Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong – circa 1995

“Somebody keep my balance / I think I’m falling off / Into a state of regression / The expiration date / Rapidly coming up” – ’Jaded’ (Billie Joe Armstrong / Green Day)

Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt recalls being contacted by the group’s frontman, vocalist and guitarist: “Billie [Joe Armstrong] called me at one point and said, ‘Do you even want to do this anymore?’”  It is 2003.  The future of American pop punk band Green Day is uncertain.  Is their story over?  Is a slow decline all that’s left?  Or could it be that their greatest triumph is just over the horizon?

Billie Joe Armstrong is born 17 February 1972 in Oakland, California, U.S.A.  Actually, he is born in Piedmont, a small town surrounded by the city of Oakland.  “My mom was from Oklahoma,” he later explains, “Hence the name Billie Joe…It’s not William Joseph, it’s ‘just’ Billie Joe.”  He is the son of Andrew ‘Andy’ Armstrong and Andy’s wife, Ollie Jackson.  Andy Armstrong is a jazz musician, but he also pays the bills by driving a truck for the supermarket chain, Safeway.  Billie Joe is the youngest of six children.  His elder siblings are David, Alan, Marci, Hollie and Anna.  His eldest sibling, David, is 22 years older than Billie Joe.  Ollie Jackson is 40 years old when she gives birth to Billie Joe.  The racial heritage behind Billie Joe Armstrong is a mix of Scottish, Irish, English, Welsh, Italian, German, Spanish and possibly Cherokee Native American.

Billie Joe Armstrong is raised in Rodeo, California.  “My brother David was a great athlete and I knew there was no way I could live up to that,” Billie Joe says.  Instead, he follows his father’s example and turns to music.  The precocious child starts his recording career early.  Billie Joe Armstrong records his first single, ‘Look For Love’ on Fiat Records, when he is only 5 years old.  (Note: The flipside of the single is a promotional interview with the youngster.  A brief excerpt from this interview prefaces the new Green Day song ‘Maria’ recorded for the compilation album ‘International Superhits’ (2001).)

Andy Armstrong, Billie Joe’s father, dies of oesophageal cancer on 10 September 1982.  Billie Joe is 10 years old at the time.  His mother, Ollie Jackson, works at Rod’s Hickory Pit Restaurant in El Cerrito, California.  Ollie Jackson remarries but Billie Joe does not get on well with his stepfather.  The conflict pushes him further into music.

At Hillcrest Elementary School, Billie Joe Armstrong meets future Green Day member Mike Dirnt.  “I think we ended up playing out first show together in seventh grade at the [Carquinez] Middle School dance or something like that,” recalls Armstrong.

Mike Dirnt is born Michael Ryan Pritchard on 4 May 1972 in Berkley, California, U.S.A.  The baby is given up for adoption, since his biological mother is a heroin addict and unable to care for her offspring.  (His biological mother dies on 9 January 2013.  Mike meets her for the first time only one month before her death.)  When he is six weeks old, baby Michael is placed with his adoptive parents, Frank Pritchard and Cheryl Nasser.  Michael is raised alongside his sister, Myla.  However, their parents divorce.  Mike’s stagename originates at grade school when he mimes playing a bass guitar, singing, “dirnt, dirnt, dirnt.”  Mike Dirnt meets Billie Joe Armstrong at the Hillcrest Elementary School cafeteria when the boys are 10 years old.

When they are 14 years old, Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt form their first band, Sweet Children.  The 1986 line-up of Sweet Children is: Billie Joe Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Mike Dirnt (guitar, vocals), Sean Hughes (bass, vocals) and Raj Punjabi (drums).  By 1987, Raj Punjabi is replaced by John Kiffmeyer (drums) (born 11 July 1969), who is sometimes known under the alias of ‘Al Sobrante’.  Sweet Children play their first gig at Rod’s Hickory Pit (the restaurant that employs Billie Joe’s mother) in 1987.  Sean Hughes leaves the group in 1988 after a few performances.  Mike Dirnt moves to bass and the group takes on its most familiar configuration as a trio.

Sweet Children see out the rest of their school days dividing their time between gigs and classes.  “There were never really parents or anything like that around,” comments Billie Joe Armstrong with a hint of sadness.  It has been said that the boys come from ‘dysfunctional family backgrounds.’  That may be an overstatement, but it seems Billie Joe and his friends largely make their own way.  The days pass at John Swett High School and Pinole Valley High School.  In April 1989, Sweet Children change the name of the band to Green Day.  The new name is selected ‘because of their fondness for marijuana.’  Their first show as Green Day is in the college town of Davis, approximately an hour north east of San Francisco Bay.  One of the band’s most important venues is The Alternative Music Foundation at 924 Gilman St in the West Berkley area of Berkley, California.  More popularly known by its fans as ‘Gilman’, it is at this punk club that Green Day develops a lot of their early style.  Green Day is signed to the Lookout label, an underground punk rock specialist.

Green Day is normally considered a punk rock band.  The odd thing about that is that the main era of punk rock is the mid-1970s to the late 1970s – about a decade and a half before Green Day begin their recording career.  The American band The Ramones is usually considered the first punk rock act but, arguably, the genre reaches full flower when it travels to the U.K. and gives birth to bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash.  Billie Joe Armstrong nods to punk’s transatlantic background when he says, “I sound like an Englishman impersonating an American impersonating an Englishman.”  Punk strips away much of the pretension rock has accumulated.  It is loud, obnoxious and bratty.  “Punk is not just the sound, the music.  Punk is a lifestyle,” notes Armstrong.  An anti-authoritarian attitude is important.  This often involves a political agenda as well – at least in the British variant.

Although punk’s heyday is over by the late 1970s, it never really goes away.  Pockets of punk rock fans keep the flame burning.  One such breeding ground is the San Francisco Bay area, the scene from which Green Day emerges.  Perhaps they could be considered ‘neo-punks’?

The punk rock tag soon proves needlessly limiting for Green Day in any case.  ‘Pop punk’ is another common description since Green Day wed punk’s sneering attitude to catchy tunes with sing-along choruses.  The alternative rock label is also applied.  Alternative rock is simply music that avoids mainstream commercial dissemination in favour of appealing to a cult audience of possibly better educated, savvier listeners.  Green Day’s punk background fits well with this sort of purposeful outsider status.  Punk remains the starting point, the basic language, of any Green Day song.  “Punk will never be dead to me,” vows Billie Joe Armstrong.

The songwriting credits for Green Day songs usually list the band as a whole as the composer of the music.  Billie Joe Armstrong writes the vast bulk of the lyrics, though other band members normally get to pen the lyrics of a song or two per album.  It appears that Billie Joe Armstrong is the main songwriter and is generally the creative spearhead of Green Day.

The EP ‘1000 Hours’ is Green Day’s first recording.  It is released in 1989.

Billie Joe Armstrong drops out of high school on 16 February 1990, one day before he turns 18.  Mike Dirnt graduates high school, but has no plans for college.

‘39/Smooth’ (1990), released in April, is the first album by Green Day.  Like its successor, this disc is co-produced by Andy Ernst and Green Day.

A second EP, ‘Slappy’, is released in 1990 by Green Day.  (‘1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours’ (1991) is a compilation of the debut EP, debut album and second EP.)

Billie Joe Armstrong begins dating Adrienne Nesser in 1990 after meeting her at a Green Day concert in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Late in 1990, drummer John Kiffmeyer a.k.a. Al Sobrante leaves Green Day and goes back to college.  His replacement is Tre Cool.  This creates the definitive Green Day line-up of: Billie Joe Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Mike Dirnt (bass, vocals) and Tre Cool (drums).

Tre Cool is born Frank Edwin Wright III on 9 December 1972 in Frankfurt, West Germany.  As his birthplace suggests, Tre has a German heritage.  His father, Frank Wright, Jr., was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.  Tre has an older sister named Lori.  When Tre is still very young, the Wright family relocates to Willits, California.  This results in some sources mistakenly listing Willits as Tre’s birthplace.  In Willits, Tre’s father works as a house builder.

Frank Edwin Wright III picks up the name ‘Tre’ fairly early.  It is a common nickname for a person whose father and grandfather shared their name.  Being the third with the name, ‘Tre’ – Spanish for ‘three’ – makes sense as a pet name.  Tre takes to playing the drums early and is not shy about his prowess: “I’m the greatest rock drummer on the planet and you suck.”  His neighbour, Larry Livermore, is the singer with a band called The Lookouts.  When he is only 12 years old, Tre is recruited to join The Lookouts.  “I didn’t have a normal childhood by any means,” Tre notes.  It is Larry Livermore, his new musical collaborator, who gives the drummer the name Tre Cool.  It’s a pun on the French word ‘tres’ (meaning ‘very’), so ‘Tre Cool’ means ‘very cool’.  Music tends to overshadow school for Tre Cool but, as he later says, “I never completed high school and I am very rich and very successful.”

‘Kerplunk’ (1992), Green Day’s second album, is drummer Tre Cool’s debut with the trio.  The album is notable for an early version of ‘Welcome To Paradise’, a song Green Day reworks on their next album.

‘Kerplunk’ is Green Day’s last album on the Lookout label.  The group moves to Reprise Records.  Since this is a much larger organisation, the move outrages some punk purists.  Hardcore audiences brand the trio ‘sell-outs’ and quite a backlash is stirred up.  From 1994 Green Day is banned from the punk mecca Gilman – though years later they are sufficiently forgiven to make a couple of low-key appearances at the venue that kick-started their career.

Tre Cool recalls that, “Back in 1993 and 1994…my dad built this tour bus for us out of a bookmobile.  We toured in it for the first year.”  The drummer notes, “It was a really bad idea by the way.”

‘Dookie’ (1994) (US no. 2, UK no. 13, AUS no. 1) is Green Day’s first album on the Reprise label.  The disc is released in February.  It begins a long-lasting association with Rob Cavallo, who co-produces with the group most of the band’s subsequent albums.  The album’s title is a reference to the group ‘often suffering from diarrhoea, which they referred to as “liquid dookie”, as a result of eating spoiled food while on tour.’  ‘Dookie’ offers a raft of notable tracks.  ‘Longview’ (UK no. 30, AUS no. 33) throbs with the exhortation “Bite my lip and close my eyes / Take me away to paradise.”  Yet this ode to pleasuring oneself ultimately finds, “When masturbation’s lost its fun / You’re f***ing breaking.”  Billie Joe Armstrong describes ‘Longview’ as “cheap self-therapy from watching too much TV.”  The buzzsaw onslaught of ‘Welcome To Paradise’ (UK no. 20, AUS no. 44) is a revisitation of a track from the group’s previous album.  ‘Basket Case’ (UK no. 6, AUS no. 85) asks, “Do you have the time / To listen to me whine?”  Lost and spinning about, Armstrong’s narrator admits, “Sometimes I give myself the creeps.”  When I Come Around’ (UK no. 27, AUS no. 7) has a solid and sturdy riff.  The rough ‘She’ has a female protagonist oppressed by society, accounting for its underlying melancholy colours.  (Note: Although none of these songs reach the mainstream U.S. pop charts, some of them do quite well on the ‘Modern Rock’ chart which has a more alternative music orientation.)  With ‘Dookie’, Green Day ‘break through into the mainstream.’  The lyrics of the album ‘speak of self-loathing and insanity, masturbation and hatred of elders.’  ‘Dookie’ is ‘the album that jump-starts the 1990s punk pop revival.’

On 2 July 1994 Billie Joe Armstrong marries Adrienne Nesser.  The couple go on to have two sons: Joseph (born 26 February 1995) and Jakob (born 12 September 1998).

‘At the end of the summer, [Green Day] steals the show at [music festival] Woodstock ’94.’  Billie Joe Armstrong’s mother is less impressed.  She is ‘disgusted to see her son drop his pants and swear at the audience when the band leaves the stage prematurely after being pelted with mud.’

In 1994 Green Day drummer Tre Cool becomes romantically involved with photographer Lisea Lyons.  The couple have a daughter, Ramona (born 12 January 1995).  The little girl is named after Joey Ramone, vocalist of punk rock’s pioneering act, The Ramones.  “I always said the world is a better place because of Joey Ramone,” says Tre Cool.  Tre marries Lisea Lyons in 1995, but the couple divorce the following year.  Lisea leaves the marriage, taking baby Ramona with her.

In an interview published on 24 January 1995 Billie Joe Armstrong confesses that he is bisexual.

In 1995 Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt begins dating a woman named Anastasia.  They marry in 1996.  The relationship ends the same year, but their child, Estelle-Desiree (born April 1997), comes along subsequently.

‘Insomniac’ (1995) (US no. 2, UK no. 8, AUS no. 5), Green Day’s follow-up to ‘Dookie’, arrives in October.  The title is not a reference to partying; it is inspired by members of the band becoming fathers and being kept awake by their new families.  ‘Geek Stink Breath’ (UK no. 16, AUS no. 40) is a song that wallows in the lowlife as the character narrating sings, “I’m blowing off steam with Meth Amphetamine.”  The careening ‘Stuck With Me’ (UK no. 24, AUS no. 46) stubbornly faces down the upper classes.  The agonised static transmission of ‘Brain Stew’ (UK no. 28, AUS no. 88) hews close to the inspiration for ‘Insomniac’: “I’m having trouble trying to sleep…”  ‘Jaded’ is a thundering gallop towards oblivion.  However the best of the bunch may be the swaggering ‘Walking Contradiction’ in which Billie Joe Armstrong (playing a character rather than being autobiographical?) sings, “I’m a smart-a** but I’m playing dumb.”  ‘‘Insomniac’ performs well initially…yet none of its singles…is as popular as those from ‘Dookie’.’

In early 1996 Billie Joe Armstrong is arrested for indecent exposure after a Green Day show in Wisconsin, U.S.A.

‘Nimrod’ (1997) (US no. 10, UK no. 11, AUS no. 3) is spearheaded by a strutting, rockabilly-punk number about a boozer who has fallen off the wagon and is now ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’ (UK no. 25, AUS no. 26).  ‘Good Riddance’ (UK no. 11, AUS no. 2) is reputedly inspired by Billie Joe Armstrong’s break-up with a girlfriend around the time of ‘Dookie’ – but how that fits in with him dating Adrienne Nesser around the same time is anyone’s guess.  Despite its scornful title, ‘Good Riddance’ is actually awash in melodic nostalgia as more accurately reflected in its subtitle, ‘(Time Of Your Life)’: “It’s something unpredictable / But in the end is right / I hope you had the time of your life.”  It is the soundtrack to many weddings and end of school proms.  With its acoustic guitar and what sounds like a cello, there are some who doubt ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’ is sufficiently punk.  Bassist Mike Dirnt argues that, “Putting that song on our record was probably the most punk thing we could do.”  In other words, punk is all about defying convention.  The sparkling and sparky ‘Redundant’ (AUS no. 2) admits, “Now I cannot speak / I lost my voice / I’m speechless and redundant / ‘Cause I love you’s not enough / I’m lost for words.”  ‘Nice Guys Finish Last’ (AUS no. 88) is a pummelling reminder of Green Day’s rock credentials.

Green Day’s fifth album, ‘Warning’ (2000) (US no. 4, UK no. 4, AUS no. 7), is ‘refreshingly poppy.’  Produced by Green Day with no outside co-producer, this disc features even more acoustic guitar, alienating some punk purists even further.  Yet Green Day is rapidly outgrowing artificial limitations and this set is one of the more underrated works in their catalogue.  Although hardly their biggest hit, ‘Minority’ (UK no. 18, AUS no. 29) – a track from this album – is actually Green Day’s best individual song.  This is an anthem to non-conformity.  It is arrogant and unbowed.  As such, it sums up the best values of Green Day.  Sure, it is bratty, but it has purpose and an admirably indelible stamp of individuality and character.  “I want to be the minority / I don’t need your authority,” sneers Billie Joe Armstrong, “Down with the moral majority / ‘Cause I want to be the minority.”  The singer and songwriter explains that, “’Minority’ is about being an individual.  It’s like you have to sift through the darkness to find your place and be that individual you want to be your entire life.”  The title track, ‘Warning’ (UK no. 27, AUS no. 19) begins, “This is a public service announcement / This is only a test / Emergency evacuation protest / May impair your ability to operate machinery,” then blossoms into a catchy chorus and layered acoustic guitars.  The swaying pop melody of ‘Waiting’ (UK no. 34) is at odds with the face-smashing chords the song also boasts.  ‘Macy’s Day Parade’ is a plaintive acoustic view of an empty society.

In 2000 Green Day drummer Tre Cool marries Claudia Suarez (Bovino).  They go on to have a son together, Frankito (born 26 March 2001).  The baby’s name means ‘Little Frank’.  It may be remembered that Tre Cool’s real name is Frank Edwin Wright III.  Tre and Claudia divorce in 2003.

Green Day release the EP ‘Tune In, Tokyo…’ (US no. 198) in October 2001.  This is followed a month later by the compilation disc, ‘International Superhits’ (2001) (US no. 40, UK no. 15, AUS no. 11).  This collection of popular songs also includes two high quality new additions, ‘Maria’ and ‘Poprocks & Coke’.

On 5 January 2003 Billie Joe Armstrong is arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol.

In 2003 Green Day record an album to be titled ‘Cigarettes And Valentines’.  However, the tapes go missing.  There is some question about whether the recordings are stolen or just mislaid.  Normally, in such circumstances, a band will go back to work and try to recreate the album.  However, Green Day choose to just abandon the project and forget it.  This leads to some speculation that ‘Cigarettes And Valentines’ may have been substandard, not exactly the band’s best work.

After the ‘Cigarettes And Valentines’ mess, Green Day experience a collective disenchantment.  Their albums have been selling in dwindling quantities since ‘Dookie’.  This is not apparent by a simple glance at their highest chart placings, but is revealed in their overall sales figures after the album’s main selling period has passed.  The cumulative sales for ‘Dookie’ are 10 million units (U.S.) and 20 million (worldwide).  ‘Insomniac’ registers sales of 2.1 million (U.S.); ‘Nimrod’ also chalks up 2.1 million (U.S.); and ‘Warning’ achieves ‘only’ 1.2 million (U.S.).  It is this growing crisis of confidence that prompts Billie Joe Armstrong to call Mike Dirnt and ask if he even wants to continue as Green Day.  The boys decide they will soldier on – and are soon amply rewarded for their faith.

Over the next decade, Green Day drummer Tre Cool embarks on a series of romantic relationships.  He is linked to: Torry Castellano (2003-2004), drummer with all-girl hard rock band The Donnas; Caramia Provenzano (2009-2010), a model; Ruri Hegarty (2009-2010) [yes, that is the same period as Caramia Provenzano], a host on cable television music station MTV; Dena Roberson (2010-2011), a ballet dancer; Karli Henneman (2012), a model and artist; and Purista Blenk (2012-2013), a businesswoman.

While Green Day is recording their next album they also record an album of synth pop called ‘Money Money 2020’ (2003) under the alias of The Network.  It is never officially acknowledged that Green Day is The Network, but it seems to be widely known.

In 2004 Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt marries Sarah Garrity – but they divorce in the same year.

‘American Idiot’ (2004) (US no. 1, UK no. 1, AUS no. 1) is Green Day’s best album.  On this disc, they reunite with long-time co-producer Rob Cavallo.  ‘American Idiot’ is a loosely-knit concept album, a punk rock opera.  “After recording it, we knew we had accomplished something distinctly above anything else we had ever done,” claims bassist Mike Dirnt.  His comrade, Billie Joe Armstrong, puts it this way: “Either people will think this is great or they will think it sucks and we’re crazy.”  The fast and shuddering title track, ‘American Idiot’ (US no. 61, UK no. 3, AUS no. 7), is perceived by some as an attack on U.S. President George Bush and the war on Iraq.  “I never really got into the political thing until I felt like…I had to,” says Billie Joe Armstrong, almost apologetically.  Most of the album is a sprawling love story about St Jimmy and a girl referred to only as ‘Whatshername.’  St Jimmy is also the ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’ (UK no. 17, AUS no. 24) – though it’s possible that may be a different person completely.  The album contains two medleys that run over nine minutes each: ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’ (‘Jesus Of Suburbia’, ‘City Of The Damned’, ‘I Don’t Care’, ‘Dearly Beloved’, Tales Of Another Broken Home’) and ‘Homecoming’ (‘The Death Of St Jimmy’, ‘East 12th St’, ‘Nobody Loves You’, Rock And Roll Girlfriend’, ‘We’re Coming Home Again’).  Tre Cool pens the words to ‘Rock And Roll Girlfriend’ while Mike Dirnt does the same for ‘Nobody Loves You’, the childish sing-song that is the first track completed for the album.  The tribute to a wild girl, ‘She’s A Rebel’, contains the lyric that is interpreted into the album’s cover: “She’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade.”  Among the more successful tracks on ‘American Idiot’ are the following: ‘Boulevard Of Broken Dreams’ (US no. 2, UK no. 5, AUS no. 5) is sighing and acoustic coloured, but cannot be called soft.  ‘Holiday’ (US no. 19, UK no. 11, AUS no. 24) is an air-punching riff monster in which Billie Joe Armstrong proclaims, “I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies / This is the dawning of the rest of our lives / On holiday.”  The album’s most lingering success is ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ (US no. 6, UK no. 8, AUS no. 13), an acoustic tune that could be described as a ballad.  It is claimed by some that ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ is inspired by the death of Armstrong’s father – on 10 September 1982.  The lyrics say, “Summer has come and gone / The innocent can never last / Wake me up when September ends / Like my father’s come to pass.”  ‘American Idiot’ is an ambitious work but it is also well realised.  It is a critical and commercial hit for Green Day, reaffirming their purpose and direction.  It is an ‘aggressive rock opera that becomes a surprise success.’

The live album ‘Bullet In A Bible’ (2005) (US no. 8, UK no. 6, AUS no. 8) is released in November.  The hard charging ‘The Saints Are Coming’ (US no. 51, UK no. 2, AUS no. 1) is a 2006 single, a duet with Irish rock supergroup U2, and is included on a U2 compilation album.  Then there is another weird outing for a Green Day alter ego.  ‘Stop Drop And Roll’ (2008) (US no. 21, UK no. 75) is attributed to The Foxboro Hot Tubs and is an album of garage rock.

On 14 March 2009 Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt marries Brittney Cade.  The couple have two children: a son named Brixton (born 11 October 2008) and a daughter named Ryan (born 29 November 2010).

‘21st Century Breakdown’ (2009) (US no. 1, UK no. 1, AUS no. 2), released in May, is ‘another ambitious rock opera.’  This time the protagonists are named Christian and Gloria.  Billie Joe Armstrong says of the storyline, “It’s chaos and desperation.  Y’know there’s an angry mob, a city on fire, while you’re making out with your girlfriend in the middle of it.”  The album’s most satisfying moment is the riff happy ‘Know Your Enemy’ (US no. 28, UK no. 21, AUS no. 20).  It’s nearest rival is ’21 Guns’ (US no. 22, UK no. 36, AUS no. 14) which has a more diverse musical palette, moving from acoustic guitar and keyboards on the verses to an emotionally stirring big chorus.  Other notable tracks on ‘21st Century Breakdown’ include ‘East Jesus Nowhere’, the title track ‘21st Century Breakdown’ and ‘Last Of The American Girls’.  The album is co-produced by Butch Vig and Green Day.

Green Day’s previous rock opera, ‘American Idiot’, becomes a stage musical in September 2009 with a performance at the Berkley Repertory Theatre.  ‘American Idiot’ is staged at various venues subsequently until the show closes on 21 April 2011.  Initially, Tony Vincent is the leading performer, but Billie Joe Armstrong puts in three stints in his place: 28 September to 30 October 2010, a further fifty performances starting on 1 January 2011, and the final stretch from 5 April to 24 April 2011.

‘Awesome As F***’ (2011) (US no. 14, UK no. 14, AUS no. 69), released in March, is another live album by Green Day.  On 1 September 2011 Billie Joe Armstrong is taken off a Southwest Airlines flight for wearing his pants too low.  ‘On The Radio’ (2012), issued in January, is a souvenir of a live Green Day show performed for radio.

In the lead up to the next Green Day album, the group’s leader, Billie Joe Armstrong, has a personal crisis.  On 21 September 2012, he has ‘an on-stage breakdown during a set Green Day play at the iHeartRadio music festival in Las Vegas.  Days later it is announced that Armstrong enters rehab for undisclosed substance abuse; not long after the band’s touring plans for 2013 are cancelled.’

It turns out that Green Day release three individual albums over the next three months: ‘Uno’ (2012) (US no. 2, UK no. 2, AUS no. 3) on 24 September; ‘Dos’ (2012) (US no. 9, UK no. 10, AUS no. 10) on 13 November; and ‘Tre’ (2012) (US no. 13, UK no. 31, AUS no. 22) on 11 December.  An image of a different member of the trio appears on each of the covers (named for the Spanish words for ‘one, two, three’): Billie Joe Armstrong on ‘Uno’, Mike Dirnt on ‘Dos’ and, of course, Tre Cool on ‘Tre’ – the last-named being the whole point of the pun.  For these discs, Green Day reunite with long-time co-producer Rob Cavallo.  Their success is hampered somewhat by Billie Joe Armstrong’s crisis and the band’s scuppered tour plans.  The best tracks are all on ‘Uno’.  In the loose and choppy ‘Oh Love’ (US no. 97), Armstrong pleads, “Won’t you rain on me tonight?”  This is an ‘anthemic arena rocker.’  ‘Disco-rock’ is the chosen mode for the more unusual ‘Kill The DJ’ (UK no. 110).  “Shoot the f***in’ DJ / Shoot that f***er down,” is the exhortation in this dance music gone wrong track.  ‘Let Yourself Go’ (UK no. 193) is a punk throwback that, fittingly, snarls, “I don’t give a f*** anyway.”  The most notable track from ‘Dos’ may be ‘Stray Heart’, while ‘Tre’ is home to ‘The Forgotten’ and ‘X-Kid’.

In late 2012, Green Day takes on a fourth member – Jason White (guitar) (born 11 November 1973).  This may be an attempt to reduce the pressure on the beleaguered Billie Joe Armstrong.  Jason White is married to Janna Rollins.  They have two children, a boy named Sonny (born January 2013) and a daughter named Shelby (born May 2014).

On 11 October 2014, Green Day drummer Tre Cool marries Sara Rose Lippert, a former Miss Supercross.

By 2016, guitarist Jason White is back to being a ‘touring member’ of Green Day and the band has resumed its classic configuration as a trio.

‘Revolution Radio’ (2016) (US no. 1, UK no. 1, AUS no. 2) is released on 7 October.  The album’s first single, ‘Bang Bang’ (UK no. 84, AUS no. 83), is about the ‘culture of mass shooting.’  This ‘storming angry-but-accessible pop/rock tune’ is written from ‘the point of view of a gunman using Facebook to outline his plans for a massacre.’  The narrator is “Daddy’s little psycho and mommy’s little soldier,” as the lyrics put it.  ‘Still Breathing’ goes from quieter verses to a high energy chorus while expressing vague amazement at the singer’s own continuing survival.  All the songs on ‘Revolution Radio’ are group compositions with the exception of ‘Ordinary World’, ‘a tender (but not soft) lullaby’, written by Billy Joe Armstrong alone.

Green Day’s career could have ended in 2003.  Instead, they persevered, making the triumphant ‘American Idiot’.  Yet there were other critical moments when the band could also have ceased.  For instance, the underground backlash when they signed with Reprise in 1994 could have derailed them.  Similarly, Billie Joe Armstrong’s ‘breakdown’ in 2012 could have brought Green Day undone.  Rock music is always a moment-to-moment proposition.  Green Day achieved many great moments.  “Do you even want to do this anymore?” Armstrong once asked bassist Mike Dirnt.  Perhaps the best answer is Armstrong’s own words: “I’m not as depressed as I used to be.  The [anti-depressant] Prozac’s working!”  Green Day was ‘one of the most popular rock bands of the 1990s and 2000s.’  They were ‘punk revivalists who recharged the energy of speedy, catchy three-chord punk pop songs.’

Sources:

  1. ‘Biography – Green Day’ (video) – bio.com (7 August 2011?)
  2. Internet movie database – imdb.com – as at 14 May 2015
  3. wikipedia.org as at 13 May 2015, 4 January 2017
  4. brainyquote.com as at 13 May 2015
  5. allmusic.com, ‘Green Day’ by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as at 16 May 2015
  6. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 186
  7. greendayauthority.com as at 13 May 2015
  8. Notable names database – nndb.com – as at 13 May 2013
  9. diffuser.fm – ‘I5 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Green Day’ by John Robinson as at 15 May 2015
  10. ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 57
  11. ‘The Advocate’ (24 January 1995) via (8) above
  12. famousfix.com as at 13 May 2015
  13. ‘American Idiot’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Reprise Records, 2004) p. 20
  14. ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Return of the Idiot Brother’ – review of ‘Revolution Radio’ by Cameron Adams (6 October 2016) p. 38

Song lyrics copyright WB Music Corp. / Green Daze Music administered by WB Music Corp., ASCAP

Last revised 12 January 2017

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