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Green Day - The Band That Helped Bring Punk Back to the Top

By

Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool

Green Day

Total Assault

Formed:

Berkeley, California, 1987

Lineup

Billie Joe Armstrong - vocals, guitar
Mike Dirnt - bass, vocals
Tré Cool - drums

The Gilman Street Days:

Green Day, originally under the name Sweet Children, was a part of the punk rock scene at the legendary punk club 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California.

Early on, the band attracted a lot of attention in the Gilman scene, where they, along with other contemporaries throughout California like NOFX and Offspring, were integral to helping their various scenes thrive and grow. At the time, they were also helping to craft a music style that would eventually become the quintessential sound for U.S. pop punk.

Larry Livermore, the owner of Lookout! Records, saw the band play live and gave them a contract. 1989 saw the band release an EP, 1,000 Hours, the first under the name Green Day.

While on Lookout!, Green Day released 39/Smooth in 1990 and Kerplunk in 1992 (their first with Tré Cool on drums, after original drummer Al Sobrante left to attend school). They were quickly becoming popular on the punk scene.

Even in their earliest days, Green Day was already producing a pop punk sound that was clean and slick, sounding rather well-produced on even their earliest releases made with the lowest budgets.

Breaking Out With 'Dookie':

With the success of Kerplunk, Green Day found themselves catching a lot of interest from major labels. The band ultimately decided to sign with Reprise. As is often the case when formerly underground bands are offered a major-label record deal (and they accept), they were branded as sellouts by their former fans, who felt slighted by the band's rise to popularity.

Nonetheless, the move proved to be a wise move for Green Day, when Dookie, their major label debut, became an instant success, owed largely to the singles "Longview," "Basket Case," and "When I Come Around."

As Dookie got more radio and video play, the band became even more popular. In 1994, they were invited to join both the Lollapalooza festival and Woodstock. They gained further notice and notoriety with their legendary Woodstock mud fight, which was broadcast around the world.

This swift upward climb in popularity helped Green Day grab Dookie a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 1995.

In-Between Years:

Green Day released Insomniac in 1995, and 1996 saw the band take some time out before releasing Nimrod in 1997, and Warning in 2000.

While album sales were by no means minimal (Insomniac sold in the millions), and the band had several successful singles in this era, including "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," which was probably a high school class song all over the country the year it was released, this era of the band's music didn't reach the success of the Dookie era.

Many fans and critics were a bit alienated and reacted harshly to Nimrod and Warning, albums which sometimes departed drastically from the pristine pop punk of Dookie

Nimrod played with a range of sounds, including surf and ska, and Warning upped the acoustic elements. Both records alienated many of the band's devoted fans, who wanted pop punk, and nothing but, out of Green Day.

'Cigarettes and Valentines' :

While many were ready to write Green Day off as a band that had peaked both commercially and musically, the band was by no means ready to call it quits. In 2003, the band reentered the studio to record Cigarettes and Valentines. After recording 20 tracks, the master tapes were stolen. Rather than attempting to re-record this album, the band decided to start entirely over on a new album, with all new material.

While that may sound like an odd response to the theft of the music, Armstrong has gone on record saying the theft was a "blessing in disguise," that the record really wasn't up to snuff.

Additionally, rumors have circulated that the album wasn't really stolen, and that another album from the time, Money Money 2020, by a band called The Network, was actually Cigarettes and Valentines, and The Network truly was a Green Day in disguise.

Armstrong has denied this.

Green Day's 'Punk Rock Opera' Era:

The album that resulted from their post-Cigarettes and Valentines recording session was American Idiot, the album that would launch Green Day to the top of the charts once more.

A "punk rock opera" about the "Jesus of Suburbia," American Idiot won the 2005 Grammy for Best Rock Album and the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" single was named Record of the Year at the Grammys in 2006.

2009 saw 21st Century Breakdown, another concept album that is now showing the band to be more power pop than punk rock.

Foxboro Hot Tubs

Foxboro Hot Tubs is an oddity, in that it's a Green Day side project that also has the same lineup as Green Day. Unlike allegations surrounding The Network, the lineup of Foxboro Hot Tubs is not as well-kept a secret.

The band, assuming new stage names, recorded garage rock and released an album entitled Stop Drop and Roll!!! in 2007.

Selected Discography
39/Smooth - 1990 (Compare Prices)
Kerplunk - 1992 (Compare Prices)
Dookie - 1994 (Compare Prices)
Insomniac - 1995 (Compare Prices)
Nimrod - 1997 (Compare Prices)
Warning - 2000 (Compare Prices)
American Idiot - 2004 (Compare Prices)
21st Century Breakdown - 2009 (Compare Prices)

Essential Album - Dookie

In an attempt to alienate both the underground purists and the band's newest fans, in choosing an essential Green Day album, I have to go with 1994's Dookie.

Major label criticisms aside, Dookie is a pop punk masterpiece. Aside from the greatly successful singles"Longview," "Welcome to Paradise," "Basket Case," and "When I Come Around," and the album's Grammy Award, it's a flawless album, full of perfectly-crafted American punk rock. To date, it's sold more copies than any other Green Day album.

Recommended Reading - Nobody Likes You: Inside the Turbulent Life, Times, and Music of Green Day by Mark Spitz (2007)

A former senior writer at Spin, Mark Spitz has created a book on the band that is in-depth and interesting, with minimal amounts of the fluff that would appeal to Green Day's teenage fans. In doing so, he has created a book that will appeal to many fans of punk in general, even those who don't like what the band has become today. (Full Review)

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