2020 marks 30 years since Green Day’s first album, 39/Smooth. While they’ve had plenty of hits and radio favorites over the last few decades, there are plenty of great songs that haven’t seen the mainstream attention that classics such as “Basket Case” and “American Idiot” have. Here are 30 deep cuts to add to your Green Day playlist.
One of the earliest songs from the band—before Green Day was their name. Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt formed the group Sweet Children when they were 14 years old. Before releasing their first album with Al Sobrante (aka John Kiffmeyer) on drums, the trio decided to name themselves after this ode to marijuana that had become popular in their live shows.
“Going To Pasalacqua”
One of only a handful of songs from the early days that Green Day have stuck in their setlist from time to time throughout the years, “Going To Pasalacqua” best hints at what the band would be capable of in the next few years. The lyrics are strong and relatable with a catchy melody, and the performance is quite possibly the tightest on 39/Smooth.
“The Judge’s Daughter”
“The Judge’s Daughter” has one of the most unique melodies and vocal patterns on Green Day’s debut album, hinting that they would be a band who stand out from the pack. Moreover, it’s a strong punk song that fits in with the rest of the material they were doing at the time. Lyrically, the track is one of many from their early days that tells stories of frustration and infatuation with a girl.
“One For The Razorbacks”
Before recording their sophomore album, Kerplunk!, Green Day enlisted Tré Cool as their new drummer after their old one left for college. His style is notably different, bringing their sound to a new level. “One For The Razorbacks” opens with a quiet, airy guitar part over ringing cymbals before exploding into a pop-punk gem.
“No One Knows”
This is an early taste of Green Day’s emotional side. From the haunting bass intro to the lyrical ponderings of the advantages and pitfalls of growing up, “No One Knows” was the most mature composition from the trio at the time. The guitar parts are more subdued and riff-based than the usual power chord strumming they’re known for, and the vocal overdub in the final chorus is another sign of a band intent on growing.
“Dominated Love Slave”
If “No One Knows” shows the band at their most serious, “Dominated Love Slave” is the polar opposite. Written and sung by Cool in an exaggerated Southern accent, this tongue-in-cheek country tune is the peak of Green Day’s goofy side.
The opening track to Green Day’s first major-label release, “Burnout” set the tone for the rest of the album, as well as the next several years of their career. The title would soon prove to be ironic, as the band would turn out to be just getting started.
“In The End”
This speedy punk song sounds more like their first album than anything else on Dookie. Short and to the point, “In The End” is a tune about a person who cares more about their image, looking for a partner who’s just “someone to look good with and light your cigarette,” and questioning if that’s what the individual really wants.
Fans and MTV staff were surprised by “Armatage Shanks” more than a year before its release when Green Day played it at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards instead of their smash hit, “Basket Case.” The song, which would be the opener for Insomniac, was actually written before the release of Dookie and the commercial success that came with it. With lyrics painting a picture of insecurity and anxiety, this pop-punk track is a juxtaposition of a bright sound with a dark meaning.
“Bab’s Uvula Who?”
Inexplicably named after a 1976 Saturday Night Live skit with Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner, “Bab’s Uvula Who?” is one of the most in-your-face punk tracks on Insomniac. Punchy and uptempo, it’s a perfect vehicle for Armstrong’s rapid-fire lyrics describing temper and rage.
“Platypus (I Hate You)”
This gem from Green Day’s fifth album, Nimrod, might be the thrashiest song they’ve ever recorded. Fast and brash, the breakneck tempo is punctuated by lyrics so laced with profanities, they weren’t included on the album’s lyric sheet.
“King For A Day”
If you’ve seen Green Day in concert, you’ve no doubt heard the live centerpiece they’ve made of “King For A Day” for years. Otherwise, you may not be familiar with this quirky track. From the New Orleans jazz-style trumpet and rhythm to the lyrical story from a cross-dresser’s point of view, this song shows the band starting to test the boundaries of their signature pop-punk sound.
“Church On Sunday”
Green Day’s sixth album, Warning, took the stylistic changes from Nimrod a step further, incorporating more acoustic guitars and exploring their less aggressive side. “Church On Sunday” is a great example, tamer than the majority of their material, but it still sounds like Green Day. Thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies define this track.
Opening with a haunting organ before kicking into the song’s classical European-inspired main part, “Misery” is the most unique composition Green Day had recorded to this point. Lyrically, the song shows Armstrong at his best storytelling, with each verse detailing different tales with unhappy endings, tied together by the central theme of misery.
“Poprocks & Coke”
The only previously unreleased track on Green Day’s first greatest hits compilation, International Superhits!, “Poprocks & Coke” fits in musically with their Warning era. With punchy acoustic guitar strumming and tight rhythm, it’s a breezy, feel-good song that makes for a great highway soundtrack.
“Don’t Wanna Fall In Love”
Previously released as a B-side to the “Geek Stink Breath” single, “Don’t Wanna Fall In Love” is a sped-up nod to early rock ’n’ roll from the ’50s and ’60s, a genre they would explore further several years later. Simple and clean, the song would’ve probably felt out of place on any previous albums, but it’s a fun track nonetheless—and a great inclusion on their B-sides and rarities album, Shenanigans.
“Ha Ha You’re Dead”
“Ha Ha You’re Dead” is the only song on Shenanigans that hadn’t been released in any way previously. A rare Dirnt-penned song, Green Day channel their inner Sex Pistols on this simple punk rocker.
“Favorite Son” has only ever been heard on the Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2 compilation, which also featured acts such as Bad Religion and Yellowcard. Released three months before the 2004 presidential election, the song doesn’t hide the fact that it’s aimed at George W. Bush. Possibly the most political the band had been to this point, it also served as a hint of what was to come, as it came out six weeks before American Idiot. Musically, it was somewhat of a return to their earlier sound, a bouncy punk tune that would’ve fit nicely on Dookie.
Most of the songs from the wildly successful, Grammy-winning American Idiot are pretty well known, but “Homecoming” is an underappreciated gem. Over the course of nine minutes, Green Day manage to cover several musical styles and tempos. On paper, the song is split into five passages, though they all flow seamlessly. Both Dirnt and Cool take a turn on vocals for a section of the suite, too.
“Horseshoes And Handgrenades”
“Horseshoes And Handgrenades” is one of the most straightforward punk songs on the epic 21st Century Breakdown, showing that Green Day hadn’t lost their edge. Aggressive lyrics with distorted vocals are a driving force in this song, layered with fuzzy guitars and pounding drums.
“Peacemaker” is an engaging blend of Eastern European and American punk-rock rhythms and chord progressions. While it’s certainly a song that wouldn’t have fit on earlier albums, it makes perfect sense in the context of the musical experiments they’re trying at this point. Lyrically, it’s part of the story told by the entirety of 21st Century Breakdown and wouldn’t have much meaning out of that context, but musically, it’s a song that’s easy to listen to on repeat.
“Hearts Collide” is a B-side from the 21st Century Breakdown era and is a great standalone Green Day song. Simple in its composition and performance, it’s somewhat more accessible than much of the album material, as well. “Hearts Collide” serves as a hint of what’s to come a few years later on the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy.
Following two epic concept albums, Green Day released a trio of records in a span of only three months. With a few notable exceptions, most of the material across the albums is back-to-basics pop-punk Green Day. “Angel Blue” off ¡Uno! is a song that could’ve felt at home on any record they had released throughout their career. The strong vocal harmonies, power chord guitars and punchy drums that have always been a core part of their sound are in full force on this track.
“Nightlife” (feat. Lady Cobra)
One of the biggest musical departures on the trio of albums from 2012, “Nightlife” is a dark, groove-heavy track, with a rare step into the world of electronic drum sounds and effects. The song features verses sung by Mystic Knights Of The Cobra’s Lady Cobra, who trades off with Armstrong, making it one of the most unique vocal performances of their career. Lady Cobra was also the namesake for another song on ¡Dos!, which she inspired.
“Dirty Rotten Bastards”
The opening of “Dirty Rotten Bastards” off ¡Tré! is begging to be a singalong in an arena, with a chorus of “yeahs” over thunderous drum beats. The overall song is a smaller scale of some of the epic songs on both American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, broken down into different sections and sewn together into a longer cut. The pieces that make up this song fit together easily, as they aren’t that different from one another in composition, but there are still distinct vibes in each part.
“State Of Shock”
Originally released for Record Store Day 2014, Demolicious is an album of demos from the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy. Most of the album is just unpolished versions of the songs from those LPs, which would probably be of most interest to hardcore fans. “State Of Shock” is the only song that didn’t end up getting cleaned up and released on one of the records. This brash punk song sounds like it’s meant to be heard in this raw form, like you’re in a garage with the band. This song could have easily fit in with 39/Smooth or Kerplunk!
“Stay The Night” (acoustic)
Another highlight of Demolicious is this slowed-down, single acoustic guitar and vocal take on “Stay The Night.” The full production of this song is an upbeat rocker on ¡Uno!, but this version drips with raw emotion. At moments, the cracks in Armstrong’s voice sound like he might be on the verge of tears as he’s singing.
“Outlaws” is a rare instance of Green Day collaborating with an outside artist on one of their songs, bringing in Jon Fratelli of the Fratellis to co-write the music. Starting with a few heavy chords, the song abruptly quiets down into a ballad, reminiscing about their younger, carefree days. As the song progresses, the band come in at full power, resembling many of their previous slower songs. The real kicker to this tune is the outro, quieting back down into a dark, emotional verse.
“I Was A Teenage Teenager”
Green Day’s latest album, Father Of All Motherfuckers, marks a new era in their sound, with distinctive changes in both performance and production. They explore their early rock ’n’ roll influences more than ever, with riffs and rhythms reminiscent of ’50s and ’60s garage rock and surf music. “I Was A Teenage Teenager” is a trip down memory lane as the band remember their teen years.
“Stab You In The Heart”
“Stab You In The Heart” is a lively rock ’n’ roller that brings oldies such as “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hippy Hippy Shake” to mind. Undoubtedly a new direction for them, it still feels natural for them. Quite possibly the most danceable song Green Day have ever recorded, it has a strong beat and a classic guitar riff, serving as the pinnacle of what they’re aiming for on Father Of All…