On September 20, 2004, Green Day unleashed their seventh studio album American Idiot. The album has since gone on to become one of the most influential punk rock albums of the decade. Celebrate the album below.

  1. In 2003, Green Day had recorded an album they called Cigarettes and Valentines. The master tapes were stolen weeks before the band was set to the first single, so they scrapped it and began working on something new. That was American Idiot. (The master tapes were later recovered in 2016.)
  2. At the time, the band was still recovering from their previous release Warning, which was met with negative reviews. Billie Joe Armstrong was insecure in his songwriting and called Mike Dirnt to ask if he wanted to “do the band anymore”. According to Dirnt, it was “time to change directions”.
  3. The band was inspired by the tumulous 2004 presidential election, the treatment of the lower-class and the Iraq War.
  4. Shortly after writing “Homecoming”, the band decided they wanted each song to signify a chapter in the album’s story. Armstrong penned “American Idiot” with lyrics explicitly addressing sociopolitical issues and the band decided to write the album as a “punk rock opera”.
  5. The album tells the story of Jesus of Surburbia, a teenage, lower-class American anti-hero who was raised on “soda pop and Ritalin”.
  6. The band moved into Studio 808 in Oakland to record. They set up a pirate radio station to broadcast their nightly jams. They also used it for prank calls.
  7. Still feeling apprehensive, Armstrong traveled to New York City for a solo trip. He wrote many songs including “Are We The Waiting” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” during his isolation.
  8. Green Day recorded the songs in order of the tracklisting, a first for the band. While in the studio, they recorded songs in full before moving onto the next.
  9. In another first, the band experimented with polka, new wave, and Latin influences. They have also credited Eminem, Kanye West and Linkin Park for helping to inspire the album.
  10. In order to make their own punk rock opera, the band spent a lot of time studying iconic rock operas like Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and The Who’s Tommy. Armstrong was particularly inspired by The Who’s Quadrophenia, finding its “power chord mod-pop aesthetic” more exciting than other concept albums like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. 
  11. Extraordinary Girl” was originally titled “Radio Baghdad”.
  12. Tre Cool employed unorthodox instruments into his drumming, using glockenspiels, timpanis, hammer bells, an African bead gourd, tablas and more.
  13. The band approached the album artwork like it was its own political campaign. They were particularly inspired by a Chinese communist propaganda exhibit they saw at one of the art galleries along Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
  14. Artist Chris Bilheimer was inspired by the lyric, “And she’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade” from “She’s A Rebel” for the final image.
  15. The band underwent a massive image overhaul, ditching their grungy looks for a black and red uniform that matched their “campaign”.

The album reignited the band’s career and is still considered one of the greatest albums of the decade. In 2005, Green Day won the Grammy for Best Rock Album of the Year while being nominated in six other categories, including Album of the Year. American Idiot is listed on countless lists praising its concept, imagery and musical influence.

Filed under: American Idiot, Green Day