Monday, August 6, 2018

Alternative Roots: Green Day

Musical innovation is a thing of the past.  Yes, you read that right.  All the songs in today’s musical landscape have been borrowed, recycled, or reimagined – and I do not mean that as a knock.  Did you really think Elvis discovered rock and roll?  Of course not.  Bill Haley had already recorded rock and roll songs.  He may have borrowed from Chuck Berry and Little Richard.  They borrowed influences from the blues and country music – and the chain goes on and on.  Elvis just chased the trend, had the right look, the right moves, and was in the right place at the right time.  Your favorite artists have been doing the same exact thing for years – whether it’s a look, a chord progression, or an attitude.  Spotting an influence is sometimes as easy as a sticker on a guitar.  Other times, it is as obscure as a single chord, as is the case of Joey Santiago of The Pixies and the “Hendrix Chord.”  Diving into a band’s musical influences not only gives you better appreciation for an artist, but may also turn you on to some great classic music.  I am going to kick off this monthly segment with one of today’s top alternative artists, Green Day.  They may be the masters of three-chord power-pop, but they didn’t invent it.  Below are three artists who have influenced Green Day.  Two have been acknowledged by the band and the third is an observation of my own.  Do your homework, expand your palate, and take a listen.  There is a good chance you’re gonna like what you hear.

The Ramones – These four degenerates didn’t start off wanting to be the kings of the NY Punk scene, they wanted to be the next Bay City Rollers.  That’s right.  S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!  Radio airplay would not come easily though, with songs titles like “Beat on the Brat” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.”  Regardless, the pop sensibilities of Dee Dee’s songwriting and Johnny’s buzz-saw, three-chord guitar anthems created the modern-day pop-punk genre.  If you think that the early punks didn’t take their craft seriously, you have the wrong impression.  Billie Joe Armstrong had the privilege of playing during The Ramones Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and Johnny scolded him for playing sloppy.  Don’t mess with Johnny.


Cheap Trick – This Chicago quartet ruled the power-pop airways in the 70s and 80s.  Crunching power chords coupled with Rabin Zander’s melodious vocals created a dirty and sexy combo that spawned hits like “I Want You to Want Me” and “Dream Police.”  Billie Joe has stated in interviews that he loves Cheap Trick, so it’s no surprise on the similarities.  Green Day likes to take what they love and stretch it to the next level to see what it becomes.  Cheap Trick was a strong foundation for their sound.


The Replacements – Yes, I know that Green Day has already confirmed The Replacements as an influence.  But that was for chord progressions, not lyrics.  Paul Westerberg revolutionized the teenage anthem during the 80s punk scene with songs like “Bastards of Young.”  Where many of punk bands were writing about oppression, The Replacements were singing about the heartbreak of going nowhere.  Ringing true in Green Day songs like “Welcome to Paradise,” you can hear Westerberg’s influence.  The Replacements lived and died on their own terms, often burning their own bridges to fame.  Green Day took their recklessness and harnessed it to stardom.

See you when the needle drops!


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