Finally going green.

After hearing Green Day's latest album 21st Century Breakdown—an ambitious follow-up to their critically acclaimed punk opera American Idiot—I've at-last seen the light!

Years ago I wrote off their material as manic-simplistic, but American Idiot—which is now being made into a Broadway musical—woke me up, and 21st Century Breakdown won me over.

Green Day is one of the few '90s bands that has stood the test of time in two simple ways: they're still together (a true accomplishment these days for a '90s band) and their records keep getting stronger.

In addition to the punk ferocity of much of their music, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has developed a pop song sensibility, hitting on the muses of Lennon-McCartney, Ray Davies, and Pete Townshend, among others.

One of the interesting aspects of this band, from an organizational angle, is that despite the prodigious singer/songwriter/musician talents of Armstrong, the band is demonstrably a team—not a superstar avec back-up musicians—and a democratic one at that. (We're big fans of workforce democracy here at blfr, in case you couldn't tell.)

Armstrong writes the songs but bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool are full participants in the arrangements. The governance model is simple. In Dirnt's words: "We are a democracy with an elected leader" (Armstrong).

And their team friendship and loyalty over two decades has compensated for the centrifugal forces of individual ego that can splinter apart even the best rock & roll organizations.

Meanwhile, their current hit—"Do You Know the Enemy" (live clip below)—has become a testimonial to unbridled passion and exuberance… qualities that business teams of all stripes could clearly use more of. (The "enemy" as the song explains is "the foreman of control," 'the honor to obey," and "silence" in the face of injustice.)

As Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great punk philosopher, used to say: "Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis."

View the archive »

Never miss a post… get 'em by email or rss »


  1. happy you saw the light. this band rocks like no other -- with good tunes and a wild live show. right off the streets of oakland.

    gary c.

  2. They've been good for eons, offering various clue-ins-to-be-smarter... notably 'don't take yerself too seriously' through the deliberately misplayed chords on 'Good Riddance'.

  3. Yup, the fun of the band is infectious, reminiscent of the Who in some ways. BTW, which chords are misplayed on "Good Riddance"? I never listened to it closely. Speaking of chords, Billie Joe is really favoring some Beatle chords in his ballads of late, expecially the IV major to minor change (which they used in "In My Life," "Nowhere Man," "I'll Follow the Sun"). I can't think of any other rock writer these days who's relying on that chord change.

    I just started to listen to "American Idiot" again - great track and great CD.

      1. samuel c samuel Posted on I am a niiagren that has just completed my secondary school level and would like to study Computer Engineering/Electronics Engineering in Korea through scholarship.this is because korea is the largest producing electronics and my parents are poor and can not afford the morney to sponsor my academic carrer so,how can i accomplish my dream? kindly reply.

  4. >which chords are misplayed on "Good Riddance"?

    At the beginning of the album version, Armstrong mistakenly plays the third and fourth strings of the open G/D chord instead of the second and third. Trying again, he repeats the error, and swears in a barely audible voice.

    This 'deliberate goof' was included to provide a lighter touch on one of their more serious songs.

  5. In response to this post I'm hearing from lots of my old rocker friends who are coming out of the closet as Green Day lovers. Maybe it was a guilty pleasure they were afraid to own up to.

  6. i wonder how many boomers were won over at first by green day's politics. that was a big part of the appeal of dylan, the beatles, stones, who, byrds, grateful dead, pink floyd, hendrix in the 60s. gd's "american idiot" put them on the political map in a major way.

  7. g: it's too hot to dress in anything in Boston today.

    henry: being apolitical, I wouldn't know. :-) Interesting thought though. Some of Green Day's younger fans probably don't care one way or the other. For the older rock fans it probably didn't hurt when Billie Joe took aim on the post-millennial American culture. But if Green Day were a Country act (an absurd premise I know, given their musical proclivities) their audience would have tarred and feathered them. (Which, come to think of it, might be a costume g would like to wear.)

  8. I wonder if bands as teams will eventually become extinct. Many modern rock bands -- and whats left of the old rock bands -- are becoming superstars with interchangeable backup players. Even Green Day has hired help on their live shows, in addition to the original three.

  9. It's certainlly true that many classic rock bands that tour today consist of only one or two original members plus hired backup. But I can't say that I see a trend away from bands-as-teams in general. Some modern bands add members (presumably contract labor) for live shows, but the original band members remain and continue to share in the profits.

  10. >i wonder how many boomers were won over at first by green day's politics?

    'Good music is good music - and no amount of ideological allegiance can make up for a poor tune'... who gives a dead rat's ass about the politics?

  11. I actually watched Good Morning America to see what the crowd was so excited about the morning Green Day played Central Park. The TV station got me "hooked" by replaying a clip of the most famous free concern on the common back in the early '80's. Do you know who I'm talking about? Simon & Garfunkel. I hitch hiked to NY from Boston to see that reunion concert and it was AWESOME. I was a student at Emerson College at the time. The energy of the crowd waiting on Green Day was similar.

    Any organizational leadership that could touch that enthusiasm would be healing in todays job market!


  12. Gerri, I remember that S&G concert well, though I wasn't there. It's amazing when you consider that Paul and Art have never gotten along well with each other. But they knew how to harness and exploit their creative and personal conflict - another "business lesson" I hope to explore in my book - which should hit the stores circa 2015.

    G, "dead rat's ass" is one of my favorite alt-neo-post-proto-goth-metal-punk-Christan bands. How did you KNOW?

Leave a Reply to Joel D Canfield Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

View the archive »

Never miss a post… get 'em by email or rss »