By at 5:56 AM Tuesday, May 10th 2011

 

Green Day Frontman Vs. Angry Mom (Guess Who Wins)

Green Day, Music

 

A casual conversation with my roommate late last-night led to a 2-hour long banter regarding the basis by which one can call something music. Do we classify what is music by its melody? Do we do so by its use of different instruments? By our modern day definition, anything that comprises of sound (or in some special cases, comprises of no sound) is music. That classifies a Bach composition, 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence by John Cage, and a Black Eyed Peas song all under the same category.

“It all counts as music,” my roommate told me, and he was right, but I didn’t want to accept that both a Katy Perry song and a Mozart composition could both be determined under the same vague banner of “music,” no matter how fitting. Maybe that’s why we created genres, but then again, even genres such as post-dubstep doo-wop or post-bluegrass metal doesn’t help weed out some of the garbage out there. And is that really the purpose, in the end?

Today, a letter from 1996 was unearthed on Letters of Note that, albeit indirect, asked the same question. The letter was sent to Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman for Green Day, by a concerned mother who didn’t feel too comfortable with her 8-year old son listening to Insomniac, the band’s newest record at the time.

Having definitely struck a nerve (the letter was said to be an inspiration for the song Reject on Green Day’s subsequent record, Nimrod), the mother who in a number of time referred to Green Day’s music as both “rubbish” and “trash” got a response from Billie Joe himself:

Transcript:

December 2, 1996
Green Day
P.O. Box 710
Berkeley, Ca 94701-0710

Re: Insomniac

To whom it may concern:

I am a parent, and I am very disturbed by the cassette tape my 8 year old son was listening to. His 60 year old grandmother bought it for him as a birthday present and was totally unaware of its explicit content. The store in which she bought it did not have any ticket or color on it to warn parents of the content within. A issue I plan to pursue with the right people.

Isn’t it possible to make music anymore? That tape is not something any singer/songwriter should take any pride in at all. It is horrifying and has got to be one of the worst interpretations of an ‘artform’ that I have ever had the misfortune to hear. I know it is possible for the group to make ‘good music’ because I have heard them sing before. For example, the song entitled “When I Come Around” is one of my son’s favorites. It’s a song that he and his Dad sang together whenever it was on MTV or they were driving in the car together.

Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to sing trash to have a following. And if that creates such a following one would do well to wonder exactly what type of people he wants following him! This may do nothing to change the type of music performed or change your views on the art of making music but it helps me to know that there is one less family who will be buying such rubbish and I have a big mouth so I’ll make everyone I know aware. That tape is trash, as you can plainly see, and you’ll find it enclosed.

Why don’t you do something positive and clean up your act!!!! Isn’t there enough garbage in the world? All the thoughts you are helping to put in the minds of our youth is scary. You have so much influence why not use it for something GOOD?

Signed,

[Redacted]

From Billie Joe:

I just received your letter and this is my response.

I don’t write music for parents, grandparents, or eight year olds. I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please. That’s the difference between you and me. I do what I want…. You do what you’re told.

Obviously, we’re not on the same planet, let alone the same ball park. I find people like you offensive and it “helps me” to know you wont be buying anymore of our records. Next time, I suggest you do a little research before you purchase such “rubbish” for your little boy. It might save you a few extra bucks.

Billie Joe and the rest of Green Day

P.S. You’re right about one thing… You do have a big mouth.

Explicit content and the 60 year old badass Green Day-buying grandmother aside, this bitchfight of words between a worried mother and a musician, though clearly amusing (especially the revelation of the mother having sent back the tape – remember the good old days of tangsible, physical music?), touches upon a lot in regards to the classification of music. To the 8 year old’s mother, Green Day is garbage; like how to a die-hard Nine Inch Nails fan, the Black Eyed Peas or pretty much anything regularly played on mainstream radio is an abomination of all that is sacred. But really, whose right is it to really call something “garbage”?

In this digital age, there certainly is no shortage of musical variety. Everything worthy of your taste is a click away, and everything that is not can so easily be dropped in the recycling bin (or burned to a CD, and sent back to the artist with an angry letter, if you feel like leaving the house). Even in 1996, every aspirant music-buyer had a large array of records to choose from, and again, music is greatly based on taste. No parent, no critic, and no fan of music can ever persuade a musician to change his style or way of thinking. In a world where most people inertly move between loveless jobs, it is these artists we can count on to bring something new to our lives; something we love, or something we greatly dislike.

“I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please,” said Billie Joe overpoweringly in the letter, and if we or an 8 year old’s foul-mouthed mother don’t like it, we can plainly tune out, and turn away.

 
 

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18 comments
  1. pupo says:

    bitchy soccer mom w/big mouth, ‘when I come around’…. (sorry, wrong thread!)

  2. This made my day hahahaha!!

  3. Cody Lamie says:

    do you see the irony of being someone who criticizes music on a daily basis and posting this? not trying to hate, just saying.

    • Adrian Garro says:

      Maybe, but there’s a difference between running a music review/critique website and being a closed-minded mom who is reacting to their child’s punk cd’s. isn’t there?

  4. Trina Green says:

    I guess I’ll be the ‘girl’ and go there.

    #1- She’s being a mom. Well intentioned and opinionated. Not sure how anyone can knock the heartful act of concern for who and what penetrates the very impressionable minds of their child because shit really is scary out there. I guess it’s just way cooler to call her a bitch and throw up a \m/ at the rock dude who smacked her down and put her in her place but good. Fuck a mom.

    #2- Billy Joe is fairly on point in re the nature of the music and himself, the artist making it; personally I’m all about that art and expressions thereof. Surely many musicians make the music that moves and speaks to and for them, audience be damned…until the audience thinks it sucks, album sales fall off the map, and/or they realize they’re not making any $$$ and start to alter in order to get played on KROQ.

    #3- Don’t know how old BJ was when this happened but I suspect he was still a kid upstairs, himself. That I say because a slightly more mature head could have gotten the very same point across without sounding like such a disrespectful, snot nosed, punk ass fucktard.

    But that’s just me.

  5. Joseph Rose says:

    She fucked up in the “being a mom” department by not knowing what her kid was consuming, if that kind of thing is of such obvious importance to her. Writing a letter to the guy who’s in the band that your kid is listening to without your knowledge is misdirected at best. But lame, stupid, and fucked would all be more accurate.

    • Trina Green says:

      That’s retarded and, honestly, an argument that holds no water. So I guess every parent on earth is pretty much a fuck up because it’s humanly impossible for a parent- ANY PARENT- to know EVERYTHING that their kid eats/sees/listens to/watches before they do it. She found out, it bothered her, she course corrected; that’s what a reasonable parent would do. It’s as misdirected/lame/stupid/ etc. as writing to your local representative to complain about a property tax increase that you had no idea went into effect.

  6. DogMatic says:

    I can respect the rebuttal, it seems absolutely perfect to me, if a little immature in its delivery, but why the hell was there no mature content sticker on the album? Seems like if that had been in place then the kid’s grandmother would have never bought the album in the first place.

  7. stu says:

    i think we’re kind of missing the point here…this mom seems to see music as something meant to be pleasing to the ear, maybe an expression of professional chops at most. Billie Joe, obviously disagrees, and essentially puts forth the argument that his music is an expression, the need to say something and that music above all is always about whether its honest. Which kind of relates to whether the black eyed peas and mozart are both “music”. Yes they both have a tune and are auditory in nature, but I would argue that only one is a true expression from the artist. And really, while they both might be music under most people’s definition, as Billie Joe argues, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like, as long as its honest.

    • Trina Green says:

      No, I don’t think we’re really missing the point, just debating the manner in which the point was made.

      I’m think that I’m open-minded enough to even consider a Yoko Ono shriekfest “music”….nope. I just lied. that’s outright shit and should be illegal.

      But your BEP, Pussycat Dolls, etc., we all pretty much cover that under the music umbrella, we just give it dirty looks and scoff at its quality. Like I said, I’m all in favor of the art of the music and the musician’s expression through it. The honesty that Fergie is trying to express through “My Humps” is debatable but I bet the tune was a ray of light to someone. Somewhere. With an IQ of laundry detergent.

      • stu says:

        Well put. I was just remarking on how this suddenly became a debate on exactly how stupidly the mother was being (or not being) instead of whether or not she has the right to classify something as “music”. The fact that a tune can be a ray of light to “someone”, “somewhere” might settle it.

  8. Rory says:

    I loved this…it takes me back to memories of cranking this tape in my grandmothers attic and memorizing all of the fucked up lyrics without understanding anything about them.

    The first time I went to a record store I picked up Insomniac and Nirvana’s In Utero…two records that undoubtedly changed my perception of the world for the better.

    I think I’ll throw Insomniac on tonight to toast this retarded conservative turd.

  9. Aaron says:

    egh… must be a slow day. next.

  10. think i'm a fire engine says:

    Rather than taking an opportunity to see what effect drug addiction, for example, can have on people or educate her son regarding some of the harsh realities of the world, she calls it trash and disregards everything it’s supposed to express. Instead she became the embarrassing over-protective mom that kids have to keep in the dark about everything they get into. It might be heartfelt, but it’s still lame.

  11. Dylan Cole says:

    You are certainly correct about music being a very broad and vague way of describing what we listen to. I like to look at it in two categories; music as art, and music as simple entertainment. The same applies to film and any other form of ‘art’, to put it in broad terms. A Lynch film is art, whereas a movie like Transformers or any summer blockbuster is just really fucking fun to watch. Simplistic pop music like a Katy Perry song is music whereas Mozart is an artful masterpiece. However, that is only my opinion, and is not necessarily how everyone looks at it.

  12. Mr Deedledoo says:

    What do you mean ‘Billie Joe shouldn’t have acted so disrespectful?’. He’s the frontman of Green Day for God’s sake and in case you kids didn’t know, these guys were actually PUNK and young before American Idiot and sold billions of albums releasing over 5 in a decade.

    Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols at the age of 48 handwrote a ‘disrespectful’ response to the Rock N’ Roll of Fame’s invite, so why can’t Billie Joe? Why can’t anyone?

  13. Mr Deedledoo says:

    So fuck you all!

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