Green Day Flips Wal-Mart the Bird

Chain store refuses to carry Bay Area punk rockers album

Thursday, May 21, 2009  |  Updated 8:37 PM CDT
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A file photo shows Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day playing on stage.

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Green Day has the most popular CD in the country, but you won't be able to find it at your local Wal-Mart.
 
The band says the giant superstore chain refused to stock its latest CD, "21st Century Breakdown," because Wal-Mart wanted the album edited for language and content, and they refused.

"Wal-Mart's become the biggest retail outlet in the country, but they won't carry our record because they wanted us to censor it," frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said in a recent interview.

While Wal-Mart sells CDs from acts known for raunchy content, including Eminem's latest, they offer customers the "clean" version of those CDs, which are edited for content that may be objectionable. But in Armstrong's view, "There's nothing dirty about our record."

"They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried in there," he said. "We just said no. We've never done it before. You feel like you're in 1953 or something."

"21st Century Breakdown" contains curses and some references considered adult.

Wal-Mart said that it's the company's long-standing policy not to stock any CD with a parental advisory sticker.

"As with all music, it is up to the artist or label to decide if they want to market different variations of an album to sell, including a version that would remove a PA rating," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said. "The label and artist in this case have decided not to do so, so we unfortunately can not offer the CD."

But bassist Mike Dirnt said: "As the biggest record store in the America, they should probably have an obligation to sell people the correct art."

Not being sold at Wal-Mart didn't stop the band -- which kicks off a U.S. tour summer tour in Seattle on July 3 -- from landing at the top of the album charts this week. "21st Century Breakdown" sold about 215,000 copies since it's debut on Friday.

The album is the follow-up to their multiplatinum, Grammy-winning CD "American Idiot," and like that album, deals with weighty topics. While "American Idiot" spoke to the frustration over the presidency of George W. Bush and the Iraq War, this CD speaks to the loss of innocence and confusion in today's society.

While Armstrong, Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool are still top-sellers without Wal-Mart, Armstrong said the store's policy is disappointing, considering it has become the dominant seller of CDs with the decline of traditional music stores.

"If you think about bands that are struggling or smaller than Green Day ... to think that to get your record out in places like that, but they won't carry it because of the content and you have to censor yourself," he said. "I mean, what does that say to a young kid who's trying to speak his mind making a record for the first time? It's like a game that you have to play. You have to refuse to play it."
 

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