25 Years Ago: Punk Goes Mainstream With Green Day's 'Dookie'

February 1, 2019

Green Day first started to create some buzz in 1990 with the release of 39/Smooth and in 1991 with the release of Kerplunk, that's when the major record labels started ringing.

They were riding the wave of success as a result of Kerplunk, and rather than signing with a larger independent label, the band were interested in something a little bigger.

That was when they turned their gaze to producer Rob Cavallo of Reprise Records. The band was aware of the work Cavallo had done with the Muffs and decided to strike a deal to see what the two of them could do together. 

When it came to getting an advance from the label, Armstrong told Rolling Stone that they didn't want to spend too much on the record, hoping to have some extra left over for rent.

Having both money in their pockets and a huge record label attached to their band, this was a brand new sensation for Green Day. Excited, able and willing, Armstrong recalls how impressively tight bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tré Cool were able to play in the studio. Because the last thing they wanted was to have to go back into the studio and re-record everything all over again. Having performed the songs enough times live, they were confident enough in their playing abilities in the studio as they were on stage.

But Green Day experienced another brand new feeling that they never saw coming: a big change in their fanbase. Those in the punk scene that grew up with them in their early years turned away from them after signing a major deal with Reprise, under the impression that they had sold out. They even made their feelings clear during one of their live shows at their stomping grounds of 924 Gilman St. The club then banned Green Day from the venue, seeing being signed to a major label as an insult to the Bay Area punk scene.

With no other direction to move other than forward, Armstrong, Dirnt and Cool proceeded to record for Dookie in a matter of three weeks with two remixing sessions. Although Armstrong took the lead on the lyrics, Dirnt and Cool penned some material of their own for two of the album's tracks.

Dookie officially dropped on February 1st, 1994 with their first single "Longview" ready for mainstream ears. Known for its memorable bass line, Armstrong and Dirnt later explained that Dirnt was on LSD at the time he came up with it and nearly forgot how it was supposed to go. Whatever parts he could remember went into the song's intro.

With half the song already in place, Armstrong made up the second half by writing about being bored and masturbating. With a music video already in place upon release, it became a staple on MTV and radio, jumped to No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart and No. 13 on the Mainstream Rock chart. "Longview" would then earn Green Day a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.

"When I Come Around" was fourth single to stem from Dookie, which Armstrong wrote after breaking up with his girlfriend Adrienne. Interestingly enough, once the song was recorded, Armstrong and Adrienne got back together and would later get married. 

"She" was the final single to make it off the album and although it did not achieve the same commercial success as the other Dookie singles, it did have a good run in Modern and Mainstream Rock radio.

Dookie was the spark that lit the powder keg to Green Day's worldwide success. After playing local shows via their "bookmobile" to venues around the world, Green Day achieved huge fame after their "mud fight" during their set at Woodstock '94 as well as a spot in Lollapalooza.