Green Day biography
One of the biggest rock bands on earth, Green Day have evolved from a punk rock outfit to a politically-charged and commercially successful powerhouse. Famous for rock-opera concept albums including American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, the trio are best loved by some for their earlier work, including hits like Basket Case and Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).
The Early Years
Billie Joe Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Mike Dirnt (bass guitar, back vocals) and Tre Cool (drums) have been the main members of Green Day since they formed in 1987 in Berkeley, California. When they first got together, friends Billie Joe and Mike were just 15 years old, and after one of their early shows in 1988 they were spotted and signed up to the small label Lookout! Records. The band changed their name from 'Sweet Children' to Green Day, apparently because of their experiences with marijuana. The band worked hard to establish a reputation in the late '80s punk scene, and their second full album, Kerplunk, had huge underground success, and led to ambitious touring across Europe by the early '90s.
Green Day risked the ire of 'true' punk fans in 1994 when they signed to a major label (Reprise), and some saw them as sell-outs. But it was through this partnership that Green Day produced their most successful album so far: the now-legendary Dookie.
The band allegedly spent just three weeks recording their masterwork of 1994, and tracks on Dookie including 'Basket Case' and 'Longview' remain live show favourites. Receiving massive airplay across the US, and with notorious appearances at the Lollapalooza and Woodstock festivals, the band's ascension into popular culture as the mainstream punk band of America was assured.
Insomniac, Nimrod, Warning, and downturn in popularity
The next effort from the band, Insomniac, received critical praise, even though it never quite hit the same heights as Dookie. It was a far darker affair, though tracks including 'Walking Contradiction', 'Stuck With Me' and 'Geek Stink Breath' were all solid hits. It was clear within the band though that a new direction was needed if they were to survive as a respectable act, especially as their years advanced, and thus the blueprint for Nimrod was born. A far more experimental step, the album was released at the end of 1997. It was a big success, but to a certain extent drew their appeal away from the traditional punk background from which they had emerged. 'Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)' was the standout track on the album, and is possibly the band's most-played track of all time.
The next move for Green Day, Warning, spawned several hit singles, including 'Minority', but this first stab at music as social commentary didn't strike the intended chord with fans or critics. 2000 was the beginning of a period of Green Day losing its relevance, and being seen as out of touch with the younger generation they had once epitomised. International Superhits!, Green Day's 'best of' album, was released in 2001, and introduced many fans to the band's earlier hits, but it was seen by some as the end of their period of true relevance and musical innovation.
American Idiot was a major turning point in Green Day's career, and was seen as a total reinvention of their image which led to a newfound respect and popularity across the world, as they moved away from associations with Californian slacker drugs and skateboarding culture. In 2003, the band started recording, and laid down 20 tracks before the master tapes were stolen. They decided to start again, and the resulting record was a bold step, and Green Day's first rock opera.
American Idiot went straight in at number one in the US in 2004, and won awards all over the world, sparking a huge global tour as well. Its title track became an anthem for many Americans upset with the re-election of George W. Bush, as well as a worldwide expression of frustration with America's political stance and perceived ignorance of world affairs as wars raged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other tracks of note include 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams', 'Holiday' and 'Wake Me Up When September Ends'.
Foxboro Hot Tubs
After the mind-bending worldwide success of American Idiot, Green Day took the longest break between albums of their career, and it was five years until their next release. In the meantime they wrote another album under a completely different name; the Foxboro Hot Tubs put out an album and went on a tour of very small venues in 2008.
21st Century Breakdown
In 2007 it was reported that Billie Joe Armstrong had upwards of 45 songs written for the new Green Day project, but it wasn't until April 2009 that the new album was finally finished. 21st Century Breakdown was released on May 15 2009 and entered the charts at number one in 14 different countries. Another rock opera, the record was on an even more epic scale than American Idiot, despite that fact that had perhaps seemed impossible. The narrative of the concept album follows two protagonists, Gloria and Christian, as they try to come to terms with anger and disillusionment with politics and culture in an unsure American century, where the US is no longer the most important nation on earth. It gained widespread praise, and once again won the band a new legion of younger punk fans. The first single, 'Know Your Enemy' was a typical energetic Californian rock anthem, and set the scene for a gigantic world tour by the band, which began in July 2009, and lasted until early 2010. Other big songs from the record include '21 Guns' and '21st Century Breakdown.'
In 2010 the band's story made it on to Broadway with American Idiot: The Musical featuring a new song called 'When It's Time.' Stage success was followed by a foray into the gaming world with their own Rock Band video game featuring the full albums of Dookie, American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown.
There's been lots of talk since 2010 about plans for a new album and although no specific dates were released, members of Green Day revealed that they were writing new material. At the end of October that year Dirnt revealed that the writing of their 9th studio album was complete and said they'd put it out 'when the music is right'. Shortly after that interview the live DVD Awesome as Fuck was released.
In the spring of 2011 it was revealed that the band's life is going to be on the big screen with a film version of American Idiot.