Classic Rock Wiki

"Holiday in Cambodia" is a song by American punk band the Dead Kennedys. The record was released as the group's second single in May 1980 on Alternative Tentacles 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 the 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 brutal dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot (depicted on the original single's label and 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. 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. When the song was featured in Rock Band 2 as a downloadable track, along with two other songs by the group, the word was replaced with "brothers", and in performances over the years with other groups, Biafra has often used "blacks".[citation needed] The song also mentions the Dr. Seussshort 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. 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." [3]



  • 1 Covers and other versions
  • 2 In other media
  • 3 Charts
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links

Covers and other versions[edit][]

  • It has been covered by Earth Crisis, Lääz Rockit and Boysetsfire.
  • It has been parodied by musical comedian Richard Cheese to resemble Christmas song.
  • It was covered by Duckmandu on the 2005 album Fresh Duck for Rotting Accordionists.[4]
  • It was parodied by Clarence "Blowfly" Reid as "R. Kelly in Cambodia" on the 2006 album Blowfly's Punk Rock Party. Biafra makes a cameo as a trial judge and also released the album on his Alternative Tentacleslabel.
  • Instrumental version of it appears on Bay Area pianist DJ Lebowitz's Beware of the Piano.[5]
  • At the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, on September 9, Foo Fighters, along with Serj Tankian (on vocals) covered the song in The Palms Casino Hotel,in one of the Fantasy Suites. Serj Tankian and the Foo Fighters have played the song while Tankian supported the Foo Fighters on their UK tour. Tankian has played it while touring solo. Foo Fighters released it as a b-side to their "Long Road to Ruin" single.
  • Released in October 12, 2010, the Covers of the Damned EP by Atreyu and their fellow tour-mates (Blessthefall, Chiodos, Endless Hallway and Architects) contained a cover of the song as its second track.
  • Punk rock band Office of Future Plans and Damon Locks of The Eternals performed a version of the song in December 2011 for The A.V. Club '​s Holiday Undercover series.[6]

In other media[edit][]

  • It is featured in ClassNeighborsPunk's Not DeadSpider and RoseBoy Meets Girl, and in the end credits of Double Take.
  • It is featured in an episode of Druckfrisch.
  • It is referenced on disc Tercer asalto of the Spanish group Def Con Dos.
  • The master track is downloadable content for the video game Rock Band.
  • A cover of the album version with slightly sanitized lyrics is featured in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.


Chart (1980) Peak


UK Indie Chart[7] 2