Green Day

Author: Janet

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Out of all the post-Nirvana American alternative bands to break into the pop mainstream, Green Day was second only to Pearl Jam in terms of influence. At their core, Green Day was simply punk revivalists, recharging the energy of speedy, catchy three-chord punk-pop songs. Though their music wasn’t particularly innovative, they brought the sound of late-’70s punk to a new, younger generation with Dookie, their 1994 major-label debut. Green Day wasn’t always able to sustain their success — Dookie sold over eight million, while its follow-up, Insomniac, only sold a quarter of its predecessor — yet their influence was far-reaching because they opened the doors for a flood of American neo-punk, punk metal, and third wave ska revivalists.

Green Day was part of the northern California underground punk scene. Childhood friends Billie Joe Armstrong (guitar, vocals) and Mike Dirnt (bass; born Mike Pritchard) formed their first band, Sweet Children, in Rodeo, CA, when they were 14 years old. By 1989, the group had added drummer Al Sobrante and changed its name to Green Day. That year, the band independently released its first EP, 1000 Hours, which was well received in the California hardcore punk scene. Soon, the group had signed a contract with the local independent label Lookout. Green Day’s first album, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hour, was released later that year. Shortly after its release, the band replaced Sobrante with Tre Cool (born Frank Edwin Wright III); Cool became the band’s permanent drummer.

Throughout the early ’90s, Green Day continued to cultivate a cult following, which only gained strength with the release of their second album, 1992′s Kerplunk. The underground success of Kerplunk led to a wave of interest from major record labels; the band eventually decided to sign with Reprise. Dookie, Green Day’s major-label debut, was released in the spring of 1994. Thanks to MTV support for the initial single, “Longview,” Dookie became a major hit. The album continued to gain momentum throughout the summer, with the second single, “Basket Case,” spending five weeks on the top of the American modern rock charts. At the end of the summer, the band stole the show at Woodstock ’94, which helped the sales of Dookie increase. By the time the fourth single, “When I Come Around,” began its seven-week stay at number one on the modern rock charts in early 1995, Dookie had sold over five million copies in the U.S. alone; it would eventually top eight million in America, selling over ten million copies internationally. Dookie also won the 1994 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance.

Green Day quickly followed Dookie with Insomniac in the fall of 1995; during the summer, they hit number one again on the modern rock charts with “J.A.R.,” their contribution to the Angus soundtrack. Insomniac performed well initially, entering the U.S. charts at number two, and selling over two million copies by the spring of 1996, yet none of its singles — including the radio favorite “Brain Stew/Jaded” — were as popular as those from Dookie. In the spring of 1996, Green Day abruptly canceled a European tour, claiming exhaustion. Following the cancellation, the band spent the rest of the year resting and writing new material, issuing Nimrod in late 1997. Three years later, their long-awaited follow-up, a refreshingly poppy record titled Warning, was released. Another long wait preceded 2004′s American Idiot, an aggressive rock opera that became a surprise success — a chart-topper around the world, a multi-platinum seller, and easily the best reviewed album of their career. Green Day reveled in the album’s success, hitting numerous award shows and performing as part of Live 8 in July 2005. That fall brought Bullet in a Bible, which documented the trio’s expansive Idiot live show. – Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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