David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 288: Green Day (Longview)

October 2, 2023

I remember Green Day as a bit of fresh air (ironically) when Dookie became big through alternative radio. Nirvana and Pearl Jam weren't quite doing it for me, yet, as they seemed to take themselves way too freaking serious. Then, along come three goofy-looking guys worshiping at the altar of the original punks, embracing the video music with their personalities and attitudes. "Basket Case," "Welcome To Paradise," and "Longview" sounded like they had come from 1977, and I was ecstatic.

So, for the longest time, I didn't even care about what the title to "Longview" referenced. I was taking the short view that this band might be saving rock and roll. However, as I have gotten older, and spending more and more time wanting to understand every word in meaningful songs from my life, I have wondered what I want the title, "Longview," to mean.

There is an idealist in me (I hope there is one in all of us). He is the literature student and professor who wants to see symbolism in everything, who wants to believe that Billie Joe Armstrong chose that title very purposefully. Surely, Billie Joe can now 'fess up to some Jungian part of himself who saw this snapshot of suburban boredom succumbing to masturbation as the collective story of humankind.  If not that, maybe at least as the collective story of 20th-century teenagers. "I got no motivation/where is my motivation/no time for motivation," could be the mantra of archetype young men (and maybe women) through our shared past. Don't tell me that average serf of the Middle Ages didn't want to put down the scythe and go fantasize about the liege's daughter.

This idealistic interpretation, then, could certainly explain the sudden popularity of Green Day with the release of Dookie. It wasn't just that they were resurrecting rock and roll; it's because they were appealing to the 15-year old boys in all of us (well, maybe just less than 50% of all of us).

I might even take this Jungian argument a little deeper. By choosing the title "Longview," Billie Jo acknowledges the longview he is taking with his punk band. Recognizing the short existences of original punk bands (The Sex Pistols and X-Ray Spex), he channeled an existence more like The Clash and The Ramones, somehow surviving the punk Catch-22 that losers could not be successful. Green Day was pretty successful at this, of course, with many more releases over the course of the next decade after Dookie, even breaking into Broadway with American Idiot.

Look, all I'm saying is that Billie Joe didn't want to stand on some stage and mutter prophetic words like "Ever feel like you've been cheated." Or, maybe he did after the mud-slinging incidents of Woodstock '94.

However, at age 61, I have learned being an idealist is not a good way to get through life, so I'd rather take a realist look at the title.

Given Armstrong's focus on masturbation as release, I have to assume the title is the kind of "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" that most immature young men love to partake in. Certainly you can't write a rock and roll song that suggests the view during masturbation is anything short. That ain't gonna attract the groupies. "No way! When I spank the monkey, it's a long view!"

Or, perhaps I can accept the truth, which I really don't want to do.

"Longview" is the name of a town in Washington where Armstrong once lived. The song is basically thrusting, excuse the pun, its masturbation trope as a slam on a boring town. Where's the fun in that? And why pick on Longview? Have you been to Little Rock, Arkansas? Cheyenne, Wyoming? Muncie, Indiana? All of those could have been great song titles that wouldn't leave listeners wondering what the song was about.

If you even look up Longview, Washington, wondering what it ever did to deserve to be the punchline for a punk song, you'll find it is named after a lumber baron Missouri-transplant who moved there in 1918. R.A. Long's Long-Bell Lumber Company needed a city built around it, and apparently Longview came into existence. I assume most of its new citizenry were supposed to view their benefactor's (and probably main employer's) lumber mill and bow in gratitude. By the 1980s, the lumber mill was mostly mechanized and the town's local economy dried up,1 about the time, I suppose, the Armstrongs pulled into town.

So, this is the picture of a place where Billie Joe Armstrong decided to plop his backside down in a Velcro seat in a house with unlocked doors and write an ode to masturbation. Dang, Billie Jo, couldn't you have put in at least one line about "wood" just to drive your point home about Longview, Washington. You are pathetic.

1Longview, Washington. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longview,_Washington  Retrieved September 23, 2023.

Green Day. "Longview." Dookie. Reprise, 1994. Link here.

Day 287: Jo Armstead "You Cut Up The Clothes"

Day 289: Led Zeppelin "Carouselambra"

See complete list here.