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10 Reasons Why ‘Dookie’ Is The Best Pop-Punk Album Of All Time
Ken Schles
List & Guides

10 Reasons Why ‘Dookie’ Is The Best Pop-Punk Album Of All Time

Bursting with attitude, zany humour and killer tunes, Green Day’s third album, ‘Dookie’, is the best pop-punk album of all time. Here’s why.

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Take even the slightest glance at a list of the best-selling albums in history, and one thing is immediately clear: precious few records are able to chime with the times, sell multi-millions of copies and influence the course of music. Green Day’s landmark third album, Dookie, however, is a proud, card-carrying member of this elite club. Overflowing with fantastic tunes and boasting four global hits, it was released on 1 February 1994 and, despite spawning numerous imitators, it remains the defining work of its genre. Here are ten reasons why Dookie is the best pop-punk album of all time.

Listen to ‘Dookie’ here.

10 Reasons Why ‘Dookie’ Is The Best Pop-Punk Album Of All Time

1: ‘Dookie’ was recorded by a young band with precocious talent

Performed with fire, skill, confidence and bags of bravado, Dookie sounds like the work of an experienced band who have been around the block. However, when Green Day’s game-changing third album was first released, bassist Mike Dirnt and guitarist/vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong were still only 21, and – as a mere 20-year-old – drummer Tré Cool hadn’t even attained legal drinking age in the US.

In fairness, though, Green Day were hardly green around the gills. Armstrong and Dirnt had become friends aged ten, and the pair formed Sweet Children, an embryonic version of Green Day, when they were just 15. Morphing into Green Day by 1989, they’d also released two cult-level albums, 39/Smooth and Kerplunk, through Californian indie imprint Lookout! Records, with the latter selling an impressive 50,000 copies. Having signed a major-label deal with Warner, the young band worked hard on preparing the songs for Dookie with producer Rob Cavallo, yet they were unprepared for the life-changing multi-million sales the album would rack up en route to becoming the best pop-punk album ever made.

“I remember thinking, Let’s just record this thing and make sure we have money left over, so we can pay our rent, in case anything happens,” Armstrong later told Rolling Stone. “We felt like the little kids in a candy store [making Dookie], but Mike and Tré were tight. That album was some of the tightest they’d ever played.”

2: ‘Dookie’’s success dragged the US pop-punk movement into the mainstream

Seemingly from nowhere, Dookie shot up the US Billboard 200, where it eventually peaked at No.2 (while also topping Billboard’s Heatseekers Album chart). Its progress was assisted by positive reviews from big-hitting publications such as Time, who voted Dookie their best album of 1994, and Rolling Stone, whose review suggested Green Day had “punk’s snotty anti-values down cold: blame, self-pity, arrogant self-hatred, humor, narcissism, fun”. Yet Dookie also had what it took to stick around long enough to earn its reputation as the best pop-punk album of all: in 1995 it received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and it went on to be certified diamond (for sales of ten million copies) in the US, ensuring that the country’s nascent pop-punk movement now had a foothold in the mainstream.

3: ‘Dookie’ also impacted on a global scale

Though Dookie was a huge success in Green Day’s home country, the album also ushered the band onto the international stage. It topped the charts in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and went Top 10 in European territories such as Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Indeed, such was the breadth of Dookie’s appeal among rock and pop fans that the album even smashed into the UK charts (where it peaked at No.7) while Britpop-mania was in the ascendant. The record’s genre-defying appeal was reflected in its global performance: cementing its place as the best pop-punk album in history, Dookie moved over 20 million copies worldwide and remains Green Day’s best-selling record to this day, ahead of the group’s blockbuster 2004 album, American Idiot, which has yielded sales of over 16 million copies in total.

4: Every song on ‘Dookie’ had the potential to be a hit

Dookie’s ongoing success was buoyed by the performance of its glorious quartet of singles – Longview, Basket Case, Welcome To Paradise and When I Come Around – with the latter song remaining the band’s best-selling US single until the release of 2004’s Boulevard Of Broken Dreams. In reality, though, virtually every song on the album would likely have had a similar impact. Coming Clean, the blazing Who-esque Burnout and even the slower, more considered Pulling Teeth possessed an inherent radio-friendliness which collectively granted Dookie that elusive across-the-board appeal akin to other massive-selling rock albums such as Nirvana’s Nevermind, “Led Zeppelin IV” and Van Halen’s 1984.

5: ‘Dookie’’s lyrical themes remain just as relevant as ever

One of the most useful pieces of advice any aspiring writer can receive is to “write about what you know”, and it’s a practice Billie Joe Armstrong pursued to perfection on Dookie. The album was stuffed with songs drawn from the singer’s own personal experiences, with Armstrong touching upon themes that virtually every other young person around the world could relate to. Longview homed in on boredom, apathy and masturbation; Basket Case dealt with the anxiety attacks Armstrong suffered from, prior to being diagnosed with a panic disorder. Elsewhere, Coming Clean tackled sexual orientation, while Pulling Teeth discussed domestic abuse. Taken together, all of Dookie’s songs explore everyman issues and themes which had – and still have – a universal resonance today.

6: Green Day brought an anarchic humour to the mainstream

With hindsight, even if Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain hadn’t chosen to take his own life so tragically in April 1994, it’s probably fair to say that the alt-rock scene needed a jolt of inspiration after grunge had dominated the airwaves for the best part of three years. Accordingly, when Dookie hit the shelves in early 1994, it was well placed to provide a livelier and more melodic sound for the mainstream to latch onto.

Indeed, though Green Day put their hearts and souls into their music, they never took themselves too seriously. That’s borne out in the album title itself: Dookie came from the phrase “liquid dookie” – the band’s slang term for the diarrhoea they suffered from after eating too much bad food while on tour. Contemporary reviews also praised the band’s penchant for anarchic humour, with The New York Times cogently describing the sound of Dookie as “Punk turns into pop in fast, funny, catchy, high-powered songs about whining and channel-surfing; apathy has rarely sounded so passionate.”

7: ‘Dookie’ inspired future generations of musicians, in pop-punk and beyond

Contemporaries of Green Day such as Bad Religion, The Offspring, Social Distortion and Rancid also deserve to be credited with spreading the pop-punk gospel in the US, but in the process of outselling these acts, Dookie also inspired a new breed of like-minded, North American pop-punk acts, among them blink-182, Fall Out Boy, Sum 41 and Simple Plan.

But Dookie’s influence as the best pop-punk album of all stretches beyond the confines of genre. While speaking at her Heartbeats headphones launch at London’s Oxford Street HMV store in 2009, chameleonic pop star Lady Gaga openly confessed her love of Green Day’s third album.

“You know, you can download an MP3 but you cannot download a lifestyle,” Gaga told NME. “And the culture of music – the visual behind the music and the dream of my show and what I believe in about performance and pop music – that’s what compels young people to buy the hard album, and eat it, and smell it and taste it.

“I remember when I bought Green Day’s Dookie,” she added, “I just wanted to lick the pages from the booklet! That album, I mean, it is iconic.”

8: ‘Dookie’ proved that pop-punk could connect with arena-sized audiences

In addition to tearing up the mainstream on record, Dookie’s songs were robust enough to not just survive, but, as some of the best Green Day songs to date, to help the band thrive as they performed on some of the world’s biggest stages – both indoor and outdoor – in the wake of the album’s release.

Indeed, the Californian trio proved to be one of the biggest draws on 1994’s prestigious multi-act Lollapalooza tour (which, that year, also featured an in-demand Smashing Pumpkins), and they repeated the trick at the notoriously fractious Woodstock ’94 festival. Intended as a 25th-anniversary tribute to 1969’s original Woodstock gathering, the event saw history repeating itself when the crowd turnout was an estimated 350,000, despite only 164,000 tickets being sold. Though an infamous mud-fight broke out during their set, Green Day left Woodstock ’94 as one of rock’s biggest stars, with a TV audience of millions also tuning in to their triumphant, Dookie-heavy set.

9: ‘Dookie’ was so exciting, it was able to start riots

Woodstock ’94 wasn’t the only event to experience Dookie-mania in the wake of the album’s release. Such was the demand for Green Day that Boston, Massachusetts-based alt-rock station WFNX hosted a free concert by the band at the Hatch Memorial Shell, on 9 September 1994. The hosts expected an audience of 30,000 attendees, only for a massive crowd of somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 to show up. Green Day’s performance went ahead, but an already excitable stage-front mosh pit erupted into a full-scale riot which was only quelled with the help of the Massachusetts State Police. Despite this, The Boston Globe later pronounced Green Day’s show to be one of the Top 10 Boston concerts of all time.

10: ‘Dookie’ was brilliantly represented by its promo videos

Green Day made a series of highly memorable videos for Dookie’s four singles, all of which enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV. Made in conjunction with director and band associate Mark Kohr, the films for both Longview (centred on Billie Joe Armstrong sitting on a couch in the basement of a broken-down house) and the striking, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-inspired visual for Basket Case both received multiple nominations at the MTV Music Video Awards, in 1994 and 1995, respectively. Elsewhere, the simple, yet effective clip for When I Come Around – in which Kohr followed the band as they wandered the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley – underscored how deeply Green Day had penetrated mainstream pop culture, with the striped sweater Armstrong wore for the shoot going on to become one of 1994’s most popular fashion accessories.

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