29 October 2006

Bono ≠ Billie Joe

An excerpt from Marc Spitz's new Green Day biography appears in today's Chronicle, and it looks pretty good. I met Marc a couple months ago at a Rancid show in New York, and was impressed with his enthusiasm not just for the band, but for the East Bay scene they came out of. Although Marc wasn't around during those days, he seems to have taken good advice and talked to a lot of the right people; among those quoted, in addition to family members, are Operation Ivy's Jesse Michaels, Jello Biafra, Tim Armstrong, and (Dr.) Frank Portman. About the only factual error I noted was the now almost ubiquitous misspelling of MRR honcho and Gilman Street co-founder Tim Yohannan's name. People, it's NOT "Yohannon," no matter how many times you've seen it written that way. But apparently that's how it's going to go down in history.

But I would have to take issue with Marc on one thing, admittedly one that's just a matter of differing opinions. In the Chronicle excerpt, he hangs his narrative on Green Day's recent collaboration with U2. Identifying Green Day as part of his own 30-something Gen X demographic, Marc claims this made him "proud," and cemented Green Day's position as "a similarly important band."

Well, far be it from me to deny him his generational pride, or to quarrel with him about the merits of U2. I can't stand them, but I'm well aware that millions of people think they're great. Like them or not, though, they're a band from another era and another ethos who had absolutely nothing to do with the scene that Green Day comes from. The idea that appearing on stage or U2 confers any kind of validation rubs me the wrong way. If anything, I'd say the opposite was true.

Okay, it was for a good cause, and I don't mean to criticize that aspect. But to suggest that Green Day have "arrived" because they're now deemed "worthy" of appearing as equals with yesteryear's rock heroes obscures the point: Green Day are far and away the biggest and most important rock and roll band on the planet. They don't need U2. If anything, the opposite is true.

Maybe Green Day took a studied, ego-free decision to work with U2 because they knew it would help raise more money for the cause than if the two bands had done something separately. In that case, I take my hat off to them, and withdraw my criticism. But it kind of reminded of a time at the beginning of the 90s when Green Day were beginning to break out of the Gilman ghetto and were offered a spot opening for Bad Religion on an upcoming tour.

I argued against it. "You don't need those guys," I said (bear in mind that Bad Religion were one of my favorite bands). "You're big enough to be headlining shows on your own now. Bad Religion should be opening for you, at least in Northern California, anyway."

I was probably being a little hasty and/or chauvinistic; at the time Bad Religion were still selling way more records than Green Day. But as much as I liked Bad Religion, there was no doubt in my mind that Green Day were a far better band. I didn't like the image that was being conveyed, that Green Day were somehow acquiring legitimacy by opening for them.

If it were a co-headlining tour, where Green Day and Bad Religion were treated as equals, I wouldn't have had a problem with it, but there was a distinct attitude coming from the Bad Religion camp of "We're doing you guys a favor." I thought this could have been my imagination until I came across an account in Ben Myers' unauthorized Green Day biography that has Bad Religion's Jay Bentley grousing about how "we took you guys out on the road all the time" and how it was "horse shit" that Green Day, now that they were massive, wouldn't offer them an opening spot.

You know, now that I think about it, having Bad Religion for an opening act on a current Green Day tour wouldn't be such a bad idea. It would certainly be an improvement over most if not all of the opening acts they've had in recent years. But it should be because Bad Religion are a great punk rock band, not because of any favors - real or imagined - from 15 years ago. And - a dark thought just crossed my mind - please, PLEASE don't let Green Day ever stoop to touring with U2. I wouldn't even care which band opened; it's just too awful a concept to contemplate.


G2 said...

"PLEASE don't let Green Day ever stoop to touring with U2. I wouldn't even care which band opened; it's just too awful a concept to contemplate."

Yes, I agree completely on what you said over here larry. I just couldn't imagine that happening. Dunno

I personally didn't like the song they made together. And of course, U2 isn't the biggest band in the planet anymore.

Anyways, did you get to hear The Riverdales re-release already? If so, what are your thoughts about that album?

Chris said...

I couldn't afford a Green Day/U2 tour. $40 plus $35 to park last time was bad enough. Add U2 into the mix, and we're all in trouble.

joseph said...

I read the Spitz excerpt in the Sunday Chronicle. The cover photo was great, wasn't it? Still, I have to ask, where are the quotes attributed to Larry Livermore? Perhaps they are in the book.

I'm not a fan of U2. I confess, I did see them in 1979 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The truth is (HONESTLY), I was there to see the opening act - The Suburban Lawns - one of the unsung bands of the early So. Cal. punk scene. Playing with U2 did not make the Suburban Lawns more famous, did it?

Larry, I can empathize with your foot situation. I broke my foot Thursday night and have been in agony and on crutches ever since. Inspired by your previous post, I headed out to Shattuck (for a newspaper, not a burrito). It was a four block adventure. Although I accomplished my goal, I was drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted by the time I made it home. You are a stud. I have six more weeks of this new lifestyle. To add insult to injury, in a manner of speaking, I picked up my first - and long overdue - hearing aid the same day I broke my foot. Talk about a double jolt of geezerhood reality. It was devastating. Count your blessings. You may be gimpy, but at least you survived the punk era with your hearing intact.

Larry Livermore said...

My hearing does still seem to function at an acceptable level, though I sometimes have trouble making out individual conversations when I'm in a group, especially in a club or bar or otherwise loud venue. Considering how I abused it in my younger years (one of my ideas for a cheap thrill used to involve sticking my head inside the giant PA speakers at shows or dance clubs and feeling the "vibrations" - yes, drugs were usually involved), plus the fact that hearing loss runs in my family, I halfway expected to be wearing a hearing aid myself by now. But so far, not so bad.

Anonymous said...

I remember that Bad Religion / Green Day tour.

Bad Religion were without question the bigger draw in every single town on the tour.

The only exception may be the one or two shows in the Bay Area, where they maybe had an equal draw with Green Day, and that's a very charitable assessment in Green Day's favor if you ask me.

Everywhere else in the United States, especially in Los Angeles, Bad Religion probably drew 10 times the number of people Green Day did to those shows.

Green Day had a buzz among those who went to Gilman and read MRR in 1993, but they weren't exactly capable of selling out the Palladium (4,000 person capacity) in Hollywood three nights in a row like Bad Religion were at the time.

Of course, that all changed about 4-6 months after the tour when KROQ broke Green Day. . . .

Matt said...

The main problem with that would be all the "punks" complaining how Green Day's current audience would hate Bad Religion and not even pay them attention.

I interviewed Warren (Against Me!'s drummer) and asked him about touring with Green Day and he said how for most of the crowd, it was their only show a year and the band before Green Day were just some dudes making noise onstage. BR don't deserve to be treated that way. Although I guess neither did Green Day 15 years ago or whatever. It's a difficult one.