Out of all the post-Nirvana American alternative bands to break into the pop mainstream, Green Day were second only to Pearl Jam in terms of influence. At their core, Green Day were 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 weren't 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 were 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, 1,000 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. Their long-awaited follow-up, Warning, was released three years later.
Green Day : Story behind 'American Idiot'
As I lay here dying in my hospital bed from terminal cancer, I am flooded by memories I had back in the year 2004. It was the time I was asked to document Green Day in the studio for a proposed documentary on the making of their album American Idiot. Of course the record is now regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, an artistic leap, musically ambitious, always neck and neck with Sgt. Pepper as the greatest album of all time, etc. But no one realizes the risk it was to overtake this project. Things were different back then and today when I am on talk shows, all they ask me are the same general questions. "What was it like to be there?" "Did everyone get along?" "What did you eat?" And "Would you please stop trying to fondle me?" And I respond with the same answers. "It was an amazing experience being with three genius'," "Yes, everyone got along and there was a lot of laughter and farting," "Lunch and dinner consisted of the now controversial Zone/Atkins diet" and "Sorry, I thought that was my pocket."
The memories gush out of me as does my bedpan, so I am going to write this quick before the nurse comes by and scolds me for eating corn (I am on a strict no starch diet). Times were different then. A cruel and harsh King ruled us and the artistic community was scared to voice any opinion that would oppose the mighty King. Green Day, as I recall, loved the challenge and set out to make the greatest record of their career without the slightest bit of hesitation or compromise. The King of course, would be upset, but we would send him a promo copy regardless. American Idiot, as you now know, is more than a concept record, more than a rock opera and it’s more than 60 minutes long. The band that made the perfect 3-minute song was now writing the perfect 9-minute song. I am, of course, talking about the song “Jesus Of Suburbia,” the first opera on the album and the most perfectly structured song ever recorded. As they carry my dead body out of the church, this is the song I requested to be played (that is, if I have enough money to pay Warner’s Bros. for performance rights). But I am getting ahead of myself here; my body will just have to wait until it can curl up in a coffin. This story has to be told!
The recording of the album started on President’s Day and as soon as the band started to record the first song a fire broke out. Was God himself so jealous of these mere mortals making the greatest music ever recorded that he had to smite them? Or was it just a short in the amp? We will never know! But one thing we do know, the boys continued their artistic journey and composed an album that will live throughout the ages.
I vaguely recall that Rob Cavallo was there, longtime producer and part time mime. Always quick to do his ”I AM TRAPPED IN A BOX AND I AM NOW SUFFOCATING” routine that always broke us up, especially after we realized that it was in fact a real box that he was using and he was indeed suffocating! It seemed that Rob was better equipped for producing than the art of mime, which worked out better in the long run. Now where was I? Oh yes, after fires, floods and Billie Joe’s cat bout with diabetes, the boys recorded song after song that are now classic hits and staples on the airwaves. Do I really need to remind you what you were doing when you first heard “On Holiday?” Or whom you were smooching when “What’s Her Name” came on the radio? These are more than songs, these are beautiful memories and my memories of watching them construct this album are as vivid and fresh as the day I was there (of course watching the documentary also helps). Okay! Okay! Stop groveling, I will continue the story but I will not answer the questions of who St. Jimmy is or who Jesus of Suburbia is, or any of that. The answers to the story are on the record and are you that lazy that you cannot figure it out yourself?
This was the album that brought back the days when you could read the lyrics and sit in your room and sing and follow along. The album that started a whole cult of people clutching their hand grenade hearts and the generation that identified with the characters in the album (you don’t believe me that the impact of this album is still strong today? As a matter of fact, when I was rushed into this hospital or the Death House as us patients so lovingly dubbed it, I saw on the sidewalk the spray painted album cover the vigilante fans painted years ago!). Because the album was written from the heart and is deeply personal and moving, we could all identify with it. “September Song” has a deep meaning for me, as I am sure it did when Billie Joe wrote it. But as a skilled writer, he made the interpretation open so everyone could identify with the song. Every song on the album has its place and belongs there. It is indeed an album. Not a bunch of songs that are haphazardly thrown together, but songs that are sewn perfectly together, making an album that is truly brilliant from start to finish. And if you must refer to this record as a concept album, then it is a concept that was missing and much needed. This was an album that took people by surprise and took Green Day's contemporaries by surprise. There were many more Green Day records to come-all great, all different, but American Idiot truly expresses the moment of the band at that time. It was a time that will always be in time. Not even bass player, Mike Dirnt’s ill-fated business venture of self-service massage parlors could tarnish the reputation of this great band and its work. I am honored that I was asked to enter the band's inner sanctums for just that little bit of time. It was an amazing process to witness and document and I feel truly honored. I cannot express in words how I felt watching the band write, construct, record and then polish these gems. Amazing to see the birth of true art. Seeing “Letter Bomb” come from nothing and then hatch into this godhead masterpiece still makes the grey hair on my arms stand up (and unfortunately, my varicose veins also). I am glad I was there and I would do anything if I could go back. But I will always have this album to keep me and my bedpan happy. Is it ironic that when I listen to the song “Novocain” my body is being filled intravenously with pamadhyde? No it isn’t ironic just a fact. But looking back, the album made me inspired again, as it did for millions of others and if I am just remembered as the person with the camera that got in the way during the recording process, so be it (but also don’t forget, in my prime I once sported 6 pack abs! Which now unfortunately resemble cottage cheese). But I am getting off the subject, my memories are now overflowing. How could I forget watching the great Tre Cool drum his drum or when I was rushed to the hospital when a drumstick was hurled in the air knocking me unconscious? Or my beloved Mike Dirnt, bass player extraordinaire, playing that funny looking guitar with only four strings. And that girlish figure of his, always bragging how he could squeeze into ladies Dickies. And Mister Billie Joe Armstrong, what comes out of that boy’s brain still mystifies me. When I look back at those times, I sometimes felt like they were my kids but glad they weren’t because I would be in jail for child molestation. After all these years I still worship those boys and not even the most powerful restraining order can stop that (got that Pat!)! American Idiot makes you proud of who you are and where you are from. Sure, I know when the album came out that people from around the world were jealous they couldn’t be American Idiots but they can be their own special idiots. Great Britain Idiot...Japanese Idiots etc. We don’t discriminate; there are no borders in art (note to self–delete that line before my passing). Nothing rocks or moves as well as this record does. Disagree? Then step outside buddy.
Green Day Tests Grammy Censors
In true punk rock fashion, Green Day tested the censors at the Grammy Awards on Sunday _ and the censors were ready. The Bay Area rockers, on a career high with their "American Idiot" album, added a shot of rock 'n' roll adrenaline by performing the title cut. The disc won the Grammy for best rock album. The song includes a prominent obscenity in one of the lyrics, but the censors were plainly prepared and neatly excised the word. They couldn't delete, however, singer Billie Joe Armstrong's pointed political reference to not wanting to be part of a redneck agenda.
Green Day was energetic and confident, a band that's grown up but hasn't left its punk roots behind: witness the smoothly practiced leap and landing from the riser by drummer Tre Cool. And Armstrong was a live wire. By the way, what's up with trios that expand to quartets onstage but pretend the other member doesn't exist? At least the camera operators didn't completely ignore the mysterious fourth member on guitar.
Idiots Hit The Road Again: Green Day Tour Dates Announced
Second leg of Idiot tour launches April 15 in Miami; My Chemical Romance will support. Beginning in mid-April, punk fans across the continent will be heading to their local rock venues to check out the opera.
Green Day have announced dates for the second leg of their North American tour behind their Grammy-nominated rock opera, American Idiot. The five-week trek will start on April 15 in Coral Gables, Florida, and wind its way through the Northeast and Midwest before finishing on May 20 in Calgary, Alberta. Goth-punks My Chemical Romance will provide support for the duration of the tour.
Though tickets for the tour officially go on sale February 18, eager fans can get a head start buying tickets through the band's long-time merchandiser, Cinder Block Ticketing, on Friday. More details will be announced in the coming days on Green Day's Web site.
Unlike the recent U2 presale snafu — in which many fans who paid $40 to join the fan club to get advance tickets, and were left in the cold when presale tickets sold out — the Green Day presale is open to all fans.
Green Day tour dates, according to the band's record label:
4/15 - Coral Gables, FL @ University of Miami Convocation Center
4/16 - Orlando, FL @ TD Waterhouse Centre
4/18 - Tampa, FL @ USF Sun Dome
4/19 - Jacksonville, FL @ Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
4/20 - Charlotte, NC @ Cricket Arena
4/22 - Norfolk, VA @ Constant Convocation Center
4/23 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Mellon Arena
4/24 - Atlantic City, NJ @ Trump Taj Mahal
4/25 - Albany, NY @ Pepsi Arena
4/27 - Vestal, NY @ Binghamton University
4/28 - Portland, ME @ Cumberland County Civic Center
4/29 - Manchester, NH @ Verizon Wireless Arena
4/30 - Amherst, MA @ Mullins Center
5/2 - Quebec City, QC @ Colisee Pepsi
5/4 - London, ON @ John Labatt Centre
5/5 - Columbus, OH @ Schottenstein Center
5/6 - Cleveland, OH @ Wolstein Center at CSU
5/7 - Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena
5/9 - Madison, WI @ Alliant Energy Center
5/10 - Peoria, IL @ Civic Center Arena
5/11 - Cedar Rapids, IA @ U.S. Cellular Center
5/13 - Saint Louis, MO @ Savvis Center
5/14 - Kansas City, MO @ Kemper Arena
5/15 - Omaha, NE @ Qwest Center Omaha
5/17 - Winnipeg, MB @ MTS Centre
5/19 - Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
5/20 - Calgary, AB @ Pengrowth Saddledome
Road To The Grammys: The Making Of Green Day's American Idiot
How American Idiot, nominated for Album of the Year, came together. Green Day's American Idiot is a lot of things: A concept album. A punk-rock opera. A vaguely religious, very political screed. A return to relevance. A musical map of a very divided nation. A snapshot of bored suburban life.
A career definer. A manic record (loud, soft, pretty, ugly, scared, pissed-off) for equally manic times. And the audio equivalent of the bar being raised.
But in its infancy, the album certainly wasn't one thing: easy.
By now, the trials and tribulations of making Idiot — which has earned the pop-punk vets seven Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year — are well documented. There was the intra-band strife ("We had to stop telling the same stupid jokes and start treating each other like men," bassist Mike Dirnt told MTV News back in September). There were the studio sessions in early 2003 that bore something like 20 new songs, all mastered and ready to be mixed. And, perhaps most important of all, there was the subsequent theft of those masters, which forced Green Day to start over from scratch.
"We had completely finished these songs, and we were getting ready to mix them," Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong explained. "We walked out of the studio and came back the next day, and all of the masters had been stolen ... but [American Idiot] was about making mistakes and fixing them."
So they attacked the re-recording process with a renewed sense of vigor and determination, adopting an "anything-goes" policy that started off silly (the band recorded bawdy versions of Christmas standards) but ended up producing a vivid and varied palate of new tunes through which Armstrong began to weave an arcing narrative. And over time, American Idiot began to take shape.
"Right after I came up with [the phrase] 'American Idiot,' I came up with [the album's protagonist], 'Jesus of Suburbia,' " he continued. "I felt like it crossed that line between church and state or politics and religion. I thought, 'How would I interpret the Bible even though I've never really read it?' So, there's no burning bush, but there's burning towns and ethics."
And it's the keywords Armstrong uses when describing Idiot — "church," "state," "politics," "religion" — that elevate it into the upper echelon of concept albums. Where most efforts fail because they're rooted in goofy sci-fi or bizarre medieval imagery (Rush's 2112, Kiss' Music From "The Elder" come to mind), Idiot succeeds because it's real.
The album's themes of love, loss, indecision, apathy and paranoia — played out against the backdrops of politics and religion — make it the perfect soundtrack for a nation still reeling in the wake of 9-11, a society bombarded by 24-hour news pundits and looking for al Qaeda operatives around every corner.
Throughout the course of the album, Armstrong's characters take potshots at our "gasman president" and his "redneck agenda," rhyme "television fix" with "crucifix" and cry out for novocaine to numb their pain. They occupy a stifling suburban hell and find inspiration in bathroom-wall graffiti. And the scary thing is how many people — the critics who showered the album with praise, the Recording Academy voters who nominated it and the record-buying public who have snapped up more than 2 million copies of the LP — seem to relate to all of this.
"A lot of the record is about the confusion in what's going on today. The non-reality of reality television meets what you see on CNN. And what kind of fears are being imposed on you as the watcher," Armstrong said.
But perhaps the best thing about American Idiot lies not in its scope, nor its message. It's the fact that despite the nine-minute songs and religious metaphors, it still feels like a Green Day album. There are traces of Dookie's brash juvenilia and Insomniac's pro-experimental ethos throughout. And the band is less afraid than ever to pen tunes that match the sweet sentimentality of the massive prom-night hit "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." It's complex and full, retro and futurist. It's the sound of a band at ease with its past, but excited by its future.
"There's definitely a feeling of coming full circle; a realization of learning and growth in this record," Armstrong said. "And if there's any advice I would give, it'd be this: If you just do exactly what you want to do and don't look back, then things will work out."
Green Day Top Albums Chart In Totally Lame Sales Week
Band moves more than 100,000 copies to capture top spot. The Billboard albums chart still appears to be suffering from the post-holiday blues this week, with sales dropping like mid-winter temperatures. Artists aren't offering much new product right now, giving record junkies little reason to get out and hit the stores or surf to online outlets. With no debuts anywhere near the top 10 (Ol' Dirty Bastard's posthumous release is way down at #157), hardly anyone has escaped the downswing unscathed.
Green Day emerge as the kings of this middling week — with American Idiot moving more than 100,000 copies, according to SoundScan, they inch back to #1 on next week's chart, where they debuted 16 weeks ago. After two straight weeks at the top (and four overall), Eminem gets knocked down to #2, selling just under 100,000 copies of his triple-platinum album Encore. Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz remain at #3, despite a 44 percent drop in sales of Crunk Juice, which sold more than 80,000 copies. Kanye West protégé John Legend rises to #4 from #7, after two weeks on the chart with Get Lifted, which sold more than 74,000 copies. And Ludacris holds steady at #5, after a jump from #10 last week and a #1 debut in early December. His Red Light District sold just 381 fewer copies than Legend's LP.
Elsewhere in the top 10, Destiny's Child jump back up to #6 from #10, selling more than 69,000 copies of Destiny Fulfilled, while the Jay-Z/ Linkin Park collabo Collision Course drops to #8 from #4 on sales of more than 67,000 copies. Kelly Clarkson and Shania Twain both edge into the top 10: Twain's Greatest Hits moves back up to #7 from #12, selling more than 68,000 copies, and Clarkson's newly platinum album Breakaway captures #10 after moving more than 66,000 copies. Chart fixture Usher is still in the top 10 after 42 weeks with Confessions, which falls to #9 from #6 with sales of more than 67,000 copies.
Further on down the chart, there's bad news for Ashanti and T.I., who both fell after making gains last week. Ashanti's Concrete Rose sold 84,000 copies, falling 10 slots to #26. After making a leap from #40 all the way to #23 last week, T.I.'s Urban Legend lost some ground, showing up at #28 on sales of more than 38,000. Lindsay Lohan also continues to fall, with sales down more than 50 percent this week, leaving her debut album, Speak, at #31 with more than 29,000 copies sold.
Idiot Rules Again: Green Day Keep Eminem At Bay For Second Week
American Idiot sells more than 100,000 copies to take #1 on albums chart. It's more of the same on next week's Billboard albums chart, as the top two LPs in the country remain unchanged: Green Day's American Idiot hangs on to #1, while Eminem's Encore holds steady at #2, according to SoundScan.
Idiot has sold roughly the same amount of copies each of the past two weeks (more than 100,000), and with last week's total, the album has reached the 2 million mark in sales. Em's Encore sold more than 84,000 copies, bringing total sales to more than 3.5 million copies in just 10 weeks of release. The album has never left the top 10 in that time, either.
Moving up to #3 is country-via-Canada star Shania Twain, whose Greatest Hits sold more than 73,000 copies. Just behind Twain is John Legend; his Get Lifted also moved more than 73,000 copies in its third week of release. Lifted suffered only a 2 percent drop in sales from the previous week.
Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz's Crunk Juice continues to slake the thirst of fans everywhere, selling more than 70,000 copies to finish at #5. And perhaps buoyed by anticipation for this week's debut of "American Idol," former champ Kelly Clarkson's album Breakaway sold more than 60,000 copies to come in at #6.
Music buyers may finally be tiring of hearing Usher's Confessions. Sales of the LP dropped 17 percent, moving more than 56,000 copies (as opposed to more than 67,000 two weeks ago), but it still climbs two spots from last week to finish at #7. The album — 2004's biggest seller — has now moved past the 8 million mark.
Jay-Z and Linkin Park suffered a similar drop in sales (18 percent), but they didn't move up the chart — they stayed in exactly the same place, at #8. Their Collision Course mash-up sold more than 55,000 copies in its seventh week of release. And following the dynamic duo is Ludacris, whose The Red Light District sold more than 54,000 copies to land at #9.
Rounding out the top 10 is the hits comp Now That's What I Call Music! 17, which sold more than 53,000 copies.
Green Day: Anatomy Of A Punk Opera
The making of American Idiot, Green Day's most artistically satisfying album, started with a tragedy.
A year and a half ago, the influential punk trio (without whom there would be no Blink-182, no New Found Glory, no Good Charlotte, etc.) had written and recorded some 20 songs for the follow-up to 2000's Warning. Singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool were in the middle of mixing the tracks when the Berkeley, California, buddies arrived at the studio one morning to find that the master tapes had been stolen.
"I don't like to think about that," Dirnt confesses, sitting with his bandmates in their rehearsal space earlier this summer. "We got them all on CD, but it's not the same."
Feeling violated and not exactly motivated to re-record the album, Green Day decided to abandon the tracks and start over, funneling their frustrations into new material. Along with the old songs, the band also tossed out the rulebook, setting out to do things as differently as possible.
"One day we were just sort of messing around at the studio ... and we said [to Dirnt], 'Write a 30-second song, it doesn't matter what it's about,' " recalls Armstrong, dressed like he's heading to the prom with his white dress shirt, black tie and burgundy jacket. "So he wrote this 30-second piece and we were all laughing about it when we came back into the studio, and I said, 'I want to do one!' So I ended up putting in another 30-second song, and then Tre ended up putting in another 30-second song. And he's all, 'Oh this is funny, it kinda sounds like a rock opera.' "
The comment triggered a collective light bulb in their heads.
"We were like, 'This is what we should be doing, this is how we're really getting our rocks off right now. Let's just be ambitious as hell and go for it,' " Armstrong says. "And from there it started getting more serious."
There's no dictionary definition of rock opera, so the meaning is open to interpretation. Musicals with electric guitars, like "Rent," "Jesus Christ Superstar" or "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," are often touted as such, but Green Day are not exactly Broadway-bound. For rock music fans, the term is more associated with the Who's Tommy, a 1969 double album in which the songs run together — some bundled into acts — to tell the story of a deaf and blind boy.
The group found that using that model for American Idiot and punking it up "was just naturally bringing forth the energy we were looking to capture. ... We felt like we could go anywhere with it," Dirnt says, looking to Armstrong and the quiet Cool for approval. "I was spending so much time in the studio. It was really, really nice for all of us just to really follow through on songs. A lot of the time a song will be abandoned on the guitar, [because] you're all, 'Ah, that's not going to be cool.' Well, maybe just follow through and see where you get, and at the end of it, if it still sucks, maybe you learned something. ... The biggest impedance of success is fear of failure."
While recording, the band listened to a lot of the Who and Bob Dylan, as well as less predictable records, like the soundtracks to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "West Side Story" and even "Grease." "There was a lot of different sources of inspiration and, like, none of them at the same time, because we really wanted to try to do our own thing," Armstrong says.
Although less obvious, American Idiot was also inspired by two of the singer's favorite acts, the Clash and David Bowie. "They really put everything into those records as a piece of art," he explains. "I think that's something that's missing in a lot of rock records nowadays. A lot of these guys are afraid to put themselves out there, to be ambitious. This record is about making mistakes and fixing them. We definitely threw ourselves out there and said, 'Whatever is on your mind, just throw it out there, be bold.' "
Green Day were starting the new songs around the time the United States began invading Iraq. For Armstrong, who was frustrated with his government's actions, the war became a dominant theme.
"I am anti-war, so a lot of [the album] has to do with that, and there's different sides of it too. Like, there's one line that sort of messes with liberals a little too, where it says, 'Hear the drum pounding out of time/ Another protester has crossed the line/ To find the money's on the other side,' " Armstrong recites. "That song ['Holiday'] is about this mishmash of people with all these strong opinions who really can't agree, and leaving [decisions] to the person who's sort of standing in the middle confused and overwhelmed."
Armstrong channeled his opinions into Jesus of Suburbia, the central character in American Idiot, who confronts various personal and social issues as he comes of age from the album's first song to its last. "There's definitely a resolution for the character, but I don't want to give it away because that's something I sort of want to leave to the listeners," he says.
The singer drew from his own coming of age but set the character in the current political and cultural climate.American Idiot opens with the ferocious title track and first single, which introduces the character as an alienated and confused American, who declares, "I'm not part of a redneck agenda." Next the album ventures into the ambitious "Jesus of Suburbia," which is not only the protagonist's moniker, but is also the name of a set of five very different tunes displaying the wide range of the character's emotions. (Another five-song set, "Homecoming," appears later in the record and focuses more on Jesus' relationships.)
"City of the Damned," the second part of "Jesus of Suburbia," is a tirade against his unsaid hometown. "I read the graffiti in the bathroom stall/ Like the Holy Scriptures in a shopping mall," Armstrong sings. "And so it seemed to confess/ It didn't say much/ But it only confirmed that/ The center of the earth is the end of the world."
"It's kind of like, 'Where does someone get their education from? Where does someone find their soul?' " Armstrong explains. "It's just sort of using powerful imagery to convey that."
I Don't Care," the climax of "Jesus of Suburbia," is the most intense of the five parts and features the singer repeating, "I don't care if you don't" a dozen times before asserting, "Everyone's so full of sh--."
"I've definitely reached different points of my life where I've been so apathetic about things and so disenfranchised that it sort of made me the person that I am," Armstrong says. "I think you need to experience those kinds of lows to find some sort of positive part in your life."
"The irony within that song is it carries the energy that we tap into sometimes, which is having an absolutely great time with a miserable message," adds Dirnt.
Green Day took the same approach on "Are We the Waiting," which sounds like it could be the entrance music for a pro wrestler, but has the same cynicism as "I Don't Care," even going so far as to include the line "Jesus of Suburbia is lie."
He's just trying to figure out why he's become this underachieving glorified version himself," Armstrong says. "He's trying to figure out whether he's getting fat and drinking in a bar or saying, 'Do you want fries with that?' or playing in a rock and roll band, just what his identity is, his individuality. That song is just so bittersweet 'cause it just captures a guy in the city who really doesn't know where he's going."
He pauses to collect his thoughts. "You know how sometimes you feel like you're stuck in a waiting room, waiting for something to happen, just sort of being uncomfortable in your own silence," he muses. "That's sort of the moment where you can make a choice of following down a path of complete rage or you can try to find something positive. Or both."
American Idiot is at its most political on "Holiday," and not because of the aforementioned protest lyrics, but because of a dream sequence in which Jesus of Suburbia is a "Representative of California" and takes the floor of Congress to state, "Zieg heil to the president gasman."
"Politicians are so concerned with what they're saying, and this was just a 'What if a politician actually said this?' " Armstrong explains. "I hope people read through it and understand what I'm saying, but it's definitely challenging."
At one point, American Idiot strays entirely from politics and captures what is probably Armstrong's most personal moment on any Green Day album. "When September Ends" is so poignant it might even replace "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" as the band's signature ballad.
"It's the first time I've written about my father dying when I was 10 years old," Armstrong reveals. "But so there is continuity, I wrote it so it seems like the character is sort of crushed about something, a part where you're looking on your past and you're coming of age at the same time."
In the end, most of the songs on American Idiot can stand on their own, the way "Pinball Wizard" and "I'm Free," two of the Who's biggest singles, did on Tommy.
"We still wanted to make this record sound like a Green Day record, instead of writing these huge pieces that sort of go nowhere," Armstrong says. "It still has the quality of a record like Dookie or Nimrod, where it's short-attention-span theatre, but we brought it up to a new level for us."
Although it took four years, the longest Green Day have ever gone between albums, recording American Idiot ended up being the most enjoyable experience of the band's 16-year career.
"The gloves were off and we were just like, 'Let's just go for it, let's push ourselves to be maximum Green Day,' " Armstrong says. "With the stuff that ended up getting stolen, looking back, I don't really think we were being maximum Green Day, whereas now I feel like it's all there and even more. The hard thing for us is: What the hell are we gonna come up with next?"