Green Day is an American punk rock band formed in 1987. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt, drummer Tré Cool and guitarist and backing vocalist Jason White, who became a full member after playing in the band as a session and touring guitarist for 13 years. Cool replaced former drummer John Kiffmeyer in 1990, prior to the recording of the band's second studio album, Kerplunk (1992).
Green Day was originally part of the punk scene at the DIY 924 Gilman Street club in Berkeley, California. The band's early releases were from the independent record label Lookout! Records. In 1994, its major label debut Dookie released through Reprise Records became a breakout success and eventually sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. Green Day was widely credited, alongside fellow California punk bands Sublime, Bad Religion, The Offspring and Rancid, with popularizing and reviving mainstream interest in punk rock in the United States.
Green Day's three follow-up albums, Insomniac (1995), Nimrod (1997), and Warning (2000) did not achieve the massive success of Dookie, though they were still successful, with Insomniac and Nimrod reaching double platinum and Warning reaching gold status. The band's rock opera, American Idiot (2004), reignited the band's popularity with a younger generation, selling five million copies in the United States. The band's eighth studio album, 21st Century Breakdown, was released in 2009 which achieved the band's best chart performance to date. In 2012, 21st Century Breakdown was followed up by a trilogy of albums called ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! released on September, November and December 2012 respectively.
They are one of the world's best-selling groups of all time, having sold over 75 million albums worldwide. The group has won five Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Album for Dookie, Best Rock Album for American Idiot, Record of the Year for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", Best Rock Album for the second time for 21st Century Breakdown and Best Musical Show Album for American Idiot: The Original Broadway Cast Recording. In 2010, a stage adaptation of American Idiot debuted on Broadway. The musical was nominated for several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Scenic Design.
Formation and Lookout! years (1987–1993)
In 1987, friends Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, 15 years old at the time, formed a band called Sweet Children. Its first live performance took place on October 17, 1987 at Rod's Hickory Pit in Vallejo, California. In 1988, Armstrong and Dirnt began working with Sean Hughes and the former Isocracy drummer John Kiffmeyer, also known as "Al Sobrante". As said in the film Punk's Not Dead, Armstrong cites the band Operation Ivy (which featured Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman of Rancid) as a major influence, and a group that inspired him to form a band.
In 1988, Larry Livermore, owner of Lookout! Records, saw the band play an early show and signed the group to his label. In 1989, the band recorded its debut extended play, 1,000 Hours. Before 1,000 Hours was released, the group dropped the name Sweet Children; according to Livermore, this was done to avoid confusion with another local band Sweet Baby. The band adopted the name Green Day, due to their fondness for marijuana.
Lookout! would release Green Day's debut studio album, 39/Smooth in early 1990. Green Day would record two extended plays later that year, Slappy and Sweet Children, the latter of which included older songs that the band had recorded for the Minneapolis independent record label Skene! Records. In 1991, Lookout! Records re-released 39/Smooth under the name 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, and added the songs from the band's first two EPs, Slappy, and 1,000 Hours. In late 1990, shortly after the band's first nationwide tour, Sobrante left the East Bay area to attend college. The Lookouts drummer Tré Cool began filling in as a temporary replacement and later Cool's position as Green Day's drummer became permanent. The band went on tour for most of 1992 and 1993, and played a number of shows overseas in Europe. The band's second studio album Kerplunk sold 50,000 copies in the U.S.
Breakthrough success (1994–1996)
Kerplunk's underground success led to a number of major record labels being interested in signing Green Day, and the band eventually left Lookout! and signed to Reprise Records after attracting the attention of producer Rob Cavallo. The group was impressed by his work with fellow Californian band The Muffs, and later remarked that Cavallo "was the only person we could really talk to and connect with". Reflecting on the period, Armstrong told Spin magazine in 1999, "I couldn't go back to the punk scene, whether we were the biggest success in the world or the biggest failure ... The only thing I could do was get on my bike and go forward." After signing with Reprise, the band went to work on recording its major label debut, Dookie.
Recorded in three weeks, and released in February 1994, Dookie became a commercial success, helped by extensive MTV airplay for the videos of the songs "Longview", "Basket Case", and "When I Come Around", all of which reached the number one position on the Modern Rock Tracks charts. At a September 9, 1994 performance at Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston, mayhem broke-out during the band's set (cut short to seven songs) and by the end of the rampage, 100 people were injured and 45 arrested. The band also joined the lineups of both the Lollapalooza festival and Woodstock '94, where they started an infamous mud fight. During the concert, a security guard mistook bassist Mike Dirnt for a stage-invading fan and punched out some of his teeth. Viewed by millions by pay-per-view television, the Woodstock 1994 performance further aided Green Day's growing publicity and recognition, and helped push its album to eventual diamond status. In 1995, Dookie won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and the band was nominated for nine MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year.
In 1995, a new single for the Angus soundtrack was released, entitled "J.A.R.". The single debuted at number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song was followed by the band's fourth studio album, Insomniac, which was released in the fall of 1995. Insomniac was a much darker and heavier response to the band's newfound popularity, compared to the more melodic Dookie. The album opened to a warm critical reception, earning 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone, which said "In punk, the good stuff actually unfolds and gains meaning as you listen without sacrificing any of its electric, haywire immediacy. And Green Day are as good as this stuff gets." The singles released from Insomniac were "Geek Stink Breath", "Stuck with Me", "Brain Stew/Jaded", and "Walking Contradiction".
Though the album did not approach the success of Dookie, it sold two million copies in the United States. In addition, the album won the band award nominations for Favorite Artist, Favorite Hard Rock Artist, and Favorite Alternative Artist at the 1996 American Music Awards, and the video for "Walking Contradiction" got the band a Grammy nomination for Best Video, Short Form, in addition to a Best Special Effects nomination at the MTV Video Music Awards. After that, the band abruptly cancelled a European tour, citing exhaustion.
Middle years and decline in commercial success (1997–2002)
After a brief hiatus in 1996, Green Day began to work on a new album in 1997. From the outset, both the band and Cavallo agreed that the album had to be different from its previous albums. The result was Nimrod, an experimental deviation from the band's standard pop-punk brand of music. The new album was released in October 1997. It provided a variety of music, from pop-punk, surf rock, and ska, to an acoustic ballad. Nimrod entered the charts at number 10. The success of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" won the band an MTV Video Award for Best Alternative Video. The song was also used in the second "clip show" episode of Seinfeld and on two episodes of ER.
The other singles released from Nimrod were "Nice Guys Finish Last", "Hitchin' a Ride" and "Redundant". The band made a guest appearance in an episode of King of the Hill entitled "The Man Who Shot Cane Skretteberg", which aired in 1997. In late 1997 and most of 1998, Green Day embarked on a tour in support of Nimrod. In 1999, the guitarist Jason White began supporting the band on the concerts as rhythm guitarist.
In 2000, Green Day released its sixth studio album Warning. In support of the album, the band participated in the Warped Tour in 2000. The band also had an independent tour to support the album in 2001. Critics' reviews of the album were varied. Allmusic gave it 4.5/5 saying "Warning may not be an innovative record per se, but it's tremendously satisfying." Rolling Stone was more critical, giving it 3/5, and saying "Warning... invites the question: Who wants to listen to songs of faith, hope and social commentary from what used to be snot-core's biggest-selling band?" Though it produced the hit "Minority" and a smaller hit with "Warning", some observers were coming to the conclusion that the band was losing relevance, and a decline in popularity followed. While all of Green Day's previous albums had reached a status of at least double platinum, Warning was only certified platinum.
At the 2001 California Music Awards, Green Day won all eight of the awards that it was nominated for. The group won the awards for Outstanding Album (Warning), Outstanding Punk Rock/Ska Album (Warning), Outstanding Group, Outstanding Male Vocalist, Outstanding Bassist, Outstanding Drummer, Outstanding Songwriter, and Outstanding Artist.
The release of two compilation albums, International Superhits! and Shenanigans, followed Warning. International Superhits and its companion collection of music videos, International Supervideos!. Shenanigans contained some of the band's b-sides, including "Espionage", which was featured in the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
In the spring of 2002, Green Day co-headlined the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182 which was documented on the DVD Riding in Vans with Boys.
American Idiot and renewed success (2003–2006)
In the summer of 2003, the band went into a studio to write and record new material for a new album, tentatively titled Cigarettes and Valentines. After completing 20 tracks, the master recordings were stolen from the studio. Instead of re-recording the stolen tracks, the band decided to abandon the entire project and start over, considering the material to be unrepresentative of the band's best work. It was then revealed that a band called The Network was signed to Armstrong's record label Adeline Records with little fanfare and information. After the mysterious band released an album called Money Money 2020, it was rumored that The Network was a Green Day side project, due to the similarities in the bands' sounds. However, these rumors were never addressed by the band or Adeline Records, except for a statement on the Adeline website discussing an ongoing dispute between the two bands.
Green Day collaborated with Iggy Pop on two tracks for his album Skull Ring in November 2003. On February 1, 2004 a new song, a cover of "I Fought the Law" made its debut on a commercial for iTunes during NFL Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The resulting album, American Idiot (2004), debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, the band's first album to reach number one, backed by the success of the album's first single, American Idiot. The album was labeled as a punk rock opera which follows the journey of the fictitious Jesus of Suburbia. American Idiot won the 2005 Grammy for Best Rock Album. The band also won a total of seven awards out of eight awards for which they were nominated, including the Viewer's Choice Award in MTV Video Music Awards 2005.
Through 2005, the band toured in support of the album with nearly 150 dates (Longest tour in their career) visiting Japan, Australia, South America and the United Kingdom. While touring for American Idiot, they filmed and recorded the two concerts at the Milton Keynes National Bowl in England, which was voted 'The Best Show On Earth' in a Kerrang! Magazine Poll. These recordings were released as a live CD and DVD called Bullet in a Bible on November 15, 2005. This CD/DVD featured songs from American Idiot as well as songs from all its previous albums, except Kerplunk and 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. The DVD featured behind-the-scenes footage of the band, and showed how the band prepared to put on the show. The final shows of its 2005 world tour were in Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, on December 14 and 17 respectively.
On August 1, 2005 Green Day announced that it had rescinded the master rights to its pre-Dookie material from Lookout! Records, citing a continuing breach of contract regarding unpaid royalties, a complaint shared with other Lookout! bands.
On January 10, 2006 the band was awarded with a People's Choice Award as favorite musical group or band.
21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot: The Musical (2006–2010)
Green Day engaged in a number of other smaller projects in the time following the success of American Idiot. The group released an album under the name Foxboro Hot Tubs entitled Stop Drop and Roll!!! In 2008, the Foxboro Hot Tubs went on a mini-tour to promote the record, hitting tiny Bay Area venues including the Stork Club in Oakland and Toot's Tavern in Crockett, California.
In an interview with Carson Daly, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson revealed that Butch Vig would be producing Green Day's forthcoming album. The span of nearly five years between American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown was the longest gap between studio albums in Green Day's career. The band had been working on new material since January 2006. By October 2007, Armstrong had 45 songs written, but the band showed no further signs of progress until October 2008, when two videos showing the band recording in the studio with producer Butch Vig were posted on YouTube. The writing and recording process, spanning three years and four recording studios, was finally finished in April 2009.
21st Century Breakdown, was released on May 15, 2009. The album received a mainly positive reception from critics, getting an average rating between 3 and 4 stars. After the release, the album reached number one in fourteen countries, being certified gold or platinum in each. 21st Century Breakdown achieved Green Day's best chart performance to date. The band started playing shows in California in April and early May. It was their first live show in about three years. Green Day went on a world tour that started in North America in July 2009 and continuing around the world throughout the rest of 2009 and early 2010.
Wal-Mart refused to carry the album as it contains a Parental Advisory sticker and requested that Green Day release a censored edition. The band members did not wish to change any lyrics on the album and responded by stating, "There's nothing dirty about our record... They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried in there. We just said no. We've never done it before. You feel like you're in 1953 or something."
In 2009, the band met with award-winning director Michael Mayer and many cast and crew members of the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening to create a stage version of the album American Idiot. American Idiot: The Musical opened in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre during the end of 2009. The show features an expanded story of the original album, with new characters such as Will, Extraordinary Girl, and Favorite Son. On April 20, 2010, American Idiot: The Musical opened on Broadway, and Green Day released the soundtrack to the musical, featuring a new song by Green Day entitled "When It's Time". In June 2010 the iTunes received the single "When It's Time".
During the Spike TV Video Game Awards 2009, it was announced that Green Day was set to have its own Rock Band video game titled as Green Day: Rock Band, as a follow-up to the last band specific Rock Band game, The Beatles: Rock Band. The game features the full albums of Dookie, American Idiot, and 21st Century Breakdown as well as select songs from the rest of Green Day's discography.
During the second leg of the 21st Century Breakdown World Tour the band had said that they are writing new material. In an interview with Kerrang! magazine, Armstrong spoke about the possible new album: "We did some demos in Berlin, some in Stockholm, some just outside of Glasgow and some in Amsterdam. We wanted get [the songs] down in some early form." The band also stated that they were recording a live album during the entire tour on the last date of the tour in Mountain View, California, also before playing the song "Cigarettes and Valentines". In October 2010, Dirnt was interviewed by Radio W, mentioning that they have completed the writing process of the ninth studio album. In the interview, Dirnt also mentioned that a new live album will "most likely" be released. The live CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray entitled Awesome as Fuck was released on March 22, 2011.
¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! (2011–present)
During the end of 2011, the band played several secret shows whose setlists consisted almost entirely of previously unheard songs. Green Day entered the studio and began recording new material in February 2012, later announcing a trilogy of albums titled ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! which would be released in the fall of 2012. The trilogy marked longtime touring guitarist Jason White's induction as the fourth member of the band. That summer Green Day played several festivals and promotional shows including the Rock en Seine festival in France, the Rock am See festival in Germany, and the Reading Festival in the United Kingdom.
¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! were released on September 21, November 9, and December 7, 2012 respectively and were met with generally positive reviews. On January 22, 2013 the band announced that ¡Cuatro!, a documentary about the making of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!, would premiere on January 26 in Aspen, Colorado as part of the X Games FILM showcase, and would be released on DVD April 9, 2013. Another documentary was announced called Broadway Idiot which focuses on the creation on the American Idiot musical and Armstrong's run as playing the character of St. Jimmy. On March 10, 2013, Green Day began their 99 Revolutions Tour to support the trilogy.
Musical style and influences
Green Day's sound is often compared to first wave punk bands such as the Ramones, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Jam, and the Buzzcocks. Citing the band's musical style prevalent on Dookie, Stephen Erlewine of Allmusic described Green Day as "punk revivalists who recharged the energy of speedy, catchy three-chord punk-pop songs." While Armstrong is the primary songwriter, he looks to the other band members for organizational help. Billie Joe Armstrong has mentioned that some of his biggest influences are seminal alternative rock bands Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, and that their influence is particularly noted in the band's chord changes in songs. Green Day has covered Hüsker Dü's "Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely" as a b-side to the "Warning" single, and the character "Mr. Whirly" in their song "Misery" is a reference to the Replacements song of the same name. Among other influences, Green Day have also cited The Who and power pop pioneers Cheap Trick. English rock musician Noel Gallagher of Oasis complained about the band semi-jokingly, claiming that they ripped off his song "Wonderwall" with their song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams".
Since 1991, members of the band have branched out past Green Day and have started other projects with other musicians. Notable related projects of Green Day include Billie Joe Armstrong's Pinhead Gunpowder (which also features Green Day's guitarist Jason White), The Frustrators in which Mike Dirnt plays bass, and The Network, a collaboration between Green Day and members of the band, Devo in which all members play under fake stage names. Green Day has also released an album titled Stop Drop and Roll!!! on May 20, 2008, under the name Foxboro Hot Tubs, they currently use this name to book secret shows. In late December 2011, Armstrong formed a new side band called The Boo along his wife Adrienne and their two sons.
In September 2006, Green Day collaborated with U2 and producer Rick Rubin to record a cover of the song "The Saints Are Coming", originally recorded by The Skids, with an accompanying video. The song was recorded to benefit Music Rising, an organization to help raise money for musicians' instruments lost during Hurricane Katrina, and to bring awareness on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the disaster.
In December 2006, Green Day and NRDC opened a web site in partnership to raise awareness on America's dependency on oil.
Green Day released a cover of the John Lennon song "Working Class Hero", which was featured on the album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. The band performed the song on the season finale of American Idol. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2008, though lost to The White Stripes' "Icky Thump". That summer, the band appeared in a cameo role in The Simpsons Movie, where they perform the show's theme song. Their version was released as a single on July 24, 2007.
In 2009, the band collaborated with theatre director Michael Mayer to adapt their rock opera American Idiot into a one-act stage musical that premiered at the Berkeley Rep on September 15, 2009. The show then moved to Broadway on April 20, 2010.
The reviews of American Idiot: The Musical have been positive to mixed. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times wrote an enthusiastic review for the Broadway production. He called the show "a pulsating portrait of wasted youth that invokes all the standard genre conventions ... only to transcend them through the power of its music and the artistry of its execution, the show is as invigorating and ultimately as moving as anything I’ve seen on Broadway this season. Or maybe for a few seasons past." Jed Gottlieb of the Boston Herald enjoyed the premise of the show but found that "the music and message suffer in a setting where the audience is politely, soberly seated".
Michael Kuchiwara of the Associated Press found the show to be "visually striking [and] musically adventurous", but noted that "the show has the barest wisp of a story and minimal character development". Paul Kolnik in USA Today enjoyed the contradiction that Green Day's "massively popular, starkly disenchanted album ... would be the feel-good musical of the season". Time magazine's Richard Zoglin opined that the score "is as pure a specimen of contemporary punk rock as Broadway has yet encountered [yet] there's enough variety. ... Where the show fall short is as a fully developed narrative." He concluded that "American Idiot, despite its earnest huffing and puffing, remains little more than an annotated rock concert. ... Still, [it] deserves at least two cheers – for its irresistible musical energy and for opening fresh vistas for that odd couple, rock and Broadway." Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, in his review of American Idiot, wrote "Though American Idiot carries echoes of such rock musicals as Tommy, Hair, Rent and Spring Awakening, it cuts its own path to the heart. You won’t know what hit you. American Idiot knows no limits—it's a global knockout." The musical has been nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Scenic Design. It was also nominated for a number of Drama Desk Awards and Outer Critics Circle Awards.
In October 2009, a Green Day art project was exhibited at StolenSpace Gallery in London. The exhibition showed artworks created for each of the songs on 21st Century Breakdown, was supported by the band, and led by their manager Pat Magnarella. He explained in an interview that "[Artists are] basically like rock bands. Most are creating their art, but don't know how to promote it." For Billie Joe Armstrong, "Many of the artists... show their work on the street, and we feel a strong connection to that type of creative expression."
On April 13, 2011, a film version of American Idiot was confirmed. Michael Mayer, director of the Broadway musical, will be directing the film. It will be produced by Green Day, Pat Magnarella (Green Day's manager who also produced Bullet in a Bible, Awesome as Fuck, and Heart Like a Hand Grenade), Playtone (Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman) and Tom Hulce.
On January 23, 2013, it was announced that a documentary showing Armstrong's journey from punk rock to Broadway was to be released. Called Broadway Idiot and showing a lot of behind-the-scenes of the American Idiot musical production, the movie was directed by Doug Hamilton, veteran television journalist for CBS News' 60 Minutes and PBS documentaries such as Nova, Frontline and American Masters. A trailer was released on January 30, 2013. The documentary will premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 15, 2013.
Politics and social justice
When asked his opinion regarding whether all musicians ought to try to add a social or political message to their work, Armstrong replied that
American Idiot was released two months before former President of the United States George W. Bush was reelected, and as a result the album became protest art. After the big disaster of September 11, the seven words, "You're either with us or against us", coming out from George W. Bush represented very extreme political ideas that alarmed some people to rethink about the right position they should support. That was Green Day who decided to stand out as one of these people, the seeds of American Idiot. Created as an anti-war album, American Idiot contains many new-age protest songs, like Holiday which was against George Bush's decision to invade Iraq. The song applies typical anti-war critical lyrics such as "'Sieg heill" to the president gasman. Bombs away is your punishment". Armstrong described the song as a means by which "to battle your way out of your own ignorance". In fact, the album depicts the modern American life under the control from an idiot ruler who let people be misinformed by media as well as inserted "redneck agenda". It gives different angles on an everyman, modern icons, and leaders on the topic. The album reflects the ironic society and points out that the extreme Bush politics is wrong and needed to be fixed.
The band has generated controversy over whether the band's musical style and major-label status constitutes as "true punk". In reaction to both the style of music and the background of the band, John Lydon, former front man of the 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols commented:
Armstrong himself has discussed the group's status of being a punk band on a major record label, saying "Sometimes I think we've become totally redundant because we're this big band now, we've made a lot of money – we're not punk rock any more. But then I think about it and just say, 'You can take us out of a punk rock environment, but you can't take the punk rock out of us.'"
On September 21, 2012, while Green Day was performing at the iHeartRadio music festival, lead vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong stopped while performing Basket Case, because he believed their time was being shortened, possibly in order to extend R&B artist Usher's performance. Angered, Armstrong began ranting while a screen in the rear of the audience was labeled "1 Minutes Left", saying "You're not gonna give me one fucking minute? You've gotta be fucking kidding me!". He also told the crowd he was not Justin Bieber and labeled the festival as a "joke". When the screen went blank, Armstrong smashed his guitar, while bassist Mike Dirnt smashed his bass. Armstrong then gave the finger, and declared that Green Day would be back before throwing his microphone down and walking off the stage. Two days later, the band's representative apologized for the incident on their behalf stating that "Green Day would like everyone to know that their set was not cut short by Clear Channel and to apologize to those they offended at the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas" also adding that Armstrong will be headed to rehab, for abuse of alcohol and prescription pills for anxiety and insomnia. However Mike Dirnt would later say in an interview with Rolling Stone that he agreed with what Billie Joe meant by his rant.
- Studio albums
- 39/Smooth (1990)
- Kerplunk (1992)
- Dookie (1994)
- Insomniac (1995)
- Nimrod (1997)
- Warning (2000)
- American Idiot (2004)
- 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
- ¡Uno! (2012)
- ¡Dos! (2012)
- ¡Tré! (2012)
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Image from Discogs