American idiots: Green Day.

Here at blfr we frequently lament the scarcity of bright, bold, creative, iconoclastic young bands who can cut new ground in rock while keeping it real.

But there is Green Day—the power-pop, retro-punk trio from Oakland, California. They're not kids anymore, but they've reinvented themselves in recent years (with two experimental but mega-successful punk rock operas) and, in the process, scooped up a new generation of young fans.

This band is now the standard bearer for Generation X and the Millennials. If that wasn't enough, Green Day's music has spawned a Broadway musical this year, American Idiot, which should win over a few more generations.

One reason for Green Day's success, methinks, is their total commitment to their ideals, which are abundantly expressed in their records. True to the punk tradition (especially by way of the '80s Berkeley scene) they consistently rail against racism, misogyny, and homophobia. (They once confronted a guy waiting in line for their concert wearing a 'White Power' T-shirt and told him they'd throw his dumb-ass out if he created any trouble.)

With Green Day you don't have to figure out what they stand for. File this under good branding.


Rock & Roll by design: the influence of the Brit art schools.

The top Brit bands of the '60s—arguably the seven best to come out of the UK in that period, whose music is still heard on your satellite radio—had something interesting in common: their leaders/co-founders attended art school.

That would be: The Beatles' John Lennon; the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards; The Who's Pete Townshend; the Kinks' Ray Davies; Cream's Eric Clapton; Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett; and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page. (More art school alumni in the comments.)

Coincidence? No chance. Art schools in England in the '60s were sanctuaries of cool. And like art schools everywhere they promoted the preeminence of aesthetics, beauty, style, design. Any art student would quickly grasp the importance—and basic mechanics—of standing out from the pack.

No surprise that each of these seven musicians, after leaving art school, was able to develop a distinct style of his own, a powerful brand identity—and help his band develop its own identity.