The musician that walked away from Green Day

Green Day

It’s not always easy to recognize a band’s potential early on. Many bands have the goods from the moment they start playing. But some new artists still need to dial in their sound. They need to refine their chops from song to song until they become legendary. Green Day had potential in the beginning. But one of their drummers was convinced he couldn’t continue to play with the pop-punk hopefuls.

Billie Joe Armstrong began discovering his love for punk rock in his teens, long before the band formed. Armstrong, a lifelong fan of all types of rock music, began to experience a sea change in his musical development while listening to bands such as The Replacements. Soon he became enamored with the indie scene in northern California with bands like Operation Ivy and Sewertrout.

He spent a few years attempting to learn various hard rock songs such as ‘Back In Black‘ by AC/DC and ‘Crazy Train‘ by Ozzy Osbourne. Armstrong quickly traded in his guitar chops for Ramones-style power chords. It was with his schoolmate Mike Dirnt joining him on bass guitar. The band went through several drummers. But they eventually settled on John Kiffmeyer due to his connections in the punk community.

Playing frequently at the club 924 Gilman Street, the band began to gain a following due to their impressive musicianship. Many punk bands sought to make as much noise as possible. But Armstrong was already discovering his voice as a songwriter. He created melodic passages inspired by power pop acts such as Cheap Trick and the early Beatles.

The band began to put together the songs that would make up their debut 39/Smooth. Even Kiffmeyer contributed to the songs, writing the lyrics to the song ‘I Was There‘. The group had a decent following in their native California scene. However,  Armstrong and Dirnt had begun to develop as musicians in contrast to Kiffmeyer’s chaotic playing.

Kiffmeyer later left Green Day because he did not want to spend the rest of his life in a punk outfit. He wanted to pursue a college education outside of his local squat. The band was left high and dry. They had a lucky break when they heard their indie contemporaries, The Lookouts, who featured a wild young drummer named Tre Cool.

After some tense rehearsals with their new drummer, Cool would eventually settle into the band’s groove. He learned to focus on serving the song rather than trying to fill the track with as many drum fills as possible. Kiffmeyer served as the band’s manager for their next album, Kerplunk! It was clear that the band was growing too large for their scene to handle.

Following a label bidding war, the new trio signed with Reprise Records.  It drove them to superstardom with their third album, Dookie, produced by Rob Cavallo. Kiffmeyer may have missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Green Day. However, the chemistry between the three core members was instrumental in turning them into the rock legends they are known as today.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Like