Froback Friday, 25/05/2018 – The 15 greatest Green Day songs of all time


Hey folks, Az here. I’m back after taking a week off from the Frobacks as last Friday was a busy one for me personally – our band performed at Madam Wong‘s cd launch and I welcomed my young daughter Evie into the world just a couple of days prior to that and was settling in mum and bub at home.

So, to make up for it, how about I post a mega-Froback of 15 YouTube videos all at once. Cool?

Kerrang just recently posted an article titled The Actual 15 Greatest Green Day Songs Ever as a rebuttal to NME‘s recent list of the same ilk and I have to say, they both got it wrong. So, how about I pitch in and produce the actual, penultimate best 15 songs list by Green Day that you might actually find you can agree with?

Spoiler alert: Everything Green Day has done in the last ten years sucks. Call me a nostalgic former teenager or whatever but this band did a big pivot to try and appease Generation Z – the people who currently have disposable income and buy their music – and have left their former Gen Y adorers behind. To do that, they changed their style and it isn’t as good as what they used to do. There, I said it. Let’s move on.

Opinions about Green Day’s music are so polarising: just look at this thread on Quora as an example. But that’s cool – it’s what goes to show that Green Day are a beloved band with many people who passionately love them and a transition from one generation of admirers to the next is always next to impossible to pull off but they are one of the bands who have managed to do it. Good for them.

Honourable mentions go out to the following five songs that didn’t make my top 15 but would have been in places 16-20 if it were a list of that many songs – It’s painful to omit them but they deserve a mention nonetheless: Brat, St. Jimmy, Platypus, Do Da Da and 80. Look them up if you don’t recognize the names – they are gems.

Let’s dive in.

15. Coming Clean

Kerrang’s #15: Stuck With Me

NME’s #15: Horeshoes And Handgrenades

Me: Oh please. NME lost their credibility with their first song mentioned. As for Kerrang? Can’t argue with their logic – such a fun song and I go into fits every time the song starts playing. It just couldn’t make my cut for a top 15 but respect to them for mentioning it nonetheless.

Most people don’t know this next fact because Billie Joe Armstrong has been married for forever but he’s actually bisexual and this song is about coming out to your parents. This song would have shocked a lot of people back in 1994 but would have played a recognisable role in breaking the taboo of teenage sexuality at a time when Limp Bizkit and Eminem were calling people faggots in their music later on in the 90’s. The song is hella fun too.

14. Minority

Kerrang’s #14: American Eulogy

NME’s #14: Bang Bang

Me: Look. Bang Bang is a shit song, ok? That whole album was billed as Green Day’s “return to their roots” which was nonsense. Bang Bang was a punk song but that album it was on was not a punk album – that song might have been the only one of that genre if we’re going to split hairs. American Eulogy? No. Just no. “Mass hysteriaaaaaa”. More like mass migrane. Sorry Green Day, I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that some of your music totally blows.

Minority was exactly the kind of song Green Day needed to put out at the time that they put it out. Despite the Warning album getting kind of hammered for being largely an acoustic album at a time when Nimrod left people pining for more crunch than it gave them, this song hit the airwaves as a first single and offered a big exhale for those people. As for the song holding up historically, you cannot dislike it – it’s just pure, simple fun.

13. Whatsername

Kerrang’s #13: Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)

NME’s #13: Warning

Me: Allow me to get this off my chest.

Maybe the fact that I graduated from high school in 1998 and EVERY DAMN GRADUATION had Time Of Your Life playing at it (not to mention New Year’s Eve and turning a radio on) contributed to me leaving that song off my top 15 – I’ll admit it – but let’s call out the sheep on this one. There were two separate opportunities for people to love that song prior to it being played on Seinfeld‘s last ever episode and neither produced an obsession over the song:

  1. It was a b-side on the Brain Stew/Jaded single, titled simply “Good Riddance”. The song was written during the Dookie era but didn’t fit the style of music for that album (der) so it was thrown on the end of a single from the following album (Insomniac). The recording of that version is just Billie Joe on an acoustic thrashing it out by himself – admittedly very plain and average but still, it was put out there as early as 1994. Think I’m overdoing it by saying that it was a b-side and therefore it was ‘out there’? Just ask the band KISS how the song Beth worked out for them – it was a b-side to Detroit Rock City but was loved so much that it was re-released as a single because people were liking that song more.
  2. This song was the second single off of Nimrod, titled as “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” and it bombed as a single at the end of 1997. I remember buying that single and loving the B-sides more. It didn’t sit on the shelves of my local cd store for any longer than 3 weeks.

Then about 9 months later, it’s used at the end of that damn Seinfeld episode and everyone was going apeshit over the song. To respond to its newfound popularity, Nimrod’s third single, Redundant, had to be re-released as a double A-side with the song retitled as “Time Of Your Life (Good Riddance)” to cash in on it. That version of the single was a best seller.

Look, it’s a good song, just not _that_ good to be passed over less than 15 times.

As for Warning, again – NME really don’t have any cred left at this point and prove it with this song keeping something else off their top 15 list. Good bass line, fun song, not a top 15 song.

Whatsername is my favourite song on the American Idiot album. I think it’s the wall of distorted guitars that hits you right before the guitar solo and “remember, whatever” parts that gets me. Oh, and that YouTube video embedded above is actually the official video for the song but was never released for some reason. If the girl in the clip looks familiar, she should – she’s the girl in the Jesus of Suburbia clip. Yeah yeah I know, concept albums. Bonus points for comitting to the concept to the very end.

12. She

Kerrang’s #12: Letterbomb

NME’s #12: Having A Blast

Me: I like both of those rock mag’s choices but neither of them made my top 15 for their respective flaws. Letterbomb is about 4 mins long and really should be about half that length – it starts off well then just gets a bit repetitive. Having A Blast, meanwhile, is the song that blows your head off (seriously, no pun intended) after listening to the first song Burnout on the Dookie album. So. Much. Fun. I always wondered though: would Green Day denounce and disown that song these days seems as it’s all about being a home-grown terrorist, after turning into a political band and protesting against the Iraq war? If I ever met them, that would be one of the questions I’d be dying to ask them.

“She” was Kerrang’s #1 song and much respect to them for picking a non-single as Green Day’s best ever song, I just respectfully disagree. It’s not even the best song on the Dookie album (spoiler alert: My #1 and #2 are Dookie songs and rightfully so). That scratch into the first chorus is more enlivening than any can of energy drink could ever give you. Irresepective of all the songs that Green Day have released as singles, this song is definitely one of their top 15 best ever and you’d be forgiven for forgetting about it for being on their best album ever amoungst the 13/(kinda 14) other amazing songs too.

11. F.O.D.

Kerrang’s #11: Hitchin’ A Ride

NME’s #11: Minority

Me: Hitchin’ A Ride was a great song but it was also a blatant rip-off of “Counting The Beat” by The Swingers (I always remember that song from the old K-Mart TV ads from the 90’s here in Australia). Sure, I’m in a punk band and have probably inadvertantly ripped off other people’s songs too (and Green Day have done it a lot) but Counting The Beat was a massive song of its time and Hitchin’ A Ride’s likeliness to it just feels too violating. I rated Minority too, as seen above, just not as high as NME did.

F.O.D. is THE Green Day song. For all the great songs on Dookie, this being the last track just finished it off so perfectly. It’s the soundtrack of my life. Just look at all the people singing along in the live clip above. I’m suprised that Kerrang and NME both looked over it for their top 15 lists.

10. Geek Stink Breath

Kerrang’s #10: Going To Pascalacqua

NME’s #10: Geek Stink Breath

Me: What a coincidence – NME and I agree that Geek Stink Breath is Green Day’s tenth best song. Going To Pascalacqua is an excellent choice – it’s an even better live song that it is on the 39/Smooth album. No disputes there.

Geek Stink Breath was the first single from Insomniac and cemented Green Day’s place in all the hearts of everyone with zits on their face desperate to say fuck you to anyone and everyone. The reinforced drug themes that were too taboo for anyone else to touch on in mainstream music (and hip hop wasn’t nearly as big then as it is now) and filming a friend getting his tooth ripped out to be deliberately polarising was super funny. This was their way of saying “yeah we’re famous and whatever”. Those were the days when Green Day weren’t trying to be popular. 😉

9. Brain Stew

Kerrang’s #9: Jesus Of Suburbia

NME’s #9: Burnout

Me: Jesus Of Suburbia. Yeah look, it was a clever song but it was just too long. As a second song on the American Idiot album, it fit well and flowed even better but it was just a silly song to release as a single. There was no better evidence than the fact that Reprise chopped the song down considerably from 9 minutes on the album version to much less than that for the film clip and that edit made the song feel unusually short. Punk songs really shouldn’t go for longer than 3 minutes because they sound like they are dragging on otherwise and this song is no exception. Make your point and get out of there. It’s just not top 15 material. Burnout is a worthy choice, it just didn’t make my cut.

Yeah yeah, I know that Green Day insisted on identifying Brain Stew and Jaded as one combined song (as demonstrated by the combined film clip above) and MTV et al just chopped off Jaded and didn’t play it at the time. Green Day were just trying to be annoying and anti-commercial – good for them.

Brain Stew just blew people’s minds. Considering Longview is essentially a song about the same thing – being bored, presumably unemployed and just sitting around wasting time – you probably never thought that before, right? And with good reason – you just didn’t care back in the day nor still do now. If I had a top 15 list of songs to play air guitar along to, this one would be much higher than #9.

8. Bab’s Uvula Who?

Kerrang’s #8: The Grouch

NME’s #8: Welcome To Paradise

Me: At this point we’re splitting hairs. I rated The Grouch higher than Kerrang (it’s coming up) and I hold my head in shame that I didn’t include Welcome To Paradise in my top 15 – it’s such a good song but just didn’t make my cut.

This song choice is where I’m going to start dividing the audience of this blog post as I don’t get blinded by whether a song was a single or not or how popular it was to other people. If you’ve heard the Insomnic album from beginning to end, this song is track 6 and is perfectly positioned to get you a speeding fine if you listen to this album whilst driving. Honestly, I struggled to keep this song out of my top 5 even. It is deserving of the mantle of one of Green Day’s all-time best songs.

7. At The Library

Kerrang’s #7: Basket Case

NME’s #7: Brain Stew

Me: Keeping Basket Case out of the top 5 of best Green Day songs ever is just criminal. I didn’t make the same mistake. Kerrang didn’t even put Brain Stew in their top 15 at all which was an odd choice.

At The Library is the first song on their first album. It holds up against everything else to this day. That octave riff at the beginning of the song. Oh my.

It’s easy to forget about the songs that Green Day put out before getting signed to a major label but to do so would be a mistake – sure, they are definitely more pop punk and the majority of their songs were about love lost rather than drugs and rebellion but this was a time when the band were an average age of about 17 years old and Tre Cool didn’t even play on the first album – he was their original drummer’s drum teacher and joined the band after old mate left the band to go to college. It’s the biggest fuck up of a drummer leaving a band before they blew up into a massive international sensation since The Beatles experienced the exact same thing with their original drummer. Bad luck hey.

6. The Grouch

Kerrang’s #6: Who Wrote Holden Caufield?

NME’s #6: Longview

Me: Perhaps Kerrang put Who Wrote Holden Caufield in their list just to show that they were recognising the old music and wanted to throw a curve ball in there but I digress – it’s an amazing song, just not top 15 material IMHO and certainly not the best of the songs from the first two albums (I’m not done myself, by the way). Longview rates high on all three lists here but I rated it the highest. Hold onto that thought for now.

I just had to include the video of when Green Day played The Grouch on Australia’s beloved show Recovery, as it perfectly embodies the soul of the song itself. Fuck off. Don’t care. This performance got the band kicked out and banned from the ABC studios and was big news at the time as the ABC is government owned and they don’t tolerate swearing on the public broadcaster. Great promo for the Nimrod album whilst in the country.

5. Don’t Wanna Fall In Love

Kerrang’s #5: Longview

NME’s #5: American Idiot

Me: As stated above, Longview is coming up. Its magic is easily forgotten after all these years but it’s not lost on me. Just hold tight. American Idiot was the start of the political era for Green Day and it was kind of vomit inducing. Consider the circumstances as well:

  • Green Day did the Warning album in 2000 and it was panned by critics
  • They recorded an almost completed album called Cigarettes & Valentines in 2002/2003 in which they were told by their producer Rob Cavello that it would be a massive flop and possibly spell the end of the band’s popularity.
  • They engineered a “stolen masters” story so that they could plausibly deny the shit before the storm hit and abandon the album
  • Decided that pandering to the Gen Y audience would be the death of them, wrote a new album from scratch in a 12 month period that got them all Rage Against The Machineish and moved on to the next generation of music lovers.
  • Enter the American Idiot album and it’s titular song.

It’s fine. But only that.

Don’t Wanna Fall In Love is the kind of song that will make Green Day lovers look at its position in this list (and even, it’s top 15 status) and think “Whaaaaa?” but seriously – have a listen. It’s fun. Fun fun fun fun. It’s another of those Time Of Your Life type songs that was written during the Dookie era and didn’t make the cut (have a listen to the demo version). Personally, I’m shocked that they sat on the song for so long. It was a B-Side for something in the Nimrod era and was on the extended version of that album if my memory serves me correctly. I’m glad Green Day did the Shenanigans album, showcasing all of the B-Sides they did because those songs were great (Do Da Da almost made my top 15 too).

4. Desensitized

Kerrang’s #4: When I Come Around

NME’s #4: Basket Case

Me: It might surprise you to learn that When I Come Around didn’t make my top 15 list. It’s great and all but it was just a little too long for my taste. It was the perfect 3rd single (or 4th if you were in The U.S.) to be released from the Dookie album as it is the tried and tested formula for rock bands: Singles 1 and 2 are fast/upbeat followed by the 3rd song which is slower and/or a ballad to cement the album as absolute killer. Duely noted. Basket Case is ranked higher than 4th in my list so hold on a sec there slugger.

Desensitized was included in the Australian Tour Edition of Nimrod and it’s the best song on the Nimrod album. Fuck Nice Guys Finish Last – it wasn’t even single material – this song should have been track 1. So much cooler than Korn having 13 silent tracks or whatever before blowing your face off with It’s On. It’s criminal that this song was buried in favour of other stuff and at this point my list feels like a top 15 Oasis songs list, as all Oasis lovers know that the best songs are the b-sides.

I stand by my decision. Play the embed above – the song is all kinds of energy inducing. Can you imagine Green Day playing this song live? You won’t find a single clip on YouTube of them doing it – as far as I can tell, they’ve never played it. What absolute horse shit.

3. Only Of You

Kerrang’s #3: St. Jimmy

NME’s #3: Good Riddance (Time Of You Life)

Me: Shocked? Both Kerrang and NME picked songs that aren’t in my top 15 as #3 and my #3 isn’t in either of their top 15 lists. This wasn’t deliberate.

I’m sure most people wouldn’t pick my choice for #3 either as it’s a very ‘below the radar’ type of song. But my gosh – listen to the originally recorded version from the 1,000 Hours EP. It’s GOLD. My bucket list contains being on stage with Billie Joe Armstrong singing this very tune. At #3, I’m declaring this the best non-Dookie song Green Day ever put out and I’m happy with that choice. And – considering as Billie Joe stated in the video above that this is one of the first songs he ever wrote (Green Day did two EP’s before the 39/Smooth album), this is quite amazing. Sometimes you just nail it from the very beginning when you write a song that captures a lot of your youthful energy in a way that you can never fully recreate. It’s kind of how we feel about our song 69er – I wrote that 20 years ago, it was one of the first songs I ever wrote and it’s still in our set list to this day.

2. Longview

Kerrang’s #2: Burnout

NME’s #2: Holiday

Me: Like me, Kerrang chose two Dookie songs for their top 2, just two non-singles. Like sheeple, NME chose two American Idiot songs for their top 2. Poor, poor form.

Look guys. There is no sense trying to avoid saying that the best songs ever are the best songs ever just to try and avoid looking like Lemmings. Dookie was an album that changed everything and Longview was the start of it all. During a time when grunge was getting so old that even Kurt Cobain decided in 1994 that he’d had enough of it all, Green Day came along, freshly signed to a major label and destroyed the alternative music scene with a song about jerking off due to boredom. A perfect irony if you ask me.

Apparently Mike Durnt came up with a bass line almost exactly like this one whilst on acid and then spent years agonisingly trying to remember what he played. If the Longview bassline isn’t exactly it, I can live with that as it’s iconic. As a former bass player myself, I know that ALL bass players use this song as a “I have cred because I can play Longview” type of measuring stick. It fucking rules.

I agonised over the order of 1 and 2 before settling on Longview at 2 as my #1 choice just had more bounce to it. You’ll forgive me.

1. Basketcase

*drum roll please*

Kerrang’s #1: She

NME’s #1: Jesus Of Suburbia

Me: …and my snarky rebuttal of NME’s list has come full circle. Jesus Of Suburbia is Green Day’s best song ever? Puh-lease. Go home NME, you’re drunk. Now that you’ve reached the end of their list, you can tell that their list was written by a millenial – and it reads like how you would expect a millenial to view Green Day’s music: they grew up with American Idiot and the production on the earlier albums don’t stand up to it so they aren’t as sentimental about them. Ok.

I’m the opposite. I grew up with Dookie and Insomniac. Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has got one. So on that note…

IN MY OPINION, the only song better than the otherwise greatest Green Day punk song of all time is its follow up single from when they broke out onto the international stage. Basket Case showed that not only was Green Day not just a one hit wonder but that they were prepared to be FUCKING FUN, all of the time – and that they were just getting started. The clip was hella cool. The song is faster than Longview and gets you even more energised whenever you hear it – and best of all, whenever you hear it come on, you can’t restrain yourself and just want to scream the lyrics. All these years later, the song holds up. It’s the measuring stick for all other Green Day songs which makes it the best.

Doing a clip that captured the subject matter allowed Green Day to do something really funny with this song too – pretending to be in a mental institution. Talk about preaching to rebellious teenagers in the best way known how as the song is partly about Billie Joe’s panic attacks and that it made him feel like he belonged in a mental institution. This clip made Green Day the biggest band in the world in 1994; Longview started it and When I Come Around confirmed it, but this song was the one. It is the one. And that hasn’t changed all these years later.

*drops mic*

Happy birthday Dookie

On this day 24 years ago, Dookie was born and changed the punk rock world forever.

For My Name Is John, there was no greater influence than this piece of music. It proved the theory in rock n roll that it’s not about how talented you are, it’s about how entertaining you are that matters.

I suppose this album is at the age now where it’ll marry the wrong girl, start shitting out Dookie Jr’s and develop a drinking problem. This should get interesting.