Green Day Album Covers, Past and Present

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Green Day has come a long way from their 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours in Lookout! Records in 1991. The band has matured prominently over the years musically, and that translates in the design of their album covers as well. In conjunction with Green Day Day, JUICE walks down memory lane to the present to give you a play by play on their album artwork starting from the days they were just a bunch of carefree young punks hailing from Berkeley, California to the rock stars they are today.

Green Day started out as the band Sweet Children before they were signed on to Lookout! Records. Their 1st album to come out from the new label was 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours that was a compilation of their previous 3 albums. Although it is often referred to as the group’s 1st album, this is not factually correct. Coming from the independent scene, album covers from that era was simple, with no more than 3 colours, and on 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, the cover has a DIY feel, which is originally what punk rock represented in fashion.

Jesse Michaels – artwork, design, cover art, construction

After the success of 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, Kerplunk came to be Green Day’s 2nd full length album. Much of the cover artwork is largely unknown.

After the success of Kerplunk they were on a lookout by major record labels. Ultimately they left Lookout! Records and signed on to Reprise Records and released their immensely popular 3rd studio album, Dookie. The album cover art was designed and illustrated by Richie Bucher. Explaining the meaning of Dookie‘s artwork, Billy Joe Armstrong said, “I wanted the artwork to look really different. I wanted it to represent the East Bay and where we come from, because there are a lot of artists in the East Bay scene that are just as important as the music. So we talked to Richie Bucher. He did a 7-inch cover for this band called Raooul that I really liked. He’s also been playing in bands in the East Bay for years. There’s pieces of us buried on the album cover. There’s one guy with a beard with his camera up in the air taking a picture. He took pictures of bands every weekend at Gilman’s. The robed character that looks like Ozzy Osbourne is the woman on the cover of the 1st Ozzy album. Angus Young is in there somewhere too. The graffiti reading “Twisted Dog Sisters” refers to these 2 girls from Berkeley. I think the guy saying “The fritter, fat boy” was a reference to a local cop.” Green Day went as far as having Ernie from Sesame Street printed at the back cover but was later airbrushed, allegedly so that they won’t get sued by Sesame Street‘s creators.

The album that went platinum was their 4th release Imsoniac which was designed by Winston Smith who used collage as his main medium of art. His composition, God Told Me to Skin You Alive was used for Green Day’s Imsoniac album, and the title of the artwork is a reference to a song from American punk rock group The Dead Kennedys song ‘I Kill Children’. At the time, Smith knew Green Day drummer Tre Cool, and offered to design Green Day album covers if needed. The fascinating thing about this album cover is that it appears to have several hidden messages and pictures. There are 3 skulls hidden somewhere, representing each member of Green Day, a naked woman, three fairies and several ghostly faces in the flames.

After a break in 1996, Green Day released Nimrod which spawned their most well known hits like ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ and ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’. This is one of their most easily recognised album covers, but like Kerplunk, the designer is unknown.

One of their best album covers to date, American Idiot has vector graphic of a hand grenade which Green Day has used repeatedly as backdrops in their concerts.

Their latest album 21st Century Breakdown was released in May 2009. The stencilled artwork is said to be inspired by a designer called Sixten, with art direction credited to Chris Bilheimer.

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