Why I Still Love Green Day's Dookie, 20 Years After Its Release
Song associations are strange, because when I hear "Longview" by Green Day, I think of Rosemarie Sandoval's hair. We were both sophomores, sharing a table in Mr. Nardinelli's 3rd period art class. I think she was almost a year older, and if she wasn't taller than me anyway, her bangs sure were. Between the towering, lacquered fan rising from her forehead, a wardrobe consisting entirely of Aztec-god-holding-naked-lady-over-a-low-rider t-shirts, and a constant array of hickies, Rosemarie kind of terrified me, especially when I saw her beat the shit out of some girl outside of Spanish the following spring.
Mr. Nard played the radio on a component stereo up behind his desk, and on that day, he switched it to KWOD 106.5 (Sacramento's New Rock Alternative). Rosemarie got super huffy about it. "Naaard!" she complained. "Why can't we just listen to oldies?" It was a commercial break, and when the DJ came back, he mentioned something about "the new one from Green Day." Rosemarie spent the rest of the period sulking and patting her bangs in front of her compact; I busily worked on my upside-down Picasso drawing, until Mike Dirnt's bass intro wandered out of the speakers and into my brain forever.
Until then, I'd never heard of Green Day, because it was 1994 and I was still stuck on Physical Graffiti and Siamese Dream, but on that day, I went home after school and turned on MTV. During the ninety minutes between the end of school and the start of swim practice, I saw the video for "Longview" at least 900 times, or it seems that way because after 20 years, it feels like Dookie, the album from which "Longview" and four other top-ten singles sprang, has always been around, like the Rolling Stones or Pat Sajak. It was like one day there was no Dookie and then the next day nobody didn't have a copy, poring over the mysterious in-jokes buried in the cover.
And that cover! Dogs burying the world in shit! It was like a deliberately half-assed Where's Waldo drawing done by a Garbage Pail Kid. I still think the cover of NOFX's The Longest Line is better and funnier, but Dookie's CD liner is the one I more accurately recreate in my brain. Did you have a CD with the Ernie doll on the back? Did you wonder if bringing a plush toy to a mosh pit was a regular thing to do at Berkeley punk shows? Because I did, though I never asked any of these older kids I hung out with at lunch who'd actually seen Green Day ("like a bunch of times"), at the Gilman Theater, the Vatican of East Bay punk. These know-it-all kids insisted that Kerplunk! was way better than Dookie, preaching an anti-sellout gospel I'd later learn came from the cult of Tim Yohannon, founder of Maximum Rock 'n' Roll.
Admittedly, I bought into the sermon, a credo that delineated what was underground and sanctified and what was for poseurs, like a diet from Leviticus except about Lookout! seven inches, but a couple of years later, when I took up bass, I quit caring, because "Longview" was the first thing I attempted. Of course, that song is deceptively difficult, as is pretty much everything Green Day plays. To dismiss Dookie is like dismissing the White Album. I can't say I revere either, but the power of their hooks and the constant murmur of their bass lines are part of what makes them sound as fresh as ever.