The Green Day Song That Billie Joe Armstrong Showed The ‘Uglier Side’
Punk rock emerged in the mid-1970s, and the subgenre’s songs were often characterized by rebelliousness and political criticism. Green Day appeared in the punk scene over a decade later and came to the forefront with their hit albums ‘Dookie’ and ‘American Idiot.’ The band’s name comes from a slang phrase that refers to a day spent smoking cannabis, and it is known that Green Day members have struggled with substance addiction throughout the years.
Green Day was part of the late 1980s and early 1990s Bay area punk scene. Their timeless hits helped popularise punk rock in the United States, and they were considered the representatives of the angsty young generation. However, Green Day was still accused of not being a genuine punk rock band. Thus, in one of their songs, Billie Joe Armstrong decided to show his real ‘punk rocker’ side and the uglier face of Green Day.
Which Green Day Song Helped Billie Joe Armstrong Show Green Day’s Ugly Side?
On October 10, 1995, Green Day released their fourth studio album ‘Insomniac.’ Compared to their previous album, ‘Dookie,’ this one had a darker lyrical tone and heavier sound, and this change in the band’s style pleased their early fanbase as they were disappointed with ‘Dookie.’ ‘Dookie’ was more melodic and was classified as a pop-punk record, but Billie Joe Armstrong decided to change this with ‘Insomniac.’
‘Brain Stew’ was released along with ‘Jaded’ as a joint single. In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, Billie Joe Armstrong described ‘Brain Stew’ as a dark horse. According to Armstrong, he first came up with the riff and thought it sounded like a ‘harder Beatles song,’ like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’
Armstrong then revealed that ‘Brain Stew’ was about methamphetamine-related insomnia. He said that this drug was widely used in the punk scene of that time, and he had also tried it. Describing it as an ‘evil drug,’ the singer added that it made things scarier for him. After that, Armstrong noted that their then-new record was created following his decision to prove that they are real punk rockers and not pop stars.
According to the punk icon, he was also inspired by the scary side of becoming a rock star while writing ‘Brain Stew.’ He stated that it was around the time when he was 23 years old, had gotten married, had a child, and had to deal with fans climbing trees to see inside his house. Armstrong then said he wanted to show the uglier side of Green Day with this song.
Here is what Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone about ‘Brain Stew’:
“This song is such a dark horse. I had just gotten some recording equipment, and I came up with the riff when I was experimenting with it for the first time: ‘Oh, this is cool. It almost sounds like a harder Beatles song, like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’
The song is about methamphetamine, not being able to sleep, and staying up all night. It was something that was creeping into our punk scene at the time, and I definitely did my experimenting with it. It’s just such an evil drug.“
He then continued:
“Things were getting really scary. I’m a dedicated songwriter and musician, and when ‘Dookie’ got so big — it was on par with becoming one of the biggest pop records of all time — I wanted to be like, ‘I’m a rocker. I’m a punk rocker. That’s what matters to me more than being some pop star.’ That sort of fueled that record.
Everything was happening. I got married, had a kid, was 23 years old, and people were climbing in my trees to look inside my house. It was the scary side of becoming a rock star. You can’t control the outcome of your life. I wanted to show the uglier side of what Green Day was capable of.”
You can listen to Green Day’s ‘Brain Stew’ below.