“How have I been, how have you been? It's been so long.”
I was too young to appreciate Green Day’s Dookie when it first dropped. I was four years old in 1994, and my only connection to the band were the stories my parents told after visiting Woodstock ‘94. (You know, the one with the infamous mud fight between the band and the rain-soaked audience.) But between stories of Primus and Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the concept of these three young punks from Oakland resonated with a young me in a way that the modern grunge scene couldn't.
Being a musically conscious kid, as I passed through elementary school, Green Day singles would sneak into my ears every now and then. I never made a full connection as to who this band was that kept writing these catchy, upbeat tunes, but I knew I liked what I was hearing. This was, after all, the era of Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, and I was just having none of that.
While browsing the internet at the end of the 90s, I came across a MIDI file of “When I Come Around.” It was chintzy, it was cheap, and I loved every single digitized note of it. I started using it as the background music of school projects and struggled to teach myself how to play it on the piano, the only instrument I knew at the time. I sunk my teeth in deep to this track, and it would be the beginning of something fantastic.
As I entered my early teenage years, I became more and more aware of the whole pop-punk genre. Blink-182 was dominating the airwaves, Simple Plan music videos played in a loop on Fuse TV, and literally everybody I knew had a copy of Sum 41’s All Killer, No Filler. I had just picked up my first electric guitar, and it was a great gateway into the genre. Singles like “Basket Case” and “Welcome To Paradise” crept onto my earliest mix CDs, and became some of the first songs I would learn to play. Horribly, but I tried.
It wasn’t until 2005 that I would hear Dookie in its entirety. American Idiot had just launched a musical nuke at the world, and after one listen to “Holiday,” I knew I had to have this album. It finally clicked with me that I loved everything I was hearing, and wasted no time amassing the entire discography of the band. Dookie, Insomniac, Nimrod, Shenanigans, and Warning all became staples of my overstuffed CD case that year, with 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk! joining on board for the following year. I probably had a hundred albums that I listened to pretty regularly, but Green Day dominated most of my personal airtime.
In comparison to the other releases, Dookie was an interesting album for me. By all rights, I didn’t have any shred of a bad upbringing or a broken homelife, so I couldn’t find as intense of a lyrical connection to the band as some people. I was, however, immediately drawn to them for their musical simplicity and fun, and took it upon myself to learn how to play each song, first for rhythm guitar, and later with the bass. I would later find some common lyrical ground in their more lovelorn songs, which was about as deep as my mid-teenage angst would get.
Truthfully, as a musician, I would find more value out of the likes of Nimrod and Warning, and currently the vastly under-appreciated Uno, Dos, Tre!. But there was no denying that Dookie took the first bold steps that said it was okay to make a full album out of three power chords.
The punky songwriting was candid and sobering. To finally hear “When I Come Around” in context, squeezed between the highly underrated “Sassafrass Roots” and the sexuality-questioning “Coming Clean,” caught me off-guard. Not being much of a singer, I was happy to hear Billie Joe’s voice waver on a note or two in each song. There was an imprecise rawness to his style, while still keeping melodic and blending phenomenally with Mike. You could feel a clear energy to the whole group, a trio of friends who knew exactly what they were doing, even if the world was only just opening up to them in 1994.
Dookie continues to be referenced as a monumental point, not just for the band, but for the controversial mainstream acceptance of punk. For me, it was the surprisingly fun entrance into a world of music, the Meet The Beatles of what would become my personal favorite band through high school and beyond. While American Idiot showed that a band can come out kicking for a second time, it was Dookie that opened the doors, for Green Day, for the future fans, and for all of music, to come in and see what this beautiful mess was all about. As long as we took the time to listen to them whine about nothing and everything, all at once.