For all intents and purposes, punk rock is dead. Right? Many would say this is not the case at all. Many others would go on to say that bands like Green Day are not even punk. But, as with most other things, all of the above statements and ideas should be taken with a grain of salt. It doesn't really matter if punk is dead or alive, and given the fact that there have been so many versions of punk music falling under the main genre's banner, saying that Green Day is not punk is simply furthering the notion that any of it really matters, when it's all just rock and roll, anyway. Right?
Sure. Nevertheless, Green Day started out in 1987 with pals Bille Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt. Drummer John Kiffmeyer completed the trio first known as Sweet Children, and then Green Day when the band was first signed to local California label Lookout! Records. This trio released one LP (39/Smooth) and a couple EPs (1000 Hours; Slappy) for the label that would later be reissued altogether as the ginormous all-inclusive 1039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. Even on these early recordings, the trademark Green Day sound can be heard in standard three or four-chord compositions with indelible pop melodies thrown on top. Even if the band wasn't quite as tight as what it would become, Green Day acquired a rabid local following.
Prior to the recording of the band's second album Kerplunk! Kiffmeyer left the group, to be replaced by Lookouts drummer Tre Cool, first as a temp and then as full-time member. The resulting album with the new lineup was released in 1992 and sold about 50,000 copies, which wasn't too shabby for an indie punk act. But it seemed that Green Day was getting bigger than its local hometown, and soon enough the major labels came to court the group. The band split with Lookout! amicably and eventually signed to Reprise Records through producer Rob Cavallo, who had heard the band and liked their music. What came next couldn't have been imagined by anyone at the time.
The band's major label debut, Dookie, shot Green Day to the top of the charts and wound up selling over 10 million copies in the U.S. The singles and videos for "Longview," "When I Come Around," and "Basket Case" were fast MTV favorites, and soon enough the band was everywhere. Though it was recorded in a mere three weeks, Dookie featured a much tighter band with hooks galore in every song, and even included a re-recorded tune from Kerplunk! ("Welcome to Paradise"). Soon enough, the band found itself slotted into the Woodstock '94 extravaganza and wound up stealing the entire show thanks to the fans slinging huge gobs of mud back and forth with the band (not to mention Mike Dirnt being mistaken for a fan and getting some teeth accidentally knocked out by a security guard).
Around this same time, the old Lookout! fans were screaming "sellout" as core indie fans are often wont to do. Nevertheless, the train kept rolling, and soon Insominiac was soon released. Considered a darker album compared to its predecessor, the disc wound up selling "only" seven million copies, with such hits as "Walking Contradiction," "Geek Stink Breath," and "Jaded/Brain Stew" keeping the group's visibility alive on MTV and the radio. In fact, some even felt that the new album came too soon after Dookie, as by this time bands were usually releasing albums every two or three years. But after all was said and done, Green Day suffered nothing serious from the experience, and the album remains one of their best.
For the next album, though, the band was ready to go in a slightly different direction. Indeed, Nimrod wasn't quite as instantly catchy as its two predecessors, but once again no one could have imagined that something like "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" would have come from Green Day. Consider it their "Yesterday," if you will. It seems everyone and his brother picked up on the song and started using it in TV shows and whatnot. It certainly became a new high school prom standard, with tons of kiddies getting their slow groove on to a not-so-happy tune. Love the irony.
Warning was next. By 2000, though, the musical climate was changing in major ways, and Green Day was starting to look a little dated. The album received mixed reviews (with the great title track seeming to owe more than a small debt to a certain Kinks song) and for once, the group was portrayed as being in a slump, which they very well may have been. Two compilations followed shortly thereafter, a greatest hits album (International Superhits!) and a B-sides collection (Shenanigans).
Once again, the band was not to be counted out. In 2004, American Idiot gave the band its first-ever Number One album. It was billed as a "punk rock opera" and featured lengthy interrelated tracks, the likes of which hadn't been heard since Pete Townshend got all serious with the Who. The album also netted the band a 2005 Grammy for Best Rock Album, as well as a 2006 Record of the Year Grammy for the single "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Since then, Armstrong has stated that the next Green Day album should be slated for a 2008 release, and that he's written about 45 songs to work with, many of them piano-driven. It's only a matter of time until we see which new routes the band will take -- and if they will be as successful as the previous journeys.
Green Day on the Web
Green Day - Official Site
The band's official site, complete with pics and videos, tour info and more.
Green Day - MySpace
The band's MySpace page includes streaming music, ringtones and more.
Green Day Wiki
Everything and anything you want to know about the band.
Green Day Says
Billie Joe on the band's influence on certain people :
"When someone is in a car accident and they're driving at 100 mph, drunk, whose tape do you think he's listening to at that time? Think about it."
Tre Cool on MTV's lameness:
"I don't see anything on it, all I see is shows. There is never anything on it. Just MTV talking about how cool MTV is.".
Billie Joe on his privacy:
"It's my fucking life and - you know what? - nobody invited you... so there's the door."