While not everything that Green Day has made throughout their prolific career has been to everybody’s taste, there are some undeniable gems that the band has released in a career that stretches over the last thirty years. While the Californian rockers are well known for their bold punk anthems, on occasion, they’ve also been privy to display their softer side, which frontman Billie Joe Armstrong thought their fans would hate.
By the time Green Day found mainstream success with Dookie in 1994, they already had plenty of experience in their tank. I meant that despite the fact that they were barely out of their teenage years, Green Day were already an accomplished act. Their years of playing across California before starting to graduate to bigger venues meant that they built a reputation for being a live-act of the highest order.
From Dookie onwards, Green Day’s upward trajectory continued, and the rooms they played only ascended further, but they lacked the hits that came from their breakthrough record. In 1997, they released Nimrod, which spawned an unlikely hit, ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’.
The acoustic number was a world away from the angst-driven sounds that made them be of the biggest bands in the world, but their fans loved it nevertheless. At first, Armstrong was apprehensive about the track and thought the band would be on the receiving end of a backlash from their fans for deviating from their punk beginnings.
“I remember the first time I ever sang it live,” Armstrong recalls in the Audible series, Words + Music. “I thought people were gonna throw bottles at me because the single was gonna come out. And so right at the end of our set, I remember going backstage. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do it.’ And I grabbed a beer, and I chugged it. And then I went out with my guitar and I played it, and it got an amazing response.”
When the track was used on the penultimate episode of Seinfeld in 1998, it suddenly took on another meaning for people, and a wider audience fell in love with Green Day. Suddenly people who’d never stepped foot at a punk concert in their life took the song to their hearts and ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’ no longer belonged to Armstrong but the public.
Armstrong remembered: “When it was on Seinfeld, the season finale, and it became sort of this prom — it was like proms, graduations and funerals and weddings or something like that,” the frontman says. “I never anticipated that song going from like, playing, you know, dirty punk clubs to suddenly being quotes for someone’s yearbook.”
The frontman continued: “It’s really fun to play ‘Good Riddance’ live because you’re able to look at people in the crowd, and it’s at the end of a really sweaty — everybody dancing and going crazy, and you get this one last piece of music where people are really unified and singing along,” Armstrong said. “It makes me want to go out and play a show right now, actually.”
It’s almost a quarter of a century since Green Day released the track, and since then it has grown into becoming one of their most adored efforts. While it would have been expected for the trio to replicate the ferocity they showed on Dookie to uncover that hit they were desperately searching for, instead, they slowed things down. They mined gold in the unlikeliest destination with ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’, and the track only graces with each passing year.