Longview From Gilman Street
They were darlings of the underground, then spokesmen for a generation of apathetic MTV youth. And just when it seemed like everyone had written Green Day off, they returned with tidy new outfits, a liberal amount of eyeliner, and the best album of their career since the breakout, diamond-certified Dookie. Real life rarely gets second acts this strong, but more than a decade after defining pop punk for a disaffected new era, Green Day have defined revolutionary-minded rock'n'roll for a world mired in illegal wars and political unrest. While their current image, newfound politics, and tendency to break their albums into conceptual movements is growing a little thin in 2009, there is no denying Green Day's relevance to the current state of everything from pop punk to radio rock. And there is no way anyone could have seen that coming in 1994.
Billie Joe Armstrong is born in Oakland, California, the youngest of six children in a working-class home. Michael Ryan Pritchard is born in Berkley, California, and is immediately given up for adoption by his heroin-addicted mother. And on the other end of the planet, Frank Edwin Wright III is born in Frankfurt, West Germany. His father, a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam war, relocates his new family to Willits, California.
1973 to 1981
In the decidedly blue-collar suburb of Rodeo, California, Armstrong is frequently left to fend for himself while his mother picks up shifts Rod's Hickory Pit in Vallejo, the same restaurant she's worked in since she was 16. His father, a truck driver for Safeway who moonlights as a jazz drummer, fosters an early interest in music in his son. With his dad's encouragament, in 1977, a chipmunk-voiced Armstrong records the single "Look For Love," written by some local musicians, for local Fiat Records. Fewer than 1000 copies are pressed. Pritchard, who develops heart problems at an early age as a complication of his mother's addiction, has difficulty in his adoptive home. By 1978, his parents are divorced.
1982 to 1986
Armstrong's father develops oesophageal cancer, and dies within three months of his diagnosis. Armstrong's mother begins dating almost immediately, and soon marries a man that Armstrong despises. Pritchard finds himself in a similar situation when his mother marries a man with whom he frequently clashes; hatred of their step-dads is one of the many things the two share when they meet for the first time in late 1982 in the halls of Carquinez Middle School in Crocket, California. The two don't really hit it off until 1985, when they discover a mutual love of metal and punk; that same year, Wright is asked to join his first band. Next door neighbour Larry Livermore, the founder of legendary punk label Lookout! Records and co-founder of venerable punk venue 924 Gilman Street, taps Wright to play drums in the Lookouts, teaching him punk basics by hiding all the cymbals in the closest and starting with the tom-heavy beats that will become Wright's trademark later. Recognizing the decidedly un-rock flavour of the name Frank Edwin Wright III, Livermore christens his new drummer "Tre Cool." Somewhere off in Rodeo, Armstrong, now known at school as "Two Dollar Bill," a reference to the joints he sells, writes his first song on his first guitar, a blue Stratocaster copy he appropriately dubs "Blue." The song is "Why Do You Want Him," a plea to his mother and a rant against his stepfather.
Armstrong and Pritchard, now going by the last name "Dirnt" (an onomatopoeia for the bass sounds he frequently makes in class), attend their first show at 924 Gilman Street. Nurturing a scene that includes notable punks like Operation Ivy, Blatz, Jawbreaker, and Crimpshrine (a band whose farewell show Armstrong and Dirnt would play in 1989), Armstrong refers to the venue as his "salvation," while Dirnt simply calls it "my high school." Inspired by the DIY attitude of the Gilman scene, as well as the Ramones, the Replacements, and Hüsker Dü, Armstrong and Dirnt form their first band, Sweet Children, along with drummer Jeff Kiffmeyer, also known as Al Sobrante. With help from Armstrong's mother, their first gig is on October 17 at Rod's Hickory Pit. With a few friends in attendance, the show goes well enough that the band is offered a second. It is against this promising backdrop that Dirnt's homelife deteriorates to the point of him leaving home at 15; for a time, he lives in Armstrong's house, then, in his truck.
Be the first to comment