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Green Day is a hugely successful band hailing from Oakland, California. Their latest album, American Idiot has sold well over 15 million copies and has propelled the band to an even higher level of fame than any other band in the punk rock genre (in modern times anyway).
In 1986 a young Billie Joe Armstrong (Guitar/Vocals) got a guitar for christmas of his mother, he still plays with this guitar to this very day! Infact if you ever see Green Day live you're likely to see it at some stage, it's sky blue and has 'B J' scrawled on the side. Billie Joe learned to play the guitar from books and by jamming with local musicians. By 1987 he had hooked up with Michael Prichard (soon to be known as Mike Dirnt - Bassist/Backing Vocals). The pair began jamming together, mostly playing Eddie van Halen covers. Billie Joe was introduced to the Jam in late 1987 by one of his friends and he really liked the sound, so he and Mike started to write their own 'Jam-style' songs and listened to more (mainly British) punk bands, such as the Buzzcocks and the Clash. By the end of 1988 Billie and Mike had decided music was definately for them and they officially started a band.
Mike and Billie called their 1st band Sweet Children. Neither Mike nor Billie thought of themselves as much of a singer, however as Mike was bigger and harder than Billie, it was decided that Billie should sing (much to Billie Joe's initial dismay). The pair started out as just the two of them playing in sweaty bars and clubs, mainly doing cover versions of the Jam and the Clash. By the middle of 1988 the pair hooked up with a local drummer, only known as John (well to me anyway - I guess he must have a second name...). They started writing their own material and played more and more in the local small but close knit underground punk scene. The band was a regular feature at Gilman Street (an abandoned warehouse turned punk club). At around this time the band were trying to think of a better name, as they had become bored with Sweet Children. By the end of the summer it was decided it should be Green Day.
-Green Day is Born!
A green day is what Billie Joe & co called a day of getting stoned, one of their favourite past times...It was initially used as a joke name for the band, but it stuck. In late 1988 the band started playing with a band called The Lookouts, this was to change the band's fortunes for the better!
The Lookout's were fronted by a man named Laurence Livermore, who was in the process of starting up a record label to release the Lookout's album. However, he liked what he saw when his band, The Lookout's played with Green Day and offered to do some of Green Day's recording if the wished. Green Day thought this would be a fine idea and the joined Lookout! Records.
Green Day released the Slappy EP (a 7-inch vinyl release) and the 1,000 Hours EP within 6 months of joining Lookout! Records. Neither EP sold particulaly
well, mainly being sold at the band's gigs. The next month saw the release of the 'Sweet Children' 7-inch, to much the same effect as the two previous releases.
By 1990 the band had managed to build up a small 'cult' following in the San Francisco Bay area and Livermore and Green Day thought the time was right to release a new album, the result was 39/Smooth. This was initially limited to 1,000 copies on 12-inch vinyl and 500 Cassettes.
With the release of Green Day's 1st LP came their 1st real tour, seeing the band travel up and down the western seaboard, playing 33 shows in 35 days. 39/Smooth quickly sold out and Livermore was swamped with calls from record stores for more copies of all of Green Day's merchandise, the 3 7-inches and 39/Smooth. By the summer of 1990 the band's 1st album had sold around 15,000 copies, an amazing feat for an underground punk band. At this point the band had played a lot with influencial ska band Operation Ivy (featuring Tim Armstrong, who would go on to fame with his band Rancid). This helped Green Day build up an even larger following.
1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours
Lookout! Records thought it would be a good idea to pull the 7-inches together with 39/smooth on 1 cd, and this was done. The result was 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (a mixing of all the titles, excpet the Sweet Children, although those songs also appear on the album).
The band toured extensively throughout 1990/91, as much as 10 months per year. More and more people were starting to take notice of the band by the summer of '91, with influencial magazines such as Maximum Rock n Roll praising the band's albums and live performances.
Green Day's success started something of punk rock revival with lots of new bands springing up by 1991. Chief among these were: The Mr T Experience, Screeching Weasel and The Queers. All of which are still in operation to this very day (Screeching Weasel no longer tour). Throughout 1992 the band toured extensively with Chicago based Screeching Weasel and fellow West coast punker Mr T Experience. They also spent some time in the studio to recording new songs for their next album. Also during this time, Drummer John decided it was time for him to move on and get an education...He left the band and went to college.
-Tre Cool Tre Cool was only 16 when he joined Green Day, he had been drumming for well over 5 years by then, mainly with Livermore's band, The Lookouts. Initially things did not go well and the band was on the verge of collapse. However, things soon got better, the band jelled and went on...and haven't looked back since. (I bet John has!)
Kerplunk was released in Sept 1992 and won great acclaim from fanzines and more importantly Maximum Rock n Roll (the largest of the underground magazines). Kerplunk quickly went on to sell 30,000 copies, unheard of numbers in the punk scene, outselling the likes of The Dead Kenedeys who had set records seven or eight years earlier with their initial sales. With the release of Kerplunk came massive tours, taking the band all over the USA and a 1st European Tour. Their fame was spreading like wildfire at this point and any venue they played in the club scene of america was likely to sell out well in advance.
-Fine and Dandy
Everything was going wonderful for the guys, they were playing almost non-stop, their album's were selling, they had pretty much reinvented punk rock (and certainly re-juvenated it). So where to go from here?
-Taking it slow
1993 saw the band take it a little easier than the previous 2 years. Billie Joe concentrated on his side project band, Pinhead Gunpowder, while Mike joined Ben Weasel's band, Screeching Weasel to fill in on bass for a US tour
-A Big Offer
Reprise Records (Part of Warner Bros) offered Laurence Livermore a substancial sum to take Green Day off his hands, Livermore was ready to accept! He would be a millionairre after all - who would be able to resist? Green Day were somewhat divided as to wether they ought to sign to a major label, as this would surely be bad for their working class, underground punk band image. However, money decided the day and Green Day signed to Reprise Records at the end of 1993 and were immediately cast our by the Underground community and branded as 'Sell Outs'. But to be fair, if someone was to wave thousands and thousands of dollars at you, would you really turn it down? Continue touring in a broken down Bookmobile or travel on luxury buses, private jets etc??? I'm pretty sure I know what I'd choose...anyways on with it...
-Big Time '94
Green Day released Dookie in 1994. Singles off the album sold well. 'Welcome to Paradise' topping the Billboard chart in America, but having little impact in Europe. the 2nd single 'Basket Case' was a huge success, reaching number 6 in the UK and topping the Billboard Chart in the US for weeks. Basket Case must be one of the most recognisable songs out there. Dookie was also very successful, topping the US charts and going on to sell a staggering 25 million copies to date! 1994 also saw the band make an appearance at Woodstock 2, where chaos esued after Green Day started a mud fight. Extensive touring followed. Now playing Arenas instead of punk clubs.
-Insomnia? Well stop doing so much Acid and speed, it's not good for you!
1995 saw the release off Insomniac, the band wanted to 'return to their punk roots' with this one. It's far more agressive and fast than Dookie, or any of Green Day's previous mellower releases. Billie Joe Armstrong is said to have written the entire album while on Acid...some very weird lyrics and up tempo songs make this easy to believe. During the summer of 1995 the band cancelled the rest of their shows for the rest of the year....they had had enough. Touring for almost 4 years solid would do that to you I guess. So they dissapeared, or rather went snowboarding for the forseeable future.
-Where are you?
By 1996/97 most people
Pictures of Green Day
had thought they'd seen the last of Green Day, however...... Out of nowhere the band returned with Nimrod (also released by Reprise). Festival appearances ensued, and a world tour in 1997 sent the band back to the top! (Good Riddance) Time of Your Life hit the UK top 10 and stayed there for a long time, it also topped the US Billboard Charts. After this Green Day were pretty much a household name in the US and Europe and things could only get better and bigger, right?
In 2000 the band released Warning, the album is almost all mellow and a lot of it is done on accoustic (rather than electric) guitar. This album showed that Green Day were maturing a bit, away from songs about masturbation and poo to songs about religion and politics.
The next few years saw releases of compilations, Shenanigans, which featured all of Green Day's B-Sides and a couple unreleased tracks and International Superhits/Supervids, a collection of Green Day's singles and videos.
American Idiot was released in 2005 and is, in my opinion the band's best outing. It's almost a rock opera! The songs follow on from each other and fit together perfectly. The singles hit number 1 in the US and in the UK, Continued extensive touring as ensured that Green Day stay at the top of their game. American Idiot is highly political and critical of US politics.
-Bullet for a Bible Is Green Day's 1st Live performance captured on (official) dvd/cd. It's a double album, containing audio cd and dvd off a gig at Milton Keynes in from of 65,000 screaming, adoring fans!
Green Day give an awesome live performance, often involving the audience. They like to drag people up on stage and get them to play along with their songs on Billie's guitar. It's usually FOD or Knowledge they do this with. The amount of energy these guys have when it comes to performing is amazing, and it infects everyone there. A Green Day show is certainly an exilarating experience.
****The Albums: An Over View****
1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours --------------------------------------------------- Realed on Lookout! Records in 1991
Kerplunk ----------------------- Released on Lookout! Records 1992
Dookie ---------------------- Released on Reprise Records 1994 Saw the band hook up with producer Rob Cavallo for the 1st time Singles: Welcome to Paradise, Basket Case, When I come Around.
Insomniac --------------------- Released by Reprise Records 1995 Singles: Brain Stew/Jaded, Stuck with Me
Nimrod ------------------- Reprise Records 1997 Singles: (Good Riddance) Time of Your Life, Nice Guys Finish Last (US only), Hitching a Ride, Redundant
Warning ------------------ Reprise Records 2000 Singles: Minority, Warning, Blood Sex and Booze
American Idiot ---------------------- Reprise Records 2005 Singles: Wake Me Up When September Ends, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Jesus of Suburbia
If you've managed to read all this then you can probably tell that I rather like Green Day! So in conclusion I've got to say that Green Day are a solid band who produce great songs again and again. I have yet to be dissapointed by Green Day. I'm sure some people don't like them, but that's fine by me too...Any comments are greatly appreciated - Thanks for your time!