An album filled with tremendous amounts of memories.
It’s hard to believe that we have officially entered the era of our lives in which the first couple of years of the ‘90s were thirty years ago… Feel old yet? Get ready to feel even older as we dive deep into an often overlooked, yet essential album from Green Day.
Every band has their “early years” where tracks are usually featured on cassette tapes or bonus tracks on albums. However, what is considered to be East Bay punks Green Day’s early years are their first two albums, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk! Although some would consider Kerplunk! to be the band’s first album since it’s the first collection of music with drummer Tre Cool, it is in fact the band’s second album. Within its first eleven hours of release on December 17, 1991, the band had sold 10,000 copies in the United States alone. Bassist Mike Dirnt exclaimed that the kids of punk scenes everywhere were desperate for new music and the band wasn’t able to keep up with the demand. “I kept getting asked again and again, ‘Where can I get Kerplunk? And I was saying ‘We’ve got to get our records out to more people. We couldn’t sell as many records as we were drawing people”.
The album via Lookout! Records kicks off with a popular older track “2,000 Light Years Away” that’s been performed live for over thirty years now. It symbolizes a time in Billie Joe Armstrong’s life in which he met his now wife Adrienne Armstrong, but at the time things were so back and forth with living so far apart. Lyrics that capture your heart and can resonate with - “I hold my breath and close my eyes and dream about her, ‘cause she’s 2,000 years light away” embrace the true love Billie’s always had for Adrienne (who he calls 80 later down the road…). An all-too-well-known track “Welcome To Paradise” (1992 version, official version featured on Dookie (1994) is a raw and stripped-down recording embracing the early days for the band of playing in small venues and bars around California. The official music video for “Welcome To Paradise” features the 1994 recording but the visual is for sure from the earlier days. The song was written in the form of a letter to his mother, Billie expressed what it was like going from living in Rodeo to living on the streets in Oakland.
“Christie Rd.” is one that honestly takes you back and expresses love for a previous life well lived. With the catchiness of the main guitar riff, it’s one of those songs that catches you in the right moment and that’s why fans have resonated with it. Fans love the song so much they’ve even gone to the actual road itself and have embraced everything about it. “Take me to the tracks at Christie Rd.” is a dream that can be fulfilled if you’re willing to take the ride. “Dominated Love Slave” is a song that most likely would not be allowed in 2021, but the one Tre wrote and has been known to perform it live with another song from Dookie he also wrote titled, “All By Myself.” With this song of course being a joke (possibly) the purest part about it is Mike harmonizes with Tre for the chorus and you actually almost take it seriously. “One Of My Lies” is amongst one of Kerplunk!’s finer tracks and draws you into its catchy chorus - “Do you think you’re indestructible and no one can touch you?” - about questioning God and about finding yourself in the universe.
“80” is of course about Adrienne and embraces how she affected his mental health in mostly a good way. The lyrics - “Everything she does questions my mental health, it makes me lose control I just can’t trust myself” states that they clearly were not together, but they were so into each other, even if they were “2,000 Light Years Away.” “80 please keep taking me away” expresses that Billie was fully in love and didn’t want a relationship with anyone else. “No One Knows” is about growing up and reflecting on actions. “Who Wrote Houlden Caulfield?” is a track that’s been performed live countless times and was such a crucial song to the East Bay. Billie explained that he was forced to read this book in school and as an adult, he re-read it and felt it was “very punk rock.” The song exclaims that the main character of the novel is an outcast who is trying to find his way through adolescence and overthinks everything without taking action. “Sweet Children” is the thirteen song (as a bonus track originally) and is in fact what Green Day called themselves before their infamous name. It’s about losing your innocence when you grow up, girls hanging out with the wrong guys, the wrong guys taking advantage of girls, etc. and they all used to be sweet children. “My Generation” which is the final track on Kerplunk! and the fourth bonus track on cassettes and CDs, is of course a cover of The Who’s first-ever hit which is still relevant even in 2021. The first request of this cover was by a friend in 1989 at a show and continued to be a crowd favorite for a couple of years, buried and returned for an anniversary by Green Day in 2009.
Kerplunk! was Green Day’s last independent-label album in which they received mass amounts of negativity signing to a major label due to the fact in the punk community once you sign, you’ve sold out. Green Day was no longer welcomed to play at one of their regular spots in Berkley 924 Gilman Street (an all-ages DIY non-profit organization) which is home to where many East Bay bands such as The Offspring, Operation Ivy, Rancid, Ultra Q, and more got their start. In all its entirety, Kerplunk! is thirty years old and it will live on forever. May all who find it have peace with themselves.