Get ready to get loud this fall as we explore the music of iconic East Bay punk band Green Day!
Variously described as boisterous, cynical, mischievous, electric, haywire and rambunctious, Green Day started out playing a brand of punk sometimes referred to as “snot core” for its irreverent lyrics and “anarchic attitude.”
Fourteen-year-old friends Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt formed a band in their hometown of Rodeo while they were still in high school. They were joined by a series of drummers culminating with Tré Cool to become the trio we know today.
Incubated in the anything-goes punk scene of Berkeley’s 924 Gilman in the 1980s (if you want to know more about East Bay punk, check out the documentary “Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk“), Green Day burst into the mainstream with their major-label debut, Dookie in 1994 and took the world by storm with their “snarling, snotty brand of three-chord pop-punk.” According to Wikipedia, Green Day (along with other California punk bands like Sublime, Bad Religion, Offspring and Rancid) helped punk gain mainstream popularity in the US.
Although their sound has been compared to pioneering punk bands like The Ramones, The Clash, The Dickies, and the Buzzcocks, the band has said they were more influenced by non-punk bands like Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, The Kinks, The Who and Cheap Trick.
Not content to be pigeonholed, the band and its members have continued to evolve and branch out over the past three decades, from new musical styles (“Warning finds Green Day growing out of adolescent snot-core and into the lost Beatles album they always had in them,” Jaan Uhelszki wrote in a Rolling Stone review in 2000) to the American Idiot musical on Broadway (after a premiere at Berkeley Rep) to Armstrong’s 2013 collaboration with Norah Jones on covers of Everly Brothers’ tunes (Foreverly). They also have a long history of side projects, collaborations and secret shows under goofy alternate names.
Although the band’s songs are known for their catchy power-pop chords and head-banging exuberance, the songs often explore deeper issues like Armstrong’s anxiety attacks (“Basket Case”) and the death of his father (“Wake Me Up When September Ends”), the death of a friend (“J.A.R.”), the difficulties of a life lived on tour (“When I Come Around”) and the state of American politics (“American Idiot”).
Along with three-chord punk, Green Day’s music can teach us about balancing fun and seriousness and exploring things that interest you musically.