This isn’t quite Janis Joplin‘s Me and Bobby McGee. Depending on when you were born, you may not even know that song reference. Just to be clear, I’m also not old enough to remember that song on the radio. When I was very young my dad would just sit down with his guitar and sing songs. Most of it was country music. My dad wasn’t a cowboy, he was a straight ahead, square, suburban dad with a 9 to 5 job. There was nothing country about him, except his love of country music. Oddly though, when I plumb the dark recesses of my memory for pictures of my dad, the one that always comes up is him walking around the house with his guitar playing and singing Me and Bobby McGee.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ hon’ if it ain’t free, no no
And, feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
You know, feelin’ good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGhee”
Back in the 1960’s when my dad wore a younger man’s clothes, Janis Joplin was one of the counter-culture icons of the decade right alongside Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac. Looking back now, it seems odd that my dad had a little rebel in him. Maybe inside of his straight-laced facade he had a heart that yearned to break free of the constraints of his ordinary world.
Fast forward to 1990. Once a year my friend Bob and I, now separated by geography, shared our love of music by mailing each other a cassette tape with a cross section of all the new music we had been listening to. Yes, we we’re dudes that sent each other mix tapes. Go ahead and get your jokes out of the way now. On the tape in 1990 was a song by a then unknown band named Green Day. I liked the song, but not enough to put it on my list of music to buy. But, in early 1994, I remember the day. The sun was shining and I was driving in my car and a song came on the radio. “Do you have the time to listen to me whine about nothing and everything all at once?” Boom. I was hooked. That band Bob had sent me a song from four years earlier had almost single handedly just ushered in the era of “pop punk” music with their song Basketcase.
On the success of their Grammy winning music and the Broadway play American Idiot based on one of their albums, Green Day has been one of the biggest touring bands over the last two decades. But when I saw them in 1997 in a small,dingy venue, they weren’t yet the iconic band they would become. In May of 1997 my friend Gooby and I met a couple of my co-workers and went to see Green Day. Gooby and I forced our way toward the front of a crowd that was packed tighter than proverbial sardines. It was a writhing, jumping, sweaty mass. So sweaty in fact that Gooby’s wedding band slipped off of his finger and fell to the floor. We stayed until after the crowd and band had left the venue and we searched the floor in vain for that small, gold band. Also, did I mention that on that May night in 1997 my wife was pregnant? She was pregnant with this boy:
He was twelve in this pre-show picture when I took him to his first Green Day concert and surprised him with a spot in the pit up near the stage. It’s no surprise that eventually he turned into this kid:
In 2013, the last time my son and I saw #GreenDay together, I wrote this very popular post, The Perfect Day is A Green Day. Since 2013 we have also seen the versions of the Broadway musical American Idiot twice. Once, done by a local theater group that included two of my son’s friends. Just before the play started, the guitarist in the orchestra fell and hurt his hand, leaving him unable to play. After the play, my son’s friend, who had played the main character said he thought of suggesting my son step in for the injured guitarist.
This post is titled Me and Billie Joe, is it not? Guess what, Billie Joe Armstrong has two sons, both of whom are accomplished musicians just making their own way into pop culture over the last couple years. So, while Billie Joe Armstrong was on tour the last 20 years embodying my rebel spirit and counter-culture feelings with his music, he was also being the same suburban dad I was, raising his boys to love music. As the kids these days would say, Billie Joe Armstrong is my spirit animal.
One of my hopes is that someday I’ll get the opportunity, even if by e-mail, to interview Billie Joe, Tre Cool, and Mike Dirnt of Green Day for #ThePhilFactor. In person, over a beer would be pretty cool too. So, if any of you have any contacts…
Why all this sudden blathering on about Green Day? On Monday, two days from now, and almost exactly twenty years from when I left my pregnant wife to go see Green Day for the first time, my son, who she was pregnant with then, and I are going to see Green Day in concert again. It will be my sixth time. Green Day has spanned the last 25 years or so of my life and the entire 19 1/2 years of my sons life. My son and I have grown up with Green Day and although they don’t know it, Green Day has grown up with us, and we’ve had the time of our life.
Have a great weekend! ~Phil