After Green Day left independent music label Lookout! Records and signed to major label Reprise Records, many fans of the underground punk scene considered Green Day to be sold out. It took a while after this change, but most punk fans eventually returned to Green Day. Since then, the band – made up of power trio Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool – have helped usher in the mainstream popularity of the punk rock genre. Just see the success that the band’s third album (and first album with Reprise), Dookie had on the music world. (“Basket Case”, anyone?)
But where, oh where does the name Green Day come from? Spoiler: That’s exactly what you think.
Where does the name “Green Day” come from?
The band adopted their band name Green Day in 1989. Prior to that, the band operated as Sweet Children and began performing at local venues in the California Bay Area. (Armstrong and Dirnt were only 14 at the time of their first gigs.) After signing with Lookout! Records, the band dropped the name Sweet Children in favor of Green Day. This change was due to the fact that there was another band named Sweet Baby in the area, so Armstrong and the team settled on Green Day to avoid confusion.
And, when it comes to the origin of Green Day, that’s probably exactly what you’re thinking. It’s about marijuana.
In an interview with television host Bill Maher, Armstrong confirmed this scenario. “I always thought, maybe it’s an urban myth, it was about pot,” Maher said.
“It was absolutely about pot,” Armstrong immediately confirmed. “We tried to be like the Cheech & Chong of punk rock for a while, and some of us are still the Cheech & Chong of punk rock.”
More specifically, a “green day” is a day spent entirely smoking weed without worrying about anything else.
The other names in Green Day.
Armstrong is the only member of Green Day to perform under his legal name (and full legal name).
Mike Dirnt, for example, was born Michael Pritchard. It’s easy to derive “Mike” from “Michael”, but the name “Dirnt” has a unique backstory. According to music journalist Marc Spitz, the name “Dirnt” originated from a schoolyard nickname. Dirnt would bring his bass guitar to school so often and pluck the unamplified strings, that the other school kids nicknamed him “Dirnt” after the sound his bass made.
And last, but not least, Tré Cool was born Frank Wright III. When Cool was only 12, neighbor Larry Livermore recruited Cool to play with his punk band The Lookouts. Cool adopted the name “Tré Cool” upon joining the band, which was a pun for the French phrase “très cool” meaning “very cool”. It was also a pun for the number three in Spanish, “tres”, as Cool was the third Frank Wright in his family.
Photo credit: Pamela Littky