What started out as one of California’s premier punk bands with a growing cult following exploded into the mainstream in the early 1990s when Green Day’s Dookie sold more than 8 million copies. Dookie, which led to a Grammy win for Best Alternative Music Performance, was to be the album to catapult the young punks (front man Billie Joe Armstrong was only 22) into superstardom. A well received set at the Woodstock revival in 2004 helped push the band’s reputation even further into the mainstream. The small, smoky clubs were about to give way to arenas even with only modern rock radio playing their music.

Green Day was eager for a followup. Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 1994, “We’ve got about thirty-five songs we’re going to record. It’s a lot of material. We’re trying to get one theme throughout the album, because we’re in the album business, not in the business of making singles.”

That theme ironically took another decade to materialize when the band reinvigorated the rock opera subgenre with American Idiot along with a set of mishaps.  Armstrong had a minor brush with the law in 1996. A year later, the band’s performance at Tower Records in New York was halted when Armstrong spray-painted the store’s windows and the crowd became unruly.

Once American Idiot was released, however, the band’s fortunes changed again, even beyond their wildest days with Dookie.  The album spun off hits for more than a years, leading to Grammys and a rare MTV/VH1 crossover.  Punks no more, except perhaps at heart, the band’s legacy would always include ballads such as Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends even after the smash release of albums such as 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown.

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American Idiotthe most ubiquitous album of 2004-2005