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How Green Day Went Mainstream With 'DOOKIE'

Updated: Sep 30, 2023



On February 1, 1994, Bay Area punks Green Day released their third studio and first major label album Dookie via Reprise Records. The Grammy-winning album (Best Alternative Album 1995) features five promotional singles - "Longview," "Basket Case," "Welcome To Paradise", "When I Come Around" and "She". Dookie was noted to help bring punk rock to mainstream popularity and propel Green Day to worldwide fame. The album reached number two on the US charts and peaked in the top 5 on charts around the world. Regarding its legacy, Dookie has been labeled by critics and journalists as one of the greatest punk rock albums of all time.


After the success of Green Day's 1991 album Kerplunk!, a number of labels became interested in the band, offering them meals to discuss potential partnerships with one even inviting them to Disneyland. Though the band declined all of the invitations, they eventually met with producer and label representative from Reprise Records Rob Cavallo, who the band later revealed, "he was the only person we could really talk to and connect with." As the band eventually left their independent record label Lookout! Records and signed to a major label, the band's original fans began to regard the band as "sell-outs." 924 Gilman Street, the Berkeley, California music club that Green Day frequently played in their early years, banned the band from entering the major label signing. Reflecting on those past years in 1999, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong told SPIN, "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."



Much of the album was written by Billie, excluding "Emenius Sleepus" written by bassist Mike Dirnt, and hidden track "All By Myself" written by drummer Tre Cool. The album is a collection of tracks highlighting anxiety and panic attacks, boredom, sexual orientation, mass murder, divorce and ex-girlfriends.



"Having A Blast" was written when Billie was in Cleveland in June 1992. "Longview" exposes Mike's signature bass line he wrote while under the influence of LSD. "Welcome To Paradise" serves as the second Dookie single, was originally on the band's 1991 album Kerplunk!, and was re-recorded with a less grainy sound for Dookie. "Basket Case" was a hit single that appeared on many singles charts worldwide and was inspired by Billie's personal experiences. The track deals with anxiety attacks and feelings of "going crazy", prior to being diagnosed with a panic disorder. In the third verse, "Basket Case" references soliciting a male prostitute; Armstrong noted - "I wanted to challenge myself and whoever the listener might be. It's also looking at the world and saying, 'It's not as black and white as you think. This isn't your grandfather's prostitute – or maybe it was.' " The music video was filmed in an abandoned mental institution.


"She" was written by Billie about a former girlfriend who showed him a feminist poem with an identical title. In return, Billie wrote the lyrics of "She" and showed them to her. She later moved to Ecuador, prompting him to put "She" on the album. The same ex-girlfriend is also the topic of the songs "Sassafras Roots" and "Chump".



The final single, "When I Come Around", was again inspired by a woman, though this time being about Billie's wife, then former girlfriend, Adrienne. Following a dispute between the couple, Billie left Adrienne to spend some time alone. The video featured the three band members walking around Berkeley and San Francisco at night, eventually ending up back at the original location. Future touring member of Green Day, Jason White, made a cameo in the video with his then-girlfriend. The song was the band's first top ten single at number 6 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart and stayed at number 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart for seven weeks (two weeks longer than "Basket Case"). It also hit number 2 on both the Mainstream Rock Tracks and the Mainstream Top 40 charts. The song "Coming Clean" deals with Billie's coming to terms with his bisexuality when he was 16 and 17. The song "In the End" is about his mother and her husband. He is quoted saying: "That song is about my mother's husband, it's not really about a girl, or like anyone directly related to me in a relationship. In the End's about my mother."


Closing out Dookie is "F.O.D." - a track about breaking up for good in the most drastic way - followed by hidden track "All By Myself" written by Tre. "All By Myself" contains exploring boredom, antisocial behavior and masturbation.


Dookie remains one of the landmark albums of the 90s and only gets better with time.




GREEN DAY

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