Ten years ago tomorrow Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot came out. I’m not really into celebrating record anniversaries, but this one kind of played a role in who I’ve become as an adult. I can almost remember the feeling of my angsty teenage heart exploding like a grenade in my chest when I discovered that my mother had actually gotten me the album for my birthday. I had pleaded with her for weeks to pick it up for me since I would be in school all day.
Confessions of a former angsty teenager
Prior to AI I was no stranger to punk rock music. Being from a low income family I spent a lot of days trying to entertain myself at my local library. On one of those days I discovered the CD collection they housed—the place where my knowledge of music would grow to be a lot deeper than what was playing on my parents car radio.
I would leave each time with a stack of CDs clutched in my arms. Nirvana’s Insecticide, Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out, the Clash’s London Calling are just a few I recall first hearing there.
A year before AI’s release I had picked up the library’s copy of Dookie and become an instant Green Day fan, so I was pretty hyped to learn they were still making music unlike so many of the other bands I was discovering.
Everything was always in the past. It always felt like I was digging for treasure, sifting through the rubble of a time I would never belong to.
When I pried the brand new compact disc out of its plastic case and placed it in my red Sony boom box I felt so jittery. I didn’t own very many CDs of my own so it was exciting having a new one I would never have to return
By the time Jesus of Suburbia had finished I felt like I found my place within the little patch of working class suburbia I existed in. American Idiot was new, tangible and everything for me. I went from being a weirdo to being a weirdo who was completely fine with being called a weirdo. I no longer had to listen to people laugh at me for being different because I could laugh at them for not being different. Being different became a trend in itself.
Green Day as a trending brand was a pain for a lot of punk rock fans and I can see why now. It lumped a bunch of whiney, sad teenagers with too many bracelets and too many feelings into the same category as them. On the flip side it presented an avenue to kids who didn’t have one before. Sure some fell off into the Underoath, Warped Tour gutter, but that was for the best in the end anyway…
If American Idiot never came out I don’t know how long it would have taken me to find all of the amazing music created by DIY artists and labels that I love so much today. It’s kind of scary to thing that it might have never happened. In the end it was Green Day’s trademarked punk rock that inspired me to stop thinking about how cool living in the past would have been and instead forced me to peer out into the world around me.
I listened to the album so many times as a teenager that I can still recite it line for line ten years later—long after its songs have stopped cropping up in my playlists.
So, uh, here’s to American Idiot and all my fellow former weirdo thirteen-year-old Green Day fans who surely know what I’m talking about. I’m sure we’re all way cool now.