Formation and Lookout! years (39/Smooth and Kerplunk, 1986–1993)
In 1986, friends Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, 14 years old at the time, formed a band under the name Sweet Children. The group's first live performance took place on October 17, 1987, at Rod's Hickory Pit in Vallejo, California. In 1988, Armstrong and Dirnt began working with former Isocracy drummer John Kiffmeyer, also known as "Al Sobrante". Armstrong cites the band Operation Ivy (which featured Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, who would later contact Armstrong to fill in as a possible second guitarist for their band Rancid) as a major influence, and a group that inspired him to form a band.
In 1988, Larry Livermore, owner of Lookout! Records, saw the band play an early show and signed the group to his label. In 1989, the band recorded its debut extended play, 1,000 Hours. Before 1,000 Hours was released, the group dropped the name Sweet Children; according to Livermore, this was done to avoid confusion with another local band Sweet Baby. The band adopted the name Green Day, due to the members' fondness for cannabis.
Lookout! released Green Day's debut studio album, 39/Smooth in early 1990. Green Day recorded two extended plays later that year, Slappy and Sweet Children, the latter of which included older songs that the band had recorded for the Minneapolis independent record label Skene! Records. In 1991, Lookout! Records re-released 39/Smooth under the name 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, and added the songs from the band's first two EPs, Slappy, and 1,000 Hours. In late 1990, shortly after the band's first nationwide tour, Kiffmeyer left the East Bay area to attend Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. The Lookouts drummer Tré Cool began filling in as a temporary replacement and later Cool's position as Green Day's drummer became permanent, which Kiffmeyer "graciously accepted". The band went on tour for most of 1992 and 1993, and played a number of shows overseas in Europe. The band's second studio album Kerplunk sold 50,000 copies in the U.S.
Breakthrough success (Dookie and Insomniac, 1994–1996)
Kerplunk's underground success led to a number of major record labels being interested in signing Green Day, and the band eventually left Lookout! and signed to Reprise Records after attracting the attention of producer Rob Cavallo. The group was impressed by his work with fellow Californian band The Muffs, and later remarked that Cavallo "was the only person we could really talk to and connect with". Reflecting on the period, Armstrong told Spin magazine in 1999, "I couldn't go back to the punk scene, whether we were the biggest success in the world or the biggest failure ... The only thing I could do was get on my bike and go forward." After signing with Reprise, the band went to work on recording its major label debut, Dookie.
Recorded in three weeks, and released in February 1994, Dookie became a commercial success, helped by extensive MTV airplay for the videos of the songs "Longview", "Basket Case", and "When I Come Around", all of which reached the number one position on the Modern Rock Tracks charts. The album went on to sell over 10 million copies in the US. At a performance on September 9, 1994 at Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston, mayhem broke out during the band's set (cut short to seven songs) and by the end of the rampage, 100 people were injured and 45 arrested. The band also joined the lineups of both the Lollapalooza festival and Woodstock '94, where the group started an infamous mud fight. During the concert, a security guard mistook bassist Mike Dirnt for a stage-invading fan and punched out some of his teeth. Viewed by millions by pay-per-view television, the Woodstock 1994 performance further aided Green Day's growing publicity and recognition. In 1995, Dookie won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and the band was nominated for nine MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year.
In 1995, a new single for the Angus soundtrack was released, entitled "J.A.R.". The single debuted at number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song was followed by the band's fourth studio album, Insomniac, which was released in the fall of 1995. Insomniac was a much darker and heavier response to the band's newfound popularity, compared to the more melodic Dookie. The album opened to a warm critical reception, earning 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone, which said "In punk, the good stuff actually unfolds and gains meaning as you listen without sacrificing any of its electric, haywire immediacy. And Green Day are as good as this stuff gets." The singles released from Insomniac were "Geek Stink Breath", "Stuck with Me", "Brain Stew/Jaded", and "Walking Contradiction".
Though the album did not approach the success of Dookie, it sold two million copies in the United States. In addition, the album won the band award nominations for Favorite Artist, Favorite Hard Rock Artist, and Favorite Alternative Artist at the 1996 American Music Awards, and the video for "Walking Contradiction" got the band a Grammy nomination for Best Video, Short Form, in addition to a Best Special Effects nomination at the MTV Video Music Awards. After that, the band abruptly cancelled a European tour, citing exhaustion.
Middle years and decline in commercial success (Nimrod and Warning, 1997–2002)
After a brief hiatus in 1996, Green Day began to work on a new album in 1997. From the outset, both the band and Cavallo agreed that the album had to be different from its previous albums. The result was Nimrod, an experimental deviation from the band's standard pop-punk brand of music. The new album was released in October 1997. It provided a variety of music, from pop-punk, surf rock, and ska, to an acoustic ballad. Nimrod entered the charts at number 10. The success of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" won the band an MTV Video Award for Best Alternative Video. The song was also used in the second "clip show" episode of Seinfeld and on two episodes of ER.
The other singles released from Nimrod were "Nice Guys Finish Last", "Hitchin' a Ride" and "Redundant". The band made a guest appearance in an episode of King of the Hill entitled "The Man Who Shot Cane Skretteberg", which aired in 1997. In late 1997 and most of 1998, Green Day embarked on a tour in support of Nimrod. In 1999, guitarist Jason White began supporting the band during concerts as rhythm guitarist.
In 2000, Green Day released its sixth studio album Warning. In support of the album, the band participated in the Warped Tour in 2000. In November 2000, the band performed for free on the steps on San Francisco's City Hall to protest the eviction of artists from the city in a show produced by Ian Brennan. The band also had an independent tour to support the album in 2001. Critics' reviews of the album were varied. AllMusic gave it 4.5/5 saying "Warning may not be an innovative record per se, but it's tremendously satisfying." Rolling Stone was more critical, giving it 3/5, and saying "Warning... invites the question: Who wants to listen to songs of faith, hope and social commentary from what used to be snot-core's biggest-selling band?" Though it produced the hit "Minority" and a smaller hit with "Warning", some observers were coming to the conclusion that the band was losing relevance, and a decline in popularity followed. While all of Green Day's previous albums had reached a status of at least double platinum, Warning was only certified gold.
At the 2001 California Music Awards, Green Day won all eight of the awards for which the group was nominated. The group won the awards for Outstanding Album (Warning), Outstanding Punk Rock/Ska Album (Warning), Outstanding Group, Outstanding Male Vocalist, Outstanding Bassist, Outstanding Drummer, Outstanding Songwriter, and Outstanding Artist.
The release of two compilation albums, International Superhits! and Shenanigans, followed Warning. International Superhits and its companion collection of music videos, International Supervideos!. Shenanigans contained some of the band's b-sides, including "Espionage", which was featured in the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
In the spring of 2002, Green Day co-headlined the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182, which was documented on the DVD Riding in Vans with Boys.
American Idiot and renewed success (2003–2006)
Tré Cool (bottom left) and Mike Dirnt (right) performing on July 27, 2005.
In the summer of 2003, the band went into a studio to write and record new material for a new album, tentatively titled Cigarettes and Valentines. After completing 20 tracks, the master recordings were stolen from the studio. Instead of re-recording the stolen tracks, the band decided to abandon the entire project and start over, considering the taken material to be unrepresentative of the band's best work. It was then revealed that a band called The Network was signed to Armstrong's record label Adeline Records with little fanfare and information. After the band, who concealed their identities with masks and costumes, released an album called Money Money 2020, it was rumored that The Network was a Green Day side project, due to the similarities in the bands' sounds. However, these rumors were never addressed by the band or Adeline Records, except for a statement on the Adeline website discussing an ongoing dispute between the two bands. The bands "feuded" via press releases and statements from Armstrong. Several journalists openly referred to the group as a Green Day side project, although it was not confirmed as such until 2013.
Green Day live in Germany during the American Idiot
Green Day collaborated with Iggy Pop on two tracks for his album Skull Ring in November 2003. On February 1, 2004, a new song, a cover of "I Fought the Law" made its debut on a commercial for iTunes during NFL Super Bowl XXXVIII. American Idiot (2004), debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, the band's first album to reach number one, backed by the success of the album's first single, "American Idiot". The album was labeled as a punk rock opera which follows the journey of the fictitious "Jesus of Suburbia". The album depicts modern American life under the control of an idiot ruler who let people be misinformed by the media and a "redneck agenda". It gives different angles on an everyman, modern icons, and leaders. Released two months before U.S. President George W. Bush was reelected, the album became protest art. American Idiot won the 2005 Grammy for Best Rock Album. The band also won a total of seven out of eight awards for which the group was nominated, including the Viewer's Choice Award at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2005. The album went on to sell 7 million copies in the US.
Green Day performing in New Jersey in 2005
Through 2005, the band toured in support of the album with nearly 150 dates, which was the longest tour in the band's career, visiting Japan, Australia, South America and the United Kingdom. While touring for American Idiot, the group filmed and recorded the two concerts at the Milton Keynes National Bowl in England, which was voted "The Best Show On Earth" in a Kerrang! Magazine Poll. These recordings were released as a live CD and DVD called Bullet in a Bible on November 15, 2005. This CD/DVD featured songs from American Idiot as well as songs from all its previous albums, except Kerplunk and 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. The DVD featured behind-the-scenes footage of the band, and showed how the band prepared to put on the show. The final shows of its 2005 world tour were in Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, on December 14 and 17, respectively.
On August 1, 2005, Green Day announced that it had rescinded the master rights to its pre-Dookie material from Lookout! Records, citing a continuing breach of contract regarding unpaid royalties, a complaint shared with other Lookout! bands. On January 10, 2006, the band was awarded a People's Choice Award as favorite musical group or band.
21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot's stage adaptation (2007–2010)
Green Day engaged in a number of other smaller projects in the time following the success of American Idiot. The group released an album under the name Foxboro Hot Tubs entitled Stop Drop and Roll!!! In 2008, the Foxboro Hot Tubs went on a mini-tour to promote the record, hitting tiny Bay Area venues including the Stork Club in Oakland and Toot's Tavern in Crockett, California.
Green Day performing during a secret show at the Kesselhaus in Berlin on May 7, 2009.
In an interview with Carson Daly, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson revealed that Butch Vig would be producing Green Day's forthcoming album. The span of nearly five years between American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown was the longest gap between studio albums in Green Day's career. The band had been working on new material since January 2006. By October 2007, Armstrong had 45 songs written, but the band showed no further signs of progress until October 2008, when two videos showing the band recording in the studio with producer Butch Vig were posted on YouTube. The writing and recording process, spanning three years and four recording studios, was finally finished in April 2009.
21st Century Breakdown, was released on May 15, 2009. The album received a mainly positive reception from critics, getting an average rating between 3 and 4 stars. After the release, the album reached number one in fourteen countries, being certified gold or platinum in each. 21st Century Breakdown achieved Green Day's best chart performance to date. The band started playing shows in California in April and early May. These were the group's first live shows in about three years. Green Day went on a world tour that started in North America in July 2009 and continuing around the world throughout the rest of 2009 and early 2010.
Wal-Mart refused to carry the album as it contains a Parental Advisory sticker and requested that Green Day release a censored edition. The band members did not wish to change any lyrics on the album and responded by stating, "There's nothing dirty about our record... They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried in there. We just said no. We've never done it before. You feel like you're in 1953 or something."
In 2009, the band met with award-winning director Michael Mayer and many cast and crew members of the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening to create a stage version of the album American Idiot. American Idiot opened in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre during the end of 2009. The show features an expanded story of the original album, with new characters such as Will, Extraordinary Girl, and Favorite Son. On April 20, 2010, American Idiot opened on Broadway, and Green Day released the soundtrack to the musical, featuring a new song by Green Day entitled "When It's Time". In June 2010 iTunes released "When It's Time" as a single.
Green Day performing in New Jersey in 2010
During the Spike TV Video Game Awards 2009, it was announced that Green Day was set to have its own Rock Band video game titled Green Day: Rock Band, as a follow-up to the last band specific Rock Band game, The Beatles: Rock Band. The game features the full albums of Dookie, American Idiot, and 21st Century Breakdown as well as select songs from the rest of Green Day's discography.
During the second leg of the 21st Century Breakdown World Tour the band members stated that they were writing new material. In an interview with Kerrang! magazine, Armstrong spoke about the possible new album: "We did some demos in Berlin, some in Stockholm, some just outside of Glasgow and some in Amsterdam. We wanted get [the songs] down in some early form." The band members also stated that the group was recording a live album of the tour, featuring the previously unreleased song "Cigarettes and Valentines". In October 2010, Dirnt was interviewed by Radio W, mentioning that the group had completed the writing process of the ninth studio album. In the interview, Dirnt also mentioned that a new live album would "most likely" be released. The live CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray entitled Awesome as Fuck was released on March 22, 2011.
¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! (2011–2014)
Green Day performing in 2013
During the end of 2011, the band played several secret shows (under the name Foxboro Hot Tubs) whose setlists consisted almost entirely of previously unheard songs. Green Day entered the studio and began recording new material in February 2012, later announcing a trilogy of albums titled ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! which would be released in the fall of 2012. The trilogy marked longtime touring guitarist Jason White's induction as the fourth member of the band. That summer Green Day played several festivals and promotional shows including the Rock en Seine festival in France, the Rock am See festival in Germany, and the Reading Festival in the United Kingdom.
Armstrong performing with Green Day in 2013
¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! were released on September 21, November 9, and December 7, 2012, respectively and were met with generally positive reviews from critics, though fans were more lukewarm towards the albums. On January 22, 2013, the band announced that ¡Cuatro!, a documentary about the making of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!, would premiere on January 26 in Aspen, Colorado as part of the X Games FILM showcase, and would be released on DVD April 9, 2013. Another documentary was announced called Broadway Idiot which focuses on the creation on the American Idiot musical and Armstrong's run as playing the character of St. Jimmy. On March 10, 2013, Green Day began its 99 Revolutions Tour to support the trilogy. In June, Green Day broke Emirates Stadium attendance record with 60,000 tickets sold. The band played Dookie from start to finish on several dates on the tour's European leg, including during the Reading Festival 2013 headline show.
Demolicious, a compilation album that contains alternate versions and demos of songs from ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! recorded during the studio sessions of these albums, was released on April 19, 2014, for Record Store Day. It also contains a previously unreleased song called "State of Shock" and an acoustic version of "Stay the Night", from ¡Uno!.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Revolution Radio, new greatest hits compilation (2015–2017)
Green Day performed its first concert in a year on April 16, 2015. The group first played a set as Sweet Children with John Kiffmeyer, followed by a set as Green Day. On April 18, 2015, Green Day were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Fall Out Boy.
On April 24, 2015, Rob Cavallo revealed Green Day were recording a twelfth studio album. Cavallo claimed to have heard "five new songs that Billie has written and demoed", and that the fans should be "sure that when they do return, the music will be amazing". On December 24, 2015, Green Day released a Christmas song, "Xmas Time of the Year".
On August 11, 2016, Green Day released the first single, "Bang Bang", from the group's album Revolution Radio, which was released on October 7, 2016. Jason White was demoted back to being a touring member, and the band confirmed that he would not appear on the album. The band went on a world tour supporting the album. In November 2016, the band performed at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles and made a political statement about the then-recent US election of Donald Trump by chanting "No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA" during their rendition of "Bang Bang".
The band released their second greatest hits compilation, God's Favorite Band, on November 17, 2017. It contains 20 of their hits, along with two new tracks: a new version of the Revolution Radio track "Ordinary World", featuring country singer Miranda Lambert, and a previously unreleased song titled "Back in the USA".
Father of All Motherfuckers and continued activity (2018–present)
On April 13, 2019, for Record Store Day, the band released their Woodstock 1994 performance on vinyl for the first time. It contains all 9 songs they played live, as well as audio of the ensuing mudfight.
On September 10, 2019, the band announced the Hella Mega Tour with Fall Out Boy and Weezer as headliners alongside themselves, with The Interrupters as the opening act. They also released the single, "Father of All..." off their upcoming thirteenth album, Father of All Motherfuckers. On September 30, 2019, Green Day signed a two-year agreement with the National Hockey League (NHL).