1995 was a pretty incredible year for music. The Smashing Pumpkins came out with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Oasis gave us (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and No Doubt released Tragic Kingdom. Debut acts like Foo Fighters, Garbage, Collective Soul, The Presidents of the United States of America, Ben Folds Five, 311, and Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill flavored the radio waves with a hit or two or three. dcTalk gave us Jesus Freak and Jars of Clay’s Flood could be heard on every station, sometimes simultaneously. Everclear, Silverchair, Radiohead…
And, of course, Green Day.
Green Day had been around for a while and 1994 saw them break out into the mainstream (to the horror of many alternateens who simply couldn’t bear to like something that was popular) with Dookie. But it’s 1995’s Insomniac that has dramatically affected my spare time for the next month.
Allow me to explain. The low brake fluid light came on in my Explorer this past week, so when I went into the office on Thursday I drove my husband’s car for safety reasons. While my vehicle is filled with the fairly low-key folk rock music of Brandi Carlile, Bob Dylan, and the Indigo Girls at the moment, my husband’s tastes run toward the much more energetic. I was already on the road when I realized I had failed to bring some of my CDs in the car and I had failed to even review what was in the 6-disc changer in the glove box. So I punched through until I found something that worked for me (FM Static) and drove to Grand Rapids.
But on the drive home, I switched over to Insomniac. It had been years since I’d listened to the whole album. As hit after hit emanated (no, leapt is the more appropriate word) from the speakers, I was astonished I had let so much time go by. What Green Day lacks in technical skill and enunciation they more than make up for in melody, energy, and sheer aural satisfaction. They may not be good musicians (or at least they weren’t in 1995) but they make some dang good music, a perfect little package of apathy and angst wrapped up with a peppy bow on top.
Now, what, you may be asking yourself, does any of this have to do with National Novel Writing Month? Well, the day this all went down was November 1, the first day of NaNoWriMo. I had been planning to either pick up on a story I’d abandoned at 18,000 words a while back that involved a woman attending an artist’s workshop on Mackinac Island, or start a new story I’d been thinking of that would involve a young woman, her cantankerous great aunt, sewing, home restoration, and recovering a lost past. Green Day has no part–no part–in either of these plot lines.
But years ago I had an idea for a story about a young guy wanting to make it big as a musician, his father’s fruitless quest to do the same, and what happens to those around them as they pursue their dreams. Enter Insomniac. Listening to that album on the way home from the office inspired me to pursue the story about the budding guitarist.
So that’s what I’m writing this month. I’m quizzing my guitar-playing husband who was covering Green Day songs as a teenager in high school and had a band in college as well (and is already training up our son to love rock).
I’m listening to Pandora’s 90s Alternative Rock station (every song is awesome). I’m channeling my years of following my husband (then boyfriend) to gigs in church basements and at outdoor festivals, carrying gig bags and amps, blaring WGRD as we barreled down the S-curve through downtown Grand Rapids in college. I’m using my own experience growing up in a house that was saturated with music (more jazz and blues than punk or hard rock) and my recent attempts at learning to play guitar.