Green Day haven’t always been the stars we know them to be today. Before American Idiot, there was Dookie, the trio’s major label debut; before Dookie, there was Kerplunk, their second full-length effort, and the collection of songs that showed them the first glimpse of success and got them on the radar of the major labels. But getting the band to record the album wasn’t easy, as Larry Livermore, the founder of the Bay Area DIY staple Lookout Records, recalls in his (excellent) book How To Ru(i)n A Record Label:
I’d been bugging Billie, Mike, and Tre about coming up with something new since the spring of 1991, when I all but ordered them into the studio to record some demos. It turned out they had only enough material for half an album, and while the songs were good, they were less than fully formed. Summer rolled by with no sign of further progress. I didn’t understand what the holdup was. The way I saw it, Green Day were so talented that they could crank out an album anytime they wanted to. Luckily, I didn’t get a chance to hound them about it — they were not a band that responded well to that kind of pressure — because they spent most of the year on the road. Then in the fall of 1991, almost without warning, I was handed a finished 12-song tape. “It’s called Kerplunk,” they told me.
Buzz around Green Day was spreading rapidly around the local community, and slowly across the country as they embarked on tours playing basements and dive bars across the continental U.S.. To compensate for the band’s growing popularity, Lookout doubled their typical vinyl numbers, pressing an initial run of 10,000 copies of Kerplunk for release the same week that Nirvana would overtake Michael Jackson to hit Number 1 on the charts with Nevermind. To nearly everyone’s surprise, the 10,000 copies weren’t enough, as Lookout “sold every one of them the day it came out,” writes Livermore.
The numbers would continue to grow in exponential numbers, and 25 years later, Kerplunk has moved more than 4 million copies worldwide, and Green Day remains one of the biggest rock bands in the world, as their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame proves. To celebrate 25 years of Kerplunk, I interviewed Livermore about the making of the album, Green Day’s growth since then, and whether they’re still the same three kids he met in the early 90’s.