When Punk Exploded in the Mainstream Twenty Years Ago

Posted by David Konow

Being a big punk fan from back in the eighties, I loved the music, and really got off on the insane energy of the live shows. But who ever thought it could crossover into the mainstream? Back in the day, punk was a very violent, dangerous genre, and it was tough to book gigs because the mosh pits and fights were too out of control.

But with Lollapalooza and Nirvana, alternative music became arena ready, and with Green Day’s Dookie album, punk music finally became big as well. A lot of old school punks resent Green Day’s upbeat, happy sound, but Billie Joe Armstrong is a great songwriter, as well as a great riff-meister. In fact, before I ever heard Nirvana, I really got off on punk and alternative bands that knew how to write great songs like Husker Du, Bad Religion, and All.
Punk was becoming more melodic in the late eighties, and perhaps Green Day was a culmination of this new style where bands weren’t afraid to write songs that could potentially become hits or get MTV play. With Nirvana and Green Day, it’s remarkable they got as huge as they did, and as much as they denied it, veteran punk groups like The Ramones and The Circle Jerks were reportedly bitter they couldn’t reach the same commercial heights as well. 
It’s a fact that will make many of us feel older, but the Daily Beast points out to us that Green Days’ Dookie album came out twenty years ago on February 1. While many derided bands like Green Day for “selling out,” or trying for a more commercial audience, there’s genuinely no crime in selling music, at least when people used to pay for it, and love them or hate them, Armstrong’s songwriting talent can’t be denied. 
It’s a trip to think that this seismic shift in music happened over two decades ago now, and it’s a testament to the music that today’s generation, who were just being born when all this was happening, love it as well. (Although it’s probably “classic rock” to them.)