Dookie, Green Day

Green Day is another band I came to pretty late.  Dookie came out in 1994 when I was still anti-anything modern.  When I was 27 I started hanging out with a 19-year-old kid I worked with at the mall coffee shop.  Pat was a cool punk rock kid I had a lot in common with, and he loved Green Day.  When we would drive out to The Chamber, a goth club on the west side of Cleveland that played 80s music on Wednesday nights, he would play lots of different stuff for me.  He’s the one who got me interested in Green Day.  Pat was in a band back then and he listened to music as a musician, which can at times be annoying.  One summer he joined my sisters and me at a Brian Setzer Orchestra concert where he proceeded to criticize every guitar lick and drum beat.  As much as it pissed us off, I do understand that playing music makes you hear it differently, just as the analysis I did in grad school for my thesis and for a blues project I did for a class has made me hear music differently. 

 

Anyway, thanks to Pat I was willing to listen to Green Day and really started to dig the shit out of them.  I was already fucking obsessed with Foo Fighters at that point, so I was open to listening to music I would not have touched a few years earlier.  As with the other bands I came to later in their careers I knew some of Green Day’s songs, I just never cared about them.  I thought they were pretty annoying.  Green Day sounded like they were an American punk band trying to sound like a British punk band, and that pissed me off since I was a die hard Sex Pistols fan.  I loved punk, but to me, punk died with Black Flag.  But when I started listening to Green Day in Pat’s car I didn’t know anything about all the are they really punk? bullshit that swirled around the band.  Yes, they are punk.  Fuck you if you disagree.

 

“Longview,” “Welcome to Paradise,” “Basket Case,” and “When I Come Around” are the songs on this album I recognized when I first bought a used copy a few years after Pat made me like them so much.  Those songs were everywhere back then, mixed in with all the grunge music that was everyplace as well.  This album, which was all the rage back in 1994, was the one that made people call Green Day sellouts.  It was released just a couple of months before Kurt Cobain’s death.  Nirvana was another band people debated over as far as their punk cred, and it’s equally bullshit in their case.  Signing to a major label does not mean you are selling out.  It means that more people can hear your music.  And as a musician, don’t you want as many people as possible to hear your shit?  If all you ever want to do is impromptu concerts for your stoner friends in your mom’s basement, more power to you.  But a lot of people want to earn a living.  What’s wrong with that?  And it’s hilarious that Green Day signed with Reprise, the label that Frank Sinatra founded.  If that’s not a punk rock move, I don’t know what is!

 

Roaming ‘round your house

Wasting your time

No obligation, just

Wasting your time

 

Not everyone wants to live like that.  Some people are actually motivated to create, and if they want to be professional artists they are called sellouts.  I guess they think it’s more noble to bum cigarette money off their dad and lay around playing music for the sake of the music, man.  What-the-fuck-ever, poseur.  Don’t try to force everyone into your idea of what being punk means, because conformity is actually the enemy of punk, remember?  So Green Day sells millions of albums and they’re all filthy rich.  American Idiot was on Broadway.  And what?  When you are a creative person, your art comes first.  Any label you want to place on yourself or others might want to place on you is secondary, or just completely irrelevant, if you ask me. 

 

Green Day’s music is catchy and funny and often has social and political context.  That sounds like punk to me. 

 

I don’t know you

But I think I hate you

You’re the reason for my misery

Strange how you’ve become my biggest enemy

And I’ve never even seen your face

 

Maybe it’s just jealousy

Mixing up with a violent mind

A circumstance that doesn’t make much sense

Or maybe I’m just dumb

 

You’re the cloud hanging out over my head

Hail comes crashing down, melting my face

Magic man, egocentric plastic man

Yet you still got one over on me

 

Those are the lyrics to “Chump,” and they are very 1994.  Self-loathing and anger and all that shit.  I can hear some Kurt Cobain in those words.  Also some Beck.  Some of the music sounds like Sex-Pistols-meet-The-Who.  I love that.  And I love that it plays right into the beginning of “Longview,” and ode to smokin’ up and jackin’ it. 

 

Bite my lip and close my eyes

Take me away to paradise

I’m so damn bored I’m going blind!!!

And I smell like shit….

 

I got no motivation

Where is my motivation

No time for motivation

Smoking my inspiration….

 

My mother says to get a job

But she don’t like the one she’s got

When masturbation’s lost its fun

You’re fucking breaking…

 

This song reminds me a lot of the Ramones and other New York bands of the time whose songs were all about boredom and how they didn’t want to do anything with themselves.  At least Green Day have the energy to light up that joint and grab the Vaseline.

 

“Welcome to Paradise” is not as lighthearted as “Longview.”  It’s about a kid who leaves home and is writing to his mother about how shitty life is out on his own, yet he is finding himself becoming more at home on the streets.

 

Dear mother

Can you hear me whining?

It’s been three whole weeks

Since I left your home

This sudden fear has left me trembling…

 

A gunshot rings out at the station

Another urchin snaps and left dead on his own

It makes me wonder why I’m still here

For some strange reason it’s now

Feeling like my home

And I’m never gonna go…

 

Kids always think they would be better off on their own without their parents’ rules.  What they forget is that the world is a cruel, horrible place without a warm bed and a home cooked meal and electricity and a shower and everything else they fucking take for granted.  When I was in 4th grade a few of my friends and I were worried about our next report cards, which we feared were going to be really horrible.  So we decided to run away together.  It was February, and we planned to meet on the school playground at midnight.  We didn’t plan how exactly we were going to travel anywhere since, you know, we were 10 years old.  But my friend Barbara that her mom had a huge jar of coins that she could steal so we would have some money.  I wanted to be the lead singer of the rock band we planned to start, which of course would bring us overnight success so money would not be an issue.

 

Well, since it was February in the snow belt, none of us met that night.  Barbara told us she went up there with the jar of coins, but she lied a lot so who knows if she actually did it.  Our plan was not well thought out, and thank God we never went through with it.

 

“Pulling Teeth” has a very Buddy Holly, Beatlesish, Beach Boys-y feel to it.  The lyrics could have been sung by any of these guys.  The music is really retro, and you don’t expect that from punk of the 90s.  The Ramones and other bands they came up with loved 60s garage bands and girl groups, and you can definitely hear that.  “Pulling Teeth” is a really nice song.

 

Here’s a song that explains exactly why teenage boys love Green Day.  “Coming Clean.”

 

Seventeen and strung out on confusion

Trapped inside a roll of disillusion

I found out what it takes to be a man

Mom and Dad will never understand

What’s happening to me

 

Secrets collecting dust

but never forget

Skeletons come to life

in my closet….

 

Seventeen and coming clean

for the first time

I finally figured out myself

for the first time

I found out what it takes to be a man

Mom and Dad will never understand

What’s happened to me

 

This is one of those brilliant songs that is pure poetry.  It perfectly captures what it’s like to be an angsty teenager who knows that nobody understands what he’s going through.  Everyone goes through the same shit, but how you deal with it makes you into the man or woman you will become.  Everyone in Green Day is now grown up and rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams.  But at one time each of them sat in their bedroom at their parents’ house and felt like nobody would ever get them.  Music saved them.  Music saves lots of people.  And whether you believe they are punk or not, whether you think they are talented or relevant or interesting in any way, they have stayed true to their craft and are better men for it. 

 

And again, fuck you if you don’t think so.  You have a right to your opinion.  And I have a right to tell you to fuck off.

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