“I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s only me, and I walk alone.”
Every anthem has a story.
The hearts of thousands of teenagers in the 2000s were both broken and healed by the lines in our first song pick for Anatomy of an Anthem: “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”.
In 2004, American punk rock band Green Day released their rock opera American Idiot, the album that would introduce them to a new generation of fans after declining popularity in the early 2000s.
The band had spent months in 2002 recording tracks for a new album only to have their master recordings stolen from the studio. The theft and personal rifts between frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool threatened to split up the band.
Eventually, the band decided to give it one last try and rent a studio space in Oakland. They reportedly stayed up late writing songs, discussing music, and drinking. Green Day settled on a “punk rock opera” as their direction for the new album.
To get into the lonely headspace of the album’s protagonist, the Jesus of Suburbia, Armstrong rented a small loft apartment in New York City for a few weeks alone. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was inspired by his time in New York wandering the streets and occasionally attending jam sessions in Manhattan bars.
Green Day won the Grammy for Record of the Year for the song. They also scored a Video of the Year VMA for the accompanying video.
The song also charted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which is the band’s highest position to date.
Last fun fact: “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” uses the same chord progression as Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. No wonder they’re both so catchy.