Green Day is an American punk rock band consisting of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt (born Michael Pritchard), and Tré Cool (born Frank Edwin Wright III). Though they were born in California, fans from Toronto now claim that they are 'from' Toronto because of a comment Billy Joe made on the American Election Night in 2004, while performing in T.O, "If Bush wins, we won't be from California any more. We'll be from Toronto."
At the age of 12, Tré Cool became a member of the band The Lookouts. Their album attracted some attention, and Tre began performing at an early age at the Berkeley, California punk club 924 Gilman Street. In 1988, Armstrong (16 years old) and Dirnt (16 years old) formed Sweet Children, with Armstrong on lead vocals and guitar, Mike Pritchard, aka Mike Dirnt, on bass and backing vocals, and John Kiffmeyer, aka Al Sobrante, on drums.
Their first show was in 1988 at Rod's Hickory Pit in Rodeo, California. A couple months later, they played a high school party with the Lookouts in a remote mountain location near Willits, California, where Tre and Kain Kong of the Lookouts lived and attended school. Only five kids showed up for the party, and there was no electricity in the house, so Sweet Children had to play using a generator and candlelight, but they played, as Lookouts singer/guitarist Lawrence Livermore put it, "As if they were The Beatles at Shea Stadium."
Livermore, who also ran the Berkeley independent label Lookout! Records, immediately offered Sweet Children a deal, and in early 1989 they recorded their first EP, "1,000 Hours," and then decided, weeks before the EP release, to change their name to Green Day. The record came out, with the cover changed at the last minute to reflect the new name, in April of 1989.
One year later, in April of 1990, Green Day released their first album, "39/Smooth" (re-issued on CD in 1991, with 9 additional tracks from "Slappy" and "1,000 Hours", as "1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours"), and that summer set out in a van on their first national tour. Before leaving, they recorded another four-song EP called "Slappy," and while in Minneapolis-St. Paul they recorded a four-song EP of some of their old songs for the local label Skene Records, and called it "Sweet Children."
After this tour, at the end of the summer of 1990, John Kiffmeyer/Al Sobrante left the band on what was supposed to be a temporary basis to attend college in Arcata, California. By this time the Lookouts had become mostly inactive, and Tre Cool, now 17, and who had moved to Berkeley, began playing with Green Day as a temporary replacement. The combination worked out so well that he soon became Green Day's permanent drummer.
During 1991 the band toured and played locally, building up a large following, and also wrote and recorded their second album, "Kerplunk!", released on Lookout Records in January of 1992. The CD version also included the four tracks from the "Sweet Children" EP. They continued to tour through 1992 and 1993, ranging as far afield as the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Poland, and the Czech Republic (then still known as Czechoslovakia).
By 1993 Green Day had sold about 55,000 copies of each of their first albums, a huge amount for the independent punk scene in those days, and attracted a great deal of attention from the major labels. Eventually they decided to sign a deal with Reprise Records, leaving Lookout on friendly terms, and spent the greater part of the year recording their major label debut, "Dookie," which proved to be an almost instant sensation, helped by extensive MTV airplay for the videos "Longview" and "Basket Case."
In 1994 they embarked on a nationwide tour and chose queercore band Pansy Division as their opening act. At the time this was regarded as quite controversial; nonetheless, the tour was a success and Green Day had made their audience aware that they were not just another 'pop' band with a couple of hit singles. The band joined the lineups of both the Lollapalooza Festival and Woodstock 1994. Green Day's Woodstock gig included a gigantic mud fight between the band and the audience, leading to a melee which led to Dirnt losing his front teeth.
They recorded a single called "J.A.R." in 1995, and followed it up with the album Insomniac. Though the album didn't approach the success of Dookie, it still sold several million copies in the U.S. Their third major label album, Nimrod, was released in 1997, and Warning in 2000.
In 2003 (during time spent in the Studio) a New Wave band has appeared on the Scene, known as The Network. This 5 piece band, at first look/listen appears to be Green Day. The front man "Fink" bears a striking resemblance to one Wilhelm Fink (Billie Joe Armstrong's Pseudonym).
Fighting burnout after Warning, the band went into the studio to write and record new material for an album. After completing 20 tracks - an impressive album according to those few who heard it - the master tapes were stolen from the studio. The band chose not to try and re-create the stolen album but instead started over with a vow to be even more ambitious.
The resulting 2004 album American Idiot is being billed as a "punk rock opera", or more accurately a concept album telling the story of characters such as St. Jimmy, Jesus of Suburbia, and Whatsername. Two of the tracks, "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming", composed by 5 different parts, are multi-movement suites that are both more than nine minutes long. The song American Idiot has been hailed by the band as their public statement in reaction to the confusing and warped scene that is American pop culture. The album as a whole is more political than their previous ones, if for no other reason than their aging. Billie Joe has said that they chose to write this way because the band has obtained respect and sway in the music world, and that this social commentary is part of the natural evolution of a band.
Their album American Idiot won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Rock Album along with 5 other Grammy nominations. The song "American Idiot" was featured in the video game NFL Madden 2005.