Part of the northern Californian underground punk rock scene, Green Day was formed by childhood friends Billie Joe Armstrong (lead guitar, lead vocals) and Mike Dirnt (bass guitar, backing vocals). They built a cult following during the early 1990s and are credited, along with bands The Offspring and Rancid, for reviving mainstream interest in the punk rock scene. Green Day’s original drummer, John Kiffmeyer, had joined in 1989 but he left in late 1990 in order to attend college in California, soon after the band’s first nationwide tour.
He was replaced by Tré Cool (drums, backing vocals). Determined to remain loyal to independent label Lookout! Records, who had released the band’s first three albums, Green Day refused an offer to sign with I.R.S. Records. ‘1,000 Hours’ (1990) was their first EP album and later that year they recorded two albums, ‘Slappy’ (1990) and ‘Sweet Children’ (1990). The following year, indie label Skene! Records released a combination of these two albums, called ‘1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours’ (1991). ‘Kerplunk!’ (1992), the first album featuring Tré Cool on drums, sparked the interest of a number of major record labels. The band toured for most of 1992 and 1993 and they eventually left Lookout! Records, on friendly terms. Green Day then signed with Reprise Records, who released the band’s first major-label album, ‘Dookie’ (1994), which they had recorded in a mere three weeks.
The album received much critical acclaim and sold over 15 million copies worldwide, winning the 1994 Grammy for Best Alternative Album. The videos for the singles ‘Longview’ and ‘Basket Case’ were nominated for numerous awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Rolling Stone Magazine placed ‘Dookie’ at number 193 in their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, beating Black Sabbath’s eponymous album and Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. The band’s next album, ‘Insomniac’ (1995), was much darker than the more melodic ‘Dookie’ and won them award nominations for Favourite Artist, Favourite Hard Rock Artist and Favourite Alternative Artist at the 1996 American Music Awards. The video for the single ‘Walking Contradiction’ received a Grammy nomination for Best Video, Short Film and an MTV nomination for Best Special Effects.
Green Day then cancelled their European tour, claiming they were exhausted, and took a break from making music. Following their break, they released the experimental album ‘Nimrod’ (1997), which was a break from their usual music and more in the style of laid-back surfer rock, silly ska, upbeat pop/punk and acoustic ballads. The surprise hit from this album ‘Good Riddance (Time of your life)’ once again won them an MTV Award for Best Alternative Video. The band took another break, this time for two years, deciding to spend time with their new families. Jason White (guitar, backing vocals) became the fourth band member in 1999. Taking the style of ‘Nimrod’ (1997) a little further, Green Day released ‘Warning:’ (2000), proud that it was their strongest work together. The album’s definitive sound reflected the fact that the band members had not only stopped smoking marijuana as much as they previously did but they had also matured somewhat in the interim. The album received mixed reactions, with some fans believing the band was losing its relevance, despite the album producing the number one hit ‘Minority’.
The album sales were not as successful as previous albums and Green Day’s popularity declined somewhat. At the 2001 California Music Awards, Green Day did however win all eight of the awards for which they were nominated: Outstanding Album (Warning), Outstanding Punk Rock/Ska Album (Warning), Outstanding Group, Outstanding Male Vocalist, Outstanding Bassist, Outstanding Drummer, Outstanding Songwriter and Outstanding Artist. Releasing a greatest hits compilation, ‘International Superhits!’ (2001), followed by a collection of B-sides called ‘Shenanigans’ (2002), gave impetus to the theory that Green Day’s superstar days were over. The band then co-headlined The Pop Disaster Tour, with Blink-182, in an effort to restore some of their popularity. Once more, following the tour, Green Day took some time off to spend with their families.
A new album, with the working title of ‘Cigarettes and Valentines’, was meant for release in 2002 but after 20 tracks had been recorded, the master tapes were stolen from the studios. The band was devastated and decided not to try and recreate the album but do something better instead. The resulting album, ‘American Idiot’ (2004), proved their biggest hit to date, with some referring to it as “punk rock opera”. It sold 1.5million units in its first week and went straight to number one in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Japan, following the single of the same name, which entered the UK singles charts at number three. The band was nominated for six Grammy Awards in 2004, with "American Idiot’ winning a Grammy for Best Rock Album.
The band had also changed their image. They stopped dyeing their hair pink and green and began wearing eyeliner and black clothes with red ties onstage. In 2005, Green Day went on a world tour to promote their new album. It was the longest tour of their career and lasted 150 dates, including shows in England, Australia, Japan and South America. Recording the two shows at England’s Milton Keanes National Bowl, Green Day released this as a DVD called ‘Bullet in a Bible’ (2005), including behind the scenes footage of the band which was voted ‘Best Show on Earth‘ by Kerrang! magazine. At the 2005 MTV Awards, they won a total of seven of the eight awards for which they were nominated. In 2006, they won another Grammy Award for Record of the Year in recognition of their success with ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ from the ‘American Idiot’ (2004) album. The single spent 16 weeks at number one on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks. Green Day has announced that their break for regrouping, refocusing and re-energising is over. They are working on new material for their next album, which will apparently be, in their own words, ‘an event’. Judging from the past, we have no doubt that it certainly will be.