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East Bay Punk From Green Day’s Early Years
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 4 ]

When I first heard Green Day in 1994, I was fascinated by everything about them, and I was very curious about their roots. Other bands from the Gilman St. scene of the early 90s and late 80s were a tantalizing glimpse into a whole creative universe that had to be pretty special in order to be the magical cookpot that simmered and seasoned the likes of Green Day.

So, here’s a selection of songs that are some of the tasty morsels in that stew. With a couple of possible exceptions, none of them have the bright, crackling melodies that are Green Day’s trademark. The aesthetic sensibilities of the punk scene were, and are, ragged and raw. But compared to the serious lyrics and aggressiveness of hardcore punk, these bands represented something new at the time: politics and ideals, but also love, creativity, and lots of silliness.

Billie Joe (talking to Larry Livermore in 2001) said: “Everything we were doing, we were being heartfelt about it, we were singing love songs because that’s what we felt like. That’s what was in my heart…. Of course, there were always a lot of hardcore bands, I mean we were one of the only bands who were that poppy at that time, besides maybe Sweet Baby or Mr. T Experience…” Larry Livermore: “Sewer Trout…” Billie Joe: “Yeah, and maybe even Crimpshrine.” [ Source ]

Mr. T Experience - Gilman Street

This is not the best Mr. T Experience song, but I couldn’t resist the topic, and it’s from their early period, when they were playing Gilman St. with Green Day. (I really like this band, but get their later stuff…) Dr. Frank said, in 1995: “My intention was always to make a… basically a cross between the Buzzcocks and the Ramones, but it didn’t ever really come out that way, because we weren’t talented enough to accomplish it, and so it turned out to be something else…. Ironically, there are a lot of people who like the old inept band to the current, more ept.” [ Source ]

Sweet Baby - She’s From Salinas

Larry Livermore said: “Sweet Baby, along with some help from their friends in the Mr T Experience, pretty much invented East Bay pop punk.” [ Source ]

Crimpshrine - Summertime

Crimpshrine, which was formed by Aaron Cometbus and Jeff Ott, is often mentioned as a seminal band in East Bay punk. People get misty-eyed talking about them. Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel calls them “the heart and soul of the East Bay.” [ Source ]

Isocracy - Rodeo

Isocracy, as you probably know, is the band that John Kiffmeyer was in. Their goofiness gets a mention in the Mr. T Experience song about Gilman St. (posted above): “Isocracy made a mess, we demand nothing less.”

Pinhead Gunpowder - Future Daydream

You’ve probably all heard this song, but I put it in because in this context, it sounds so similar to the other songs here: you can see (hear) the direct thread from the other bands to a project that Billie Joe was (and is still) a part of.

Blatz - Learning How To Smile

I don’t know much about Blatz beyond this song, which I think is wonderfully silly. Billie Joe played with them sometimes. Here’s a photo. Their Wikipedia entry tells a good story: lots of influential people from the scene were involved in Blatz.

Operation Ivy - Sound System

Again, everyone has probably heard this, but I couldn’t leave out Operation Ivy! Billie Joe said: “Jesse Michaels was so great on stage, so charismatic, good looking, with insanely great lyrics… that’s what I was into about him. And I always thought he had that sort of sensibility, that he could work both sides of the fence, the people who were into them because they had great music, and the people who were into them because of the things they stood for.” [ Source ]

Screeching Weasel - Hey Suburbia

Screeching Weasel are actually from Illinois, not the East Bay, but they were signed to Lookout Records and had a lot of influence in that scene, and on Green Day, though Ben Weasel modestly says otherwise: “Those guys were influenced by the Kinks and The Who, and by the heavy metal they’d listened to as teenagers (just like us), and by the bands that played Gilman in the early days, like Operation Ivy and Crimpshrine and Isocracy. I’d be shocked to learn that they’d ever heard those [Semi-Famous Old-Time Punk] bands prior to around their own third record.” [ Source ]

I’m not a completist, I’m not a record collector, and I’m certainly no expert on East Bay punk. I tend to pick out songs and bands to listen to haphazardly. I tried to keep this list short, but if you have any requests I can add them, or if people are interested I can make future posts with more songs?

September 9, 2009 at 2:37 am [ Category: Songs, Influences, History ]

Early Photos of Green Day
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 8 ]

These were posted on Flickr by Grayfamilia. There’s no info on when or where they were taken, but they are clearly uh, historic. I love the old-old stuff, and some of the expressions are pretty great. There doesn’t seem to be much of an audience. The only person you can see is a guy standing there with his hands in his pockets. The venue looks like a dingy basement, but true to form, the band are giving it their all.

That’s Mister Future Rock Star to you…

[Full size]

[Full size]
(G.B.H. — on the t-shirt — is a very early UK street punk band, formed in 1982.)

More: Billie Joe, Billie Joe, Mike and Tre, Mike, Mike, Tre at a playground?

Related posts:
Old photos from previous posts.

September 7, 2009 at 3:39 pm [ Category: Photos, History ]

The Profound and Pointless History of Bay Area Punk
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 11 ]

I got an email about a new book, coming out September 29: Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day. It’s an oral history of punk rock in San Francisco’s Bay Area, told in quotes by people who were there, including Billie Joe Armstrong. I haven’t seen the book, but the website has a fair amount of info and some excerpts, and it looks pretty exciting for anyone interested in Green Day’s history and the mindset and ideals of the scene that nurtured and informed them from their early days, ideals that the members of Green Day still hold dear.

The introduction by Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy sums it up with an unpretentious sophistication and insight that kind of blew me away. An excerpt:

Many of the people who speak here are as smart and creative as it gets. That is the nature of people who are right there in the forge when a universe is being hammered out. Also featured are many complete morons. That is the nature of people that show up when there is a lot of loud noise and alcohol available. The stories of the great artists aren’t necessarily more fun to read than those of the train-wrecks. And of course, particularly in the early days, most people in punk were a little bit of each.

Punk rock doesn’t usually get a lot of credit for being smart, but an art form that has generated so much inspiration and devotion has to have a substantial core. A casual observer might not go to a punk show and come away thinking, “These guys (or gals) are geniuses.” And it would be hard to blame him, but if he was there, say, for an early Crimpshrine or Operation Ivy show, he may well have missed out by not looking beyond the drunkenness and mayhem to see the underlying strange blend of chaos, stupidity, intelligence, wit, imagination, love, and idealism. (Read the book’s chapter on Crimpshrine, Aaron Cometbus’s early band, including a quote from Billie Joe.)

Discussions of Green Day’s punk roots usually devolve into tiresome debates on whether or not they are a punk rock band — or, even more dismayingly, on what punk is, usually by people who have little information about the subject — which miss the point and confuse the issue. Green Day is a punk band because they were there, right in the bosom of a thriving and exciting scene that was evolving and creating a unique interpretation of punk. The sweetness and catchiness of Green Day’s brand of punk rock was a part of it, and it both added to the mix and drew inspiration from it. It’s easy to miss that essence when Green Day’s music and performances are experienced within the context of mainstream music, as they inevitably are now, and easy to confuse Green Day with just another music industry product. But if one were to set all of that aside, and look instead at their origins, and at the people who helped create the scene that the band grew out of, it would paint a different picture. Green Day is still that same band, that cares deeply about creativity, idealism, and authenticity.

That’s why I love projects like this book. It’s a chance to clear out the cobwebs and be reminded what it is about Green Day that feels so special. And also to be reminded that they didn’t forge themselves out of nothing, but that there are many people, in the East Bay punk scene and elsewhere, whose intelligence and imagination helped make Green Day who they are.

Photo of Billie Joe by Murray Bowles, from the Gimme Something Better website.

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Compilation: 12 Bands from Benicia

September 5, 2009 at 8:06 am [ Category: Photos, Books, History ]

A History of Green Day
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 0 ]

~411mania has an in-depth two-part retrospective of Green Day’s career: “A band shouldn’t be criticized for pushing the boundaries and trying to create something epic and memorable, which is exactly what Green Day have always tried to do.” Part 1, Part 2.

August 12, 2009 at 2:23 am [ Category: News Sidebar, History ]

Houston Reminisces About Green Day
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 2 ]

~The Houston Press has an article with local fans reminiscing about Green Day’s early days. See the rest of the photos here.

August 7, 2009 at 10:45 pm [ Category: Concerts, News Sidebar, History ]

Insomniac Era Articles and Video
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 0 ]

I went digging through some old articles, which are among my favorite things to read about Green Day. In part I was inspired by this video interview (Part 1, Part 2) for a Mexican TV show, done at a concert stop in Florida during the Insomniac tour, which I hadn’t seen before. The guys are pretty sullen and cynical. The band is asked: “Is there anyone you admire, or would like to play with?” Answer from all three: “No.” “what band do yo think deserves to be signed to a major?” “Nobody deserves that.” (As in: we wouldn’t wish something so awful on anyone.) The video includes interviews with fans, which are pretty cringe-worthy.

At the end of Part 2 there’s also an interview with the opening band, The Riverdales (who were earlier, and then again later, Screeching Weasel).

This article also from the Insomniac period, also includes quotes from The Riverdales. But what I liked the most was the description of Green Day’s encore:

Mike and Tre return first, with ball caps pulled low over their faces. They sing the faux-hick song “Dominated Love Slave”. Later, Billie Joe runs out to join them, only now, he has no clothes on. With his guitar strategically placed, he is perfectly at ease. He sings “When I Come Around”. Last, before saying good-bye, BJ smirks at the crowd. He turns around and flexes his buttocks. Backstage, in a towel, he shrugs his shoulders, “I had to give them something to remember. The Replacements are one of the first bands I ever saw play. I saw them play the Fillmore when I was 15. My sister got me into them when I was really young, and I actually got a chance to meet Tommy Stinson. Paul Westerberg, I wouldn’t have a thing to say to him. He’s a fucking genius.”

This article too is from the Insomniac time, but the parts I thought are the most interesting are descriptions of the band’s 1991 tour.

The first time Green Day came to Alabama, in 1991, they arrived in the wee hours of the morning in an old van. The boys - all a year or two shy of legal drinking age at the time - had come straight from New Orleans. After an evening of revelry, they had returned to their van to find that it had been robbed. The bag containing their tour money was gone. That night, Green Day and several dozen college students crowded into the living room and kitchen of a rental house on Samford Avenue for a frenetic set of northern California punk rock. Earning the band enough money for food and gas, the show was considered a great success.

June 26, 2009 at 1:04 am [ Category: Videos, Articles, History ]

Mankato’s Green Day Stories
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 5 ]

I don’t know why I’m so tickled by this, but it’s just so damn cute! It’s like a punk rock fairy tale.

As you know (I posted about this a couple times in the sidebar, and here’s the full story if you missed it), the Free Press of Mankato, MN has launched a campaign to bring Green Day to play in their town, where Green Day has a cool little history. They played there in their early days, before Dookie, and they went there primarily, it seems, because Adrienne lived there at the time, and uh, one of the boys just couldn’t stay away. I remember Tre mentioning this in Behind the Music (I think that’s where it was). He said Billie Joe kept suggesting that they should go on tour to Minnesota, and Mike and Tre were like, “Why Minnesota? Hmmm…? Oh… Adrienne!”

I’m nowhere near Minnesota so it doesn’t affect me personally if Green Day play there or not, though I’m certainly rooting for the folks in Mankato and hope they get their wish. What I think is just so sweet and interesting are all the stories that people have been sending in to the Free Press reminiscing about Green Day’s times in Mankato. You can read them all on Amanda Dyslin’s blog. One of my favorites is this one:

I guess my big Green Day story involved playing on a street corner with Billie Joe once while he was in town. I was actually playing Green Day songs with a few of my friends in front of the Barmuda Triangle trying to make a few bucks off of drunk people when he came out of a bar with Adrienne (who I only casually knew) and he jumped in and played along. He was so drunk that he couldn’t hit the high notes in the chorus of “Christie Road” — that was funny.

I can imagine Billie Joe doing that even now if he got the chance.

There are also some terrible-quality videos (hey, it’s more punk rock that way, right?) of a show Green Day played at a farm in 1992, and stories about that event as well. You can see enough to tell that the crowd — and it was quite a crowd — is absolutely loving it. The videographer tried to take some close ups of Tre, but all you can see is a funny halo of green hair.

And in the latest post, Amanda Dyslin got an email from Adrienne. Keep up the good fight Mankato!

June 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm [ Category: News, History ]

History of Green Day and Adrienne in Mankato, MN
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 1 ]

~The Mankato, MN Free Press has a story on Green Day’s and Adrienne’s history in Mankato as part of their campaign to bring Green Day to their town: “During that time the reason Green Day played shows in the area at all was simply because Adrienne was here.”

June 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm [ Category: News Sidebar, History ]

Green Day Timeline
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 0 ]

~Exclaim wrote up a history of Green Day. Nothing new to diehard fans, but a nice, detailed summary.

May 28, 2009 at 12:49 am [ Category: News Sidebar, History ]

MTV Looks Back
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 0 ]

~MTV News posted a cute little look back at their first interview with Green Day in 1994, with a video clip featuring Tre’s dad, the bookmobile/tour-bus driver. (More of that video, here.)

May 12, 2009 at 2:36 pm [ Category: Interviews, News Sidebar, History ]

Billie Joe Sings Christmas Songs at 12
Posted by Delfina [ Comments: 5 ]

Update: There’s more! Part two of the video is up. The videos were posted by someone who was there and performed with him.
Now and then I just need to break up the jangled anticipation surrounding the new album with something completely random. I’ve never seen this before, but perhaps some of you have. It’s a video of Billie Joe at 12 (?) years old (if I heard right, the audio is a bit muffled) singing Christmas songs at a hospital show, all dressed up in his nice shirt and tie, and with the sweetest pouffy hair…. He even has some of the same mannerisms that he does now.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

May 3, 2009 at 3:13 am [ Category: Videos, History ]

Those Lovely Ideals
Posted by Elly [ Comments: 3 ]

So it’s official, now. They’re back out in the spotlight. I’m just as thrilled about this idea as the next person, believe me. In a way, it’s oddly comforting for them to be out and about. It reminds me of summer and concerts at night and an uncontrolable smile across my face. And all this talk of the guys and the new album gets me thinking about how far they’ve come. It’s quite amazing, when you take the time to think about it. Not that long ago they were just three kids running around in the East Bay, playing music simply because they wanted to.
…And I’ve realized how appealing that simple little belief is.
The East Bay has been a place of great interest for me, and I can’t really explain why, aside from the fact Green Day stemmed my liking for it. I don’t know… there’s something about it that has a certain ‘mythology’ I just can’t put my finger on. There’s really something facinating about the whole thing; I want to go there and be able to see Gilman St. To think abou the place’s history and all the cool graffiti on the walls…it just makes me smile. I like picturing myself someplace where people can just come together and share this love of music and experience something all at once. I love that whole idea- that music brings us together and we can all take something from it no matter who we are.
…But there’s a teensy dilemma that comes with all this knowledge. I’m not a native of the East Bay, nor will I ever truly be. No matter how much I’ve read and dreamed and heard about Gilman St., I’ll probably never be able to fully understand. That saddens me a little, because I want to go to a place like that and experience everything first hand. I want to walk in there with the sam sense of awe Billie and Mike had- to put myself in thier well-worn shoes- and be at a place solely out of my love for music.
Unfortunately, the door to Gilman is closed to me, now… I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to set foot in inside the brick building and stand wher my heros have stood. Suddenly, that line from “the Grouch’ comes to mind: ‘Wasted youth and a fistful of ideals/I had a young and optimistic point of view.’ I do believe I have a fistful of ideals- that’s where all my dreams are. I’m just afraid of that fist suddenly unclenching, letting all the ideals float away like pathetic leaves. I don’t want to become that person Billie Joe is singing about- lazy and jaded at 24 or however young. I want to be able to go places and do whatever my heart’s desire is…
It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it? That a song and a band can make you think so much about yourself? I don’t know why I’m drawn out to the East Bay… I guess I’ve just heard about it so much and I still have that youthful idealism that fools me into thinking every place outside my ‘picket fence’ is better than what I’m used to. Isn’t it ridiclous that I know the names of streets and clubs in a city I’ve never been to?? Sometimes it’s a bit maddening to have all these visions in your head of what those places look like. Unfortunately, the Romantic aspect of my brain kicks in, and I picture everything bathed in warm sunlight and blue skies.
But I still want to go. I’m jsut afraid that it won’t be like I expected- that it’ll turn out like that Rancid song, “Journey to the End of the East Bay.” ‘This isn’t Mecca!’ Tim Armstrong bellows. And I’m left feeling stupid for wanting to go. -That’s not optimistic of me, though. I know that if I go, I’ll like it.
I hope it’s a cesspool of music and history and Green Day and California-ness. :) I owe it to my teen-age self to go, at least. I have to know, for some reason, what it’s like. I don’t want to go on thinking what could have been… so maybe someday I’ll get out there. And I’ll owe it to Green Day; I owe so much to them as it is… ;)
I guess…I’ve got my fistfull of ideals held sky-high.

April 8, 2009 at 12:20 pm [ Category: Essay, Personal, History ]

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