The Who album Billie Joe Armstrong compared to Beethoven

Billie Joe Armstrong

Billie Joe Armstrong co-founded the high school band Blood Rage with bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt. After various name changes, the pair settled on Green Day, performing as a core trio with Tré Cool on drums since 1990. Green Day drew inspiration from famous punk-era bands like The Ramones and The Clash. They quickly established their mark on a global scale, particularly with their major-label debut album, Dookie.

Green Day, as a pioneering pop-punk act, took obvious cues from classic punk. They drew inspiration from indie followers of the 1980s, such as The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. However, if we go back further in time to the pre-punk era, Green Day’s unlikely luminary is The Who. The famed British Invasion act serves as a significant influence. The famed British Invasion act serves as a significant influence.

The Who was a phenomenon during its most influential years, combining punk’s explosive attitude and prog-rock’s sophistication. They also showcased the lyrical command of the singer-songwriter era. Pete Townshend, The Who’s lead songwriter and guitarist, established the band’s legendary identity with his first rock opera, Tommy. This came after battling with immediate pop-rock artists like The Beatles and The Kinks in the mid-1960s.

Tommy signaled the beginning of The Who’s most important phase. It preceded works such as 1971’s Who’s Next, which included songs from the abandoned Lifehouse rock opera, and 1973’s Quadrophenia. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day is one of its ardent followers.

I look at Tommy by The Who and think it should be played like someone interpreting Beethoven,” he said to Rolling Stone in 2015. “Rock and roll has always meant that to me.” It’s the modern classics of the twentieth and now the twenty-first centuries.”

Green Day’s song ‘Warning‘ was inspired by Armstrong’s infatuation with The Who and Townshend’s distinctive approach to songwriting.” After ‘Time of Your Life‘ [in 1997], I played more acoustic guitar, wanting to have more for ‘Warning,'” he said later.

There was also a lot of kind of bad pop-punk that was starting to happen, and I wanted to go against that genre,” he added. “I felt like this was the next step.” I’d been listening to more of The Kinks and The Who, two bands who found a lot of strength in acoustic songs and treated the guitar almost like a drum. ‘Pinball Wizard‘ is rhythmic.”

In the beginning, Armstrong had no intention of crafting a rock opera album. He only longed to channel Townshend’s creative style in ‘A Quick One (While He’s Away).’  However, like Townshend, Armstrong became enamored with the premise of ‘American Idiot’ and quickly fleshed out a story around it.

I loved ‘A Quick One (While He’s Away)’ by The Who, and I decided I’d love to write a song that felt like a mini-opera,” he went on to say. “After I finished ‘American Idiot,’ I wondered, ‘Who is this character?'” The ideas started coming to me: ‘I’m the son of fury and love/The Jesus of Suburbia/The Bible of none of the above’. For the first time, I felt like I was in new territory. “I’d advanced my songwriting skills.

Listen to Tommy’s lead single ‘Pinball Wizard‘ below.

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