Green Day is an American rock trio formed in 1987. The band has consisted of Billie Joe Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Mike Dirnt (bass guitar, vocals), and Tré Cool (drums, percussion) for the majority of its existence.
Green Day was originally part of the punk rock scene at 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley in East Bay, CA, United States . Its early releases for independent record label Lookout! Records earned them a grassroots fanbase, some of whom felt alienated when the band signed to a major label. Nevertheless, its major label debut Dookie (1994) became a breakout success and eventually sold over 10 million copies in the US. and 15 million worldwide. As a result, Green Day was widely credited, alongside fellow California punk bands The Offspring and Rancid, with reviving mainstream interest in and popularizing punk rock in the United States. Green Day’s three follow-up albums, Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning did not achieve the massive success of Dookie, but they were still successful, reaching double platinum, double platinum, and gold status respectively. Green Day’s 2004 rock opera American Idiot reignited the band’s popularity with a younger generation, selling five million copies in the U.S.The band’s eighth studio album, 21st Century Breakdown, was released on May 15, 2009.
Green Day has sold over 22 million records in the United States.They have won three Grammy Awards; Best Alternative Album for Dookie, Best Rock Album for American Idiot, and Record of the Year for Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
In 1987, friends Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, 15 years old at the time, formed a band called Sweet Children. The first Sweet Children show took place on October 17, 1987, at Rod’s Hickory Pit in Vallejo, California where Armstrong’s mother was working.In 1988, Armstrong and Dirnt began working with former Isocracy drummer, John Kiffmeyer (also known as Al Sobrante). Kiffmeyer served as both the band’s drummer and business manager, handling the booking of shows and helping the band establish a fan base.
Larry Livermore, owner of Lookout! Records, saw the band play an early show and signed them to his label. In 1989 they recorded their first EP, 1,000 Hours. Before 1,000 Hours was released, the band dropped the name Sweet Children, according to Livermore this was done in order to avoid confusion with another local band Sweet Baby.The band adopted the name Green Day, allegedly due to their fondness of marijuana.
Lookout! would release Green Day’s first LP, 39/Smooth in early 1990. Green Day would record two EPs later that year: Slappy and Sweet Children, the latter of which included some older songs they had recorded for Minneapolis indie label Skene! Records. In 1991, Lookout! Records released 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, a compilation of the 39/Smooth, Slappy, and 1,000 Hours EPs. 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 when it became clear that Sobrante did not plan on committing to the band full time, Tré Cool’s position as Green Day’s drummer became permanent. The band went on tour for most of 1992 and 1993, and played a stretch of shows overseas in Europe. The band’s second full length album Kerplunk sold about 50,000 copies in the U.S., which was considered quite a large amount for the independent punk scene in 1992.
Kerplunk’s underground success led to a wave of interest coming from major record labels, and eventually they left Lookout! on friendly terms and signed with Reprise Records after attracting the attention of producer Rob Cavallo. Signing to Reprise caused many punk rock fans to regard Green Day as sellouts.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.
Sample of “Longview”, the first single from Dookie, which combined a memorable bass line with a guitar riff and drums introduced in the chorus.
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Sample of “Basket Case”, the third single from Dookie, which was about Armstrong’s panic attacks.
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Released in February 1994, and recorded in 3 weeks,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. That year, Green Day embarked on a nationwide tour with queercore band Pansy Division as its opening act. At a September 9, 1994 concert at Boston Esplanade, 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 1994, 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 via 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 9 MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year.
The full fold-out artwork to Insomniac, entitled God Told Me to Skin You Alive.
In 1995, a new single for the Angus soundtrack was released, titled “J.A.R.”. The single went straight to number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song was followed by the band’s new album, Insomniac, which was released in the fall of 1995. Insomniac was a much darker and heavier response by the band, compared to the poppier, more melodic Dookie. Insomniac 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.”Insomniac used a piece of art by Winston Smith entitled God Told Me to Skin You Alive for its album cover. The singles released from Insomniac were “Geek Stink Breath”, “Brain Stew/Jaded”, “Walking Contradiction”, and “Stuck With Me”. Though the album did not approach the success of Dookie, it still sold two million copies in the United States.Insomniac 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 era: 1997–2002
After taking a break 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 records.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 for the song’s video, which depicted people undergoing major changes in their lives while Billie Joe Armstrong strummed his acoustic guitar. 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 2000, Green Day released Warning, a step further in the style that they had hinted at with Nimrod. 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 past albums had reached a status of at least double platinum, Warning was only certified gold.
At the 2001 California Music Awards, Green Day won all eight awards that they were nominated for. They 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 a Greatest Hits compilation, International Superhits!, and an assemblage of B-sides, Shenanigans, followed Warning. International Superhits and its companion collection of music videos, International Supervideos!, sold reasonably well, going platinum in the U.S. Shenanigans contained some of the band’s b-sides, including “Espionage” which was featured in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
In the spring of 2002, Green Day co-headlined the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182. Despite the co-headlining title, Green Day would play each show before Blink-182, who at the time were experiencing more success. The tour was documented on the DVD Riding In Vans With Boys.
American Idiot and renewed popularity: 2003–2006
Spectators watch Green Day from the grass slopes at the National Bowl.
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 tapes were stolen from the studio. The band chose not to try to re-create the stolen album, but instead started over. By the end of 2003, Green Day collaborated with Iggy Pop on two tracks for his album Skull Ring. 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 band underwent serious “band therapy,” engaging in several long talks to work out the members’ differences after accusations from Dirnt and Cool that Armstrong was “the band’s Nazi” and a show-off bent on taking the limelight from the other band members.
The resulting 2004 album, American Idiot, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, the band’s first ever album to top the chart, backed by the success of the album’s first single, “American Idiot.” The album was billed 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” and the band swept the 2005 MTV music awards, winning a total of seven of the eight awards they were nominated for, including the coveted Viewer’s Choice Award.
Through 2005, the band toured in support of the album with about 150 dates — the longest tour in its career — visiting Japan, Australia, South America and the United Kingdom, where they drew a crowd of 130,000 people over a span of two days. 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 hits from American Idiot as well as a few 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, Australia, and Melbourne, Australia, on December 14 and 17 respectively. On January 10, 2006 the band was awarded with a People’s Choice Award for favorite group.
Green Day live in Germany during the American Idiot tour.
On August 1, 2005, Green Day announced that 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. The pre-Dookie material, which remained out of print for about a year, was reissued by the band’s current label, Reprise, on January 9, 2007.
In 2006, Green Day won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” which spent 16 weeks at the number one position of Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks, a record it shared along with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Scar Tissue” and Staind’s “It’s Been Awhile,” (the record has been since been beaten by Foo Fighters’ 2007 hit “The Pretender” which reigned at the top spot for 18 weeks).
Foxboro Hot Tubs and 21st Century Breakdown: 2007 onward
Green Day engaged in several other smaller projects in the time following the hype of American Idiot. In the spring of 2007, Green Day recorded a cover of the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero”, which appeared on a compilation album “Instant Karma”, that benefitted victims in Darfur. In the summer of 2007, Green Day recorded a version of The Simpsons theme song for The Simpsons Movie, as well as having an appearance in the movie.
Green Day recently released a new album under the name Foxboro Hot Tubs entitled Stop Drop and Roll!!!. In an interview with Kerrang!, Billie Joe revealed that 2008 would “be a fair estimate of the release date of their new untitled eighth studio album.”In a recent interview with Carson Daly, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson revealed that Butch Vig would be producing Green Day’s forthcoming album. In October 2008 Green Day returned to the studios with Butch Vig, to start recording the new studio album. Two videos showing the band in the studio were posted on YouTube. In the tour section of the band’s official website, the message “World Tour coming soon!” is shown.In the December 9 issue of Alternative Press, in-depth details about the new album were released. According to the interview, Green Day are recording in the same studio as they did for American Idiot, Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood, California. “This album is more… religious”, and is influenced by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beatles, to name a few.Billie Joe Armstrong said when he was being interviewed for Kerrang!’s readers poll, that it will be more power pop than punk rock.The new album is titled 21st Century Breakdown and was released worldwide on May 15, 2009. Green Day will be going on a world tour starting with North America in July, 2009 until sometime in 2010. Singles from 21st Century Breakdown include Know Your Enemy and 21 Guns.
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. The majority of their song catalog is composed of distorted guitar, fast, manic drums, and relatively high-treble bass. Most of their songs are fast-paced and under four minutes. 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. In fact, Green Day has covered Hüsker Dü’s “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely” as a b-side for 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 Queen,proto-punks The Who, and power pop pioneers Cheap Trick . Armstrong’s lyrics commonly describe alienation, (“Jesus of Suburbia”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Road to Acceptance”, “Disappearing Boy”, “Castaway”) hysteria (“Basket Case”, “Panic Song”), girls (“She”, “80” “Only of You”,”Maria” “She’s a Rebel”), growing up (“Longview” and “Welcome to Paradise”), and the effects of doing drugs (“Geek Stink Breath”, “Green Day”). The Ramones had similar lyrical themes such as hysteria (“Anxiety”, “Psycho Therapy”), alienation (“Outsider”, “Something To Believe In”), girls (“I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”), and drugs (“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”, “Chinese Rocks”). Green Day has covered Ramones songs several times, including recording “Outsider” for the tribute album We’re a Happy Family, and performing “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Teenage Lobotomy” when the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Criticism and controversy
Beginning with the release of Dookie, and the subsequent explosion of MTV airplay it received, Green Day has received considerable criticism from those who see the punk genre as a social movement independent of corporate sponsorship. With the release of American Idiot and the subsequent draw of many new fans, much of this criticism has been revived.
One of the more contentious issues is genre labeling. In reaction to both the style of music and the background of the band, many fans and musicians have taken heavy objection to the usage of the term “punk” when applied to Green Day. This is evidenced by the following comments issued by John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), former front man of both the 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols and the 1980s post-punk, Public Image Ltd.:
“ So there we are fending off all that and it pisses me off that years later a wank outfit like Green Day hop in and nick all that and attach it to themselves. They didn’t earn their wings to do that and if they were true punk they wouldn’t look anything like they do. ”
Brandon Flowers of The Killers went on record in 2007 claiming that Green Day’s politically driven concept album American Idiot displays “calculated Anti-Americanism.” He explained that he has problems with the album content itself and also the fact that the band’s recent live DVD, Bullet in a Bible, was filmed in England. The taping of the concert, featured on Bullet in a Bible, shows thousands of Europeans singing along to “American Idiot.” Stating that he felt Green Day’s DVD is a bit of a stunt, he said, “I just thought it was really cheap. To go to a place like England or Germany and sing that song - those kids aren’t taking it the same way that he meant it. And he (Billie Joe Armstrong) knew it.”
More recently, Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher has accused the band of ripping off his song “Wonderwall” for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”.
Main article: Green Day related projects
Ever since 1991, some 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 live backup guitarist Jason White), The Frustrators in which Mike Dirnt plays bass, and The Network, in which all three members of Green Day play under fake stage names. Billie Joe Armstrong has also confirmed that the main members of Green Day are in the band Foxboro Hot Tubs. A Foxboro Hot Tubs album titled Stop Drop and Roll!!! was released on 2008-05-20.
Charity projects that the band have been involved with include the collaboration with U2 (“The Saints Are Coming”) to help raise money for musical instruments lost in Hurricane Katrina, and teaming with the Natural Resources Defense Council for the “Move America Beyond Oil” campaign and other environmental concerns.
In September 2006, Green Day teamed up 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 is 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.
“Working Class Hero”
“Working Class Hero”, a cover of a John Lennon song, was released on the Instant Karma CD.
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In December 2006, Green Day and NRDC opened a web site in partnership to raise awareness on America’s dependency on oil. (See related projects.)
Green Day released a cover of the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero”, that 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 in 2008, but 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.
* Billie Joe Armstrong – lead vocals, lead & rhythm guitars (1987–present)
* Mike Dirnt – bass, backing vocals (1987–present)
* Tré Cool – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1990–present)
* Jason White – lead & rhythm guitars, backing vocals (1999–present)
* Jason Freese – keyboards, piano, acoustic guitar, trombone, saxophone, accordion, backing vocals (2003–present)
* Ronnie Blake – trumpet, timpani, percussion, backing vocals (2004–present)
* Mike Pelino – rhythm guitars, backing vocals (2004–present)
* John Kiffmeyer – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1987–1990)
Former touring musicians
* Gabrial McNair – trombone, tenor saxophone (1999–2001)
* Timmy Chunks – guitar (1997–1999)
* Garth Schultz – trombone, trumpet (1997–1999)
* Kurt Lohmiller – trumpet, timpani, percussion, vocals (1999–2004)
* Gabrial McNair – trombone on Nimrod (1997)
* Petra Haden – violin on Nimrod (1997)
* Rob Cavallo – piano on American Idiot (2004)
* Stephen Bradley – trumpet on Nimrod (1997) and Warning (2000)
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