Billie Joe Armstrong's recent onstage freak-out and subsequent trip to rehab are only going to be minor bumps in the road. His band still has three albums coming out over the next few months, and they still have a world tour in the works. We figured this was a good time to find out your favorite Green Day songs. The response was huge. Here are the results.
Green Day originally cut "Welcome to Paradise" for their 1992 indie disc Kerplunk, but when they signed to Warner Bros. they decided to recut it for their major label debut Dookie. While it didn't do quite as while as "Longview," "When I Come Around" or "Basket Case," it became one of their most well-known tracks and was a highlight of their Woodstock '94 set. The song was inspired by the group's early days when they dropped out of school and moved out of their parents' homes to face the real world. "I still have nightmares about being behind in my classes," Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 1994. "I'll have these dreams where I'm getting an incomplete in class." He paused and laughed. "When I was going in to drop out of high school, I gave one teacher my dropout slip. He just looked at me and said, 'Who are you?'"
Green Day's fourth LP, Insomniac, didn't have quite the same impact as Dookie, but that album was so massive it took them a full 10 years to craft something as memorable. "Brain Stew/Jaded" was one of the clear highlights from Insomniac, even though it's technically two separate songs. Brain Stew was originally the band's nickname for their friend James Washburn. "He used to have a big Mohawk; now he's a total ratchethead [California slang for a car buff]," Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 1995. "He'll say something like 'Oh, man, that guy fuckin' slipped a gear,' when someone snaps. He's a big lyrical influence on me."
In the early 2000s Green Day seemed like they were slowly dying. It got so bad that in 2002 they actually opened up for Blink-182 on a long summer tour. But in 2004 they shocked everyone with the politically-charged rock opera American Idiot. It sold millions upon millions and introduced them to a whole new generation of kids who were barely out of diapers when Dookie came out. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," the second single, went into heavy rotation on radio in late 2004. It was only the beginning of the band's huge comeback.
When Green Day released "She" as the fifth and final single from Dookie in May of 1995, America was starting to get a little sick of the band. Their music had dominated MTV and radio for the past year, and they were starting to reach the saturation point. "She" was the only single from the disc not to reach the Top 40, and that was a clear sign to Warner Bros. to stop milking the album. That doesn't mean it's a bad song – quite the contrary. "She" is a brilliant, short and sweet kiss-off to an ex-girlfriend that has aged quite well. Many Green Day fans would be far happier to see this song busted out in concert than yet another run-through of "Basket Case."
Billie Joe Armstrong wrote "American Idiot" after feeling incredibly dismayed over the pathetic state of America circa 2003. "We were in the studio and watching the journalists embedded with the troops, and it was the worst version of reality television," Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2005. "Switch the channel, and it's Nick and Jessica. Switch, and it's Fear Factor. Switch, and people are having surgery to look like Brad Pitt. We're surrounded by all of that bullshit." The song channels all of those feelings into a perfect three-minute single that set the stage for their glorious comeback.
In April of 1994 Kurt Cobain committed suicide, effectively marking the end of the grunge era. Right around then, Green Day released Dookie, the Offspring released Smash and Weezer dropped their debut. Though the discs all have a different sound, they marked the clear beginning of a new era. Of those three discs, Dookie was the biggest, scoring hit after hit and turning the once-obscure punk trio into rock gods all around the world. "When I Come Around" – inspired by Billie Joe Armstrong's breakup with his girlfriend, Adrienne Nesser – the song is arguably the catchiest track on the album. For many people, it was their gateway to the band. Also, the breakup with Nesser was brief. They married in 1994.
The first single off Dookie, "Longview" is an ode to boredom and masturbation that was written on drugs. "I think drinking and doing drugs are very important," Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt told Rolling Stone in 1994. "When Billie gave me a shuffle beat for 'Longview,' I was flying on acid so hard. I was laying up against the wall with my bass lying on my lap. It just came to me. I said, 'Bill, check this out. Isn't this the wackiest thing you've ever heard?' Later, it took me a long time to be able to play it, but it made sense when I was on drugs. To me, everybody should drop acid at least once. Well, some people don't have the right personality for it. But it is important."
Billie Joe Armstrong started to have panic attacks around the time the band recorded Dookie. He poured that anxiety into the lyrics of "Basket Case" and scored one of the biggest hits of his career. The iconic video was filmed at an actual mental institution in California. MTV aired it roughly 19 times an hour in late 1994 and early 1995.
Fans who pegged Green Day as nothing but a crazy punk band were shocked when they dropped the nostalgic ballad "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" in late 1997. It's the opposite of songs like "Longview" in nearly every way, and it brought them a whole new audience. The song also became an all-purpose goodbye song over the next year or so, playing at graduation parties and even the last episode of Seinfeld. Some old-school fans saw it as a sell-out move, but the vast majority thought it was admirable that Green Day were testing their boundaries. The song showed the band that experiments pay off, and in some ways it paved the way for American Idiot down the road.
"Jesus of Suburbia" is a nine-minute, five-movement mini rock opera within the broader song cycle of American Idiot. It was Green Day's attempt to craft their own "Bohemian Rhapsody," and one of the boldest moves of their career. Midway during the making of the album, word leaked out that they were making a rock opera. "I looked on the message board," Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2005. "And some kids thought we were crazy. It's like, 'Fuck it, take the message board down.' We decided we were going to be the biggest, best band in the world or fall flat on our faces." "Jesus of Suburbia" is the linchpin of the album, and it's become the clear fan favorite from the disc. Today, many of those fans who complained they were making a rock opera probably cite this song as their favorite from Green Day's entire catalog.