UPDATE: Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong has issued a note to fans following the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is more than an award,” wrote Armstrong. “It’s the privilege to play music, write songs and follow this psychotic passion called rock n roll.” Read the whole note on the group’s Instagram.
In December, when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that his band would be among its class of 2015, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong had to go for a long walk just to process the news. “We’re in incredible company and I’m still trying to make sense of this,” he told Rolling Stone at the time. “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has always held something special for me because my heroes were in there. This is a great time for us to sort of reflect and look back with gratitude.”
Tonight at Cleveland’s Public Hall, following heartfelt induction speeches by the members of Fall Out Boy, Armstrong and his compadres Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool did indeed reflect on their lengthy career — their debut EP, 1,000 Hours, dropped in 1989 — and the band’s unlikely success story.
Formed by Armstrong and Dirnt in 1986, Green Day evolved from scrappy East Bay punks into rock & roll superstars with over 75 million in record sales. The hooky pop-punk songs of Dookie, the band’s 1994 major label debut, opened the doors for the countless tuneful and energetic punk bands to follow, while 2004’s Grammy-winning American Idiot proved that the “rock opera” — a concept long associated with the classic rock of the Sixties and Seventies — was still more than viable in the 21st century. Green Day were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility; here’s their full acceptance speech.
Well, thank you Fall Out Boy, that fucking made me tear up a few times. And thank all you fuckers, coming here, we love you. They don’t let drummers use teleprompters, so I wrote this shit old school, on a fucking typewriter. No, actually. OK, but music is the force that gets us up in the morning, and it’s also the shit that keeps us up all night. We’re all in this room together to celebrate music and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s overwhelming, the amount of talent and love in the room. It’s overwhelming.
When we’re on tour in our yellow Ford Econoline, we were playing punk clubs, squats, backyard parties, we were screen-printing T-shirts on Billie Joe’s guitar case. Sleeping on floors, couches, wherever we could. I didn’t think back then that we’d be here now, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I thought it would take at least take another year or two. But we grow older, we change, and we get weird, weirder, crazier. It’s awesome. We grow together. With every beat of the drum our love of music gets even stronger, and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an enormous honor and I’d like to mention a few people who make my crazy world turn around.
My beautiful wife, Sara Rose. Ramona and Frankie, my kids. My mom and dad Frank and Linda. My sister Lori, who actually brought music into our home at an early age, and I love you all. Of course, Billie and Mike, I love you guys. . . Larry Livermore, who gave me the name Tré Cool when I was a wee lad of 11 or 12, and I fought him as far as I could on that, but I fucking stuck with it. I’m in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame now. . .
And I owe so much to my favorite drummers: Ringo Starr. Keith Moon, John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Charlie Watts, Buddy Rich, John Wright from No Means No, Alex Van Halen, Dave Mello, Aaron Elliott, Al Schvitz, and extra special thanks to my good buddy and drummer extraordinaire John Kiffmeyer, right over there. And of course to the Green Day Idiot Nation, thank you, we love you.
I’ve got a couple of things, no particular order. First and foremost, I also have a mom who gave me a guitar, a little pawn-shop bass, and it only had two strings on it, but luckily for me they were A and E. I’d like to thank radio. I’m a big fan of radio, I like good radio shows. I hate commercials, but I love good radio shows. There’s something about a radio show that we’re listening to, we’re all connected, and it’s that human connection that’s always resonated. Lawrence Livermore, you created Lookout Records. You started a small record label for all the right reasons and you gave a home to a lot of bands, and for that I want to thank you. Huge thank you to all the kids who booked us in backyards, in Europe, all the people who booked us in clubs and squats, and to the hundreds of people whose floors you let us sleep on, thank you very much. Those were life-changing experiences and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Randomly, I would like to thank Ford motor company, for creating the Ford Econoline van, the best damn van any smelly touring band could have.
Reprise Records, thank you guys. All of you guys, no matter what era you were there. Brian Bumbery, Jenna Adler. . . you guys have been with us a very long time. And even longer, Pat Magnarella, our manger. Pat, you have very thick skin, you’re very patient, nobody in the world would have let us be ourselves the way you have. We truly appreciate you. To Michael Mayer and everybody involved with the American Idiot stage production. This is as close as we’ll ever get to seeing Green Day live.
I want to thank our friends and family at home for allowing us to be gone so much of our lives and still being there for us. It meant a lot to us over the years and still really does, thank you. To the Armstrong family, I want to thank you guys for taking me in as a kid, figuratively and literally. Thanks for letting me live with you. To my amazing wife, Brittney, you’re a wonderful mother. You kicked cancer’s ass last year. To my children, Estelle, my little daughter, my son Brixton at home and my daughter Ryan at home, I love you guys and each one of you is my entire world. Wrapping it up here. To every one of our fans and the Green Day Nation, this is much more about you guys than it is about me and I’m very proud to share this life on Earth with you.
Last but not least: to my two brothers behind me onstage here. Believe me, it’s been way too many years to want to count. I love you guys, I’ll see you at band practice.
Billie Joe Armstrong:
I’m at a loss for words right now. The gratitude that I feel right now is overwhelming, and I didn’t really want to prepare for something like this, so I didn’t. I couldn’t really write a speech so I’m going to make it up off the top of my head with a few talking points.
First, I just want to thank my family, my boys, Jakob and Joey. And Adrienne, I love you, we’ve been married forever. It’s a rare thing, this crazy rock world, and I love you so much, you’re the best. I gotta thank my mom, Ollie Louise Armstrong, she’s from Oklahoma. You and dad had six kids, I’m the youngest one, and my house — the one thing that I am so grateful for is all of the music that was in our house. My oldest brother Alan, he had the Beatles and the Stones and the Kinks. We used to come to his house and sleep over there and we’d watch Showtime at night, and I’d watch Alice Cooper at 12 o’clock, it was a good time to watch it. And my sister, Marci, who’s pretty much the person who showed me Elvis Presley for the first time. And my sister Hollie was like “Kool and the Gang.” And my sister Anna who basically, that record collection that you had turned my world inside out. Thank you so much. If anything, it’s a lot of people here right now. It’s like my record collection is actually sitting in this room.
The fact that I got to hear an album like Horses by Patti Smith . . . my brother David, we listened to Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe and Cheap Trick, and Pyromania by Def Leppard, and a few others that hopefully will be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame soon. My house was like Rock and Roll High School. Literally, it was nuts. All my friends would come over to my house and say, where do you smoke weed at? The Armstrong house. [Laughs] No, that didn’t happen.
My bandmates, Mike, me and Mike got together, our school district went bankrupt, so they closed down the junior high and combined two elementary schools. So he went to one elementary and I went to the other, we used to have to take the bus out there. First day of elementary school, I think in fifth grade, I was like the class clown, but Mike was like the class clown, so it was kind of like these dueling banjos that was going to go back and forth. What you get is Deliverance. Mike is my musical soulmate and I love you so much and we’ve been through everything together, and I thank you for everything – your friendship, your family. I love you.
And I met Tré, was playing with his band called the Lookouts, and they had this really young drummer, it’s back when he was wearing an old lady shower cap and a tutu. And so that’s the first time I saw Tré, and I was like . . . and then, I don’t know, as the years went by we got to know each other. Just seeing him at shows and things like that, and then he joined the band, and I don’t know, it was just amazing. Amazing drummer. One of my favorite drummers of all time. If there is one instrument that I love to hear, and it’s because my father was a jazz drummer, my brother is a drummer and my uncle is a drummer, I’m the oddball. But Tré is just phenomenal, and just pushes and he’s the most dangerous drummer on the planet.
And there was this backyard party that Sweet Children played, and the kid that was filling in at the time, me and Mike were looking for a drummer, and this guy was in this crazy band called Isocracy, his name is John Kiffmeyer, and he’s a couple of years older and at the time he was a veteran in that community. John, thank you. Thank you so much. I love you and God bless your family.
I don’t know, what can I say, Lookout Records, it’s so rare to get to have an independent label that’s putting out bands that are in a scene, a place like Gilman Street where we come from. They were putting out my favorite records at the time, whether it was Crimpshrine, Operation Ivy, Isocracy. . . Tim Armstrong, I love you, brother.
So, yeah, we had this gig that John booked, and it was going to be on top of this mountain in Mendocino. . .we were supposed to play with the Lookouts. Tré booked the show, so we drove all the way to the top of this mountain, and we played this cabin that didn’t have a roof or electricity. Now, how the hell are you supposed to have a gig, I have no idea, but they got some generators, and we plugged in. That’s where we really met Larry Livermore for the first time, and, Larry, you’ve been so great to us. Thank you so much. You opened your door, and thank you. For kids like us and other kids playing in rock & roll bands and to have that independent spirit, it’s just great. Thank you so much.
I’d also like to thank everyone that worked at Lookout Records like David Hayes, Chris Appelgren and Patrick Hynes, which leads me to all the people at Reprise. Thank you so much. I have to say we’ve had a great experience there. We’ve been there for 20 years. Thank you so much for everyone that worked in the mailroom to goes out trying to find bands. What a thankless job. And everybody over there.
But most of all, I have to thank Rob Cavallo. We’ve only worked with two producers in our entire career, and Butch Vig did one record, so thank you, Butch. Rob, he did all of them. So thank you so much, and I really feel like you’re a brother. We’re kindred spirits in the fact that we can sit around and play songs all day long together, and to speak in that language I just love to talk about it with you. And we’ll talk about it later. Thank you, Rob.
Pat Magnarella, you are a brave man. You’re our manager. I want to apologize for the hotel rooms. I want to apologize for Tré’s drum sets catching on fire. I want to… Thanks for rehab! And thanks for doing those talks we were not capable of doing. Thanks a lot. I love you.
And in closing. So we come from this place called Gilman Street. It’s a club. It’s in Berkeley. We are so fortunate to be able to play there because it’s all-ages and it was non-profit. It was just all of these goof balls. It was like Romper Room for degenerates. It was so great. And what a great scene. We got to watch our friends’ bands, and they got to watch us play, and they got to heckle us. We tried to heckle back, but they had one better. So, then I got to see Operation Ivy, and I got to see Crimpshrine, and I got to see Sewer Trout, Nasal Sex. These far out there bands. I’m truly fortunate. You know, I’ve always loved rock & roll music. I always have. Soon as I opened my eyes and took my first breath, I’m a fan. And that’s the one thing that I’m going to close with is that I love rock & roll.