Daily Archives: November 13, 2010

“I Was There” – 1991 and 2010

“I Was There” – Green Day in Costa Rica, 2010 – Part of me wants a video of this on the upcoming Live DVD but part of me wants to keep it locked away in raw memory, too.

This past October, at Green Day’s show in Costa Rica that ended their 21st Century Breakdown tour, the band performed a slew of “Old School” songs, songs primarily from the pre-American Idiot and Warning eras of Green Day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a Green Day fan beg for songs from the old days, usually from those albums that came out from 1990/91-1998: 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, Kerplunk, Dookie, Insomniac and Nimrod. In fact, it’s annoying the persistence of it sometimes, but I understand. A lot of fans love the “old” Green Day and many fans missed live performances since their introduction to the band is from the American Idiot era. These fans can kick themselves (like me) for not following the band from their younger days either because they weren’t into them back then (like me) or not born yet (unlike me).

I bought all of Green Day’s albums over the last sixteen months except for American Idiot (I’ve had that one since 2006), but despite this fact, there are numerous songs from the old school days that I yearned to hear over the course of the tour and several from the 21st Century Breakdown (see what here) album itself that the band didn’t play on the tour. Since I had the good fortune to attend a lot of shows over the tour, I got to hear more than a few new and old songs that were on my mental list, but it’s nothing like actually being there back in the day.

In Costa Rica, the “old school” portion of the night included songs such as “Brat” (Insomniac),Road to Acceptance” (1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours),”Christie Road” (Kerplunk), and Warning’s Waiting,” as well as a song that Green Day may not have played live — except for sound checks — since 1991. Or, at least that’s how long the gap exists between 1991 and 2010 when it comes to live performances of “I Was There” from 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours on Youtube. From 1989-1991, there are five live performances of “I Was There” uploaded that I found. Two of them are with original Sweet Children/Green Day drummer, Al Sobrante (John Kiffmeyer) in Davis, CA in 1989 and at International Foods Day at Pinole High School on May 10, 1990 (there are two versions of the Pinole, H.S. show on YouTube). The other three clips finds Tre Cool drumming the song in Little Rock, AK and at the Starr Club in Tampa, Fl., both in August of 1991 (see below for the Starr Club), and then again in December of 1991 at the Den in Wigan, England, here and here.

The song doesn’t appear again as sung by Green Day themselves (covers of the song are uploaded) until yesterday when Green Day LIVE on Facebook posted a video link of the song from the Costa Rica show from Oct. 29, 2010. Fans of “I Was There,” including me, have been waiting for this to pop up, and just when all hope seemed lost, some nice person uploads a creaky cell phone-recorded version of the song from Costa Rica for us fans who were not lucky enough to have been there.

The video is raw and unprofessional, but personally, I don’t mind that so much. It reminds me of the old school days that way, where the pre-digital, celluloid memories of “I Was There” are clunky with a slight touch of melody, like the unpolished and fast sound that comes out of Green Day’s first EP, 39/Smooth. The videos, with not-so-great sound, syncing issues and chaotic filming, capture not only the rawness of Green Day’s musical youth and the sheer bravado of their performances, but also the fleeting quality of memory itself. Memories are never played in perfect HD in your mind, memories are never clear and crisp, and you never know when a body will come sailing at you in real life, too. Ok, maybe not that last one, but memory is fleeting and rarely accurate as time goes on and we move further away from the the original good moments, the pictures, the places, that we want to make last, despite any troubles we might have in our life… “But I don’t let it get me down, Or cause me too much sorrow, There’s no doubt about who I am, I always have tomorrow … I looked into the past, and I want to make it last, I was there, I was there…”

“I always have tomorrow” isn’t necessarily true, but at least it’s a good rallying cry in melancholy times for anyone, and heck, “I was there,” dammit, having a great time and stamping existence with our presence and always moving forward to the next thing in life. I kinda love this song when I’m feeling full of regret about the past or defiant in creating the kind of future I’d like to have for myself and others.

“I Was There” was written by John Kiffmeyer, the only song on 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours penned by him. All other songs on the album were written and composed by Billie Joe Armstrong. Billie Joe jumbles the lyrics up a bit in the 2010 version in Costa Rica, but for a song that they haven’t played in front of an audience since 1991, it’s as fun and vibrant as when they were kids in sweaty basement venues playing in front of a hundred people, only 1000 times bigger, playing in a stadium of 20,000 people.

I’m glad that Kiffmeyer wrote this song for the band, but I have to say, I’m exceptionally happy that Tre Cool ultimately became the drummer of Green Day. My favorite of these versions besides the Starr Club, below, is the up-close version of “I Was There” from The Den in Wigan, where Mike is running around changing basses, Billie Joe is avoiding bodies on the stage, and Tre starts drumming while waiting for his new and life-long bandmates to kick in. Tre takes it all in stride with his wicked smile, egging on the audience with his licks to keep them moving as fast as possible. Must have been good times. I wish that I had been there.

“I Was There” – Green Day in Tampa, 1991 – Last Youtube videos of this song are from 1991 with new drummer, Tre Cool

“I Was There”
Looking back upon my life
And the places that I’ve been
Pictures, faces, girls I’ve loved
I try to remember when
Faded memories on the wall
Some names I have forgotten
But each one is a memory I
Look back on so often.

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

Looking back what I have done
There’s lots more life to live
At times I feel overwhelmed
I question what I can give
But I don’t let it get me down
Or cause me too much sorrow
There’s no doubt about who I am
I always have tomorrow

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

Looking back upon my life
Faded memories on the wall
Looking now at who I am
I don’t let it get me down.

Looking back upon my life
And the places that I’ve been
Pictures, faces, girls I’ve loved
I try to remember when
But I don’t let it get me down
Or cause me too much sorrow
There’s no doubt about who I am
I always have tomorrow

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

I look into the past
I want to make it last
I was there

Composed by John Kiffmeyer, 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours

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