Holiday in Cambodia

"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 by Optional Music with "Police Truck" as the B-side. The photograph on 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.

"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 (1980-05)
Format7- & 12-inch singles
  • 4:38 (album version)
  • 3:43 (single version)
Producer(s)Geza X
Dead Kennedys singles chronology
"California Über Alles"
"Holiday in Cambodia"
"Kill the Poor"

The song 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 song is an attack on stereotypical, moralizing, privileged American college students. 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 and his Communist Party of Kampuchea (mentioned in the lyrics), which is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of roughly a quarter of Cambodian population 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. The song also mentions "star-bellied Sneetches" from the Dr. Seuss short story "The Sneetches".


In October 1998, Jello Biafra was sued by three former members of Dead Kennedys, who claimed that they had been defrauded of royalties owed to them.[1] "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 ... [T]here is no denying we were the victims here." According to Biafra, the suit was the 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.[1][2] Biafra lost the lawsuit and, as the owner of Alternative Tentacles, was ordered to pay $200,000 in damages to the other band members.[3]


Chart (1980) Peak
UK Indie (Official Charts Company)[4][better source needed] 2


  1. ^ a b Vale, V. "Ex-Dead Kennedys Vs. Jello Biafra". RE/Search. Retrieved September 24, 2008.
  2. ^ "Record Label Drops Legal Action Against Dead Kennedys". Dead Kennedys News. July 14, 2004. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012.
  3. ^ Barclay, Michael (January 1, 2006). "Pull My Strings Everybody Hurts in the Dead Kennedys Debacle". Exclaim!. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  4. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1989. Cherry Red Books. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2014.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)