Not many bands or artists are fortunate enough to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with their first nomination. In fact, among the list of 2015’s inductees, there’s only one: California punk rockers Green Day. In the 25 years that’s passed since the release of their debut EP, ‘1,000 Hours,’ Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt have clawed their way from underground obscurity to mainstream recognition by way of some of the most infectious songwriting in rock. Here are 10 great songs that helped them get there.
‘Brain Stew / Jaded’From: 'Insomniac' (1995)
Even though it wasn't really a flop, ‘Insomniac’ -- Green Day’s follow-up to their diamond-selling third album, ‘Dookie’ -- didn't achieve anywhere near the level of commercial success or critical admiration as its predecessor. That’s not to say it isn’t without its charms, one of which is this one-two punch released as the record’s third single. The plodding riff-driven opening offers something of a glimpse into the band’s future while the warp-speed attack of the coda recalls the band's punk roots.
‘J.A.R.’ From: The 'Angus' Film Soundtrack' (1995)
‘J.A.R.’ was recorded during the ‘Dookie’ sessions but was left off the album. It was later added to the soundtrack to the movie ‘Angus.’ ‘J.A.R.’ stands for Jason Andrew Relva, a friend of bassist Mike Dirnt who died on April 18, 1992, in a car accident.
‘Holiday’ From: 'American Idiot' (2004)
The third single from 2004's multi-platinum monster ‘American Idiot’ was also the band’s third consecutive No. 1 song on the modern rock chart. As a galloping, angst-laden diatribe against governments that silence dissent, 'Holiday' touched a nerve for many young people coming of age during the second President Bush era and the rising quagmire of the Iraq War.
‘Jesus of Suburbia’ From: 'American Idiot' (2004)
For a band that cut its teeth on punk, the mere thought of releasing a nine-minute song would have been sacrilege to Green Day back in the day. But by 2004, they had matured quite a bit in the decade leading up to 'American Idiot.' Modeled as a rock opera for the 21st century, and broken into five separate movements, the sprawling ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ is Green Day at their most ambitious.
‘Longview’ From: 'Dookie' (1994)
It’s kinda funny that a song about boredom is so intriguing. Released as ‘Dookie’'s lead single, ‘Longview’ became the band’s first No. 1 hit on the modern rock chart, and served as Green Day's introduction to most music fans. It also features one of the coolest bass intros in rock history.
‘American Idiot’ From: 'American Idiot' (2004)
Green Day had logged some success with the three albums they released after ‘Dookie,’ but it had been a long 10 years, and many fans were wondering if they would ever reach those staggering heights again. Then came ‘American Idiot.’ Politically charged, screaming hot and full of venom and vigor, the title track came barreling out of radio speakers across the country and signaled a renaissance for the band.
‘When I Come Around’ From: 'Dookie' (1994)
As Bob Segar would attest, life on the road ain’t easy. Besides the daily grind of incessant travel, it also causes strains on relationships, which is exactly what Billie Joe Armstrong sings about on 'When I Come Around.' Written for his girlfriend (and now wife), the song captures the loneliness and anxiety of a long-distance relationship.
‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ From: 'American Idiot' (2004)
With a Grammy for Record of the Year, a No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and the distinction of being the ninth best-selling song of the '00s, it’s hard to argue that ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ is Green Day’s most commercially successful song. Lyrical visions of loneliness set against a backdrop of lush instrumentation and vocal harmonies proved to be too much for music fans to resist.
‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ From: 'Nimrod' (1997)
As staple of high-school graduations and sitcom finales, ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ is the one song in Green Day's catalog that’s somehow transcended them. It truly doesn’t feel like it belongs to them any more. Replete with acoustic guitars and a lush string interlude, the song also marks the first major instance of the group taking a huge leap away from what people expected from them.
‘Basket Case’From: 'Dookie' (1994)
‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ may have been more commercially successful, and ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ may be more culturally entrenched, but there’s no Green Day song that's more representative of them than 'Basket Case.' Infectious melody? Check! Lightning-fast drum fills? Check! Buzzsaw guitars? Check! Singalong inducing choruses? You know the answer ... Even though they would venture down many paths in the years to come, 'Basket Case' will always be prime punk-pop Green Day.
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