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  7. ^ "Fresh Duck for Rotting Accordionists ~ Release by Duckmandu!". MusicBrainz!. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  8. ^ Einhart, Nancy (2002-04-03). "The Keys to Success". SF Weekly.
  9. ^ "Office Of Future Plans and Damon Locks cover "Holiday In Cambodia"". Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  10. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1989. Cherry Red Books. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2014.

External links[edit]