An Embarrassed Billie Joe Armstrong Reveals Why He Rewrote “Pitiful” Green Day Hit “Basket Case”

Billie Joe Armstrong thought he’d written the greatest song ever. Then the drugs wore off.

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On a recent episode of the podcast Song Exploder, Armstrong admitted drugs played a role in the original demo of the band’s landmark 1994 hit “Basket Case.”

“I thought that the lyrics were just embarrassingly bad,” Armstrong admitted. “I had a few songs before that I’d written on drugs, but this one was the most pitiful, I felt, after.”

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Billie Joe Armstrong Envisioned “Basket Case” as a Love Story

“Basket Case” catapulted pop-punk onto the mainstream map and Green Day to unprecedented fame with the trio’s much-celebrated 1994 album Dookie. Since then, countless fans have wondered aloud, at the top of their lungs, “Am I paranoid or am I just stoned?”

As it turns out, however, the final product couldn’t be further from Armstrong’s original vision. Armstrong was 22 years old, living in the basement of a ramshackle student house in Berkeley, California. He had recently bought a new 4-track recorder and a guitar amp, and he was itching to pen a ballad.

“I had this melody in my head for a while, and I wanted to have this sort of grand song about a love story,” Armstrong said.

[RELATED: 4 Memorable Stage Rants From Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong]

How Bad Was the Demo?

What is arguably Green Day’s most recognizable song almost never happened. Armstrong was so ashamed of his work on “Basket Case” that he shelved the song indefinitely.

“And so I kind of let the song go for a while, because I felt so gross about it,” Armstrong told Song Exploder.

Fortunately for generations of pop-punk enthusiasts, Armstrong decided to approach the song from a fresh angle. By this time, Dookie was taking shape as a meditation on “everyday life and feelings and emotions you go through that people can identify with,” the frontman said.

“And so I think I just got the courage to get into it again, trying to write the lyrics,” Armstrong said. “And it was the best decision I’ve ever made, probably, as a songwriter.” 

Featured image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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