It’s wild to think that Dookie‘s now older than the many songs’ protagonists. Yet here we are now 20 years later and Green Day’s 1994 commercial smash continues to dominate any surviving rock ‘n’ roll radio stations and influence kids whose parents were too young to buy it originally. Does that blow your mind? Here’s another fun fact: most of us bought this on cassette. Blue, if I recall.
What screams loudest on an album chock-full of distortion, cymbal crashes, thudding basslines, and popcorn fills is its attention to melody. Drawing inspiration from Tim Armstrong, The Everly Brothers, and Paul Westerberg, Billie Joe Armstrong crafted straight-up pop in the guise of spiky hair, muddy jeans, and neon-checkered laces. Whereas Nirvana’s Nevermind urged everyone to pick up a guitar, Dookie insisted we all belonged at the microphone.
Dookie isn’t my favorite album; it’s not even my preferred Green Day record. However, it represents one of the most important moments in music in my lifetime. It was the first time I ever felt like I owned something. Nirvana belonged to my older cousins, Michael Jackson had become a parents’ gift-turned-nightmare, and the rise of hip-hop was still too alien for me.
No, Green Day was a band I understood, and “Basket Case” was the first song I had to own. The harmonies, the nasally vocals, and the scuzz-flavored guitars sparked something angry and emotional in my heart, the sort of rugged heroism that soundtracked daydreams at school and midnight meditations before bed. Nostalgia aside, Dookie opened the floodgates not only for post-Nirvana pop punk (meh), but post-Generation Xers looking for their own voice, too (heh).
It also made masturbation pretty cool.
Young Governor, aka Ben Cook, guitarist for Fucked Up
I got this record when I was filming an episode of Goosebumps back in my child actor days. My immediate response was, “Mom, I’m dying my hair green” and also, “Mom, I’m getting a nose ring.” Her response was, “But then you won’t get anymore acting gigs, which means you wont have any money to buy guitars to make music like Green Day.” Mom’s always right.
Lookout Records three-chord pop punk was huge for me (none of that fast, technical skater shit!), but when this record dropped, it changed the game. A lot of stupid punk faces while playing guitar spawned from this record… and a hell of a lot of stickers on my guitar. I still love it.
Megan Ritt, Senior Editor at Consequence of Sound
The beautiful thing about Dookie is that it never seems to age. It hit like a bomb in 1994, and it still sounds great now. It’s one of the only albums I liked at that age that I’m not embarassed of now. In about 2001 or so, the pep band at my high school played a Dookie medley after basketball games, and even then we were delighted by the small subversion of playing songs like “Basket Case” and “Longview” in a school setting. Of course, they were instrumentals, played as the crowds filed out, but we knew the lyrics to the trumpet line that filled in for Armstrong’s vocals. Our band director earned a lot of respect for picking that one out.
Danny Bengston, bassist for together PANGEA
Dookie was literally the first CD I ever purchased. My mom took me to a record store — I believe it was actually the now defunct Tower Records — and told me i could only buy one CD. For me, it was between Green Day’s Dookie, whatever that Spin Doctors album was with that one song, or Blur by Blur. I ended up going with Dookie.
I was in either third or fourth grade at the time and remembered thinking they all looked so cool. And as a pubescent juvenile, the lyrics to “All By Myself” was hilarious to my friends and I when we realized what it was really about… As amazing and iconic the cover art is, it was actually the photos of the band in the booklet and the back cover of the CD that made me want to do nothing else but go to punk rock shows.
A year later, I got my first electric guitar for Christmas and the first song I learned was “Brainstew” (I know this isn’t on Dookie, but I didn’t have the chops to learn “When I Come Around”), and I played it at my elementary school talent show.
These are my earliest memories of Green Day – and the album Dookie will forever be a part of the fabric which helped me decide all I wanted to do with my life was make rock ‘n’ roll.
Katrina Nattress, writer at Consequence of Sound, FILTER, and Pure Volume
My parents gave me Dookie for my eighth birthday. Looking back, I am absolutely dumbfounded as to why they thought it’d be a good gift for an eight-year-old girl, but that’s beside the point. I remember unwrapping the CD and screaming with excitement, demanding it be played immediately (kids are little, bossy shits). My parents obliged, and “Burnout” came blasting through the stereo.
Even at that age, I was hooked instantly. I can’t say I have closely followed Green Day’s career (I refuse to listen to anything after Warning), but Dookie is an album I can always be in the mood to hear. And every time Billie Joe’s whiny voice declares he don’t care no more, I think back to that first time I listened to this album and this song, and it puts a smile on my face. Every. Single. Time.
Jon Lewis, drummer for AAN
Having the song “Burnout” open your first hit record might allude that you are already a burnout. All things aside, the first time I heard “Burnout” I was hooked instantly. I can’t remember how I came across Dookie. It may have been MTV or the local alternative station, 94.7 KNRK, but it was the perfect punk record full of hooks, fast, upbeat drums, and those bass lines you can’t get out of your head.
When this album came out, I was definitely not a drummer but a guitarist. If you skip to 1:23 in the song, you will now know why I quit playing guitar to become a drummer. My mom would agree. I used to blast Dookie in my room and whenever she would drive me somewhere. I think she even is a Dookie fan herself.
02. Having a Blast
Randall Colburn, writer at Consequence of Sound and Spectrum Culture
When Dookie came out, my adolescent pals and I spent Saturday afternoons making “movies.” There were no cameras, no script. We’d just come up with scenarios and improvise in Mikey’s backyard until they reached some kind of triumphant conclusion. “Having a Blast”, the story of a suicide bomber unmoved by his victims’ pleas for mercy, was the first song we ever tried to “adapt.”
It’s safe to say “creative differences” derailed our production, with my co-stars arguing for our sociopathic protagonist’s redemption. I, in true diva fashion, refused to participate in such a conclusion. The song’s power, I argued, was in its total lack of redemption, in this protagonist who offers his victims an opportunity to say goodbye and nothing else. I’d never heard a song like that, one that locked you into the narrow, sociopathic perspective of a true monster. We may not have finished our “movie,” but I did develop a lifelong obsession with villains that perseveres to this day. So, there’s that, I guess?
Matt Melis, Senior Editor at Consequence of Sound
Dookie acted as the cultural currency of our fourth grade class. You either had it, were hatching a nefarious plot to obtain it, or didn’t have a clue. And we could weed out those who were just posturing. Only knowing “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around” wouldn’t suffice. You needed to know the deep cuts to join the initiated. This record became our first foray into music snobbery. We knew every cranny of Dookie, every unintelligible Billie Joe syllable. And “Chump” was one of our ways of separating those who owned Dookie on that holiest of formats, compact disc, from those with older brothers or cousins who had made them a lousy tape.
Those who could easily skip around on CD knew the final seconds of the “Chump” track break down into the now classic opening of “Longview”; our lowly classmates with sad, homemade tapes thought it was all “Longview”. Chumps! Knowledge of those four seconds was the difference between sitting at the Tré Cool table and banishment to the Hootie table. God, we were bastards. God, nothing much has changed. God, I still love this record.
Pat McGuire, Editor-in-Chief of FILTER
In August of 1994, I had just started my freshman year of high school in Central Kentucky. The second or third week of classes, our soccer team took a road trip to a tiny, rural place called Somerset, way out in the sticks, and during warm-ups the home team played the entire Dookie album over the loudspeakers. I had heard a couple of the songs that summer on MTV, but sitting there on the half-dirt, unlevel field, stretching my scrawny hamstrings, I was completely mesmerized by the bassline to “Longview”—I felt like a superstar, getting ready for the World Cup final. But even more, I was totally amazed that not one parent in the stands seemed to notice the uncensored “fuck”s and “shit”s pouring out of Billie Joe’s mouth.
I kept waiting for the plug to get pulled by some outraged assistant principal, but the tape never stopped. Our team was pumped. Naturally, when we got home we decided to make our own pre-game warm-up tape and kicked things off with “Longview”. We handed the tape to the PA announcer, and as the Mike Dirnt bassline bounced out of the shitty stadium speakers, I can distinctly remember seeing each and every parent in the stands—visiting team included—leap for the control booth to shut it off even before the first “and I’m fucking lazy” was over. The resultant silence was deafening. I’m pretty sure we each managed to blame someone else and no one ever got in serious trouble, but you can bet your ass that our coach ran us into the ground the next day at practice. Green Day: Music for idiots.
Eric Noble, bassist for Bravesoul
“Longview” is one of the my favorite punk basslines. I remember learning it when I was first learning how to play the electric bass in high school. It’s one of those masterfully simple and catchy basslines young players can learn to build their chops on. “Longview” and the rest of Dookie inspire thoughts of a ’90s childhood: Doug, Adam Sandler, LA Gear shoes, a certain innocence. Even their darker songs like “Basket Case” have this overriding cheerfulness and upbeat playfulness that suffused a lot of the creative output of the ’90s, although there was also a twisted, dark side to that decade.
Mikala Taylor, founder ofBackstage Rider.com
It was March 24, 1994 and I was sitting in a souvlaki take-out joint in Toronto across from Tré Cool, with Billie Joe Armstrong at the next cramped table and Mike Dirnt beside me. The next day I interviewed Pavement and Codeine. It was kind of a weird, transitional time. Record labels needed a divining rod to lead them to the next band that could interpret and translate student ennui.
They were late to the interview because they’d been running down the halls of the local radio station and hard to round up, the PR wrangler said. Snot-nosed kids who distrusted us (though I was just a year younger than Billie Joe at the time), the whole chat was a bit of a shrugger. I managed to glean that they had nicknames for each other (maybe just for that interview, but whatever.) Billie Joe was “Mushroom”, Mike was “Calamari” and Tré was “Zucchini.” “Why?” I asked, “’Cause it’s green,” he said, his eyes narrowing. Okay. The rest was just “yeah it’s kind of cool” responses to the fact they were about to go nuclear.
But the music? The sold-out club show (ticket cost $11) was hyper, electric, loud, and sped past almost quicker than the 38:16 running time of their debut. “Longview”, one of the best tracks on Dookie, of course, sounded HUGE. It was the longest track on the album and that hypnotic stoner intro of bass and drums then sudden wooosh of mania? Chords anyone could play? Middle-class kids yelling “I’m so damn bored I’m going blind and I smell like shit”? A year earlier Beck had released “Loser”, but Green Day had summed it up nicely.
05. Welcome to Paradise
Joe Sib, co-founder of SideOneDummy Records
I used to be in a band called Wax. Our bass player, Dave, made a killer mixtape (yeah, I’m old!) with a bunch of different bands, and “Welcome to Paradise” was on there. I remember every time he played it, I would ask who that band was. Fast + melodic = I loved it! And two years later, Wax played with Green Day on Billie Joe’s 21st birthday at The Berkeley Square! Cool dudes.
Cory Scott Layton, keyboardist and producer for Oh, Be Clever
As a guitar player originally, I was inspired by the album’s simplicity. The songs were fun to listen and play along to. “Welcome to Paradise” really sticks out as one of the most influential songs that helped us shape and establish song structure in our writing. Using poetic devices to capture your audience and really draw the crowd in is ESSENTIAL in songwriting, and “Welcome to Paradise” really does just that.
06. Pulling Teeth
Rob Garcia, guitarist for Bleeding Rainbow
On tour a while back, we bought a CD of Dookie for the van at a thrift store. It re-sparked our obsession with this album after many years of not hearing it. One thing that immediately stuck out to us was the huge Everly Brothers influence. The song “Pulling Teeth” is a perfect example of this. The harmonies, the song structure, and even the lyrics are straight-up Everly Brothers! So, it came as no surprise to us when Billie Joe Armstrong came out with that covers album with Norah Jones late last year. Despite my love and appreciation of both Dookie and the Everly Brothers, I will never be swayed to listen to Foreverly.
07. Basket Case
Paula Mejia, writer for Rolling Stone, SPIN, Noisey, and ROOKIE
Dookie is a quintessentially adolescent album, from the immediacy of meaty bass riffs to Billie Joe Armstrong’s untouchable lyricism. When you’re 13, who isn’t yearning for acceptance – or at the very least, a semblance of understanding? One of the most well-known cuts from Dookie, “Basket Case” is the archetypal pop-punk song about being young and confused, with perhaps one of the most memorable choruses doubling as a series of quarter-life crises: “Am I just paranoid? Am I just stoned?” Twenty years later, this song still hits you in that singular place where acne, algebra, and angst converge.
Steve Sladkowski, guitarist for PUP
Before their onstage meltdowns, three album nightmares, & Broadway musicals, Green Day had songs like “Basket Case”. It’s the song every burnout guitar teacher taught every shitty kid who ended up starting an even shittier punk band in the overstimulated ’90s. The song is ritalin rock: a snot-nosed dude in his mid-20s singing about good, old-fashioned alienation and sexual frustration. It’s the first time any of us heard mention of whores, shrinks, and nervous breakdowns. And perhaps most important, “Basket Case” is one of the songs — and Dookie one of the albums — that proves “pop punk” wasn’t always a dirty word.
Cole Whittle, bassist for Semi Precious Weapons
“Basket Case” is the sound of eighth grade. I told three girls on my bus that I had a drum set, and naturally they came to my house. I played a punk beat and sang “Basket Case”. Then they let me feel their boobs. Thank you, Dookie. Green Day made me realize that my friends and I weren’t the only losers sitting around waiting for life to happen, and maybe that was cool.
Henry Hauser, staff writer for Consequence of Sound
Trapped in the backseat of my parents’ silver station wagon, “She” blasted fuzzily over timeworn speakers. I couldn’t make out a single lyric, but even the subpar sound system failed to detract from the song’s appeal. Green Day’s riotous instrumental barrage and Billie Joe’s frenetic, reckless vocal delivery had me ricocheting off the windows and caroming onto my flummoxed little brother. The risk of getting grounded didn’t inhibit my impetuous jittering one iota; I felt cool, and that’s what mattered. While my elementary school classmates were bopping their heads to Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”, I’d found something with verve, spine, and attitude. Having showed up for school wearing sweatshirts tucked into elastic-waited jeans until the fourth grade, a healthy dose of angst was just what I needed to climb out of the social cellar. For that, I’ll always be grateful.
Keagan Ilvonen, staff writer for Absolute Punk.net
It’s kind of a peculiar thought to realize that Green Day is the band that essentially shaped who I am today. Flashback to the 90’s being a young kid and stealing my father’s copy of Dookie laid the foundation of my passion for music. “Dookie” was raw, but accessible unlike anything I had heard, and the best example was “She.” A buzzing bass-line, distorted guitars, intricate-in your face drumming layered with an infectious chorus kind of song. From that day on, that has been the gold standard for a pop-punk song and few have been able to obtain it.
Mike Clemenza, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of blahblahblahscience
The intro riff in “She” is one of the first to have ever made me want to pick up a bass. That irresistible intro aside, “She” is a near perfect Green Day song. Its sound is identifiable to its album, and like so many of the tracks on Dookie, “She” isn’t afraid to showcase the band’s then youthful rawness. Its imperfection is its greatest strength, and it’s the honest sound of a punk band that knows pop better than most. The scream at 1:29 still makes me want to jump up on my chair and break something. “She” is iconic ’90s and is surely a jukebox go-to for decades to come.
09. Sassafras Roots
Dan Pfleegor, staff writer for Consequence of Sound
“Sassafras Roots” is a refreshing transition into the the last third of Dookie. Its thematic mood and vocals depart from the garage rock vibe found throughout the rest of the album. The song’s focus on a slugged-out couple of chain smokers who are slothful, unmotivated, and lazy is nothing new. But instead of pursuing the worn path of Sid and Nancy – whose punk rock ennui devolved into violence and mayhem – “Sassafras Roots” is more akin to The Smiths’ “Ask”, where Morrissey’s boasts of complacency find him “spending warm summer days, indoors.”
Young people in the early 1990’s were tired of relentless baby boomer mantras about jobs, personal responsibility, and haircuts. The Cold War was over and America won. This forced a generation of twentysomethings to wonder, “So now what?” “Sassafras Roots” captures this apathetic unrest without crossing over into anger or outrage. The song also allowed Armstrong to display a wider range of frontman talents. His cavalier voice slips into a needy alt-country croon as the chorus presents a logic that toes the line between indifference and love: “Well I’m a waste like you/ With nothing else to do/ May I waste your time too?”
10. When I Come Around
David Anthony, writer for The A.V. Club
“When I Come Around” was the first Green Day song I ever heard. Well, at the very least, it’s the first Green Day song I remember hearing. It came skipping out-of-time in my mom’s car as we passed train tracks on the way to school, but the only reason that memory can be recalled is because of that riff: That chunky, palm-muted riff. It would take years for me to realize the importance of “When I Come Around”, the most power-pop, radio-ready track on a punk band’s “sellout” record. Yet, it’s those exact circumstances that make it such a beautiful expression of defiance.
With a few simple chords and a rudimentary drumbeat, Green Day sold out in style, offering both a middle finger to those decrying it while giving an attractive come-hither to the rest of the world. “When I Come Around” offered further proof that perhaps those punk kids were on to something, but those same kids were too busy cursing Billie Joe’s name to take pride in what they’d helped build.
Scott Reitherman, singer-songwriter ofPillar Point
Billie Joe snarked his way into my heart when I heard this one as a 12-year-old. Listening to it again, I’m reminded of what a brilliant stroke this tune is in the scope of Dookie; slowed down, a great vocal line, it’s made for breezy sing-alongs in your cousin’s Ford Taurus.
It was also the first Green Day song I learned how to play on guitar. I still think of it sometimes when I hear this anthemic progression show up in other people’s tunes, most recently for instance in Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zulu”.
Sure, Billie Joe didn’t invent it, but I still appreciate him for showing me the blueprint–one of pop’s stone-cold archetypes. Clever archetypes are all over this record; why else would be waxing about it 20 years later? There’s the little guitar solo that takes you by the hand into the out chorus and the single-note vocal harmony that comes in only when you absolutely need it – everything in “When I Come Around” is so simple and distilled. For as punk as they may have liked to think they were, ultimately Green Day made the funnest noise a lot of kids had ever heard.
11. Coming Clean
Michael Roffman, Editor-in-Chief ofConsequence of Sound
It’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand” with thick guitars, drums, and bass. My only problem is that this shit doesn’t really end at age 17. For the past two weeks, I’ve been staying at my father’s home, where my brother also happens to live for the time being, and it’s been nothing but, “You just don’t get it, Dad”, “Phil, you need to let me know when you’ll be back tonight,” or “You’re not listening, Mike” ad infinitum. Mom and Dad will never, ever, ever understand… and that’s why we’re supposed to love them, right? I’m still strung out and confused.
12. Emenius Sleepus
Drew Fortune, writer for SPIN, The A.V. Club, and Salon
Dookie was the perfect album for a 12-year-old Drew Fortune, a kid discovering masturbation, marijuana, and the vague concept of rebellion. While my friends were content with the FM and MTV singles on Dookie, I gravitated more toward the B-side. The tracks felt less sugary and edgier–more in tune with the bullying and subsequent depression I experienced following a move from my hometown of Omaha to Chicago, where I didn’t know a soul. I felt isolated and indeed terrified. The lyrics, the only written by Dirnt on Dookie, basically spoke my feelings: “I think I’m sick and I wanna go home.” But it also gave me a glimmer of hope, a beacon light that maybe I could move on to brighter and greener pastures, being a kid more interested in movies and music than Cornhusker football. If only I could hold on. Listening to the tune today only conjures joy. Gone is any bittersweet angst. Here’s to the victory lap.
13. In the End
Ramblin’ Roffman, aka 45 seconds of unnecessary insight and anxiety
Takeaway #1: Billie Joe’s “Soooo!” here is the closest thing punk rock will ever get to an EDM drop. Not that it ever needed it, but hey, now you know.
Takeaway #2: The way this song bleeds into “F.O.D.” reminds me of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”/”We Are the Champions” or The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”/”With a Little Help from My Friends” or how the Full House credits would segue into Family Matters sometimes on UPN. I dunno, it’s pretty cool.
Takeaway #3: This song’s severely underrated.
Ryan Bray, writer for Consequence of Sound
Approximately 98 percent of Dookie works at one speed. It’s snotty, loud, and cartoonishly juvenile, all of which makes it one of the best rock records to crawl out from the American underground in the last 20 years. Simply put, it’s the soundtrack to the wonder years of a generation of mall punks, myself included. But even the brattiest of pop punk records carved out a little bit of space for some quiet time. “F.O.D.”, at least to start, plays like the calm after the storm.
After 13 cuts of sawed-off punk shenanigans, “F.O.D.” boasts little more than the strum of an acoustic guitar and Billie Joe Armstrong’s infantile whine. Little did we know at the time that nothing precious ever lasts with Green Day; at least it certainly didn’t in 1994. Before we knew what hit us, the guitars were roaring, the drums were crashing mightily, and we were once again off to the races. As such, “F.O.D.” pretty much sums up the record’s personality. Like a little kid in the back of the class hurling spitballs, it can only behave itself for so long before it gets antsy and starts misbehaving.
15. All by Myself
Nathan Cotter, comedian and singer-songwriter
Dookie came out when I was 11. I used to have one of those boomboxes where if you let the cassette sit there until the side finished, it would play the other side on its own. The day I bought the cassette, I played it in my room right before I went to bed. It had just finished side two when my father came into my room to say good night. I think he was waiting for a break in the music.
As he sat on the bed, probably laying out the family’s weekend plans, the tape started playing a song not on the track list. My first secret song! Dad stopped talking so I could hear it. It was much quieter and, dare I write, sweeter than the previous tracks. So we listened. His eyes narrowed at the lines “No one was looking/ I was thinking of you/ And did I mention/ I was all by myself?” He seemed more uncomfortable as the song went on, and I could not, for the life of me, understand why. When it abruptly ended, he said, “Well, that was an interesting song” and left my room without saying a word. Looking back on that, I can’t help but think he didn’t hear “Longview”.
Ali Koehler, guitarist and vocalist for Upset
I was eight years old when Dookie was released, and it was my first taste of punk music. I didn’t know it was punk, or what punk was, but I knew it was different than say, Dave Matthews Band, and I knew that it spoke to me. Dookie was also my first encounter with secret tracks. I remember listening to the album start to finish with my best friend in her bedroom, and when the album was over, we just sat there talking. Two minutes later “All By Myself” starts, and it scared the shit out of us. I spent the rest of that summer scourging my CD collection for secret tracks.