February 1, 1994 Green Day released their classic album Dookie. Before going any further, ’70s punk fans are among the most sanctimonious purists and moralists in all of music, rivaling even the worst religious people in their self-righteousness, so if they show up in the comments section decrying the abomination of Green Day’s mainstream power pop desecration and falsification of the holy genre of punk music, please ignore them. I am entitled to have had them mean something to me, because I was at the time I discovered them an uptight evangelical Christian kid brainwashed into fearing secular music was all satanic, and banal and sold out as tedious Sex Pistols fans might find Green Day, they got something through to me.
I will always remember first hearing Green Day. I was 16 years old, with my church youth group, several of us laying on the floor on pillows in the wee hours of the morning, preparing to embark on a trip to some conference or other. For the last four or five years I had been rather assiduously avoiding listening to secular music outside of “Weird Al” as much as possible. I knew some inevitably, but not much.
And then Green Day’s “Basketcase” came over the radio, crystal clear, loud, catchy, melodic, self-assured, and so brazen that I was shocked and unsettled. The blithe way he sang about using drugs, going to a prostitute–and what was that? Was it a male prostitute? Or, not? I still can’t figure out the lyric exactly. I took it to mean that he went to a prostitute who was in the midst of having sex with another guy to talk to her about his problems and the guy told him to knock it off since it was bringing the girl down and ruining the sex. I still don’t know if that’s right.
But whatever it all meant, the shamelessly self-deprecating, devil-may-care, transgressive freedom and honesty of the song made me feel something hard to describe. Scandalized? Emotionally refuted? Challenged to be more honest? Raw enjoyment against my will?
For more about my pre-college Christian mindset, see the posts below. And check out the full table of contents (with links) of the story of my time as a Christian, my process of deconverting, and my journey post-faith is kept here.