“I just had a feeling about American Idiot,” he says. “I don’t know, when you hear a record that’s important and that is resonating, it’s almost as if a bell goes off inside your head. It’s just a funny feeling that I get. You can feel it in your body. I just knew that when we released it, people were going to respond and explode. I had this feeling of electricity in my body that was as intense as any I’d had before. The only time I had it like that was on Dookie.”
So confident was Rob of American Idiot’s fighting chances that, in his capacity as senior vice president of A&R for Warner Bros., he convened a meeting of the label’s staff and told them, “‘Okay, we have an album that we’ve made. It’s a punk rock album and I think it’s the greatest piece of music that we’ll put out all year.’ And then, to all of these people, I said, ‘We’re gonna sell one million records in the first week, and we’re gonna sell 10 million records by the time we’re done.’” As Rob delivered these words, Billie Joe sat listening. Like any artist worthy of the name, he squirmed in his seat in self-conscious discomfort.
“American Idiot was such a difficult album to explain to people before it came out,” he said in 2005. “I would be talking about things like nine-minute songs and the response from Warner Brothers was, ‘Okay, they’ve finally lost their fucking minds.’”
Advance word on American Idiot was that Green Day had recorded a political record, a perception that persists to this day and which holds true so long as one doesn’t listen to it. In truth, only two of the album’s songs are explicitly political – the title-track and Holiday – while the remainder feature a cast of characters such as St. Jimmy and Whatsername who wander, like faces in a dream, through the songs of a record that is thematic, but never conceptual. But when it came to voicing their discontent at President George W. Bush’s domestic and foreign policies – this being a time when America was still 12 years away from electing a Commander in Chief that made Bush look like Gandhi – the band were fearless, a stance that was not to everyone’s liking. When the tour in support of their new album kicked off in arenas in Texas that were some way from being full, a number of Green Day’s core fans booed the political rabble-rousers standing on the stage.