"Beavis and Butt-head have started a band: it’s called Green Day," announced a spring 1994 Rolling Stone magazine article.
Dookie, released on Feb. 1 of that year, isn't Green Day's most dynamic work. It may not even be their most-adored, either — both of those titles could arguably go to American Idiot, depending on who you ask.
What Dookie does do is resonate in a way which very few albums manage: it encapsulates the teenage angst felt by a generation coming of age in the mid-nineties.
As a band, Green Day are better than most at turning their own experiences into songs that relate to the masses. It's probably true that this is the ultimate goal of music in general. One could know nothing about punk music and hear that the band behind Dookie weren't trying to be anything other than the obnoxious twenty-somethings they were.
If you can listen to "Longview" without relating to the dog days of summer – that struggle between wondering into the scorching outside in search of amusement, and never, ever wanting to leave the couch – you were never a teenager... and I know you were a teenager. That's exactly why Dookie struck a chord with millions upon millions and will continue to do so.
“That’s all I wanted – people to be affected by it, with as much passion as I put into it,” Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone of the album.
The entire thing was recorded in only three weeks.
“The guys had been performing many of the songs live, so they were very familiar with them when they entered the studio and they had supreme confidence in them. They knew they were hot shit, they knew the material was terrific and it was just a case of us getting it right,” said Neill King, the album's lead engineer.
Dookie was refreshingly different from the detached, dissonant grunge that was emanating from the Northeast at the time. People latched onto Pearl Jam and Nirvana, as they still do, but Green Day were definitely not trying to jump on that bandwagon. Their brand of catchy punk was something else: in your face, unapologetic and snarky. Essentially, it was the Bay Area punk they'd grown up with – Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, Rancid, Jawbreaker and others – haphazardly tossed into a blender with radio-friendly classics like Van Halen, The Beatles and Black Sabbath.
The community that spawned Green Day responded by defiantly throwing their pop-punk smoothie back in their faces. They'd "sold out," in the eyes of the hardcore punks, by signing their souls to Warner Brothers' Reprise Records. They were banned from playing at 924 Gilman Street, their childhood stomping ground. They were outcasts who became more detestable with every cassette and CD sold. At that point, this had to be a bitter pill to swallow: "That time period will always be a moment of confusion for me,” Billie Joe told VH1.
Billie Joe recounted one particular time, between the releases of Dookie and Insomniac, when he was able to sneak back into Gilman for a show. He took a trip to the 'loo and discovered "Billie Joe Must Die" graffiti scrawled onto a stall wall.
It turned out to be ironic, though, that Dookie would do more to inspire and recruit the next generation of punks than almost anything had before it. It took over shopping malls and suburban schools. It commandeered the late-night TV airwaves of "Saturday Night Live" and "The Late Show with David Letterman." It whipped crowds at the Woodstock '94 festival into an angsty, violent, mud-catapulting frenzy.
Every tattered corner of Dookie hides ear-catching tidbits of pop sensibility: the playfully-triumphant guitar intro that kicks off "Welcome to Paradise"; the way the drums in "Longview" lazily bounce through their beats; the tightly-wound harmonies in the chorus of "She." If Green Day really didn't know anything about writing radio hits at that stage, they sure took a damn good guess.
In terms of messages, it doesn't ask the listener to do much deciphering. Billie Joe is in your face, eyes bloodshot and bulging, sneering exactly what he thinks. He's frustrated with the status quo and kicking around feeling of loneliness and horny-ness. His uncertain, frantic world isn't a place to settle down in, but it's worth the 38-minute trip.
In the years that have followed its release, Dookie hasn't slipped down the wall onto which Green Day had thrown it — it stuck.
Sum 41, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, My Chemical Romance and countless other bands have since capitalized on the niche Green Day chiseled out in 1994. Dookie holds its own as one of the single most influential albums of the nineties alongside hallowed staples like Nirvana's Nevermind and Radiohead's OK Computer.
An album exactly like Dookie will never be made again — it's a fact that's as much unfortunate as it is fitting.