I have to admit, I’m not much of a Punk. I mean, I like an awful lot of music that could be considered Punk, but I, myself, would never qualify as a Punk Rocker. I’ve never slam danced. I never got a tattoo. I never pierced anything on my person. I’ve never even worn torn clothing. I’ve never bleached my hair or colored it purple or orange or red. I’ve never spit on anyone. My last pair of Chuck Taylors had to be 30 years ago. I’ve never owned a pair of Doc Martens. I’ve never participated in anarchy or even a melee. I can’t play an instrument. Eye shadow? Out of the question. When Green Day surfaced nationally in 1994 I didn’t really dig ‘em. In fact, I was a late bloomer all around regarding Punk Rock. Today, my reverence for records like Never Mind The Bullocks (Here’s The Sex Pistols) knows no bounds. I love The Ramones much more today than I ever did when I wore a younger man’s clothes. I had my share of issues with authority, but authority always won. I Fought The Law, but not enough to actually get arrested thankfully. I never wanted to overthrow the government, but that’s probably because I live in the United States. When I think Punk Rock I think Dead Kennedys. I think short bursts of anger and angst. A ton of acts got lumped in with Punk Rock that maybe shouldn’t have been mentioned in that way. I don’t know, call me crazy, but I never considered The Patti Smith Group as Punk Rock. The attitude? Sure, but what do they have in common with bands like Fugazi, The Damned, Minor Threat, The Misfits, Bad Brains, Husker Du or The Circle Jerks? Not much as far as I can see.
The greatest Punk band of them all, The Clash, was far too melodic and talented to be considered Punk. Angry? Yes. In your face? Absolutely, but the Clash were in another league even if they did start out as mostly a Punk outfit. For every “Police and Thieves” there was a “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.” Eventually there were no more white men in Hammersmith. I liked that Clash the best myself, but Punk fans may not agree with my assessment at all. I’m cool with that. I’ve seen Sid & Nancy many times. They’ll be critics and evangelists of the genre. I totally get that. One thing nobody can argue with is the energy. Whoa. It’s just that when I see bands like Joy Division, The Jam, X, Television, even Gang of Four (whom I saw perform earlier this month…go see them!) characterized as Punk it gives me pause. But nobody cares so why do I? I’ll give you The Buzzcocks, but even Blondie and Talking Heads were considered Punk before somebody coined the phrase New Wave. Green Day? Definitely Punk. That is probably why I didn’t much care for them back in 1994. That and the awful hype. My Grunge/Alternative Rock station, WFNX Lynn-Boston, took to this band like nobody’s business. Still do. Green Day 24×7. I had to stop listening to the station after about a year and a half of this. 1994′s Dookie would not go away. The hits, all four of them, are still played on college radio to this day. The four I speak of are ”Basket Case, When I Come Around, Longview and Welcome To Paradise.” Some may through “She” in this mix, but I don’t. The core four I called them. I didn’t buy the CD right away. Sometimes you just don’t have to with the radio doing the job for you.
In September 1994, speaking of hype and reputations preceding, Green Day, who started a near riot at Woodstock II not one month prior with mud, played the Hatch Shell on Boston’s Esplanade down near The Charles River. Yeah, that dirty water depending on which band you credit. Or at least they tried. The Hatch Shell was rarely made available for Rock concerts between 1980 and 1994. Most of you probably would recognize the venue from watching The Boston Pops on TV doing their Fourth of July thing. Or maybe that is only local programming. Regardless, it came down to security most of the time. Even though The Pops host some 200,000 plus fans each year on Fourth of July, provincial Boston couldn’t possibly allow that many Rock fans and their respective party favors. We’re talking Beacon Hill blue bloods here with money and power and plenty of objections. I remember the band Heart played there in 1978 or 1979 and while I don’t recall it being a huge catastrophe Rock concerts were far and few between there in the 80′s. I know because my dorm (dork) room overlooked the Hatch Shell as well as any window could. We saw everything that went on down there. Around that time we were lucky if we could fire the Frisbee or play catch without getting moved along. Still, it’s a great venue. Then along comes Green Day. Honestly, it wasn’t Green Day that caused the problem (this time) at all. It was the crowd. Security was woeful and between 70,000 to 100,000 fans descended on the Hatch Shell on September 9, 1994. The show was sponsored by Green Day loving WFNX. It might have been their first Disorientation concert for all I remember. They’ve hosting fantastic concerts here for years since that day without incident. I guess they just played them too much. Just a few minutes after the band took the stage the crowd surged forward obliterating the thin blue line. They say prisoners from the local jails were recruited as security in a pinch. It was a wild scene I hear. The band had to retreat to safety and the concert was postponed. Once they announced Green Day had “left the building” tear gas was needed and 60 people were allegedly arrested in the ensuing melee. Ah, Punk Rock. Priceless.
In 1995 Green Day returned with a record called Insomniac. The first single was “Geek Stink Breath.” I didn’t understand this single, but man did it kick some ass. Right out of the shoot. 2 minutes and 15 seconds of pure Punk. Maybe these guys are good after all I thought. The record was definitely less commercial if you ask me (no one ever does), but I loved “Brain Stew, Armatage Shanks and Walking Contradiction.” I bought the record. I think it helped that I took a break from WFNX during that time. They had totally morphed into an Industrial Rap station when Grunge finally fizzled. Rage Against The Machine was now the 24×7 band. I wrote about them about two years ago here. I didn’t understand this transition at the time, but I was never much for Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. Doesn’t make me right, but at the time I couldn’t understand how we could go from Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins into bands I didn’t quite think as highly of. Innovative? You bet, but I like my melody. As a result of listening more to my own collection than the radio…novel idea that…I should try doing more of that today…I was able to take Green Day on my own terms. I wasn’t being force fed them every two hours for a year. Insomniac was still a punk record by definition; 14 songs in nearly 33 minutes. How very Ramones of them. It was right here when some of their die hard fans though Green Day went off the rails and sold out. It’s tough to hear a band referred to as sell outs, but in Green Day’s case, if it meant more easily digestible solid Punk Rock I wanted in. I was not expecting what followed in 1997 though.
If you watched the series finale of the NBC medical drama ER in 1999 the final scene was scored by none other than Green Day. Their sappy ballad “Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life)” had introduced Green Day to the mainstream. I think the cries of sell out were never louder. ER, in fact, starring George Clooney and Julianna Margulies, came on the air not ten days after the aforementioned Green Day non concert on the Hatch Shell in 1994. The folks who ran right out and bought Nimrod, and there were plenty, were no doubt a bit shocked to find a Punk band behind that famous ballad. It appeared in the best TV series ever to grace the tube, Seinfeld, and was also used to close out NBC’s coverage of the 1997 World Series (won by Florida if memory serves). Green Day was now a household name. No other way to phrase it. They took a lot of criticism, but they made a ton of dough in the process. In the year 2000 Green Day released a CD called Warning. I just loved this record, but I don’t think many other folks did. Green Day was accused of mailing it in among all the other charges. There wasn’t a bad song on this disc, but there was no anger and no schlock. Nimrod sold $6M copies worldwide according to our friends at Wikipedia. Warning sold a paltry $3M worldwide. What an embarrassment huh? To put this in perspective, again according to Wikipedia, Dookie sold $25M copies worldwide and Insomniac sold $8M worldwide. It sure looked like Green Day had peaked and was on it’s way out. Wrong again Geek Stink Breath…
After cooling off for four years or so, the politically charged American Idiot roared out of the gate in 2004. It was a concept record revolving around a character called Jesus of Suburbia, but it was big departure from Green Day’s two minute fifty second modus operandi. This time, 13 songs took nearly 60 minutes. The songs were rock solid and watching them perform on TV was pretty amazing. I saw Green Day in a whole new light after American Idiot. I’m not much for mixing politics and Rock, but this was one impressive effort for my money. It took me a bit to digest, but once I did I loved the record. Green Day was not only back, they were back with vengeance. Vitriol and anger personified. This took an hour to listen to. That can be very dangerous to the health of a given record, but Green Day was actually saying something here. It wasn’t exactly a Rock Opera, but it was in the neighborhood. $15M records sold later meant that Green Day was Back in Black, to give a nod to a heavy metal legend. 2009′s 21st Century Breakdown, produced by the legendary Butch Vig, brings us up to date. I’m still digesting this record some two years later to be honest with you. I’m having trouble listening to as much music as I once did. I’m wrestling with long hours at my six month old job. That is why you don’t see me posting as much these days. I can’t get to the gym as much so I’m grouchy. The news of the world is awful and that saps me sometimes too. And my DVR…what can I say? I went to San Francisco on business last week and I’m still digging out. If I hadn’t been forced to take he red eye last Friday night, which resulted in couch potato heaven and multiple recorded TV shows on Saturday, I’d be deleting things to keep up. I’m not going deaf, shockingly, and I don’t listening to music any less than I did when I was ten, but my commute is barely 20 minutes and I’m just not getting the job done. Regardless, even though I backdated this post and Billie Joe Armstrong’s birthday was nearly a week ago now, Happy belated Birthday BJA from The Giant Panther. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do…you’re doing just fine.
Buy or Download Green Day’s International Super Hits! From Amazon Here.