School’s Out. Forever?.. Well, technically yes, but whilst my GCSEs were taken and I would have no further reason to enter the corridors of Thomas Sumpter Comprehensive School again, (except to collect my results in August) it was never really in question that I would stay in education for at least another 2 years to do A-Levels.
Goodbye school, Hello 6th form College. It was like another world compared to school. Whereas at school, my like minded friends and I had been by far the minority musical taste wise, here at John Leggott College it was as if we were the norm. Or at least a good 50%. There’s another essay to be written there on the relationship between educational level and musical taste but certainly only by more controversial and pretentious people than me.
College was also the first time I had experienced people of my own age starting bands. Every Wednesday afternoon at college no academic lessons took place but your attendance was required to partake in what were known as Extension Studies. These were a variety of extracurricular activities and subjects chosen at the start of term to fill up your timetable. Examples were Video Production, Cookery, Sport related activities, and something called Rock Workshop. Rock Workshop was basically “Band Practice” for students who played guitar,drums, bass and sang. It wasn’t always as structured as that though. What happened was, a group of mates went to some huts on the college grounds and larked about on instruments unsupervised. It was regularly known for students not involved in Rock Workshop in any way to skip their own extension studies to go and hang out and watch their friends make a racket. This was me on occasion. Only rarely though. I was far too concerned about getting into trouble to do it often.
But I was insanely jealous. Why had I never learnt an instrument? I had always been an avid music fan but I’d never learnt how to make music myself except for the obligatory tinkerings on a Casio keyboard. I could pick out a melody on one of those by ear and that was about it. I put this lack of musical prowess down to A)it just never having occurred to me in primary school as i had no friends who played anything (save for a few meanderings on the aforementioned Casio keyboard). And anyway, what do you play aged 10 to sound like Michael Jackson. You just want to throw your arms and legs around like a maniac to “Smooth Criminal”. Then there was B)Financial Reasons. My parents would never have been able to afford private lessons and/or instrument purchase then anyway.
But as I sat in Rock Workshop watching my peers hammer through renditions of Nirvana, Therapy? and Smashing Pumpkins songs i cursed my lack of foresight. I assumed that I had missed the boat. I had no frame of reference for how long was needed to practice to be able to make these sounds and assumed my new mates must have been playing guitar since they were old enough to hold one.
Then in October 1994 I saw an American band I’d never heard of on Top of the Pops. The song was “Welcome To Paradise” and the band was Green Day. They looked insane. Like 3 crazed maniacs twitching about the stage after having taken God knows what. (I had no drug reference either.)But they were playing one of the catchiest songs I’d ever heard. It didn’t sound very complicated either. I thought maybe i COULD learn to do that.
My friend bought “Dookie” the following week and I loved it. It was my first proper experience of music that sounded like that. I knew nothing really of punk but I knew melody and “Dookie” had that in plentiful supply. Right from those first two little hi-hat Chik-Chiks in “Burnout” it’s an explosive pop rocket covered in piss and vinegar on a collision course for your ears sweet spot. I still loved the grunge stuff I was listening to but Green Day were like a high energy breath of fresh air to blast away all the moody introspection. They were still self-deprecating weirdos but sounded more pissed off and seemed to be having more fun telling you about it.
“Basket Case” was released at the end of November and then they were everywhere. It only intensified my annoyance at not being able to play anything as every single band of teenagers in the land added the song to their repertoire of covers. My household finally entered the world of the CD player on Christmas Day 1994 when my brother and I both received one. “Dookie” was one of the CDs that came with it (along with “Definitely Maybe” and “Parklife”). If my friend who I introduced “Siamese Dream” to became the Smashing Pumpkins guy then I suppose I became the Green Day guy. I had the T-shirt, I went to Record Village and bought the previous 2 albums for extortionate import prices. I did what I always do when i discover a new band. I hoovered them up and went all out.
If I had to pick a favourite track on “Dookie”(and I do) then after a struggle of narrowing it down, it would have to be “Burnout”. “Having A Blast”comes a close second with it’s killer chorus melody but “Burnout” just edges it with that opening salvo.
After “Nimrod” in 1997 my obsession with Green Day faded. By 2000 when “Minority” was released I had moved onto different musical pastures. But “Dookie” had a massive impact on my life and without it I definitely would never have (eventually) got a guitar, started a band and done half of the things that I did over the next few years. I can still listen to it with as much appreciation as I did back then. And it’s follow up “Insomniac” for that matter.
So here’s “Burnout”. ChkChk Baddabap! Baddabap!