When the New Kids On the Block first appeared, my mother could not resist comparing the hysteria they created with Beatlemania. I, of course, did not believe that the Beatles could have been comparable to the New Kids. I thought they were cool and aspired to such a level of coolness.
Flash forward to 1994 when I picked up my copy of “Dookie” by Green Day. I told my mother on the way home that Green Day was going to be the next Beatles. One part revenge, one part Billie Joe Armstrong’s faux-English accent. But when I popped the tape in the deck, the sound we heard was nothing like “She Loves You.” But if you examine the recording careers of both bands, some striking parallels emerge, though it’s taken Green Day about three times as long.
The Beatles’ first two albums “Please Please Me” and “With the Beatles” did nothing in the States when first released. But by the time their third record “A Hard Day’s Night” came out, Beatlemania was in full swing. Similarly, Green Day’s first two records the indie releases “1,039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours” and “Kerplunk!” sold sparingly at first until word spread in punk communities, and Reprise Records signed the band on to record “Dookie.”
But many bands who experiences sudden success go through the immediate fallout. The Beatles had “The Beatles For Sale”, an album which showed them drained of new ideas and forced to fill half the album with cover tunes. Green Day, while filling their next effort “Insomniac” with all new material, took a critical bashing. The pop-punks met with the criticism that the new music had no hook, nor was it as fun as “Dookie”. Much like “The Beatles For Sale” the music on “Insomniac” was of a more dour mood.
The Beatles followed “…For Sale” with another film soundtrack, “Help!”, the second half of which was filled with non-film songs. One of them was a little ditty called “Yesterday,” an acoustic guitar number played by Paul McCartney alone, along with a string quartet. Green Day surprised/upset their fans on their own fifth album “Nimrod” with an acoustic ballad called “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” featuring just Billie Joe and a string arrangement.
Inspired by Bob Dylan, the Beatles finished off 1965 with “Rubber Soul”, an album which embraced folk music. Green Day followed up “Nimrod” with “Warning” which itself was sprinkled with acoustic nuggets, and, indeed is sometimes referred to as “Green Day’s Rubber Soul.”
In 1966, after the release of “Revolver” and after retiring from touring, the Beatles released their first “best of…” album, “Yesterday…and Today” as well as a rarities record “A Collection of Beatles Oldies…But Goldies.” This is a move made by many bands when just about creatively dried up. Who knew “Revolver” was just the beginning of an intensely creative period for the Beatles?
In 2000-2001 Green Day released the “Greatest Hits” package “International Superhits” followed by the rarities collection “Shenanigans.”
After “Revolver” the Beatles were rumored to have produced an album which did not receive release by the record company, considered to be too weird. It reportedly contained tracks titled “Pink Litmus Paper Shirt”, “Colliding Circles”, “Peace of Mind” and “Left Is Right (and Right Is Wrong)” and “Deck Chair”, none of which have ever been heard by human ears save “Peace of Mind.” But even that track cannot be confirmed to be of Beatles origin. It was allegedly found in a dumpster outside Abbey Road Studio in the early 1970s.
Just like the Beatles, Green Day was at the “Where to now?” stage after the release of “Warning.” They then recorded an album called “Cigarettes and Valentines” but soon announced the tapes were stolen. None of that music has seen the light of day either, except a live version of the title track which appearson the band’s live album “Awesome as F*ck!”
Well…maybe. In 2003, a strange New Wave-ish album called “Money Money 2020” by a band called The Network was quietly released by Armstrong’s label, Adeline Records. The release was mired by a media feud between Armstrong and The Network whom he said hassled him into releasing the album. But Green Day fans quickly recognized that vocals on several Network songs sounded suspiciously like Armstrong or Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt. Was this the lost album?
Hmm…a band inventing a new identity for itself? What a novel concept. Having recently retired from the road, the Beatles took the end of 1966 to reflect (and record songs about deck chairs?). What came of it was a decision to shed the Beatlemania image for good. The fruit of this decision was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
But “Sgt. Pepper’s…” was more than the shedding of an image. It is also viewed today (though never claimed as such by the Beatles themselves) as a concept album. After disappearing for a few years, having a finished album stolen and reinventing themselves as a New Wave band, Green Day came back triumphantly in 2004 with a proper concept album of their own, “American Idiot.”
Green Day’s second alter-ego, the Foxboro Hot Tubs, released a new record “Stop, Drop and Roll!” in 2008. The Beatles followed up “Sgt. Pepper’s” with “Magical Mystery Tour”. On the album, as with the accompanying made-for-TV film, the Beatles once again took on an alter-ego, this time that of psychedelic magicians. The album was not so much concept, but the film was nothing but concept, little content. Green Day’s follow-up (as themselves) to “American Idiot” was “21st Century Breakdown”, another concept album.
This fall, Green Day began releasing a string of three records: “Uno!”, “Dos!” and “Tre!” The 37-song trilogy is reminiscent of the Beatles’ own 30-track epic, 1968’s “The Beatles”, commonly known as “The White album.” It was during the White album sessions that George Harrison and John Lennon each ran afoul of the law for drug possession, mirroring Billie Joe Armstrong’s recent on-stage breakdown and current tenure in rehab.
I can only imagine what kind of record Green Day will produce once Armstrong is clean and sober. Will they come out with something stripped down like the Beatles’ follow-up to the White album, “Let It Be”? Or will it be even more stripped down and laid bare emotionally like Lennon’s post-primal scream therapy album “Plastic Ono Band”? I look forward to finding out.