Billie Joe Armstrong shares the soundtrack of his life
From the Ramones to riot grrls, here are the tunes that shaped the Green Day frontman's rock & roll worldview
Famed Bay Area punk trio Green Day returned Friday with their tenth studio album, Revolution Radio. Clocking in at a mere 44 minutes, the collection of down-and-dirty cuts reels in the grandiosity that defined 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown and 2012’s triology of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! — and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, 44, says the reception so far has been astounding.
“Without any exaggeration, it’s been the most positive response that we’ve ever had,” he tells EW. “I would even say more than American Idiot, because this record is probably more anticipated — where I think Idiot was more unexpected.”
As with all Green Day music, punk dominates Revolution Radio‘s aesthetic. But other styles — from vintage rhythm and blues to classic rock — periodically cut through the rebellious squall the band has perfected since their days as teenagers performing at Berkeley’s legendary 924 Gilman Street club.
Armstrong connected with EW to discuss the music that has most influenced him throughout his life.
THE FIRST ALBUM I WAS OBSESSED WITH AS A KID: The Sun Sessions, Elvis Presley
There was a lot of Elvis in my house, because my mom is of that generation. All of his movement, the way he played guitar… I was attracted to it right away. I picked up that record and the first song I heard was “Mystery Train” and just how spooky it felt.
THE FIRST ALBUM I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY: The Monkees Greatest Hits, the Monkees
I got it on eight-track at Fiat Music Company in Pinole, Calif. I remember singing “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” We watched the syndicated Monkees television show after school every day. It was pretty cool.
THE FIRST SONG I LEARNED TO PLAY: “Johnny B. Goode,” Chuck Berry
I got my first guitar when I was 8 years old. It was a Hohner Les Paul. I had a guitar teacher back then; he’s the one that showed me how to play that song. It was the first song [where] I realized, “Oh, I’m playing something!” It shaped everything I did after that, subconsciously, for the rest of my life.
THE MUSIC THAT INSPIRED ME TO BECOME AN ARTIST: “Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely,” Hüsker Dü
I’ve been playing music ever since I can remember, but when I first started getting into alternative music, I picked up [1986’s] Candy Apple Grey by Hüsker Dü, because I was watching the video for “Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely” on 120 Minutes on MTV. I was immediately blown away by that song. I started a long love affair with Hüsker Dü. I wanted to be like Hüsker Dü when I started Green Day.
THE CONCERT THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: The Replacements at the Fillmore in San Francisco, 1987
My sister took me. That was my first time at the Fillmore. It changed my attitude toward playing rock & roll. It humanized it, watching the Replacements, sort of half drunk but playing. They were [having] a good night, so it was great.
THE CONCERT I’D GO TO IF I HAD A TIME MACHINE: The Who at University of Leeds, 1970
Just to see them play “A Quick One, While He’s Away,” with all the original members. And seeing [drummer] Keith Moon—he was poetry in motion.
THE MUSIC I LISTEN TO BEFORE PERFORMING: Bikini Kill
[Frontwoman] Kathleen [Hanna] is one of my favorite singers. Bikini Kill embody everything that I love about music: They’re full of power, there’s a vulnerability about them, and obviously there’s the political side. It’s great to listen to before a gig, because it totally gets me jacked up and ready to play. Kathleen Hanna makes me drunk.
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE MUSICIAN: Joey Ramone
Joey is the Jesus of punk. He has this endearing quality where his voice matches the way he looked. He’s incredibly handsome, in a praying-mantis kind of way. He’s just gangly and long-legged and his voice [sounds like] that—it’s like a really insecure kid that’s become empowered through rock & roll music.
THE MUSIC I ENJOY PLAYING WITH MY FAMILY: Songs by our own band, the Boo
We wanted to start a dysfunctional Partridge Family kind of band. We came up with a bunch of songs and I convinced [my wife] Adrienne to sing. She just sounds like a total girl-group diva.
THE MUSIC I ENJOY LISTENING TO WITH MY KIDS: The Who, Dog Party
Just the other day, my youngest son, Jakob, was suddenly going through a Who phase. I was all over it, to the point where I was probably the annoying dad. They’ve got great taste in music, and then they turn me onto new music all the time. Even the band Dog Party that’s out with us [on tour], I heard about them through my sons.
THE ARTIST CURRENTLY MAKING THE BEST BOUNDARY-PUSHING MUSIC
Green Day, duh!
THE MUSIC I WANT PLAYED AT MY FUNERAL: “Waiting on a Friend,” the Rolling Stones
It’s one of the best songs they’ve ever written. When you’re up in heaven, or wherever you’re at, you’re just waiting for friends to come along. For something dark like a funeral, it’s a bit more positive.
THE MUSIC I LISTEN TO BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP: Cannibal Corpse
I’m just goofing around! [Laughs] I have too much music going on in my brain. If I listened to anything else before I went to bed, it’d drive me crazy.