Soon after signing to Reprise, the band set out to record their third album, Dookie. The album was recorded in three weeks, but when it came time for mixing and producing there was some tension between the trio and their management as they had never been critiqued in such a way before. Eventually all parties worked out their differences and mixing was finished in late 1993. Before the album's release, the band embarked on a tour with punk legends Bad Religion. Shortly after this tour Green Day filmed their first music video "Longview" in their home.
Mere days the album's release, Kurt Cobain tragically committed suicide and with this came the disintegration of the grunge scene. When Dookie was released on February 1, 1994, its initial pressing sold out, and this reflects the role that Green Day was destined to play in the musical community. They became the new, albeit unlikely, heroes for a mourning rock scene. This coupled with catchy songs that translated well from college to pop radio contributed to what would become one of the biggest albums of the decade with seventeen million copies sold to date.
Although they were received incredibly well by the general public, appearing almost constantly on MTV, various magazine covers, and on major tours such as the Woodstock revival, their success was not taken well by the East Bay punks who brought them to fame. Punk 'zines from all over the area labeled them "sell-outs" and they were put on Gilman Street's official black-list of bands that were never allowed to play at the venue again. Billie Joe once snuck into the club after hours one night after Dookie's release and saw "Billie Joe must die" carved into the bathroom wall. Losing the community in which they had grown up hit the band hard, but they persevered and went on to enjoy the success of their first album as well as success in their personal lives.
In June of 1994, Billie Joe proposed to Adrienne Nesser, the Minnesota girl he'd met on the band's first US tour. They were married in July of 1994, and the couple found out they were expecting the very next day. Two days after their wedding, Green Day joined the Lollapalooza tour. Tre and Mike also got married shortly after Dookie's release to their first wives Lisa and Anastasia, respectively.
In 1995, they embarked on their first headlining tour accompanied by Pansy Division as a nod to their roots in the Gilman scene and as a "screw you" (and hopefully a lesson) to all of their homophobic pseudo-fans. Billie Joe's first child was born in March of 1995, and with the closing of their tour in New York came the end of a whirlwind year.
The band wasted no time in releasing their follow up album Insomniac; it came out on October 10, 1995. It was the most anticipated rock record of that year, and this fact was proven by the band's inability to escape their newfound fame. One of the only times Billie could find peace to write for the album were during all-nighters with his newly-born son, which inspired the album's title. The album is commonly referred to as their "reactionary record" – lashing out at being "86'd" from the Gilman Street scene, not knowing how to feel about their newfound fame, and dealing with the pressures of being new husbands and first-time fathers. With Insomniac, they attempted to rebel against everything that made them famous by taking a darker edge. Everything from the rougher sound to the cover artwork entitled "God Told Me to Skin You Alive." Although the album debuted at number 2, went platinum, and produced singles that got some serious airtime, it would never reach the success of Dookie. In early 1996, the band embarked on a less-successful world tour marred by low attendance and the band themselves missing both their old small-scale shows and their families back home. The European leg of the tour ended up being cancelled in late-1996 due to claims of exhaustion from the band who flew home to relax with their families.
After the turmoil during the Insomniac era, the band really began to think about how their clashing lives – punk rock stars versus family men – would and should affect their upcoming record. They decided that it was time to expand their sound from the three-chord pop-punk tunes that had previously defined and confined them. In 1997, they spent four full months in the studio recording these new songs, and releasing Nimrod on October 14, 1997.
The album went to number two on the Billboard Top 200, largely due to the single "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," a bitter send-off song that masqueraded so well as a sincere reminiscing piece that it was played everywhere from high school graduations to the series finale of Seinfeld. In regards to the song's softer edge, the band has always stated that it was the most positive thing that they could do at the time. Mike Dirnt was quoted as saying that "putting that song on the record was the most punk thing we could do." Essentially though, Nimrod is the album of a band at a sort-of crossroads – it shows a lot of genre-hopping and mixed-messages that show the band members trying to fit themselves in to where they were not only as musicians, but also growing up.
The Nimrod tour also saw the band embracing themselves as rock stars entertaining a crowd – they began the time-honored tradition of letting audience members play Knowledge on this tour, something which made it all the way through their most recent tour. The Nimrod shows, which tended to be at 1,500 to 3,000 capacity venues, bonded the fans and the band in a way that helped Green Day remain relevant during their mid-career slump. At the end of the decade, Gilman Street lifted its ban on the band by allowing Mike Dirnt's side project The Frustrators to perform there. Mike told Guitar World magazine that it gave him "a wonderful piece of closure." Green Day was even able to play a full-scale gig there to about one hundred people in 2003 without receiving much flack from anyone in the community, many of whom had grown up and settled down much as Billie, Mike, and Tre had. The culmination of the Northern California music scene welcoming the band back was certainly Green Day being awarded with eight "Bammies" at the California Music Awards in 2001. Being welcomed back into their community of origin provided both a sense of serenity and disarray, for the fans that had made them had retired their hardened punk values and did not have the same devotion to scene as they had a decade ago.
With these feelings in mind, Green Day began work on their sixth full-length album, Warning. They had been a band for more than a decade, and felt that it was time to head in a different direction so as not to become stagnant. The small taste of difference that was felt in Nimrod's many stylistic choices gave way to an album that had several acoustic tracks, some that bordered on grassroots ("Hold On"). It has been said that Bob Dylan's 1964 album Bringing It All Back Home, with its folksy protest songs, was a major source of inspiration for Billie Joe during the writing of this album.
Billie Joe also began to develop the political and social thought processes that have dominated the second half of the band's expansive career. The political climate in the country was changing at the time Warning was being written with US President Bill Clinton finishing his term and the election of George W. Bush toward the end of 2000. With songs like "Minority," "Fashion Victim" and "Castaway" it was clear that Billie's thoughts were expanding from perceptions about his own life and loves to perceptions about the world he lived in.
Warning was released on October 3, 2000 to low success with fans and critics. It debuted at number four but fell out of the top twenty almost immediately, and critics did not appreciate the new direction it took. They deemed Green Day to be a thing of the past, and many predicted that the band would not last much longer. The tours that they embarked on to support the album reflected their waning popularity – the band headlined Warped Tour in the summer of 2000 and in 2001 they announced the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182 where they opened for the newcomers every night. After this tour and the events of September 11, 2001, the band decided to take a step back. Through tight lips, all of the band members had made excuses for the album's lack of success – little did they know how much the changes they had made with Warning would help them on their next original release.
In the gap between Warning and the release of American Idiot, the band released two albums of old material. International Superhits and International Supervideos, compilations of the band's greatest hits and music videos, were released in November of 2001. The album contained three unreleased tracks, "Maria" (which began with Billie Joe's interview from "Look for Love"), "Poprocks and Coke," and "J.A.R.," a tribute to their firnedr Jason Andrew Relva who had died in a car accident in 1992. In July of 2002, the band released Shenanigans, a compilation of b-sides and cover songs. In late 2003, the band also formed a never-confirmed side project called The Network, released an album entitled Money Money 2020, and went on a mini-tour. All of these gap-fillers cemented in many fans minds the demise of the once reigning Green Day. What happened next, however, propelled the band back into the mainstream in ways no one expected.
Want an even more detailed history of Green Day? We recommend reading the book "Nobody Likes You" by Marc Spitz.