Prior to Popularity

Before they challenged Idiot America, before gigantic arena shows, before they were one of the biggest bands in the world, they were three hopeless teenagers trying to just get a gig. Who would have known they would go on to be the infamous Green Day?

MikeIt all started back in 5th grade when two music crazed kids met up and decided to form a band. Later on Isocracy's drummer John Kiffmeyer hooked up with the band, thus completing Sweet Children.

Sweet Children was a song Billie Joe had written and the title ended up sticking as a band name, but not for too long. Another local band was named Sweet Baby and the names were too similar. The other factor is the term "Green Day" had been given to days wasted smoking weed, well one day turned into a Green Day and by the time the night was over, Green Day had been written on John's jacket. This quickly became Sweet Children's new, much cooler, name. Their timing for the name change wasn't that great though, and it about gave Larry Livermore a heart attack. Larry is the founder of Lookout! Records, Green Day's first label. They were releasing an EP under the name Green Day when everyone knew the band as Sweet Children. The EP was titled 1,000 Hours and was very popular in the underground Berkeley punk area, but Green Day put in a lot of hard work to be signed on Lookout! Records. When a band starts out they play any gig they can get. There is some confusion as to what Green Day's first gig was. After the lyrics in the 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours booklet, it says they first played at Rod's Hickory Pitt where Billie Joe's mom worked as a waitress, but during a recent interview Billie Joe said their first gig was in Davis, California with other bands like Nasal Sex and Sewer Trout. Anyway, neither of those were as important as their fourth or fifth show.

You wouldn't expect it to be so important, but it was. It was out in the middle of nowhere at a house with no roof, no electricity, and the light they had came from candles. Billie Joe recalls someone asking him to move the van so they could get their car out and leave. Of course, they didn't move and said they had to stay to watch them play! Sitting in the audience of about 10 people was Larry Livermore, and he knew instantly he had to make a record with this band.

1,000 Hours was released in April of 1989 with four songs (1,000 Hours, Dry Ice, Only of You, and The One I Want.) This EP led to their first show at Gilman Street under the new name on May 28th, 1989. This was also Operation Ivy's last show. Pretty soon they were playing Gilman Street monthly.

They continued getting a ton of local gigs, one of which was with The Lookouts at the California Veterans Hall with a crowd of over 1,000 people.

Green Day went on to release more EP's titled 39/Smooth and Slappy. After such success with the EP's, they mashed them all together into one kick ass album they called 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours.

This led to more success, but not everyone would be there to experience it. John decided to go to college in Arcata, California. A band without a drummer is pretty useless, so the help of Tré Cool was needed. Tré's band The Lookouts had recently broken up, so he was more than ready to hop aboard as Green Day's new and improved drummer.

They went on tour and one of the many stops they made (all self-booked) was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Billie Joe met the very beautiful and stunning Adrienne Nesser, who he would later go on to marry.

After wrapping that tour up, Green Day began working on their second full-length album Kerplunk. Kerplunk was a huge underground achievement for Green Day, selling over 50,000 copies, which was unreal for a little punk band from Berkeley.

All of this wouldn't have been possible without some major sacrifices and devotion from the band. Back before 1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, money wasn't all that plentiful. To get the cash they needed for gas and tour expenses Billie Joe flipped pizzas, Mike shucked clams, and John drove a diaper truck. John also used some of that money to buy cheap beer which lead to naked rain dances. John kept himself busy in the punk culture by writing Zippo. Zippo was a punk zine that he wrote a column for, as did Billie Joe.

One of the Green Day's related things in Zippo was an article about "The ritual of the Trout". The Ritual of the Trout was a dance that wannabe fan girls often did at a Green Day concert. According to "Lucky Dog", an influential person in the punk scene, when the fan girls would do this odd dance it resembled fish out of water, and that this kind of behavior was only tolerable at a Green Day concert. If he ever saw this at a Filth or Blatz show, I quote, "some poseur is gonna get moshed!" After publishing the article in Zippo mocking the bizarre dance, it seemed to disappear.

As if the trout dance wasn't odd enough, let me give you some more randomly weird facts about Green Day's underground era. The dog on the Slappy EP isn't really named Slappy. Her name was Mickey until Jason Relva, a good friend of Mike's who later inspired the song J.A.R., started calling her Slappy. Green Day had two well-known roadies, one named Shawn who Billie Joe was only interested in for his food, because he constantly raided his fridge. The other was named James. James had never missed a Green Day show, but eventually got a little out of hand. A typical night with James included falling off of roofs, beating up skinheads, and my favorite, getting arrested.

It's obvious that Green Day was greatly shaped and molded by the unique culture of the California punk scene. It formed not only their personalities, but also their music as well, which lead to their mainstream musical success. After Kerplunk came out, Green Day began getting a lot of mainstream attention. Getting big equalled selling out in the place they descended from, but they knew what their priorities were and left Gilman Street behind. Although for quite some time Green Day wasn't on the best terms with 924 Gilman Street, it's rumored they donated a hefty sum to the club and have since then patched their relationship. Despite what their relationship may or may not be now, it was an enormous part of their lives prior to their popularity.

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