Green Day has seen significant success since its inception – though more so since the band’s breakthrough third record and major label debut, 1994’s Dookie. The now iconic alt-punk rockers have released numerous albums, had countless chart-topping hits, and received several Grammy nominations and awards, among many other landmark goals throughout their lifespan.
Presently, they’re gearing up to release their 12th studio album, Revolution Radio, due October 7th. In support of the upcoming record, Green Day has also announced a long string of tour dates – beginning later this month. The tour’s second stop is in no other city than here in Chicago, and tickets go on sale today. In preparation for both the tour and new music on the way, here are 10 of the band’s essential tracks.
“Going to Pasalacqua”
Though a less obvious choice than most, this track – in one way or another – signifies the start of Green Day. The track was included on the 1991 compilation album 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, which combined the band’s original 1990 debut 39/Smooth with their first two EPs, Slappy and 1,000 Hours. Though no singles were released off the debut or compilation album, this particular track captures the band’s now signature fusion of pop and punk while also gaining them some initial recognition and popularity.
“Welcome to Paradise”
This track originally appeared on the band’s sophomore record, 1992’s Kerplunk! It then reappeared in a more polished and mastered format on their 1994 Grammy award-winning record Dookie. The fact that it landed on both albums illustrates the band in it’s early transitional phase from the underground scene to a more mainstream audience and platform. Meanwhile, the lyrical content further explores the theme of transition as it chronicles the band’s experience moving out of their parent’s homes and into a place of their own in California – their own personal paradise.
“When I Come Around”
Also off Dookie, this song marked the band’s first huge hit and was one of its first No. 1 tracks on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Dookie marked the band’s debut as signed artists to Reprise Records, and this track largely shows how the label’s influence helped Green Day deliver a more pop-driven track that was less drum-heavy and more geared towards a broader, mainstream audience.
Green Day gave their first demo tape – which included this song, among a few others – to producer Rob Cavallo. Upon hearing the track, he then signed them to Reprise. This track gave listeners insight into frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, creating a compelling personal narrative within the song. Aside from reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and being nominated for a Grammy, the song’s lasting influence is also evident in the vast variety of artists who have since covered it, such as: Avril Lavigne, Fall Out Boy, and Alanis Morissette, among others.
“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”
Though originally written by Armstrong before the release of Dookie, this song didn’t publicly arrive until the band’s fifth album, 1997’s Nimrod. This song showed an entirely new side of the Green day, as it features solely acoustic instrumentation resulting in one of the band’s more mellow offerings. As a result, it granted the band crossover credibility and exposure. The song has since been cemented in history by way of countless graduations, television series finales, and many other momentous occasions. Nimrod has since been certified 2x multi-platinum.
This track served as the lead single for the band’s sixth album, 2000’s Warning and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. At the time, Armstrong said the song represented how a person may drift through dark periods in order to find where they belong. In a broader sense, the song represents the band’s desire to maintain some of the same “minority” aesthetic and attitude they had when first starting out even as they were becoming more established in the mainstream. Armstrong also said this song marked a turning point in which their songwriting became more politically rooted – which they continued to explore as time went on.
“Jesus of Suburbia”
Spanning over nine minutes in length, this song is the longest single Green Day has ever released. It was the fifth and final single to be released in anticipation of their seventh album, 2004’s concept album American Idiot. The record seeks to tell and explore the story of a fictional character, who is presented here as the “Jesus of Suburbia.” Since this track has five separate sections, many perceived it as Armstrong’s valiant attempt at creating his own modernized take on “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Released in conjunction with “Holiday,” the thought process between pairing these two contrasting tracks was that while “Holiday” symbolized American Idiot’s main character riding the high and enjoying the dismal city around him, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” served as the subsequent comedown as “reality” set in. The song went on to win a Grammy for Record of the Year, and it not only remains one of Green Day’s most affecting and identifiable tracks but also remains their highest charting track, as it reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Wake Me Up When September Ends”
Following suit, this track is also off American Idiot and comes in right behind “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” in terms of chart placement, as it peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100. While Armstrong wrote the song following his father’s death, it ultimately speaks to tragedy and loss as a whole and became particularly symbolic in regards to Hurricane Katrina and September 11th. Armstrong has since said this song is the most personal he has written, considering it’s painful and emotional context.
This song was featured on Green Day’s eighth album, 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown and has since become that record’s most popular track. It sees the band openly revisit their political roots by addressing the concept of patriotism. The song went on to receive a Grammy nomination – Green Day performed the song at the awards ceremony that same year – though lost out to Kings of Leon. Meanwhile, the album has gone on to be certified platinum.