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Offspring Turns Def Ear To Critics Of Its Repertoire

Just who does the Offspring think it is, anyway? Def Leppard?

Anyone with an FM radio in the mid '80s remembers the intro to Leppard's Rock of Ages, even if they don't remember the song itself: gunter, glieben, glauchen, globen.

Now it's back on the air as the beginning to the Offspring's modern rock hit, Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) -- a song filled with wild sounds, odd parts and a guitar hook that's the carbon copy to the band's last big hit, Come Out and Play.

The group's guitarist, Noodles, says not to read too much into the Def Leppard sample. It was just one of the many nonsensical touches with which he and frontman Dexter Holland loaded the song.

"Dexter wanted to see how far he could take that riff and keep it funky and load it with hooks -- like the girls' voices and the 'uno, dos, tres ... ' in the chorus and all that stuff," said Noodles (a k a Kevin Wasserman) "He wanted to see how hooky and kooky he could make it."

As to the Def Leppard sample, "Dexter just put that on there. We hit them up with the idea and we reached an amicable agreement, financially, for the sample. I knew nothing about Def Leppard until I saw a VH1 Legends show on them."

Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) has landed the band back on radio, where the Offspring first had a hit in 1994. Then, the Southern California combo was at the epicenter of the new punk explosion. Its album, Smash, became the best-selling album ever on an independent label, racking up 11 million sales worldwide.

After that, the band jumped from the independent imprint (Epitaph) to a major label (Columbia) and released the follow up, Ixnay on the Hombre. That disc didn't scale the same commercial heights as Smash, but still sold an impressive 3 million copies. The pressure was off when the band returned to the studio to record its latest, and fifth, disc, Americana.

"I think that must come through on the album," Noodles said. "After Smash, there was a spotlight on us. We felt like we were squirming around under a microscope. We wanted to make a good record with Ixnay, and there was more pressure to prove that we weren't a one-hit band. And I think we did that with Ixnay."

On Americana, the band returns to mixing the frivolous with the serious. The Offspring changes the words to Morris Albert's Feelings and turns it into a speedy punk anthem about hate. But elsewhere the band sings earnestly about being a misunderstood outcast in Have You Ever or about the bleak future for some suburbanites in The Kid's Aren't Alright.

Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) pokes fun at someone whose attempts to be hip backfire.

"I've known a lot of people like that," Noodles said. "I see them on TV talk shows all the time: middle-class white kid, dorky jock who's dressing all hip-hop, throwing out the lingo. It's like, 'Just shut up, kid.' But everyone does that. At some point in their lives, everyone tries to be something that they aren't."

Which brings us back to our original question: Does the Offspring think it's Def Leppard?

"I don't know if I'd go that far," Noodles said. "We're one of the bands that get a lot of play on radio, but I wouldn't say we're like Def Leppard. Those guys were pretty huge. There aren't bands like that anymore."

By Michael Mehle, from Rocky Mountain News - November 29, 1998