“Every band wants to have a Sgt. Pepper’s type of moment. And American Idiot was that moment for us”: Billie Joe Armstrong on the making of the magnum opus that saved Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong live in 2004 on the American Idiot Tour.
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Green Day began the 1990s as a trio of snot-nosed Bay Area-punks, but they ended it as one of the biggest rock bands in the world, with three consecutive multi-platinum albums (led by the mega-smash 1994 effort Dookie), a string of hit singles (including the prom-dance staple Good Riddance [Time of Your Life]) and numerous sold-out tours.

But at the dawn of the new millennium the band was at a crossroads. Their 2000 effort, Warning, which saw them move in a more pop- and folk-influenced direction, was, at least for Green Day, a commercial disappointment – in part due to an unenthusiastic response from fans, and also the fact that its songs leaked onto Napster weeks before its release. 

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.