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Green Day
If you’ve purchased a Top 40 album over the past ten years, this band’s DNA is all over it. Distraught and troubled could be two words your parents would probably use to describe Green Day’s music, but genius and genre breaking are just as applicable. They may not have created the pop-punk genre, but they've certainly perfected it and brought it to the masses. Their lyrical content has often made reference to what’s happening now, giving kids and adults alike something to inquire about. So the next time you're looking for instant recognition and hoping to spruce up your very own level of coolness, pray to the heavens above for a mention in the next Green Day release. They always manage to put cool on the map.

Their Place On The Fame Scoreboard
From out of seemingly nowhere, their 1994 breakout album Dookie sold over 10 million copies internationally, and gave Green Day the first of their many Grammy Awards. Proving their success wasn't a fluke, they continue to make headlines more than a decade later with the release of the recent Grammy winning American Idiot. That album had particular resonance with the youth, winning seven out of eight awards for which they were nominated at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards (including the most prestigious Video Of The Year), and they also won another staggering eight awards at last year’s Billboard Music Awards.

The band topped the 2005 Rolling Stone Readers Poll winning Artist Of The Year, Best Single and Best Band. These outrageous punk rockers have also been immortalized in hit video games, comic books and on TV shows like Seinfeld, they've toured the world with bands like No Doubt and Blink 182, and their drummer once dated a Playboy pinup girl. Even if you haven't seen any of their legendary live shows, you've likely heard their hit songs in Hollywood blockbusters like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, or spotted their smiling mugs on the covers of magazines like Rolling Stone, Newsweek and People.

Meet The Band
Front man Billie Joe Armstrong always knew he wanted to be a rock star. As a child he sang before he spoke and spent much of his formative years beating a drum kit into submission. The youngest of six children born and raised in Rodeo, California, his mother was a waitress and his father a jazz musician and truck driver who died of cancer when Billie was ten. Just before he died, his father encouraged his youngest son to take cultivate his interest in music, by giving him his first guitar, a Fernandes Stratocaster copy, which Billie nicknamed Blue, and he’s been using it ever since. Apart from being the lead vocalist and guitarist, Billie Joe has been writing most of the bands songs since the very beginning.

Bassist and background vocalist Mike Dirnt (real name Michael Ryan Pritchard) met Billie in school a few months before Armstrong's father died, and they quickly formed a close bond thanks to their mutual love for music. The son of a heroin-addicted mother who gave him up for adoption, Dirnt had spent much of his life bouncing from one household to the next, especially after his adoptive parents got divorced. By the time he was fifteen, he had finally had enough of being shuffled from place to place. Putting together whatever little money he had, he began renting a room in Armstrong's house, which gave the pair a chance to play together incessantly, and they continue to be virtually inseparable since that day.

After adding another friend, drummer Al Sobrante (real name John Kiffmeyer) into the fold, the band Sweet Children was born. After some minor successes on the California punk scene, they manage to land themselves a record deal, and found themselves signed to the Indie independent label Lookout! Records. They changed their name to Green Day in 1989, just prior to the release of 1,000 Hours, their first EP. Just as the band seemed to be picking up momentum after the release of a full length titled 39/Smooth, Sobrante decided to leave for college. He was replaced by Frank Edwin Wright III in 1990, better known by his moniker Tré Cool. Tré had earlier been part of a pop punk band called The Lookouts, who had often played with Green Day in the early years. In addition to sharing their musical sensibilities, he has a natural goofiness that’s kept the band loose since then. Not only content as a drummer, he also has a number of song writing credits and vocals on the band's albums.

Their Political Agenda and American Idiot
Their anti-Bush stance is widely known and they feel that the Americans who voted to put the current government in power are idiots. Lead singer Billie Joe is outspoken, and has no qualms of making fun of the kids and the backward hillbillies of Idiot America, as he feels that they need to see the error of their ways. Similar in nature to other thematic albums like The Who's Tommy or The Ramone’s Rock N’ Roll High School, their latest effort American Idiot talks brazenly about the political climate of America, from the all-encompassing redneck agenda of the current government to full blown Bush bashing. Green Day play in this album like they hope their music has the power to pick up Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney by the throat and shake them lifeless. The band also criticizes the media and their coverage of the war in Iraq, as well as the popular image of Christianity as played out in contemporary Christian-American culture, and this has got them into hot water.

If any rock band has the right to rest on its laurels, Green Day has earned it big time. Instead they went back into the studio with a renewed vigour, and the result is the multi-award winning American Idiot. The album was nominated for seven Grammy Awards, and won the Best Rock Album in 2005. Part political statement and a full-blown punk rock opera, it returned the boys to their rightful place at the head of the punk rock movement. The songs deal with the life of a troubled teenager, Jesus of Suburbia (aka St. Jimmy) who must choose an outlet for his rebellion. Recently Green Day won Record Of The Year at the 2006 Grammy awards for their single Boulevard Of Broken Dreams of the album. Front man Billie Joe Armstrong lets us in the know:

American Idiot just won another Grammy Award. Did you expect the album to hit such a high note the world over?
Billie Joe: This is definitely a monumental moment in my career. It’s been a really great year for the band and probably one of the greatest years of my life. The fact that so many people got behind the album just shows you that there were a lot of people willing to question things or change their mind.

The album has been termed as a fifty-seven-minute-long anti-Bush, anti-war manifesto…
Billie Joe: All my songwriting is about creating a statement and taking action. For me it's a very American thing to do…to write a song like American Idiot. (Laughs) There's definitely a theme and a story throughout the record. On American Idiot, it's reflecting on what's going on in the world right now. George Bush has kind of proved over the last year or so that he's a crap President. There's been some new faux pas every month, be that Hurricane Katrina to the outing of a CIA agent…it's all proper American Idiot stuff... A never ending parade of s**t…

It’s getting tougher everyday to really speak what’s on your mind. Today a stray dissenting comment can earn you radio boycotts or a ban on American television. Was it difficult to get the album out there?
Billie Joe: Basically it's our right to freedom of speech. I consider myself more of a magician than a musician. It's all magic. The music just comes out. The funny thing is that there was a certain amount of fear about doing it. Naturally because you’re putting your career on the line and you're putting yourself in the firing line… We took a chance by saying that we couldn't trust the Bush administration, and everything that's happened since then has proved us right.

With five hit singles already from the album, you seem to have struck a strong chord with the kids of today.
Billie Joe: The administration that's there in office right now... I have a problem with that. It doesn't represent me. I’m just trying to raise a discussion where I’m trying to make some sense of it. He's probably the worst president and has the worst administration in the history of American politics, now even more so than a year or so ago. And now there are people in America that are agreeing with us. If you get enough people…if you take a song and you get enough people singing it, it becomes an anthem, and an anthem becomes the national anthem, to a degree.

You can read the rest of our cover story on Green Day in the March 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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