Produced by Rob Cavallo, Dookie is the third overall album by Green Day and their major label debut. The album became a commercial success worldwide, driven by five hit singles, an unprecedented feat for any pure punk rock group. This was due to the accessibility of the compositions by composer, guitarist, and lead vocalist Billy Joe Armstrong, who used potent melodies to deliver brutally honest lyrics and unambiguous rock music. The end result is a highly influential and critically acclaimed album that echoed and cascaded through the decade of the nineties and launched a very successful career for Green Day that persists to this day.
While still in high school in 1987, Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt formed a band called Sweet Children. The next year, the group signed with the independent Lookout! Records and prepared to record their initial EP. They decided to change their name to Green Day (a marijuana reference) in order to avoid confusion. In 1990, they released their debut studio album, 39/Smooth, and brought on Tré Cool as their permanent drummer. Meanwhile, the band’s popularity began to reach unprecedented levels for an independent punk group and they went on tour through the States and in Europe. Released in 1992, the second LP Kerplunk sold well and led to a number of major record labels being interested in Green Day.
Cavallo had done work with the band The Muffs, which impressed the members of Green Day and helped him connect with them and “speak their language”. Dookie was recorded in three weeks in late 1993 and was mixed and remixed twice to perfectly capture the confluence of a raw underground group hitting its stride with the backing of a big budget production.
Dookie by Green Day
|Released: February 1, 1994 (Reprise)
Produced by: Rob Cavallo & Green Day
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA, September–October 1993
|Track Listing||Group Musicians|
Having a Blast
Welcome to Paradise
When I Come Around
In the End
|Billie Joe Armstrong – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mike Dirnt – Bass, Vocals
Tré Cool – Drums, Vocals
The opening song and album thunders in with “Burnout”, a classic-sounding punk screed with updated sonic qualities which exits nearly as fast as it begins. Written while the group was on their first national tour in 1992, “Having a Blast” is another upbeat and driving tune, distinguished by the rudimentary stops late in the song. The third song at the top which comes in at less than three minutes is “Chump”, which distinguishes itself with a long instrumental section that concentrates mainly on the bass and drums of Dirnt and Cool. This leads into a frantic outro which dissolves nicely into the bass intro of “Longview”.
The first song of real importance on the album, “Longview” is a breakthrough on many levels. Dirnt is given the breadth to really shine during the verses with his bass pattern before the full band explosion of the chorus. Written while on tour, the song got its title from the city of Longview, Washington, where it was first performed in 1992. It was the band’s first single from the album and climbed to the top of the Modern Rock chart.
“Welcome to Paradise” was originally released on Green Day’s second album Kerplunk but was re-recorded for Dookie. Here, the group goes back to the basic punk formula but with rich vocal harmonies and another unique instrumental bridge, which builds on a bass line and gets ever more frantic to the end of the song. The lyrics are based on the band’s experience of moving into an abandoned house in Oakland while trying to make it on the punk scene. On “Pulling Teeth”, the band almost leaves the punk genre altogether for the first and only time on the album. This song has an almost outlaw country vibe with twangy (albeit heavy) guitars and duet vocals throughout.
“Basket Case” has the strongest musical performance by Armstrong and the band, especially Cool’s timely and rapid-fire tom fills. This very melodic and cross-over song was written about Armstrong’s struggle with anxiety, later diagnosed as a panic disorder. Starting with a naked bass and drums through opening verse, “She” is another short, accessible and melodic tune that keeps the album rolling along at a hundred miles an hour, while “Sassafras Roots” is a rather weak song where the sound starts to sound repetitive and stale.
“When I Come Around” revitalizes the sound with a break from the driving riffs to something more choppy and hard rock oriented. Armstrong’s vocals and guitars really carry this song like no other, even bordering on an actual guitar lead after the second verse and chorus. Green Day’s most popular radio single, the song peaked at number 6 on the pop charts. Next, follows the three shortest tracks on the album, each less than two minutes. “Coming Clean” is almost a theatrical quality in the simplest of songs, while Dirnt’s “Emenius Sleepus” is almost a continuation of the previous, again relying on the duo chord phasing in the verses. Armstrong wrote the song “In the End” about his mother and her husband, while “F.O.D.” starts with the first verse and chorus played by Armstrong on an “unplugged” electric with distant vocals to give the “live demo” effect (which, I presume it actually was). Finally, full band, production, and electricity kick in to drive the listener to the official conclusion of the album – but, of course, this was the nineties and a hidden track was there for anyone patient enough to wait the minute and a half before the frivolous “All By Myself” commences.
Dookie peaked at number two on the U.S. album charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1995. That same year Green Day followed this up with their fourth studio album, Insomniac, an album which leans a bit more hardcore than their melodic 1994 breakthrough.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.