What Fans Don't Know About Billie Joe Armstrong

There's no doubt that Billie Joe Armstrong is one of the biggest modern-day rock stars. When he founded California punk band Green Day in the late '80s, he was just a scrappy teen with a guitar and a dream. Now he's in his forties, and he's still going strong. He never goes too long without touring, and he's always cooking up new music with bandmates Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt. His catalog of hits is vast, spanning several decades: "Basket Case" and "When I Come Around" are remembered as some of the greatest hits of the '90s, while "Good Riddance" has long been a favorite choice for graduation slideshows. "American Idiot," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," and "Holiday" went down in history for capturing the grim ethos of Bush-era America and have continued to stay meaningful to rightfully angst-ridden listeners years after their release.

You might love Green Day's songs, but how much do really you know about the man behind the music? Check out these facts to brush up on your expertise.

Billie Joe Armstrong recorded his first song at five years old

Billie Joe Armstrong was born to rock. No, really — he recorded his first single in 1977, when he was a mere five years old. According to Loudwire, James J. Fiatarone, the owner of a music shop and the label Fiat Records, spotted young Armstrong's talent and made his mother an offer: If he would record a few songs for his label, Fiatarone would give Armstrong and his siblings free music lessons. She agreed, and "Look for Love," a cheery ditty about finding positivity even in the darkest of times, was born.

Fiatarone's wife recorded an interview with Armstrong to accompany the single release. When she inquired as to how long he had been singing, the tiny vocalist answered, "For many years." When she asked him, "How do you like being a recording artist now?" he joyfully replied, "I love it!" 

In 2017, via Instagram, Armstrong shared a photo of himself recording "Look for Love," along with a fun fact: 16 years after that formative moment, he returned to the same studio to record Green Day's 1994 album Dookie. Talk about coming full circle.

Billie Joe Armstrong predicted his future at age nine

At the age of nine, Armstrong still had his sights set on becoming a musician. In an essay that is now preserved at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and digitally archived on fan site GreenDay.fm), he wrote at length about his lofty aspirations for his career. "When I grow up I want to have a band that can play rock and roll. We will start out at the age of fifteen. Then it will [get] bigger and bigger," he wrote in cursive on loose-leaf paper.

In his second paragraph, Armstrong continued to describe his future in great detail. "At the age of 20 we will have great big amplifiers and guitars. At the age of 29 we will go to big time [...] We will make a lot of people happy. And we'll have a lot of money."

Armstrong was even more successful than he could have ever predicted. According to Green Day's AllMusic biography, he started his first band, Sweet Children, at age 14. By the time Armstrong was 20, Green Day had already signed to indie label Lookout Records. By 29, he was already an international superstar due to the success of Dookie, his band's major label debut. And no one would deny that Green Day has brought joy to thousands of fans — and raked in a lot of cash along the way.

Billie Joe Armstrong's backup plan was to become a football player

Even though he knew he really wanted to be a rock star, little Billie Joe was pragmatic enough to recognize that his dream might not work out. The same essay from his grade school years reveals that he was equipped with a backup plan: become a famous football player. " [...] If I don't get a band then I am going to have to do something else. I could become a football player?" he mused. He answered his own question in the following sentences: "That's what I'll be. We will travel all over [...] We will win all of our games. And we will be the champs."

In his final paragraph, Armstrong reconsidered his choices again: "But what if I don't play football," he wrote. He admitted that he couldn't foresee the future, but he finished on a positive note: "I know I'll be something." At the bottom of the page, his teacher left an encouraging comment: "I'd bet on that!"

Obviously, Armstrong did not grow up to become an NFL player. However, he still keeps football close to his heart. In a Yahoo feature, he disclosed that he "binge-watched all of Friday Night Lights." According to a Sports Illustrated interview, he's also friends with former NFL fullback John Ritchie: After meeting him in a jewelry store, Ritchie came to a few of Armstrong's shows, and Armstrong went to see Ritchie in the Super Bowl when he was with the Raiders.

Billie Joe Armstrong is fond of the Great American Pastime

Armstrong likes to watch a variety of sports, but baseball just might be his favorite. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he revealed that his passion for the Great American Pastime runs in the family: His father used to be a Minor League catcher. If Armstrong could play on a professional team, he would want to be a catcher, too. "I would love to be a catcher and throw out somebody attempting to steal second base," he told reporter Richard Deitsch. "Throwing someone out at second base is just a power move. It's so fast and furious and just a challenge, the best play in sports."

Armstrong enjoys baseball so much that he decided to share it with his sons Jakob and Joey. According to Yahoo, he coached their Little League team when they were young, alongside his wife Adrienne. Although those days are behind him, his love for baseball will be forever immortalized on YouTube after he led a crowd of Cubs fans in a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Billie Joe Armstrong is a big fan of Austin Powers

Armstrong might already be an international superstar, but apparently, he still fantasizes about being an International Man of Mystery. According to NME, he once said that if he could play any role in history, he would want to step into the shoes of Austin Powers, everyone's favorite cryogenically resurrected Swinging '60s London-era super spy. Armstrong was more than a casual fan of the franchise: He loved it so much that he named his cat after Basil Exposition, Austin's superior at British Intelligence.

In 1999, Armstrong got to be a part of the Austin Powers universe (although not in the way he had dreamed) when the Green Day song "Espionage" was featured in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. A photo from IMDb reveals that he was also in attendance at the film's premiere, along with bandmates Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt. What a groovy turn of events.

Billie Joe Armstrong is an actor, too

In addition to churning out one hit after another, Armstrong has tried his hand at acting. In 2002, according to his IMDb page, he made his live-action acting debut with a guest appearance on Haunted, a short-lived American horror series. He shared the screen with Matthew Fox (who would later star as Jack Shepard on Lost) in an episode called "Last Call," playing a character named "Ghostly Betting Man."

Haunted wasn't Armstrong's only foray into the screen acting world. In 2007, he had a cameo in The Simpsons Movie, along with bandmates Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt. His animated alter ego sported his signature tousled hairstyle, along with a button-up and red tie.

Armstrong scored his first starring role with Ordinary World, directed by Lee Kirk. In the 2016 feature film, he plays an aging punk rock dad who has to cope with "normal life." Fred Armisen, Judy Greer, and Selma Blair are among his costars.

Billie Joe Armstrong and Lady Gaga are pals

Lady Gaga might not play Green Day's style of music, but that doesn't mean she can't appreciate it. In 2009, she admitted to NME that when she bought the band's 1994 album Dookie, she was so obsessed with it that she "just wanted to lick the pages from the booklet." Huh? "I mean, it is iconic," she clarified. Armstrong was happy to hear that she was a fan (although he admitted that the licking part was a bit "bizarre"). He was quick to share praise for her: "She's a good artist. She's a risk-taker. She's an original. It's pretty awesome."

In 2010, Gaga showed her support for Green Day by showing up to a performance of American Idiot, the Broadway musical based on the 2004 album of the same name, at the St. James Theatre in New York City. Armstrong was present, as he was playing the role of St. Jimmy in the musical at the time. Broadway.com's photos of the event show Gaga smiling and posing with the cast and crew. At one point, she even planted a friendly kiss on Armstrong's cheek.

Gaga and Armstrong's friendship continued to flourish after that. In a 2011 article from Kerrang (preserved online by fan site GreenDayAuthority.com), Armstrong listed Gaga as one of his "top celebrity pals."

Billie Joe Armstrong used to censor his own songs when his kids were listening

In 2009, Armstrong was interviewed by Larry Livermore, the producer who signed Green Day to his label Lookout Records in the '90s. Noting Armstrong's penchant for explicit lyrics, Livermore asked Armstrong, "Out of all your work, is there anything you'd feel embarrassed about singing in front of your own children?"

The punk rock dad responded in the affirmative. "Yeah, sometimes the kids will hear a Green Day song on the radio in the car, and there's a cuss word or something's a little bit suggestive, and I'll cough really loud, or turn it down a bit," he said. He went on to clarify his parenting style: "I don't raise my kids in an environment that would be stereotypically punk rock. [...] I'm helping to build two young men, who I want to be smart. I can't tell them what to be in their lives, tell them they have to play music or they have to be punk rockers. Those decisions are part of being your own human being. But I can encourage them to be healthy."

Now Armstrong's sons are musicians in their own right. As reported by NME, his son Jakob releases rock music under the name Jakob Danger, while his son Joey is the drummer for the punk band SWMRS. Armstrong is happy to see that they're forging their own path in the industry. "I'm proud of both of them," he said in an interview. "They're great!"

Billie Joe Armstrong briefly had a family band

All the members of the Armstrong family are musically gifted, so it makes sense that they would combine their talents at some point. In 2011, they teamed up to record a four-song EP as The Boo. Instead of taking his usual place at the mic, fan site GreenDay.fm states, Billie Joe Armstrong played bass. His wife Adrienne Armstrong sang vocals. Jakob Armstrong played guitar, and Joey Armstrong played bass. The EP was intended as a Christmas card to be distributed to family and friends. However, Billie Joe Armstrong did send a few copies to 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. You'd be hard-pressed to find the record in a store, but all four of its tracks — "Super Starship," "Wallflower," "I Want Revenge," and "Little Silent Boy" — can be listened to online.

In 2016, Billie Joe Armstrong looked back on the EP in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "We wanted to start a dysfunctional Partridge Family kind of band," he said. "We came up with a bunch of songs and I convinced Adrienne to sing. She just sounds like a total girl-group diva."

Billie Joe Armstrong was kicked off a flight because of his pants

Armstrong's commitment to a laid-back aesthetic is appreciated by his fans, but in 2011, a Southwest flight attendant wasn't so keen on his look. According to ABC associate producer Cindy Qiu, who happened to be present during the event, Armstrong had just boarded a plane heading from Oakland, California, to Burbank when a flight attendant told him to pull up his saggy pants. Armstrong asked the flight attendant, "Don't you have better things to do than worry about that?" The flight attendant doubled down on her demand before booting him off the plane. Armstrong was incredulous about the event, tweeting, "Just got kicked off a Southwest flight because my pants sagged too low! What the f***? No joke!" The tweet racked up thousands of retweets and likes.

After this small public hubbub, Southwest spokesperson Brad Hawkins released a statement regarding the incident. "We reached out to apologize," he said. He then explained that in his understanding, "the situation was resolved to [Armstrong's] satisfaction."

The incident wasn't Armstrong's only clothing-related kerfuffle: According to a Yahoo interview, Armstrong was once arrested for getting naked onstage during Green Day's early years.

Billie Joe Armstrong once spat on the window of a pizza place

In 2019, according to Kerrang, Armstrong took to Instagram to share some archival footage from Green Day's past. "If anyone wants to send me videos of early shows [...] I can jar my memories and tell quick stories on Instagram," he wrote in the caption of one post. A user named @patrick.suto interpreted this as an opportunity to ask Armstrong about an anecdote he had heard from his mother. "Aye bill my mom used to work at Zachary's pizza and she said one day you didn't have your ID and tried to buy beer and she didn't give it to you so you spat on the window and walked out," he commented, adding a few laughing emojis for good measure. "Can I get some confirmation on this it's legendary," he continued.

Instead of ducking out of the conversation, Armstrong responded good-naturedly. "Yes. We were also doing an interview with spin mag that same day," he replied. Just another day in the life for a punk band in the '90s.

Billie Joe Armstrong has a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? tattoo

Any fan can tell you that Armstrong likes to rock the inked-up look, but it would be difficult for even the biggest Green Day devotee to name all of the tattoos he sports. According to Body Art Guru, Armstrong has approximately 40 of them, and every one is unique. Perhaps the most obscure is a full-color illustration of Baby Herman, a character from the 1988 Disney film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The cartoon infant can be spotted on Armstrong's left forearm, snarling and smoking a cigarette as he did in the film.

While many of Armstrong's tattoos are just for fun (see the clowns embracing on his left hand), others hold deeper meaning. Armstrong has the names of his wife and two sons tattooed onto his skin. "Adrienne" is written in cursive on his right arm. "Joseph" is printed below it, accompanied by a rose decal. "Jakob" is inked onto his left arm in vibrant block letters. He also boasts several Green Day-related symbols. The pink bunny from the cover art of the band's 2011 live album Awesome As F*** can be seen on his right forearm, while the radio from the band's 2016 record Revolution Radio appears just above his left elbow. In addition, he has several tattoos that reference 2004's American Idiot: "St. Jimmy," "Rage," and "Love" on his arms and "IDIOT" on his left ankle.