“They said we talked about dick and vagina too much and offended everyone”: how Blink-182 overcame a backlash from their peers on the way to Enema Of The State becoming a huge success

Blink-182 in 1999
(Image credit: Barry King/Getty Images)

The 90s began with rock music as a vehicle for anguish and turmoil, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and more channelling their sadness and anger into barbed anthems that were collected under the umbrella of grunge. It ended with emerging pop-punk heroes Blink-182 releasing an album titled Enema Of The State, which turned 25 this month. It had been a long, sometimes tragic, decade for US rock and three jokers from San Diego were determined to let a little light in at the last. They had already tested the water with two efforts but their third, and first featuring drummer Travis Barker, made Blink-182 huge.

It meant that the eyes of the world were on Barker and his bandmates Tom Delonge and Mark Hoppus, with some critics and punk peers finding the puerile nature of their lyrics and onstage banter (“show us your t*ts” was a DeLonge favourite at the time) somewhat distasteful. But the trio stood their ground, saying that punk was supposed to rub people up the wrong way and that their more off-colour tangents shouldn’t be taken at face value. “For someone to say that we’re sexist just shows they have two brain cells and they’re living in their own little p.c. world,” Delonge told Spin magazine around Enema Of The State’s release in 1999, also giving an unintentional shout-out to UK computer retail store PC World. “Nobody likes them anyway,” he added, talking about their critics, not PC World. “They’re just pissed off that they never got in a band.”

In an interview with rock site In Music We Trust in 1999, Barker said they had received some backlash from fellow musicians. “We’ve had other bands say something,” he said. “We played with some independent rocker bands and they were kooks… they said it’s lame to talk about boobs to your audience. I just wanted to tell them to grow up. This one band from Washington called Modest Mouse was super bummed at us. They said we talked about dick and vagina too much and that we offended everyone. But it’s all good.”

Any animosity from their contemporaries hardly did Blink-182 damage – Enema Of The State went on to sell over 15 million copies and made the three-piece one of the biggest bands in the world as a new millennium began. Blink-182 would start as they meant to go on – their 2023 reunion tour might have cut down on the cat-calls to women in the audience but it still featured a hefty amount of daftness in between songs. It's what they do - everyone knows these titans of pop-punk can always be relied upon not to act their age.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.