Home Music Music Lists

Time of Their Lives: Green Day’s 22 Biggest Days

As the punk rockers prepare to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we look back at the memorable moments that helped get them there

Billie Joe Armstrong

As Green Day prepare to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a look back at their biggest days.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

It's been a long and twisted road, but somehow the three snotty punks in Green Day – singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool – have made it from the cramped stage at Berkeley's 924 Gilman Street to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band's induction this weekend is only the most recent significant moment in a career filled with 'em. From Woodstock to Broadway, smash albums to smashed teeth, mud fights to meltdowns, Green Day has experienced more than its share of highs, lows and downright odd incidents. Here, we look at some of the most memorable ones. Because as Armstrong sang on 1995's "Jaded," "Going straight will get you nowhere."

Billie Joe Armstrong

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Jeff Kravitz/Getty

Award Tour

By the time of the 37th Annual Grammy Awards on March 1st, 1995, Dookie had spawned four hit singles and sold more than six million copies in the U.S. alone. So the awards show was something of a victory lap for Green Day, with the band being nominated in four categories and taking home a statue for Best Alternative Rock Performance for Dookie. And while they lost in the Best New Artist category to Sheryl Crow, at least, in Crow's case, she was actually nominated for what was her debut – rather than third – full-length album.

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Something Unpredictable

The late Nineties and early 2000s saw Green Day weather something of a commercial downturn. But the period also spawned one their biggest hits in the uncharacteristically gentle "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." Released as a single on October 17th, 1997, the song went on to soundtrack weepy moments on Seinfeld and ER, not to mention a million high school proms. Its acoustic guitar strums and general mellowness led Dirnt to once call the song the most "punk rock" thing the band could have done, though "Good Riddance" also contains some more traditional punk moments, such as Armstrong's audible utterance of the word "fuck" as he flubs the guitar intro. Then there was the time Cool lit his drums on fire while Armstrong performed it on the Warped Tour . . .

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

On Top of the World

Despite MTV not being able to go seemingly 10 minutes without replaying a Green Day video in the mid 1990s, it took the band until September 10th, 1998, to earn a "Moonman" at the channel's Video Music Awards. During a post-show interview with Kurt Loder, a celebratory – or perhaps bored – Cool wandered off and proceeded to scale the rotating Universal Studios globe, smiling and waving to fans as he went for a spin. Ever the consummate professional, he then climbed down, walked back over to Loder and his bandmates and dutifully wrapped up the interview. "I'll ride anything," Cool later explained. "I like the horses in front of the supermarket as well."

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

They’re Number One

A hour-long punk-rock opera put together by a band that, in 2004, seemed to be well past their popularity sell-by date, hardly seems like a recipe for a mainstream smash. And yet, American Idiot, which came a full decade after the breakthrough Dookie, was just that. Following colorfully-named characters like Jesus of Suburbia, St. Jimmy and Whatsername through an America in decline, the politically-charged concept album became Green Day's first chart-topping album upon its release on September 20th, 2004, debuting at Number One on the Billboard 200, and ultimately selling more than 6 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Charity Case

Back in 2006, there were arguably no bigger rock bands in the world than U2 and Green Day. So it was appropriate that, looking to raise funds to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina, the two acts teamed up to record a cover of the Skids' 1978 song "The Saints Are Coming" as a charity single. That September 25th, prior to the first New Orleans Saints home game at the Louisiana Superdome since the venue had been heavily damaged in Katrina, the two groups appeared together at the sold-out stadium to perform that song and others live. As an added bonus, the Saints pummeled the Atlanta Falcons that night, 23-3.

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Toon Tunes

Visually speaking, Green Day have always veered toward the animated. So, if anything, it's surprising that it took until 2007 for the band to receive the yellow-skinned, four-fingered treatment from the Simpsons. The band members appeared as themselves in The Simpsons Movie, performing on a barge and playing a punked-up version of the show's iconic theme song – after which they're pelted with trash (shades of Woodstock '94?) and left to drown in Lake Springfield. Which likely rules out any chance of a returning role in the much-discussed movie sequel . . .

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Undercover

In December, 2007, the members of Green Day, along with Prima Donna singer and guitarist Kevin Preston, created a MySpace page and website for a band called Foxboro Hot Tubs. Over the next few months, rumors ran rampant that the group was, indeed, an alias for Green Day (the fact that the original songs available on the band's website and MySpace page clearly featured Armstrong on vocals were something of a tip-off). By April 2008, Armstrong confirmed as much in an email to MTV: "The only similarity," between Foxboro Hot Tubs and Green Day, he wrote, "is that we are the same band." Soon after, the Hot Tubs issued a full-length album, the garage-rocking Stop Drop and Roll!!!, and, in a particularly meta moment, performed on Last Call With Carson Daly – during a week dedicated to Green Day.

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Bright Lights, Big City

Where do you go after you've topped the charts and packed arenas throughout the world? If you're Green Day (or, a few years later, U2) you head to the Great White Way. In 2009, the band and Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer adapted American Idiot for the stage, launching the production first in Berkeley, California, and then, on April 20th, 2010, at the St. James Theatre on Broadway. In an even more improbable twist for the once-snot-nosed punk rockers, Armstrong himself inhabited the role of St. Jimmy for 50 or so shows. After a run of more than 400 performances, the production closed in New York – but not before winning two Tony awards and a Grammy.

Play video

Green N’ Roses

Green Day might not be getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until this year, but they put their stamp all over the ceremony three years ago, on April 14th, 2012, in Cleveland. The band kicked off the show with an explosive run-through of American Idiot's "Letterbomb," and Armstrong later reappeared onstage to induct Guns N' Roses into the institution. He then returned once again, this time to sing backup on G N' R's classic "Mr. Brownstone," a collaboration that had been rehearsed only moments earlier – in a bathroom stall in Guns' dressing room.

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

21st Century Breakdown

As far as concerts go, the iHeartRadio festival has proven to be a fairly smooth-running event – that is, until Green Day showed up. During a performance of "Basket Case" on September 21st, 2012, an inebriated Armstrong flew off the handle after a monitor signaled the band had only one minute left in what he believed was an abbreviated set. "You've gotta be fucking kidding me!" Armstrong exclaimed, adding, "I'm not fucking Justin Bieber!" He then removed his guitar, smashed it to bits and walked offstage. The next day, as the outburst made headlines in the music press, Armstrong recalled to Rolling Stone, "I woke up and asked [my wife] Adrienne, 'How bad was it?' She said, 'It's bad.'" But the very public meltdown was also a wakeup call as Armstrong subsequently entered a rehab facility to deal with a years-long struggle with drugs and alcohol.

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Triple Play

In a move that had shades of Kiss' simultaneous release of four solo albums, in the final months of 2012 Green Day issued three full-band albums, each, in Kiss-like fashion, emblazoned with the face of a different member. The wide variety of music on the discs, combined with the whimsical packaging, made the whole thing feel more ambitious, and also more lighthearted, than the two concept albums that preceded it. Either way, the release of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! – on September 21st, November 9th and December 7th, respectively – was another definitive step forward for the band. "We are going into the unknown," Armstrong said to Rolling Stone prior the release of ¡Uno! "I don't know what's going to happen."

Play video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs as part of the UCSF Concert for Kids at AT&T Park on November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

I’ll Be You

Armstrong has often referred to the Replacements' Paul Westerberg as a "hero," and so when Westerberg was grounded with back pain for the Minneapolis legends' reunion gig at Coachella on April 19th, 2014, the Green Day frontman was only too happy to come to the rescue. Armstrong, who once recalled seeing the Replacements perform in 1987 all dressed in plaid, came on stage at Coachella – in a plaid suit, natch – and backed up Westerberg as the 'Mats singer reclined on a sofa. Armstrong provided similar support at various festival gigs through the summer. Was he psyched? Before playing the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, Armstrong uploaded a photo of himself with Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson to his Instagram account with the hashtag, #holyshitIminthereplacements.

Show Comments