Sometime in 1990 I was shopping in a local record store named Thrash Grind Grunge and met a punk rocker by the name of Greg. He was running a distribution named Spiral Objective getting independently released punk, hardcore, and garage rock records to the people at super cheap prices. Talking with him about the independent releases by Australian bands like the Hard-Ons, RATCAT, Nursery Crimes, Exploding White Mice, etc. Greg told me he had a copy of Ratcat’s self-titled debut release; a six track EP of power pop goodness. A release I had wanted to hear for a few years. I gave him a blank cassette and returned the next weekend to the record store to collect it. He had recorded the EP for me and added a few extra tracks he thought I’d like.
Following RATCAT’s record, Greg had included an EP by a band from Berkeley, California called Green Day. The EP was called Slappy. I was hooked immediately. What I heard was four tracks of classic Ramones inspired pop punk. I took the tape to school and played it to my art class and was told not only to turn it off but that I listened to nothing but “shit”. I responded saying that they would be huge someday. They laughed.
I immediately snapped up any record / CD that had Green Day on it. And why not? I had a new band to rock to and my addictive personality meant that I needed to collect every release.
One Friday night in 1994, myself and two school friends were watching the ABC music program, RAGE, when a music video came on with members who looked familiar. I said to them “that looks like Green Day” and moments later the words “Green Day – Loungin” came up on the screen. Loungin? (I still have the VHS tape from when I recorded it that night with the incorrect song title listed. RAGE had corrected this by the next week to its correct title, Longview) The video showed the band jamming as a young Billie Joe Armstrong sat in front of a TV and sung about boredom, drugs and masturbation. By the time the song was over, my friends and I looked at each other and I remember saying to them “what the fuck is going on?” We knew right then that something was about to change.
I went to the city the next day and found the new Green Day CD titled “Dookie” in a second hand store for $8. I grabbed it. I went to Thrash Grind Grunge afterwards and spoke to the guys there. They told me “yeah, Green Day signed. They sold out, man!” I wasn’t sure how to take this. Punk rock was our music and it was suddenly being thrust upon the masses and made radio friendly. What the hell is going on?
Over time, trips to the city revealed Green Day’s influence on the kids as the songs Longview, Basket Case and When I Come Around had found their way on to Saturday morning music shows and the mainstream music charts. I have to admit that as a young and naive kid, I was pissed off. Punk was not their music. It was my music. I was annoyed with seeing the kids who had overnight ditched whatever major label processed fake crap they were listening to and suddenly become a “punk”. I would talk with these kids about Green Day and the majority thought that Dookie was their debut. I was really pissed off at those who didn’t do their homework. It’s not like we were talking quantum physics here, this was punk rock.
Green Day had fast become one of the biggest bands since Nirvana broke in 1992 and their success showed no signs of slowing down. An Australian tour was announced for February 1996 following the release of their second major label release, Insomniac (1995). Tickets to their Adelaide show at Thebarton Theatre had sold out in minutes and I missed out. I was angry. This new breed of “punk” kids had got their hands on tickets to a band that I was into first. Not happy. I voiced my anger to anyone who was listening and thankfully, a friend of mine from Melbourne told me she had a spare ticket which I could have. I booked a ticket to Melbourne and was on my way to see Green Day at Festival Hall. For those interested, the support was none other than The Living End (who were great, by the way).
Green Day’s show was OK at best. Tired of being surrounded by kids who didn’t care about punk but only cared for the hits, I was disappointed in the lack of pre-Dookie songs that were played and the fact that when they were played, the crowd stopped moving and seemed stunned over these songs they didn’t know. I walked away feeling a little flat, to put it mildly. I then went to some party of some band that I didn’t know and spent the night on the floor by a drum kit. But that’s another story entirely.
After Insomniac I kinda lost interest in Green Day as the huge harmonies that had me loving their music were just not there anymore. I felt kinda let down. While the world was singing along to the sweet ballad of Good Riddance, I was thinking to myself Good Riddance to a band that I felt had let me down… Well, that was until they released American Idiot in 2004.
Finally, Green Day were back with a mindblowing album packed full of the harmonies I loved. I was once again a huge fan. Maybe I had been too hard on the albums Warning and Nimrod and decided to revisit. Not as good as their first three records or American Idiot but not a total write-off. They have their moments and when they strike, they hit hard.
Now, 22 years since I first heard them, I look back on those days and have grown up a lot since then. My attitude to their music has changed. Probably a good thing. I’m a much better person now. More importantly, I am surprised they are even still going today.
Green Day have just released the first of their triple album project, ¡UNO!, ¡DOS!, ¡TRE! and I will no doubt buy it. I have still bought Green Day releases, seen them a bunch of times and I still enjoy their music (not all of it but definitely most of it). It still seems weird to me that this band I originally had on an old TDK cassette back in 1990 that my friends at the time thought was nothing but shit has turned into this huge multi-million dollar band who made punk rock commercially acceptable and no longer a threat to our parents. Hell, even my mum watched them when they were on David Letterman and thought they sounded good. Times have changed and so has punk. If you’re still upset over Green Day’s mainstream success (and I have met people who are), I think it’s time to build a bridge and get over it. If I can do it, so can you. Cool? Cool.
Oh, I never did see the Broadway of American Idiot though. That sucks. Wish I did.
Thanks for reading. Eat at Chef Wongs. Gabba Gabba Hey!