You Say It's Your Birthday: Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong

Today is the 25th birthday of Green Day guitarist and vocalist Billie Joe

Armstrong. Green Day are best-known for such hits as "Longview," "Basket

Case" and "When I Come Around," but they are notable for bringing the pop-punk

spirit of the Ramones and the Buzzcocks back to the alt-rock scene when it

seemed that Black Sabbath-influenced grunge was the way to the top of the

charts. Without Green Day, there would be no room at the top of the charts

for such acts as Foo Fighters and Blink 182. Born in San Pablo, Calif.,

Armstrong moved to Rodeo, Calif., as a child and became friends with

future Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt. The two formed a band called

Sweet Children when they were 14. In 1989, Armstrong, Dirnt and

drummer Al Sobrante became Green Day and soon signed with Berkeley, Calif.,

punk label Lookout! Records. A year later, Sobrante was replaced by John Kiftmeyer,

and Green Day released an EP entitled 1,000 Hours and a full-length

album entitled 39/Smoothed Out Sappy Hour. Later that year,

Kiftmeyer was replaced by Frank Edwin Wright III, better known as Tre

Cool. Green Day were a staple in the Bay Area punk scene for the next two

years, releasing Kerplunk in 1992. In 1993, the group faced a

screaming chorus of "sell-out" when they signed to Reprise.

1994's Dookie was a stunning major-label debut, influencing a whole

new generation of punks and landing the group at #2 on the Billboard

album charts. The album's singles -- "Longview," "Basket Case" and "When I

Come Around" -- were all chart-toppers and staples on MTV. Later that year,

the group played memorable, sales-boosting sets at both the Lollapalooza

tour and Woodstock '94. In early 1995, Green Day topped off its

Dookie-inspired success by winning the Best Alternative Music

Performance Grammy. With such fast success, however, comes the inevitable

backlash; 1995's Insomniac had sales that most acts would kill for

but was still viewed as a disappointment because the figures didn't come

close to Dookie's phenomenal success. The album, which yielded no hit

singles, was more of a darker affair than Dookie and reflected

a growth in Armstrong's songwriting. Last year, Green Day released

Nimrod, which further reflected Armstrong's expansion as a songwriter. The album included songs that sounded more heavy metal than punk and even an acoustic

ballad. Nimrod debuted at #10 on the Billboard album charts

and "Hitchin' A Ride" and "Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)," the album's

first two singles, were both modest chart-successes.

Other birthdays: Bobby Lewis, 65, and Gene Pitney, 57.