Green Day's Dookie wasn't the first pop-punk record, but it was the most important one. It's still the most important one.
There aren't many genres in which it's possible to make such a claim without inspiring major debate. But in this genre, it's simple: Dookie made it acceptable to put pop-punk on the radio. It introduced an entire type of music to the masses, inspiring a domino effect of sorts over the past two decades that has helped shape the way this genre grew. Without Dookie, we might not have the Vans Warped Tour. Your mall's Hot Topic would be totally different.
Of course, you can't say that without crediting artists like the Ramones, the Descendents, Screeching Weasel and the Vandals, who all influenced Green Day immensely and laid the groundwork for a pop-infused punk-rock sound. But Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool's classic 1994 LP can be pointed at for rekindling the mainstream's interest in anything resembling a punk song.
We asked musicians to explain Dookie's importance in today's world of punk rock and reminisce about how it affected their own bands. Members of Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard, New Found Glory, The Wonder Years, Bayside, Silverstein, Modern Baseball and more provided personal recollections of their relationship with Dookie and talked about the larger-scale impact the record has had.
Since everyone who contributed had quite a bit to say, we've broken up their responses over the next few slides – we suggest listening to the album while you enjoy their stories.
Taking Back Sunday (Mark O'Connell)
"'Dookie' became one of the biggest musical influences for me and to me, it’s a timeless record. I still listen to it 20 years later. It made Green Day a massive band all around the world and made way for bands like Civ and Rancid to start getting played on MTV, which most likely wouldn't have happened. Listening to bands like them and Screeching Weasel made it ok to write a song with just power chords. That’s how I was able to start playing guitar. I remember thinking, 'That's all you have to do?'
Taking Back Sunday had the pleasure of opening up for Green Day at Milton Keys Arena in London right around the time that 'American Idiot' came out. This was a dream come true for me. After Green Day was done with their set, Billie Joe Armstrong came to our dressing room and invited us to their afterparty. While we were all there I started talking to Mike Dirnt about how he played bass on the Screeching Weasel album 'How to Make Enemies and Irritate People.' While we were having the conversation we had both finished our drinks and he offered to make me one. When he left to make the drink it really came to me that I was talking to the bass player from one of my favorite bands of all time. By the time he came back with my drink I was totally nervous and not playing it cool in the slightest bit, and because of my nervousness my hands started shaking and I was spilling the drink everywhere. He totally noticed that I was being a weirdo and the conversation ended shortly after.
I still remember that night as one of the best experiences that I've had being in a band that's toured for over a decade."
Yellowcard (Ryan Key)
"I wonder where we would be without 'Dookie.' When I say 'we' I mean the entire scene we have found ourselves in. From the opening moments of 'Burnout,' young wanna-be punk-rockers everywhere felt their hair getting a little more spikey. There is something about the journey that record takes you on that is unlike anything I had heard before. There were raging pop punk anthems all over the record but I think the most notable thing is the pop sensibility that Green Day had so early on in their songwriting career. Songs like 'She' and "When I Come Around" were totally outside of the box and, for me, demonstrated that we could use our style of music to write these huge, everlasting pop songs. I still reference Dookie today when I need a good kick-in-the-ass crash-course on melody writing."
New Found Glory (Chad Gilbert)
"My brother and I bought 'Dookie' the day it came out and it's still in my top 5 albums of all time. We both were already deep into being fans of punk rock. We both loved the first Rancid album and we thought Billie Joe Armstrong was Tim Armstrong's brother! That was pre-Internet so there wasn't a way to really clarify that rumor. I was immediately blown away because the songs were awesome and the recording sounded so good compared to other punk records.
Green Day was collectively New Found Glory's biggest influence! We all love different genres on our own, but one place we all came together was with Green Day and I think NFG's greatest accomplishment was being able to tour with them on full U.S. and European tours. I'm also listening to 'Dookie' right now – not even kidding, I'm listening as I type – in the What's Eating Gilbert van. My bass player put it on not even knowing I was typing this! It still sounds like a new record. A good song lasts a lifetime and this record is stacked.
'Dookie' brought pop-punk/punk rock to a mainstream audience. The recording and melodies were easier to digest than most other punk rock so people who didn't usually like this style of music became fans and wanted more of this style. It helped kids like me, who hated the flashy rock star style, realize that there was a future in songs with four chords and lyrics about growing up and not fitting in."
The Wonder Years (Dan Campbell)
"'Dookie' came out when I was 8 years old and I was obsessed. My dad and I would listen in the car constantly. I would memorize the lyrics and sing them to myself constantly despite only having a tenuous grasp on what some of it meant. Which, as it turned out, would get me in trouble.
Specifically, I remember listening to the line, 'I went to a shrink to analyze my dreams / She said it's lack of sex that's keeping me down / I went to a whore / She said my life's a bore,' (from 'Basket Case') and not knowing what either a shrink or a whore was. Using the context clues given to me in the song, my eight-year-old brain came to the conclusion that these were both people you went to for advice; two names for the same thing, really. I remember picturing something like a psychic because of the 'analyze my dreams' part of the line.
Anyway, fast-forward to that summer. My extended family always rents a house in Ocean City, NJ. We pile everyone into it and pull out the sofa and air mattresses and make a week of it. My grandma was making a joke that my aunt needed a shrink. I knew that word. It was someone you'd see for life advice so I decided I'd step up and add to the conversation with a fully confident, 'Yeah, grandma! Or a whore!' Turns out, I had the definition a bit skewed. Lucky for me my family found it hilarious instead of sending me off to boarding school or something. Long live 'Dookie.'"
Silverstein (Shane Told)
"I was only 12 when 'Dookie' came out. Strangely enough I already considered myself somewhat of an expert music fan, and very opinionated about what was "cool." When I first heard "Longview" I didn't know the record would change my life. I was a huge fan of metal. I was also down with alternative bands like Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana and Soundgarden. But punk? Nah. Punk was too simple. And for old people. The Ramones were old I thought. The Sex Pistols sucked and couldn't play. But Green Day... this was something fresh. This was fun. And these guys were cool.
When I was in eighth grade I started my first band. We were called Jerk Circus and Green Day was such a huge inspiration that we covered "When I Come Around" at our first show ever – a one-song set at our middle school talent show. Because I didn't want to look like I didn't know how to shred, I decided to put a ripping solo in the break instead of the tasteful piece Billie Joe Armstrong plays. I thought we were pretty good but my eighth grade yearbook was full of quotes like, "Too bad you can't sing!" 'Dookie' changed everything for me. I found out about other punk bands, about Epitaph and Fat Wreck and Hopeless, and I mail ordered pretty much everything they released. When I showed up to ninth grade wearing a NOFX shirt, so were three other guys in my class! People are either too young or don't remember that because Green Day and the Offspring got so huge, they paved the way for other bands in their scene. Without 'Basket Case' and 'Self Esteem,' there probably wouldn't have ever been a Warped Tour. It was wholly instrumental in starting our scene."
Bayside (Nick Ghanbarian)
"I remember as a 13-year-old, sitting around with my friends seeing the "Longview" video on MTV and feeling something none of us had felt before. I definitely felt like there was something very different about them compared to other bands on MTV like Smashing Pumpkins or Stone Temple Pilots. Green Day kind of looked like sh-t, it wasn’t an elaborate video and the emotion they played with in the video seemed very relatable and real. 'Dookie' absolutely ended up becoming the reason my friends and I all picked up instruments and started to play. We all picked out instruments and I wound up with the bass. I would sit at home and try to learn all of Mike Dirnt’s bass lines. I could never compare, but to this day I still try to write bass lines like him.
'Dookie' definitely changed Green Day's lives and put a lot of expectations on them, but to me they exceeded all expectations. They've written plenty of great songs over the years, and the success of 'Dookie' helped them become a massively important band of the past 20 years. Its mainstream success is extremely important for where the punk scene has gone in the past two decades. Without 'Dookie,' I don’t think blink-182 would have been welcomed into the mainstream so easily, and blink wound up helping break bands like Saves the Day, New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday. The whole trajectory of the past 20 years of pop-punk can be traced back to 'Dookie.'"
The Swellers (Ryan Collins)
"'Dookie' had such a huge impact on my life and musical career. When I first heard Green Day I was 11 years old and I knew very little about punk rock. I remember hearing 'Longview' on the radio one day while being in the backseat of my mother's car. She was driving my friend and I somewhere and my buddy shouted to turn up the radio because he liked that song. At first I didn't know what to make of it. A weird bassline and some snotty British guy (turns out that Billie Joe wasn't British) singing swear words really shocked me and my mother. But nonetheless the song stuck with me.
Then one day after school I flipped on MTV and there was the video! Seeing the faces to the music really changed everything. The colored hair, the piercings, the tattoos, the clothes and the aggression of how they played their instruments! I was hooked after that and I had to have the album. Once I bought it I had to study everything about it. From the album cover to the lyrics, I had that album with me at all times. I became so obsessed with Green Day that I wanted to learn how to play guitar and be like Billie. To this day, my guitar playing and songwriting is emulated after Green Day. I even got into my first band in high school because I was noticed wearing a 'Basket Case' T-shirt!
What 'Dookie' did for Green Day will probably never be done for another band again. There were so many bands that were about to cross over into the mainstream but couldn't just get there. To me 'Dookie' showed that you can be this hardworking band full of average-looking guys and be successful as long as you have the right tunes and are passionate about it. 'Dookie' also opened up a whole new world for me. There were other punk bands out there that shared the same message and lifestyle. Going into junior high and high school I finally felt where I belonged. If it wasn't for 'Dookie' I would never have traveled the world playing gigs or even have the friends I have now. That's why 'Dookie' is my favorite album."
Fireworks (Chris Mojan)
"I was 8 years old in the summer of 1995. My parents owned a restaurant and worked all day so they flew my great-grandmother in from Macedonia to watch my sister and I. She didn't speak a word of English. My sister, being a few years older than me, was getting hip to watching music videos, so we'd spend most days doing that. This was the year of Soundgarden's 'Black Hole Sun' and Alanis Morissette's 'You Oughta Know'' videos. Both quite memorable, but "Basket Case" by Green Day stood out.
It wasn't the digitally-added obnoxious colors or the creepy masks, though. It was the song. I had never heard a guitar sound that weird, and I had never heard anyone sing that slurred. But at the same time, it was as catchy as the Beatles songs my mom played in the car. A few weeks later I bought 'Dookie' on cassette along with a shirt. Nineteen years later, I'm playing in a band with people that have Green Day tattoos who were once in the Idiot of the Month Club. I don't think that's a coincidence."
Modern Baseball (Sean Huber)
"'Dookie' was the first punk record I ever listened to. I recall being very young and sitting on my older brother's floor listening through his boombox. I was immediately blown away by the lyrics. I had never heard anyone singing about that stuff at the time: Anxiety, boredom, helplessness, sex, insanity, and it was all so brutally honest.
My mom actually listened to it one day and was so furious she took it away from my brother. Luckily I knew where she hid things so I went into her office a few days later and stole it back. I listened nonstop on my headphones after that, and she never found out.
The 'Basket Case' video is one of the few that inspired me go to film school to learn how to make music videos. Seeing Billie Joe Armstrong sing those lyrics in a padded cell was amazing. It was also the first time I ever watched Tre Cool play those drum fills and could not fathom how he was doing it. I think it still holds up as one of the most groundbreaking punk videos.
'Dookie' brought the new wave of punk and pop-punk to the mainstream. It's insane how big an effect bands like Green Day, Rancid and The Offspring had on the mainstream, and I believe it was one of the most sincere cases of DIY bands exploding to the masses. I think they were the model of staying true to where you came from."
Pentimento (Lance Claypool)
"I was first introduced to Green Day's 'Dookie' in middle school. My friend at the locker next to me handed me just the disc, claiming he didn't have a CD player and stole it just to spite his older brother (sorry, Nick). From that first bus ride home I was hooked and continued to play and abuse that disc until it was unreadable. I didn't have the case or lyric sheets so I guessed what a ton of the words were, and I believed those to be the lyrics for many years after. Who knew I was even more mentally unstable than Billie Joe Armstrong?
I also spent countless frustrating nights on a dial-up connection trying to cram my parents hard drive with live concerts from Woodstock '94 and the famed 924 Gilman Street. It became a dream of mine to be on stage and share songs with people who were feeling exactly the same way I was, even if those songs didn't fit the normal subjects of other artists and industry trends. 'Dookie' still stands on its own 20 years later and I am forever grateful that it became an integral part of the soundtrack to my high school years, and continues to be one of my favorites to this day."
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