If you’re just joining us, check out the About This Project link for details. Basically, I make playlists of all the singles by certain musical artists and then try to order them using the guiding principle “do I like each song more than the last song.” I define “single” in a broad enough way to include any song that was released as a purchasable single in any format in any country; as a promotional single in any country; as a video; or generally any song that I know charted anywhere. My main sources are Wikipedia (mostly reliable) and Discogs (reasonably reliable). I welcome editing feedback since sometimes I favor speed over spelling.
Oh hey there’s a Green Day Song Wiki.
Green Day has enough classic tracks (and enough underrated tracks) that we’re already at a point where I’m probably going to be assigning shocking low ranks some of your favorites. The whole point of this silly project, of course, is me trying to turn irrational feeling into a concrete list and then attempting to explain in the most banal terms possible why I placed that song where I did. The truth is I often don’t know – I just simply enjoy hearing one song more than another on a particular day (or over several days) and acknowledge that my tastes are fickle and might change when I come around (see what I did there) to any given artist’s catalog again. At any rate, I really dig all the songs on this part of the list and I only enjoy each section of the list more from this point forward. So let’s get banal.
Fifth single from Dookie (1994), released as a single in 1995
I thought I was aware of every single released from Dookie because they got a ton of airplay on Radio Free Hawaii back in 1994 and 1995. As it happens,I forgot that for six months in 1995, the station switched formats to a rock oriented one before returning as Radio Free Hawaii (ultimately folding in 1997). Anyhow, “She” was the official last single from Dookie and was a pretty big alternative station hit in early ’95. Apparently, “She” was written for Billie Joe’s soon to be ex-girlfriend – also the subject of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” “Whatshername,” and a couple of album tracks. I’ve only occasionally mentioned bassist Mike Dirnt thus far on this list but you’ll be hearing me mention him a lot more from here on out. His bass line on this song is my favorite of his work on Dookie.
39. Working Class Hero
Single from Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Dafur (2007), released as a single in 2007
Cover of a song originally written and recorded by John Lennon (released as a single in 1975)
I’ve not written about singles by The Beatles yet (and may not because that would involve having to listen to the Tony Sheridan stuff again) but they’ve made a couple of appearances on my lists via cover versions of their songs (both as a group and solo). Let’s see, so far we’ve had R.E.M.’s cover of Lennon’s “#9 Dream” (#73 – and from the same album as this Green Day cover), Thompson Twins’ cover of “Revolution” (#44), and Fiona Apple’s “Across the Universe” (#11). Now, The Beatles are quite possibly the most covered rock band and they frankly released very strong versions of their original tunes. When I hear a cover of a song by the band, I want it to be something that’s just bonkers or a revelation. That said, I’m also ok with a good solid match of performer and material As it happens, “Working Class Hero” is a pretty solid match for Green Day both aurally and in terms of subject matter. Green Day had already released American Idiot by the time they recorded this cover of Lennon’s classic and social critique seems much more natural to them than it may have in 1995. A really solid cover – one that I like more than the original, in fact.
38. The Pedestrian
(Artist: The Foxboro Hot Tubs)
From the Foxboro Hot Tubs’ Stop Drop and Roll!!! (2008), released as a single in 2008
“The Pedestrian” is the second (of three) singles by Green Day side project The Foxboro Hot Tubs. I’ve had a weird experience with this song. For the longest time, I think of it and have a very clear idea of the lyrics and melody and then I realize I’m thinking of a totally different and far catchier Green Day song. Except when I listen to “The Pedestrian,” it is exactly the catchier song that I thought it was. In other words, I keep mistaking this song for itself. I rank it here, at #38, to honor the song that it is and not the song that I think it isn’t.
37. 21st Century Breakdown
Fourth single from 21st Century Breakdown (2009), released as a single in 2009
I’d like to approach this song through a cover that Green Day recorded (but didn’t release as a single) – “A Quick One While He’s Away,” originally by The Who. I’ve not really addressed this in any of these entries yet, but when I listen to Green Day, I hear them as heirs to The Who somewhat more than heirs to, say, The Clash or other iconic punk rock bands. Green Day – for all their reaching for stardom – have a certain artistic integrity about them both in terms of music and lyrics that remind me a great deal of The Who. I offer this as high praise. Anyhow, “A Quick One While He’s Away” is a song quite that tells a story and was the precursor to The Who’s more ambitious rock opera projects Tommy and Quadrophenia. “21st Century Break down” (which is on a much more serious subject than a love affair with an engine driver) was not Green Day’s first excellent suite (they have two magnificent suites on American Idiot) but it continues to demonstrate that Green Day are capable of a breadth and depth of composition and musicianship beyond what they’d been playing in their pre-2000 days. The lyrics in particular are a rich blend of references to other songs (notably “Working Class Hero” – see above), historical markers and elements from Billie Joe’s life focused on the idea that something about the USA was breaking down at the start of the 21st century (how right you were, Billie Joe!). The song culminates in a bagpipe-like guitar part that sounds straight off a Big Country album (again, meant as praise). I admire the song more than I like the song (and I like the song a great deal).
Stand-alone single released through iTunes (2004)
“Shoplifter” was originally the b-side of the “American Idiot” single but was released on its own via iTunes in 2004. It was recorded during the sessions for American Idiot but, perhaps, didn’t really fit the overall concept of that album. None-the-less, “Shoplifter” is the sort of track would have been the standout track on many other band’s albums. The lyrics are somewhat reminiscent of The Clash’s criminal songs (I am specifically reminded of “Bankrobber”). I love the turn around from the chorus to the verse – it’s a fantastic hook, up there with the band’s best.
35. Bouncing Off The Wall
Charted single from Revolution Radio (2016), charted in 2016
Five songs from Revolution Radio charted on the UK rock charts – hence their inclusion here. This is how low I can set the bar for counting a song as a single if I really want too – and I really wanted too. “Bouncing Off The Wall” is constructed entirely out of hooks that appeal to me. There’s the lyrical conceit in the verses where Billie Joe sings one word or brief phrase and then a slightly longer phrase; the great guitar hook; Tre Cool’s precise drum work, the backing vocal “heys,” the hand-claps, the “bouncing of the walls” refrain, and the shuffling chorus. What is not to like? It may not rank among their truly classic songs, but it certainly deserves this place among the “merely” great songs
34. The Saints Are Coming
(Artist: U2 featuring Green Day)
Benefit single from U218 Singles (2006), released as a single in 2006
Cover of a song originally written and recorded by The Skids (released as a single in 1978)
Bono of U2 will soon be making an appearance on the INXS list, which is pure coincidence. U2 was the first band whose work I ranked as part of this project (if you haven’t marvel at my MS Paint U2 album covers). At the time, I refused to rank cover songs so I left this one off the list. When I go back to look at U2 again, I will surely include this in the new ranking (I’ll also include tU2’s most recent album which had not been released at that time).
Anyhow, this is a cover of a song by Scottish band The Skids that U2 and Green Day covered as a benefit single for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. When bands collaborate, there’s often a sense of “The Thing vs The Hulk” – like the only reason the collaboration is happening is fan service. However, “The Saints are Coming” is really a fine melding of the styles of the two band – the more punk sound of Green Day compliments the original Skids recording and the more elegant guitar work of The Edge lends a nice class to the proceedings. The best part of the song is the machine-gun-fire lyrics in the chorus. Fabulous when The Skids sang it, just as good when Billie Joe and Bono sing it. This is the highest ranked cover song on this list.
33. Welcome to Paradise
Second single from Dookie (1994), released as a single in 1994
I know, I know. It is a stone cold Green Day classic and I’m sure many of you would rank it much closer to the top (or maybe even at the top) of the list. I promise this isn’t another situation similar to the one’s with “Space Oddity” (#91) or “Cherish” (#84). First off, I genuinely like “Welcome to Paradise.” Second, we’re already in the “great songs by Green Day” portion of the list so I’m not disputing the song’s quality. “Welcome to Paradise” is a fantastic tune and if I’m ranking it at #33, it’s because I firmly believe Green Day has released 32 singles that are even more excellent than this one. This is how much I love Green Day.
If you haven’t previously done so, I encourage you to listen to the original version of this song from Kerplunk! You can clearly hear the band’s increased confidence in the second version (particularly Tre Cool’s drumming). This is particularly appropriate since the lyrics of the song are about how the band adjusted from being terrified of living on their own in Oakland to loving it. To whit, the contrast between the two versions illustrates the progress of the band – at least to my ear. Special attention should be paid to Mike Dirnt’s bass breakdown here because it’s a thing of beauty. I remember hearing this song all the time back in 1994 – in fact, this song moved me from being merely interested in the band to actively seeking out their music.
32. Stuck With Me
Second single from Insomniac (1995), released as a single in 1995
I bought Insomniac on cassette tape when it first came out and played it to death. I had to perform cassette surgery on it at least once (all of you who owned cassettes likely know exactly what I mean). It still played though this track sounded a little crinkled when it would come on. I still listen for the crinkle and am pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen. The wonders of the digital age! Anyhow, until American Idiot, Insomniac was my favorite Green Day album and thus, not surprisingly, you’ll be hearing a bunch of songs from this album from here on out.
I can hum Dirnt’s entire bassline from this song – it’s the most outstanding feature on “Stuck With Me.” One of the deciding factors as I decided how much I enjoyed Green Day songs was the degree to which Dirnt’s bass playing is featured. As usual Billie Joe has filled the song with hooks (of particular interest is the fast pause at the end of the first chorus into the second verse). I’ve not done a deep dive (or frankly a shallow dive) into the lyrics but I love singing “I know I’m not alright.” 2:19 of pure musical joy for me.
31. Oh Love
First single from ¡Uno! (2012), released as a single in 2012
“Oh Love” was the last song by Green Day to reach the U.S. Billboard Top 100 thus far. That’s ok – they still have a home on rock stations. I hear a distinct 70’s rock vibe in “Oh Love” (maybe Boston?) which is appropriate for a song about leading with your heart (and, in Billie Joe’s words “your crotch”) and not your head. The song has a very big sound – like many of Green Days songs sound like they were written for a club or a bedroom, but this one is written for a subterranean cavern. Your wandering through it in the dark, lost, and suddenly you hear this echoing in the distance, so you follow the sound hoping to find the source of the music. Unfortunately the song is only 5 minutes long and when it finishes, you’re even more lost. Damn. Catchy as heck, though.
Coming Soon: If you weren’t mad about “Welcome to Paradise,” you’ll be furious by #21.