Green Day are one of the most divisive bands in modern punk rock. Many claim that the band aren’t punk at all (and those people aren’t necessarily wrong), while just as many give credit to the band as being their introduction to punk rock, even if they don’t really care much for the group anymore (and this second group isn’t necessarily wrong either). Regardless of which viewpoint that you side with, you may have noticed that there are a lot of Green Day songs that sound like songs by other bands. So many, in fact, that we’ve gathered thirteen songs by the Bay Area act, and the thirteen songs that they kind of sound like, below.
A disclaimer: It’s well-documented that “Warning” lifted its riff from The Kinks’ “Picture Book”, there was a decently popular mashup a decade ago that highlighted the similarities between “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall”, and every punk rocker and their fat drunk uncle knows that “American Idiot” sounds way too much like “Doublewhiskeycokenoice” by Dillinger Four. I’m letting you know right now that you’re not going to find these three songs below. They were left out on purpose, so don’t say that I forgot them.
“Brain Stew” (Insomniac, 1995) sounds like Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” (Chicago, 1970)
Aside from the three songs mentioned above, Green Day’s “Brain Stew” might be the best known Green Day song that sounds like another artist’s song. The riff is simple, powerful, iconic, and has been used by Chicago… and, get this, Led Zeppelin in their version of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”. However, the chunky progression is more prevalent in Chicago’s song, which is why they got picked over Zeppelin. If you’re interested though, someone took it upon themselves to create a mashup of all three songs, which you can listen to here.
“She’s a Rebel” (American Idiot, 2004) sounds like Jawbreaker’s “Boxcar” (24 Hour Revenge Therapy, 1994)
Much like “American Idiot”, this one has already been noticed by the punk community at large. However, before you start calling for the death of St. Jimmy keep this in mind: Green Day and Jawbreaker came out of the Gilman scene at about the same time, and both songs are about ladies who don’t care much for the status quo. There’s a good chance that Green Day’s song is an homage rather than a ripoff. Boxcar herself could have been the initial inspiration for Whatsername.
“Scattered” (nimrod., 1997) sounds like America’s “Sister Golden Hair” (Hearts, 1975)
Before you call me crazy, listen to the verses in each song and tell me that they don’t sound alike. You can’t. Sure, the Green Day song is faster but the phrasing and melodies sync up far too well.
“Nuclear Family” (¡Uno!, 2012) sounds like The Clash’s “Safe European Home” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978)
It’s no secret that Green Day looks up to The Clash (if you ask Dick, The Clash are their number one influence, directly ahead of Stiff Little Fingers). It’s not really a surprise, then, that the anthemic fist-pumping opener of the Bay Area’s latest trio of albums would borrow a similar riff and guitar tone of the equally anthemic opener of their heroes’ sophomore album. The only thing that “Nuclear Family” is missing is the ska vibe toward the end (and possibly Strummer’s charisma, as some would argue).
“Hitchin’ a Ride” (nimrod., 1997) sounds like Stray Cats’ “Stray Cat Strut” (Stray Cats, 1981)
The lead guitars in “Hitchin’ a Ride” aren’t as rockabilly influenced, and its tempo is faster (not unlike “Scattered” is to “Sister Golden Hair”), but those aren’t enough to distract from the similarities. Even both music videos stick the bands in small, enclosed spaces!
“Hold On” (Warning, 2000) sounds like The Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better” (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
Listen to that harmonica in the intro. Did they think that no one would notice?
“Only of You” (1000 Hours, 1989) sounds like Hüsker Dü’s “Standing in the Rain” (Warehouse: Songs and Stories, 1987)
Not even Green Day’s earliest material is exempt! Listen to the progression in the chorus of “Standing in the Rain” and then listen to the opening of “Only of You”. Not to mention the whoas! This one is a bit more subtle than some of the others, but it goes to show how much of an influence Bob Mould has had on Billie Joe as a songwriter from the very beginning.
“Misery” (Warning, 2000) sounds like The Doors’ “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” (The Doors, 1966)
Growing up, did I think this Green Day song was terrible because I thought The Doors were terrible, or did I think The Doors were terrible because I thought this Green Day song was terrible? It’s a real chicken/egg situation. (I know The Doors didn’t write “Alabama Song”, but that doesn’t stop “Misery” from sounding a lot like The Doors’ cover.)
“Christie Road” (from Kerplunk, 1992) sounds like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nevermind, 1991)
Another older tune, and this one is admittedly a stretch. Around the 2:03 mark of “Christie Road” the guitars begin to chug a familiar sounding riff. One has to remember that the studio recordings of both songs were released a year apart so it’s unlikely this was done purposely. It may, however, have been intentional that both Armstrong and Cobain independently decided to repurpose a Boston riff to suit their own needs. You never know.
“Jesus of Suburbia: II. City of the Damned” (American Idiot, 2004) sounds like Mötley Crüe’s “On With the Show” (Too Fast for Love, 1981)
Obviously the entirety of “Jesus of Suburbia” doesn’t sound like a Mötley Crüe song, just the second segment of the song, dubbed “City of the Damned”. The vocal melodies in the verses are the key here. Additionally, people have pointed out that this segment of the Green Day song also sounds like “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams. Fitting company for their arena-rock oriented material, I suppose.
“Homecoming: II. East 12th Street” (American Idiot, 2004) sounds like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “The French Song” (Album, 1983)
Green Day just couldn’t leave other songs alone when they recorded American Idiot, could they? “Homecoming” is the other nine minute epic from the 2004 album, and coincidentally enough, “East 12th Street” is the second suite of the song. Only instead of Mötley Crüe, the main riff in “East 12th Street” comes straight from the Godmother of Punk herself, Joan Jett.
“Brutal Love” (¡Tré!, 2012) sounds like Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” (“Bring It On Home to Me”, 1962)
Plenty were (understandably) disappointed with Green Day’s album trilogy, but “Brutal Love” was easily one of the bright spots in the 37 track collection. It’s important to note that Cooke received a writing credit for this song in the liner notes to ¡Tré!, so either the similarity here was 100% intentional or someone over at Reprise noticed it before the album was ready to ship and quickly resolved the issue before they had a lawsuit on their hands.
“Stray Heart” (from ¡Dos!, 2012) sounds like Foxboro Hot Tubs’ “Mother Mary” (Stop Drop and Roll!!!, 2008)
Ow, I just bit my tongue. It’s so far in my cheek that I forgot it was there. Weird.
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