Profiles :: Green Day
When alternative rock music went mainstream in the early 90s, few acts were better positioned to exploit the commercial possibilities than California punk trio. Green Day.
Billie Joe Armstrong (vocals/guitar) and Mike Dirnt (bass/vocals) had been playing together since the age of 11 in the refinery town of Rodeo, California, performing in various garage bands. Tré Cool (drums/vocals) had been in a band called The Lookouts who broke up in 1990, but their final EP, IV, featured Billie Joe Armstrong playing guitar and singing backing vocals on three tracks.
Armstrong and Dirnt had already formed Sweet Children with ex-Isocracy drummer John Kiffmeyer. Their debut release came on Livermore's Lookout Records in 1989, the 1000 Hours EP.
However, two weeks before release the band informed Livermore that they had changed their name to Green Day because another local band, Sweet Baby Jesus, had just changed their name to Sweet Baby and signed with Slash/Warner Brothers Records. Various stories circulate about the inspiration behind the band's new name - from their fondness for marijuana to a reference to 60s Charlton Heston sci-fi movie Soylent Green.
Their debut album, 39/Smooth, recorded in a single day, comprised 10 pop punk tracks. Two limited edition EPs followed, one for Lookout, the second for Chicago label Skene Records. Kiffmeyer booked their first national tour, but afterwards left the band to concentrate on college (his only subsequent musical activity came in the Ne'er Do Wells).
Cool was asked to fill in, and immediately wrote the comedic 'Dominated Love Song' for Kerplunk!, where the 60s pop quotient was reduced in favour of a synthesis of 70s British punk bands the Jam and Stiff Little Fingers. It sold over 50,000 records through word of mouth and underground media support.
Afterwards they decided to take the plunge and move to a major label, signing to Warner Brothers subsidiary Reprise Records, despite bigger offers from elsewhere. A&R man Rob Cavallo was also recruited as producer for their third album. Dookie gradually stalked the charts, going on to sell over nine million copies in the USA.
Their arduous touring schedule was the chief reason for their rise, and was topped off by appearances on the 1994 Lollapalooza package and the revived Woodstock event.
The other main factor was the estimable quality of their songwriting. Dookie's success was rewarded with nominations in no less than four Grammy categories. In 1995, it was confirmed that they had sold over 10 million albums worldwide, a stunning achievement for a band who have remained faithful to a basic punk pop framework.
Insomniac and Nimrod confirmed their popularity, with the band's fans seemingly unfazed by the weakness of the songs compared to the material on Dookie. Their fourth major label release, October 2000's Warning, was a hugely enjoyable power pop album that, contrary to the band's defiant claims, owed little to their punk roots.
Two compilation albums followed. International Superhits, a greatest hits package in 2001, and the far more interesting and enjoyable Shenanaigans, a strong collection of b-sides and rare tracks.
In 2004 Green Day returned with their first brand new material in 7 years. American idiot, a 'concept album' (many of the songs are performed in order at live shows), has already spawned 5 hit singles and propelled Green Day to arena status with two sell out shows at the 65,000 capacity Milton Keynes Bowl.
Listen to the Green Day documentary
Listen to Mike Davies interviews with Green Day
Gallery - The Lock Up in LA with Green Day
Billie Joe Armstrong - vocals/guitar
(b. 17 February 1972, California, USA)
Mike Dirnt - bass/vocals
(b. 4 May 1972, California, USA)
Tré Cool - drums/vocals
(b. Frank Edwin Wright III, 9 December 1972, Germany)
American Idiot (2004)
Shenanigans - compilation of b-sides an rare tracks (2002)
International Superhits - greatest hits (2001)
International Superhits (2001)
:: www.greenday.com - Offical Site
:: www.greendaymusic.com - Offical Site
:: www.repriserecords.com - Offical Site
:: /music - American Idiot album review
:: Discography on BBC Music
:: The Lock Up in LA