Green Day had the potential to be “as big as The Beatles” says Larry Livermore, the man who signed the Californian punks to his Lookout Records label while frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt were still teenagers.
Livermore looks back on the trio’s early years in a personal essay titled I Am The Disappearing Boy: 30 Years Of Kerplunk, written at Armstrong’s request to mark the 30th anniversary of the band’s second album, which was released on Lookout on December 15, 1991. He recalls how the band sold out the label’s first pressing of the album,10,000 copies, in a single day.
“People typically assume Dookie, which came out in 1994, was Green Day’s breakthrough,” Livermore writes, “but it was with Kerplunk, more than two years earlier, that the band reached escape velocity. We who had known them since the beginning could only watch in awe as they headed for the stars.”
In the essay, Livermore recalls seeing Green Day play for the first time, when the group were still using the name Sweet Children, “for five teenagers in a candlelit cabin in the middle of a mountain wilderness.”
“Billie and Mike were only 16 at the time, and their then-drummer, Al Sobrante was all of 18,” he recalls. “It was only their third or fourth show ever, but there was no doubt in my mind that their music was ready for the world.”
The label boss recalls listening to Kerplunk for the first time on on a flight back to Berkeley after having the album mastered in Los Angeles.
“I slipped a cassette copy into my Walkman as the plane taxied down the runway, and the opening chords of 2,000 Light Years Away pinned me back in my seat with a force even gravity couldn’t muster,” he writes. “I knew in that instant that everything had changed, for the band, obviously, but also for their families, friends, fans, and for me and the record label I was trying to run. Up until now it had mostly been fun and games, but now things were about to get real. In good ways, mostly, but also in ways that would be impossible to predict or control.”
“It would be a couple years before everyone knew what I had just realized, but in my own mind there could be no doubt: the band that had produced the music cascading through my headphones was about to become one of the biggest bands in the world.”
“It’s one thing to say, as I had the first night I saw them, that they had the potential to be as big as the Beatles. It’s quite another to realize, whoa, this might actually be happening.”
You can read Livermore’s full essay here.
To mark the anniversary, Billie Joe Armstrong also shared some old-school photos on Instagram.