Last week, we went over Holiday in excruciating detail. This week, we're going to feature a lesser-known number, and one of my favorites, off of International Superhits: Maria. Maria was written by Billie Joe Armstrong, and it has an interesting story to its development. It started life as a more "dirty" sounding B-side to Waiting before being given a cleaner, rockier sound and re-worked into the hard-charging opening track from the 2001 compilation album. Until someone proves otherwise, I'm calling Maria the song that introduced pyro to Green Day's set, as the banks of flashpots used during the song while it was the Pop Disaster Tour's opening number are the earliest I've seen from the band.
Maria's a song that's never really been discussed at length by the band. Hell, they've hardly been asked about it. My interest in the song has always been for two reasons. One, it's a balls-out rocker with a little punk left in there somewhere. That's an impressive achievement unto itself. Second, though, is Maria's place in Green Day history. It was never a single, nor was it ever a huge hit, but it is a surprisingly political song from a band that, up until the Warning album, had been more interested in masturbation and drugs than social commentary. In a lot of ways, Maria feels like the direct forerunner to American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, and its catchy beat was revisited as recently as Let Yourself Go (try singing the Maria lyrics over LYG--it's awesome).
I also love the wordplay here. For example:
She smashed the radio with the board of education
Turn up the flame, step on the gas / Burning the flag at half mast
She is the first voice of the last ones in the line
There's another line I'd like to draw your attention to: "She's a rebel's forgotten son". Putting aside the obvious wordplay there, it's worth nothing that She's a Rebel was a song on AI. Are Maria and Whatsername the same person? Maybe, maybe not, but given the content of this song, including its shot at George W. Bush, it seems that the wheels which would later lead to AI were alive, well and cranking in Billie Joe's head by this point, and Maria is, in my mind at least, the spiritual predecessor of Green Day's 2004 rock opera.
The lyrics for Maria are below; read them over, watch the videos, and draw your own conclusions about this song. I included two videos here, one so that you can listen to the "dirtier" Warning version, and the second so that you can see the song played live as the opening number of the Pop Disaster Tour in its ISH incarnation. It's funny to look back at how simple and static Green Day's stage show was then. No running across stage, no overuse of the term "hey-oh", no bank of lights the size of a 747. Billie Joe occasionally jumped onto a speaker or struck a pose, but he generally stays within a few feet of his mic. Jason does more moving around than anyone, as his lack of a mic makes it easy to dance around some in the background. Its a stark contrast to their 21CB shows, where Billie would frequently stretch the title song and opener into a seven or eight minute affair with his prancing and chanting.