Not to be confused with Greenery Day, the Japanese holiday or the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
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, and drummer Tré Cool. Cool replaced former drummer John Kiffmeyer in 1990, prior to the recording of the band's second studio album, Kerplunk, and has been a member of the band since.
Green Day was originally part of the punk scene at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. The band's early releases for the independent record label Lookout! Records earned it a grassroots fanbase. In 1994, its major label debut Dookie became a breakout success and eventually sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. As a result, Green Day was widely credited, alongside fellow California punk bands The Offspring, Rancid, and NOFX, with popularizing and reviving mainstream interest in 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, though they were still successful, reaching double platinum and gold status respectively. Their 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 in 2009.
Green Day has sold over 65 million records worldwide and 24.639 million in the US alone. They have won four Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Album for Dookie, Best Rock Album for American Idiot, Record of the Year for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", and Best Rock Album for the second time for 21st Century Breakdown. In 2010, a stage adaptation of American Idiot debuted on Broadway. The musical has been nominated for several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Scenic Design, and has received generally positive reviews.
Formation and Lookout years: 1987–1993
"Welcome to Paradise"
Sample of "Welcome to Paradise" from Kerplunk (1992) This was before Green Day re-recorded the song for its major-label debut Dookie.
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 where Armstrong's mother was working. In 1988, Armstrong and Dirnt began working with Sean Hughes and the 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 performances and helping the band establish a fan base, and Sean Hughes served as the band's bassist. 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 band that drove him to form a band.
After Hughes left Green Day in 1988, 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 extended play, 1,000 Hours. Before 1,000 Hours was released, the band 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, allegedly due to their fondness of marijuana.
Lookout! would release Green Day's debut album, 39/Smooth in early 1990. Green Day would record two EPs 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 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 to commit to the band full time, 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.
Armstrong performing in 1994.
Breakthrough success: 1994–1996
Kerplunk's underground success led to a number of major record labels being interested in signing the band, and the band eventually left Lookout! on friendly terms and signed to Reprise Records after attracting the attention of producer Rob Cavallo. The band 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". 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.
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 three 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 performance 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 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 popularity: 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 for the song's video, which depicted people undergoing major changes in their lives while 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 late 1997 and most of 1998, Green Day embarked on a tour in support of Nimrod.
In 2000, Green Day released its sixth studio album Warning, a step further in the style that they had hinted at with Nimrod. 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 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 two compilation albums, International Superhits! and Shenanigans, followed Warning. International Superhits and its companion collection of music videos, International Supervideos!, sold well, being certified 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 Award 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 success: 2003–2006
Tre Cool (bottom left) and Mike Dirnt (right) performing on July 27, 2005.
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 by an unknown individual. 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 band underwent serious "band therapy", engaging in a number of 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 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" and the band swept the 2005 MTV music awards, winning a total of seven of the eight awards they were nominated for, including the Viewer's Choice Award.
Through 2005, the band toured in support of the album with nearly 150 dates — the longest tour in its 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 a 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 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 the Foo Fighters' 2007 song "The Pretender" which was at number one for 18 weeks).
Foxboro Hot Tubs and 21st Century Breakdown: 2007–2009
Green Day engaged in a number of other smaller projects in the time following the success of American Idiot. They released an album under the band 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, CA.
Green Day performing during a secret show at the Kesselhaus in Berlin on May 7, 2009.
In an interview with Kerrang!, Armstrong revealed that 2008 would "be a fair estimate of the release date of their new untitled eighth studio album for Green Day." 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 recorded 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.
American Idiot: The Musical on Broadway and the ninth studio album: 2010–present
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 UK iTunes Store 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, as a follow-up to the last band specific Rock Band game, The Beatles: Rock Band. The game was released on June 8, 2010. 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.
Green Day plan on having a follow-up album within the next couple of years, but no specific dates have been stated. They have 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."
On August 24, 2010, the band posted on their Twitter account that there is a possibility that a new live album will be released soon: "We've been recording our live shows since the beginning of tour. Possible Live album coming. A ton of songs! We're in texas!" On August 28, the band mentioned the live album again at a show in Denver, Colorado. Armstrong told the audience, "Hey, I just want to tell you something right now. We are recording a live fucking album right now", before playing a "new" song called "Cigarettes and Valentines", which was the title track from the unreleased album from 2003. 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 interview by Radio W, mentioning that they have completed the writing process of the ninth studio album and stating that, "We are always working on songs, when its time and when the music is right we will put it out. I like to think that we have enough material right now to put out a great record, but we want to go back home and make sure that it's perfect for everybody before we put it out." In the interview, Dirnt also mentions that the new live album will "most likely" be released with a live film. Shortly after the interview, there was a live Ustream broadcast with the band, where they announce that they had written 30 songs for the ninth album, and that they have recorded every show (audio and video) for the live album. Currently, the release date for that live album is rumored to be released Spring/Summer of 2011.
On December 5, 2010, Green Day formed another side-project with Jesse Malin called Rodeo Queens, they released their first single called "Depression Times".
On December 17, 2010, it was announced that a live CD/DVD entitled Awesome as Fuck will be released on March 15, 2011.
Musical style and influences
Green Day performing "King for a Day," a ska-inspired song featuring saxophones and trumpets.
Green Day's sound is often compared to first wave punk bands such as the Ramones, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, The Jam, and the Buzzcocks. 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.
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:
"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."
Armstrong himself has discussed their status of being a punk band on a major 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.'" English rock musician Noel Gallagher of Oasis also complained about the band semi-jokingly, claiming that they ripped off his song "Wonderwall" with their song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams".
Cool mentioned in a July 2009 interview that while Armstrong is the primary songwriter, he looks to the other band members for organizational help.
Main article: Green Day related projects
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 live back-up 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 May 20, 2008.
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.
"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.
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 Gottleib 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 a number of 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."
Billie Joe Armstrong – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, harmonica, piano in studio (1987–present)
Mike Dirnt – bass, backing vocals (1987–present), guitar (1987)
Tré Cool – drums, percussion (1990–present)
Al Sobrante – drums, percussion (1987–1990)
Sean Hughes – bass (1987)
Current touring members
Jason White – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, piano, backing vocals (1999–present)
Jason Freese – keyboards, piano, saxophone, trombone, backing vocals (2003–present)
Jeff Matika – rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (2009–present)
Former touring members
Timmy Chunks – rhythm guitar (1997–1999)
Garth Schultz – trombone, trumpet (1997–1999)
Gabrial McNair – trombone, tenor saxophone (1999–2001)
Kurt Lohmiller – trumpet, timpani, percussion, backing vocals (1999–2004)
Mike Pelino – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2004–2005)
Ronnie Blake – trumpet, timpani, percussion, backing vocals (2004–2005)