25 Years Ago: Green Day Release ‘1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours’
Although it was a far cry from the multi-platinum success that the band would find just a few years down the road, Californian punk band Green Day released an important building block in their career with what is generally considered to be their debut effort, 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours.
In actuality, however, this release served to compile their true full-length debut, 1990's 39/Smooth, along with a pair of previously released EP's, Slappy and 1,000 Hours (1989).
Comprised of childhood friends Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, the duo first began making music together in 1987 under the name Sweet Children. In 1989, they assumed the Green Day moniker, having been joined on drums by John Kiffmeyer, who remained with the group until he was replaced by current drummer Tre Cool in the time leading up to the recording of 1992's Kerplunk.
Not surprisingly, the 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours compilation lacked the finesse of later efforts like Dookie, but nonetheless served up an abundance of the youthful enthusiasm that the band would refine in the years ahead.
Lyrically, the album offered listeners the first glimpse into Armstrong's observations on the boy-girl dynamic, combined with nervous rebellion, and a good measure of substance-fueled escapism.
Armstrong details the surreal effects of marijuana over crunching guitars and bong rips in “Green Day,” the song that gave the band their name, while also expressing remarkably earnest longing in tracks like “Going to Pasalacqua” and “At The Library," the latter of which builds upon a catchy chord progression. The band's take on Operation Ivy's "Knowledge" was also featured here, and would go onto become a fan favorite in the years ahead.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, Green Day never set out with dreams of superstardom with their earliest releases. As noted in their 2010 VH1 Behind The Music special, 39/Smooth was recorded for approximately $700 and was supposed to simply serve as something the band members could sell their friends.
"There was no way we could become famous off of doing it, or become rich or anything like that," Armstrong said. "It was about community and the whole spirit of it."
While the original demand for the releases featured on this compilation was modest, but soft by record industry standards, that would all change after Green Day exploded with Dookie in 1994. It didn't take long for eager fans to begin earnestly devouring the group's earlier work, including 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours.
Although the record didn't become a complete runaway success in light of Green Day's commercial breakthrough, it still managed to be certified gold in the U.S. for sales of half a million units, approximately 17 months after the release of their Dookie breakthrough.
In 2005, citing unpaid royalties, Green Day made the difficult decision to reclaim ownership of the titles originally released via the Lookout! label, including 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. The move was so devastating, it effectively forced the label to shut down.
And while it could have been easy, or even expected, for the Lookout! staff to blame Green Day for having essentially forced them out of business, label president Chris Appelgren issued a statement clarifying there were no hard feelings between the label and the group.
"Despite any rumors or conjecture to the contrary, Lookout and Green Day's long relationship has always been based on trust, friendship and partnership, and those bonds remain shared between the label and the band now and into the future."
1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours was reissued by the group's current label home, Reprise, at the start of 2007.
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