Green Day was originally part of the punk rock scene at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. Its early releases for independent record label Lookout! Records earned them a grassroots fanbase, some of whom felt alienated when the band signed to a major label. Nevertheless, its major label debut Dookie (1994) became a breakout success and eventually sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone, and 15 million copies sold worldwide. As a result, Green Day was widely credited, alongside fellow California punk bands The Offspring and Rancid, with reviving mainstream interest in and popularizing punk rock in the United States. Green Day's three follow-up albums, Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning did not achieve the massive success of Dookie, but they were still successful, reaching double platinum, double platinum, and gold status respectively. Green Day's 2004 rock opera American Idiot reignited the band's popularity with a younger generation, selling five million copies in the U.S.
The band has sold over 65 million records worldwide, including 22 million in the United States alone. They have won three Grammy Awards; Best Alternative Album for Dookie, Best Rock Album for American Idiot, and Record of the Year for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams".
Larry Livermore, owner of Lookout! Records, saw the band play an early show and signed them to his label. In 1989 they recorded their first EP, 1,000 Hours. Before 1,000 Hours was released, the band dropped the name Sweet Children, according to Livermore this was done in order to avoid confusion with another local band Sweet Baby. The band adopted the name Green Day, allegedly due to their fondness of marijuana.
Lookout! would release Green Day's first LP, 39/Smooth in early 1990. Green Day would record two EPs later that year: Slappy and Sweet Children, the latter of which included some older songs they had recorded for Minneapolis indie label Skene! Records. In 1991, Lookout! Records released 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, a compilation of the 39/Smooth, Slappy, and 1,000 Hours EPs. In late 1990, shortly after the band's first nationwide tour, Sobrante left the East Bay area to attend college. The Lookouts drummer Tré Cool began filling in as a temporary replacement, and when it became clear that Sobrante did not plan on committing to the band full time, Tré Cool's position as Green Day's drummer became permanent. The band went on tour for most of 1992 and 1993, and played a stretch of shows overseas in Europe. Its second full length album Kerplunk sold about 50,000 copies in the U.S., which was considered quite a large amount for the independent punk scene in 1992.
In 1995, a new single for the Angus soundtrack was released, titled "J.A.R.". The single went straight to number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song was followed by the band's new album, Insomniac, which was released in the fall of 1995. Insomniac was a much darker and heavier response by the band, compared to the poppier, more melodic Dookie. Insomniac opened to a warm critical reception, earning 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone, which said "In punk, the good stuff actually unfolds and gains meaning as you listen without sacrificing any of its electric, haywire immediacy. And Green Day are as good as this stuff gets. Insomniac used a piece of art by Winston Smith entitled God Told Me to Skin You Alive for its album cover. The singles released from Insomniac were "Geek Stink Breath", "Brain Stew/Jaded", "Walking Contradiction", and "Stuck With Me". Though the album did not approach the success of Dookie, it still sold two million copies in the United States. Insomniac won the band award nominations for Favorite Artist, Favorite Hard Rock Artist, and Favorite Alternative Artist at the 1996 American Music Awards, and the video for "Walking Contradiction" got the band a Grammy nomination for Best Video, Short Form, in addition to a Best Special Effects nomination at the MTV Video Music Awards. After that, the band abruptly cancelled a European tour, citing exhaustion.
In 2000, Green Day released Warning, a step further in the style that they had hinted at with Nimrod. Critics' reviews of the album were varied. Allmusic gave it 4.5/5 saying "Warning may not be an innovative record per se, but it's tremendously satisfying. Rolling Stone was more critical, giving it 3/5, and saying "Warning... invites the question: Who wants to listen to songs of faith, hope and social commentary from what used to be snot-core's biggest-selling band? Though it produced the hit "Minority" and a smaller hit with "Warning", some observers were coming to the conclusion that the band was losing relevance, and a decline in popularity followed. While all of Green Day's past albums had reached a status of at least double platinum, Warning was only certified gold.
At the 2001 California Music Awards, Green Day won all eight awards that they were nominated for. They won the awards for Outstanding Album (Warning), Outstanding Punk Rock/Ska Album (Warning), Outstanding Group, Outstanding Male Vocalist, Outstanding Bassist, Outstanding Drummer, Outstanding Songwriter and Outstanding Artist.
The release of a Greatest Hits compilation, International Superhits!, and an assemblage of B-sides, Shenanigans, followed Warning. International Superhits and its companion collection of music videos, International Supervideos!, sold reasonably well, going platinum in the U.S. Shenanigans contained some of the band's b-sides, including "Espionage" which was featured in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
In the spring of 2002, Green Day co-headlined the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182. Despite the co-headlining title, Green Day would play each show before Blink-182, who at the time were experiencing more success. The tour was documented on the DVD Riding In Vans With Boys.
In the summer of 2003 the band went into a studio to write and record new material for a new album, tentatively titled Cigarettes and Valentines. After completing 20 tracks, the master tapes were stolen from the studio. The band, understandably upset, chose not to try to re-create the stolen album, but instead started over with a vow to be even better than before. In this same year, Green Day collaborated with Iggy Pop on two tracks for his album Skull Ring. And they underwent serious "band therapy," engaging in several long talks to work out the members' differences after accusations from Dirnt and Cool that Armstrong was "the band's Nazi and a show-off bent on taking the limelight from the other band members.
The resulting 2004 album, American Idiot, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, the band's first ever album to top the chart, backed by the success of the album's first single, "American Idiot." The album was billed as a "punk rock opera" which follows the journey of the fictitious "Jesus of Suburbia". American Idiot won the 2005 Grammy for "Best Rock Album" and the band swept the 2005 MTV music awards, winning a total of seven of the eight awards they were nominated for, including the coveted Viewer's Choice Award.
Through 2005, the band toured in support of the album with about 150 dates — the longest tour in its career — visiting Japan, Australia, South America and the UK, where they drew a crowd of 130,000 people over a span of two days. While touring for American Idiot, they filmed and recorded the two concerts at the Milton Keynes National Bowl in England, which was voted 'The Best Show On Earth' in a Kerrang! Magazine Poll.
These recordings were released as a live CD and DVD called Bullet in a Bible on November 15, 2005. This CD/DVD featured hits from American Idiot as well as a few songs from all its previous albums, except "Kerplunk" and "1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours". The DVD featured behind-the-scenes footage of the band, and showed how the band prepared to put on the show. The final shows of its 2005 world tour were in Sydney, Australia, and Melbourne, Australia, on December 14 and 17 respectively. On January 10, 2006 the band was awarded with a People's Choice Award for favorite group.
On August 1, 2005, Green Day announced that that it had rescinded the master rights to its pre-Dookie material from Lookout! Records, citing a continuing breach of contract regarding unpaid royalties, a complaint shared with other Lookout! bands. The pre-Dookie material, which remained out of print for about a year, was reissued by the band's current label, Reprise, on January 9, 2007.
In 2006, Green Day won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams which spent 16 weeks at the number one position of Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks, a record it shared along with Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Scar Tissue" and Staind's "It's Been Awhile," (the record has been since been beaten by Foo Fighters' 2007 hit "The Pretender" which reigned at the top spot for 18 weeks).
In an interview with Kerrang!, Billie Joe revealed that 2008 would "be a fair estimate of the release date of their new untitled eighth studio album. In October 2007, Billie Joe announced more on this new album, saying he had been writing new material on the piano, and had around 45 songs. He stated he wanted the new music to dig into what he's feeling at the moment - which is middle-aged. In a recent interview with Carson Daly, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson revealed that Butch Vig would be producing Green Day's forthcoming album. It is unclear what role long-time producer Rob Cavallo will have on the album.
One of the more contentious issues is genre labeling. In reaction to both the style of music and the background of the band, many fans and musicians have taken heavy objection to the usage of the term "punk" when applied to Green Day. This is evidenced by the following comments issued by John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), former front man of both the 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols and the 1980s post-punk, Public Image Ltd.:
So there we are fending off all that and it pisses me off that years later a wank outfit like Green Day hop in and nick all that and attach it to themselves. They didn't earn their wings to do that and if they were true punk they wouldn't look anything like they do.
Brandon Flowers of The Killers went on record in 2007 claiming that Green Day's politically driven concept album American Idiot displays "calculated Anti-Americanism." He explained that he has problems with the album content itself and also the fact that the band's recent live DVD, Bullet in a Bible, was filmed in England. The taping of the concert, featured on Bullet in a Bible, shows thousands of Europeans singing along to "American Idiot." Stating that he felt Green Day's DVD is a bit of a stunt, he said, "I just thought it was really cheap. To go to a place like England or Germany and sing that song - those kids aren't taking it the same way that he meant it. And he Billie Joe Armstrong knew it.
Ever since 1991, some members of the band have branched out past Green Day and have started other projects with other musicians. Notable related projects of Green Day include Billie Joe Armstrong's Pinhead Gunpowder (which also features Green Day's live backup guitarist Jason White), The Frustrators in which Mike Dirnt plays bass, and The Network, in which all three members of Green Day play under fake stage names. Billie Joe Armstrong has also confirmed that the main members of Green Day are in the band Foxboro Hot Tubs. A Foxboro Hot Tubs album titled Stop, Drop and Roll was released on 2008-05-20.
Charity projects that the band have been involved with include the collaboration with U2 ("The Saints Are Coming") to help raise money for musical instruments lost in Hurricane Katrina, and teaming with the Natural Resources Defense Council for the "Move America Beyond Oil" campaign and other environmental concerns
In September 2006, Green Day teamed up with U2 and producer Rick Rubin to record a cover of the song "The Saints Are Coming", originally recorded by The Skids, with an accompanying video. The song is to benefit Music Rising, an organization to help raise money for musicians' instruments lost during Hurricane Katrina, and to bring awareness on the eve of the one year anniversary of the disaster.
Green Day released a cover of the John Lennon song "Working Class Hero", that was featured on the album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. The band performed the song on the season finale of American Idol. The song was nominated for a Grammy in 2008, but lost to The White Stripes' "Icky Thump".