Green Day's Project Graveyard

Green Day’s Project Graveyard

If you’ve been following Green Day long enough, you have no doubt been left eagerly waiting for an upcoming project they’ve mentioned in interviews or elsewhere only to wait years with nothing to show for it and no further mention from the band.

Of course, unforeseen circumstances can lead to changes in plans and it would be unfair to criticize the band for not releasing a project they ultimately decided was not worth pursuing. However, it’s worth reflecting on some of the band’s noteworthy past endeavors and pondering what might have been.

1996: Home Video Called “Live”

It’s difficult finding old news stories from the early days of the internet since many of the popular music sites from that time no longer exist. But back in 1996, it was announced that Green Day would release their first concert film on home video.

The original version of this website launched in 1996 and I was able to find some of my updates about the live video from tips I’d received from Reprise Records in 1996-97:

  • In June of 1996, the home video was scheduled for release in October of that year.
  • My next update is in February of ’97 with news that the video will be released in the spring.
  • In March ’97, the video now has the title “Live” and is scheduled for release in April.
  • In May ’97, Reprise informs me that they have no idea when the video will be released.
  • The final undated update I have about the lost film is from our old FAQ page: “According to Reprise, the live video never completed the production phase and is on hold for the time being. As for the CD, a couple of concerts were recorded and the live CD is a possibility at some point but is on hold right now.”

This live video was never heard about again but thankfully we’ve not been left wanting for pro-shot Green Day footage over the years. Fans can check out tv specials such as Jaded In Chicago and Live From The 10 Spot that cover that era along with the band’s own later concert films Awesome As Fuck and Bullet In A Bible to get their fill.

1998: Horror movie & soundtrack

We’re gonna work on a horror movie when we get back. It’ll be a Green Day horror movie. We’re gonna do the soundtrack. Like a B horror movie like maybe like Toxic Avenger or something like that. It’s all a bunch of bad idea’s right now. The movie will probably suck, but it’ll be a great record.

Billie Joe Armstrong

Some fans think the horror movie & soundtrack that Green Day claimed they were making in 1998 was nothing but a joke to the press. If that were the case it was lost on Amanda Cagan, the band’s publicist at the time. Cagan confirmed to MTV that the band was “working on putting together writers for the script, but they don’t know who they are yet”.

It was further reported that the movie and the accompanying album would be released by the end of 1999. It’s not known how far down the road Green Day got on the project but rumors at the time indicated that they wanted No Doubt singer Gwen Stafani to take on a role in the film.

Billie Joe & Gwen Stefani at the 2006 Grammy Awards
Billie Joe & Gwen Stefani at the 2006 Grammy Awards

While the film could have been cheezy fun if the stated inspiration of Toxic Avenger is any indication (see the trailer for that below), the real loss might be the dark soundtrack the band would have made to accompany it. Green Day’s next album would instead be Warning in 2000, a great album no doubt, but it leaves you to wonder if we missed out on a dark, gritty Insomniac style album while the band was still at their bratty peak.

1999: Photo Fanzine

In the winter of 1999, Billie Joe issued a handwritten letter updating fans on what the band was up to. In the letter, Billie mentions a fanzine they are working on to celebrate their 11th year as a band.

This marks our 11th year of being in a band. So I want to put together a fanzine full of photographs of not only us but friends that have helped us, hung out with us, or drank our beer. I have some pretty embarrassing pictures, so it might seem more like “revenge” than “reminiscing”.

The next we hear of the project is at the end of the year in another letter to the fans from Billie prior to starting work on what would become the Warning album.

We’re still in the process of the ten year photo magazine thing. I know it’s taking a long time so bare with us. It’s tough looking through so many pictures of the same three ugly mugs.

In the final update on the project in April of 2000, Billie again writes a handwritten letter updating on the Warning recording process and letting fans know they are heading out on the Warped Tour that summer (or as he calls it, the “Warp tour”). At this point, the photo book idea seems to be dead and instead, they’ll upload some pictures to their new website.

We’re also planning to launch a new “official” web site. So i’m taking the embarrassing photos from the past and putting them up on that.

In the end, the site launched and featured a selection of marketing photos taken for the new album. The photo book was never heard from again.

2003: Cigarettes & Valentines

In March of 2003, Green Day entered the studio to begin work on the follow-up to their 2000 album Warning. During the recording process, the band provided updates from the studio via phone messages on their official website. From those messages, you can piece together the struggle Green Day were having in the studio to figure out where they wanted to go with the new album.

In a message on May 30, 2003, Billie Joe provided the following update on the progress of the album.

As for our album, we have about 40 songs finished. About 6 of them I like, the rest aren’t as good, which can be frustrating. At the same time I’m not gonna release a record I feel lukewarm about. I wanna wait until we have something we’re 1000% passionate about. If this takes the rest of our lives so be it. I want a great album. I won’t rest until I know it’s great and then I lose sleep over the next record.

In a follow-up from Billie Joe on June 22, 2003, the band seems to have reached a turning point in the studio.

Just wrote some songs, very very excited about. I think we’re at about the halfway point now. We got about 8 songs that we’re really really stoked on out of about 42.

Billie Joe & Engineer Reto Peter in the studio on July 15, 2003

Over the next several weeks the band would continue to work on the album and eventually ended up with around 16 songs they were relatively happy with that they turned into their label, Reprise Records. What changed everything was the few songs they’d come up with since turning the album in that were on another level.

With encouragement from their producer Rob Cavallo, the decision was made to abandon the recorded album and chase the direction the new songs were taking them in.

We basically came up with say 16 songs that were really good. And it had been about 6 months or so. These were songs that maybe we’d be writing for a while, and songs we had come up with fresh and all this stuff and they were really good songs. I’d say moreover from that process we had also came up with 2 or 3 songs over here that we thought were something worth chasing. We had those songs and we turned in the record and we just said you know, those are really good songs but we got these over here and we kinda feel like should we put out these and then wait 3 or 4 years to put out out these other songs and chase this thing that we see going on over there? So we decided to chase those.

Mike Dirnt

Everyone knows what happened next, those songs they chased would lead to their second massive album, American Idiot, which would go on to sell over 23 million copies worldwide – second in the band’s catalog only to Dookie (27 million).

Green Day accepting the Best Rock Album Grammy for American Idiot in 2005

But whatever happened to the unreleased album that was turned into the label? In interviews, the band would claim the masters were stolen and that was why they decided to scrap the album. This is highly unlikely for a number of reasons but it makes for a great origin story for American Idiot.

In reality, the album that was said to be called “Cigarettes & Valentines” has probably been mostly released in some form at this point. Of course, the title track would be released on the live album Awesome As Fuck in 2011 but other songs likely ended up as album tracks or b-sides that would be released on American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown, or even their side project album Money Money 2020 under the name The Network.

As much as we’d all like to dream about an entire album of “lost” Green Day material being eventually released, anything of note from Cigarettes & Valentines that hasn’t already been re-used on other albums would have probably been reworked into new songs over the years.

As demonstrated with the release of the Nimrod demos though, it would still be fun to have a chance to listen to the earlier incarnations of those songs along with anything else that hasn’t surfaced in some fashion on later records. Perhaps we won’t have long to wait with the 20th anniversary of American Idiot just around the corner…

2008: X-rated Christmas album

During sessions at Studio 880 working on what would eventually become 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day would often take breaks to record anything fun that they might come up with that day in order to alleviate the tedium of their routine studio life.

“If we didn’t have anything that day we might do something funny, a country song or two. All sorts of things come out” said Green Day’s longtime engineer Chris Dugan in an interview with the SoundWorks Collection podcast in 2014. Dugan went on to say “A Christmas album was one of them that was pretty amazing”.

When pressed for details about the Christmas album, Dugan said “It was pretty x-rated, there was something funny about it, some really good shit.” According to Dugan, on the band’s rendition of Deck The Halls, the lyrics were changed to “Dicks and balls in Mom’s Ferrari. Fa la la la la, la la la la. Let’s get drunk and join the army. Fa la la la la, la la la la”.

When asked if the album would ever see the light of day, Dugan said “I’m sure someday it will get released, let’s hope it comes out years down the road I guess.”

2010: American Idiot movie

After the critical and commercial success of the American Idiot album and its subsequent Broadway adaptation, it was no surprise when in 2010 it was announced that Playtone Productions had optioned the film rights. The following year there was an update that Universal would distribute the movie and Michael Mayer, who directed the Broadway show, would reprise his role in the film version with Tom Hanks and the members of Green Day serving as executive producers.

Things seemed to be rolling along smoothly a few months later when it was revealed that Billie Joe would take on the role of St. Jimmy in the film (he’d later clarify on Twitter that he was interested in the role but hadn’t committed yet) and it would premier sometime in 2013.

Billie Joe in 2011 performing as St. Jimmy in the American Idiot Broadway musical

2013 came and went with no news on the film but the following year screenplay writer Rolin Jones provided an update that he expected the script to be finished by the end of March 2014. He would go on to say “The idea is to get it a little dirtier and a little nastier and translate it into visual terms,” he says. “There’s not going to be a lot of dialogue and it probably should be a little shorter, too. After that, it just takes its ‘movie time’ in getting done.”

At some point in the following years, it seems Universal dropped out of the project and Playtone teamed up instead with HBO in 2016. In an interview with NME, Billie Joe confirmed he would take on the role of St. Jimmy in the film.

“That’s the plan right now, yeah,” said Armstrong. “We’ve got a green light from HBO, and the script is currently going through a couple of rewrites here and there, so I’m not sure when exactly we’re going to start shooting, but it’s definitely all systems go at the moment.”

The following month, in another interview with NME, Billie Joe gave a further update on the project.

“HBO is into it, and now we’re dealing with a re-write right now and it’s going good. I think it’s going to be a lot different from the musical. It’s kind of, more surreal but I think there’s going to be parts of it that might offend people – which is good. I think it’s a good time to offend people.”

Armstrong continued: “I think there’s just going to be a lot of imagery that we couldn’t pull off in the musical in the stage version. You know, I don’t want to give away too much, but it will be shocking in a way which makes you think.”

After that, there was nothing. No word about the movie for years. Finally in 2020, once again it would be NME who would get the final update. In a feature story with the magazine, while promoting Father Of All Motherfuckers, Billie Joe confirmed that plans for the film adaptation had been “pretty much scrapped”.

2019: Last Of The American Girls book

In 2019, Green Day teamed up with cartoonist Frank Caruso to illustrate the song ‘Last Of The American Girls’ from 21st Century Breakdown into a graphic book with the song’s lyrics serving as the storyline. Caruso had experience in this, having done so previously with the Bruce Springsteen song ‘Outlaw Pete’.

To promote the book, Green Day’s publisher for the project (Harper Collins) issued a statement to Rolling Stone that billed it as “an inspiring homage and handbook for the rebellious every woman who refuses to capitulate”. Needless to say, three men writing a so-called “handbook” for women did not go over well, to say the least.

I reached out to Brittany Spanos, the writer of the Rolling Stone article, and asked why the book was described the way it was when in reality it was just the song’s lyrics with illustrations inspired by them. Spanos indicated that Rolling Stone was not given an advance copy of the book and they were describing the book based only on what the publisher told them.

The book was originally scheduled for release on October 29, 2019, and some online stores began taking pre-orders for it until it was suddenly delayed for almost an entire year to October 15, 2020. The book was eventually removed from the Harper Collins website and was never heard from again.

Are there any other Green Day projects you’ve been disappointed never happened? Do you think any of the projects listed here will ever see the light of day? Let us know in the comments below!