"Basket Case" is one of the biggest hits of Green Day's career and a watershed moment for the mainstream explosion of pop-punk — but vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong has now opened up about writing the song, revealing that he was on crystal meth when he wrote the "embarrassingly bad" original version.
Appearing on the latest episode of the podcast Song Exploder, Armstrong revealed that "Basket Case" dated back to 1992 or early 1993, when he had just bought a new 4-track recorder and a guitar amp. "I had this melody in my head for a while, and I wanted to have this sort of grand song about a love story," he said, explaining that he envisioned it as a ballad that would build into a full-band rocker.
He admitted, "The true confession is, I was on crystal meth when I wrote the lyrics to it, and I thought I was writing the greatest song ever. As you know, with drugs, they wear off, and then I felt like I'd written the worst song ever. I thought that the lyrics were just embarrassingly bad. I had a few songs before that I'd written on drugs, but this one was the most pitiful, I felt, after. And so I kind of let the song go for a while, because I felt so gross about it."
He put the song on the shelf for a while, but eventually revisited the melody after conceptualizing 1994's Dookie as an album about "everyday life and feelings and emotions you go through that people can identify with." He said, "And so I think I just got the courage to get into it again, trying to write the lyrics. And it was the best decision I've ever made, probably, as a songwriter." The song ended up becoming about panic attacks.
Hear the episode of Song Exploder wherever you listen to podcasts, and check out the original 4-track demo of "Basket Case" below. This demo appeared on last year's 30th anniversary reissue of Dookie. Armstrong has a point — the lyrics are pretty bad.
Green Day just released the new album Saviors.