“On my own…. here we go.”
Rodeo was not a town that anyone might think is in California, maybe more like Texas where cowboys still roam around taming cattle. Though Rodeo California was where Billie Joe Armstrong, later becoming an international Punk icon and the image of the early 21st century, was born, on February 17th, 1972. He started out in a musical family, so it was no surprise that he yearned to learn at a young age. As soon as his hands were big enough he began to play guitar. Billie’s first electric guitar was a baby blue coloured Fernandes Strat, one that was a mirror of his own childish, peter-pan like personality, and also became part of his image. Like many youth at that time and place, Billie joined a band and jumped right into the underground world of music, and before he was twenty years of age already recorded albums that we remember today. The 924 Gilman Street club was an all-age, volunteer organized and produced, and where Billie Joe built his passion for music, and developed his unique personality that would later become a trademark of his. During his childhood, tragedy did grasp hold of young Billie. His father died when he was still quite young, and his life was in a sense not a healthy one. To Armstrong, that only fuelled his creativity and later songwriting and through it all, Billie was still able to make the best out of it, and took the road to success.
This was where for most the story would’ve ended. Most don’t know beyond the simple, generic suburban youth life of Billie Joe, though in reality his life was all but simple. Going back to Gilman Street, Billie started a band with a few friends, one of which he brought along for the soon to be right of their lives. Sweet Children the band was called, and it consisted of him on guitar, and 3 other members on their respected instruments. The band evolved into a three piece band, with Billie on guitar and vocals, Mike Dirnt, Billie’s childhood friend, and Al Sobrante as he was known. With this band Billie Joe would go on for many shows and performances at Gilman and in the local community. He and Sweet Children became a headline, which allowed them to record their first album. With that the band kickstarted a career that was hard to stop, even for the members themselves. Not long after the debut, Sweet Children changed up their rosters and drummer Tre Cool took up the backlines and the three piece changed its name to Green Day. Thus, the legend as we know it was created. Billie too at this moment in his life walked through some major choices. He left school, his home and his family behind to pursue a life in music, but unlike others of his kind (musicians, young, restless, and a little naive), he worked very hard to survive, and he once even said that he worked all day, very hard, to not do anything. Thus Billie grew up in an age where everyone wanted to do great, but do nothing, though music was something that Armstrong didn’t stop doing. He kept performing and recorded a few more albums, nevertheless he still lived in the underground scene.
Billie always wrote songs about himself, what he was doing, and what was happening in his life. The songs closely reflected the surroundings of Bille and Green Day, and audiences loved it. Even though his music was more for a particular audience, he satisfied that audience very well. He connected with them by sharing a part of himself without sounding sappy, and including a bit of childhood foolishness in every song he sang. Because of his unmatchable personality, vocal style, and song creativity, Armstrong and Green Day was able to skyrocket in popularity. Because is songs were relatable by others and reflected the life of himself, the masses appreciated that. Following that success, Armstrong came up with Green Day’s third album, “Dookie”, which was their biggest commercial success so far. This album continues on the course of a upbeat tune but some more personal topics. In the third album Billie opens up about his drug use, mainly marijuana, and also troubles with stress, emotions, and also affairs. With this, he captivated listeners and songs from this album, such as “Basket Case”, and Green Day truly went mainstream. While Green Days songs started to play on major radio stations and drawing in the attention of listeners outside of the Gilman Street mass, the community that they took their first steps in started to look down and move away from the band. Billie Joe was rejected by the people he grew up with, and Green Day’s original record label ceased recording with them after their second album, before “Dookie”, since one of their biggest unwritten rules was to never go mainstream. It was a tragedy to Armstrong and the band, but he only looked at this and thought of what better things might come.