Operation Ivy (band)

Operation Ivy (band)
Operation Ivy

Operation Ivy performing live at 924 Gilman Street in 1988
Background information
Origin Berkeley, California
Genres Hardcore punk, ska punk
Years active 1987–1989
Labels Lookout!, Hellcat
Associated acts Rancid, Transplants, Downfall, Big Rig, Common Rider, Dance Hall Crashers, Basic Radio, Shaken 69, MDC, Classics of Love
Past members
Jesse Michaels
Tim Armstrong
Matt Freeman
Dave Mello

Operation Ivy was an American ska punk band that formed in Berkeley, California, and was often credited with spurring the 1990s punk revival in California. It is well-known as one of the first bands to "mix" hardcore punk with elements of ska, known as ska-core. The band consisted of Jesse Michaels (lead vocals), Tim Armstrong (credited as "Lint") (guitar, vocals), Matt Freeman (credited as "Matt McCall") (bass, vocals), and Dave Mello (drums). Although Operation Ivy had little mainstream success during its career, the band had a large underground following and influenced bands such as Sublime and Green Day. Its only studio album, Energy, has been cited as one of the greatest punk rock albums of all time. The band's name, previously used by the punk band, Isocracy, was derived from the Operation Ivy series of nuclear tests.



The band existed between May 1987 and May 1989, as was chronicled in the lyrics of the Rancid song "Journey to the End of the East Bay", which was featured on ...And Out Come the Wolves (1995):

Started in '87, Ended in '89, Got a garage or an amp, we'll play anytime. It was just the four of us, Yeah man the core of us, Too much attention unavoidably destroyed us. Four kids on tour, 3,000 miles, in a four door car, not knowing what was going on. We got a million years, of tourin' out like this, Hell no, no premonition could have seen this![1]

The name "Operation Ivy" was the original name of the punk band Isocracy. Prior to the formation of Operation Ivy, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman had been playing in the Berkeley ska punk band Basic Radio with Michael Valladares and Jeff Kamalian who would later go on to form the ska band Critical Mass. Its first live performance was on May 27, 1987 in Dave Mello's garage. The next day began a tradition of performances at the Berkeley punk collective center 924 Gilman Street. Operation Ivy began playing a number of performances which led to its almost immediate cult-following. Later in 1987, the band made its debut on the Maximumrocknroll compilation album Turn It Around!. In January 1988, the band signed to Lookout! Records and released its debut extended play Hectic, which became one of Lookout!'s best-selling records. By this time, Operation Ivy, along with Crimpshrine and The Mr. T Experience, was one of the most successful punk bands from punk scene at 924 Gilman Street. The band began playing a number of performances and embarked on a tour across the United States. By mid-1988, it began selling out larger venues and the pressure to sign to major labels began to rise.

The band released its only studio album Energy through Lookout! in May 1989. It broke-up the same month, and its last official live performance was on May 28, 1989. It was also Green Day's first performance with the name Green Day at 924 Gilman Street, at what was supposed to have been its release party. Operation Ivy played one more performance the following day, mostly for friends and family, in Robert Eggplant's backyard in Pinole, California. In two years, the band had performed 185 shows and recorded a total of 32 songs (28 released officially, 4 on the bootlegged EP Plea for Peace), as well as songs which were recorded only as demos, such as "Hedgecore" (about a favorite pastime of the band which involved artfully jumping into manicured bushes), "Hangin' Out", "Sarcastic" and "Left Behind". Recordings from its aborted attempt to record Energy at 924 Gilman Street also exist, and include early versions of songs which appeared later on the final studio version of Energy, such as "6 to 10" which evolved into "Vulnerability", and an early version of "Unity" with horn accompaniment and a different chorus. All of its known demos and unreleased recordings are available on bootlegs.

The lyrics and tone of Operation Ivy's music portray a vociferous desire for social justice and a strong distrust of mainstream conformist culture. Hollywood Undead released a cover of the song "Bad Town" in 2010, Green Day recorded a cover of the Operation Ivy song "Knowledge" for its extended play Slappy and was later released on the compilation album 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. Green Day have continued to play the song live (where the band picks members out of the audience to play its instruments). A number of other artists have covered Operation Ivy songs, most of which are featured on Glue Factory Records Operation Ivy tribute album, Take Warning: The Songs of Operation Ivy (1997). The most notable bands on the tribute are: Long Beach Dub All Stars covering "Take Warning", Reel Big Fish covering "Unity", Blue Meanies covering "Yellin' in My Ear", Cherry Poppin' Daddies covering "Sound System", The Hippos covering "Freeze Up" and The Aquabats with a "campfire-style" cover of "Knowledge". Other bands to cover Operation Ivy songs include a rendition of "Healthy Body" by Area-7, "Sound System" by Buck O Nine, "Caution" by No Trigger and more covers of "Knowledge" by both Millencolin and Evergreen Terrace. A number of local bands from around the U.S. have covered Operation Ivy songs. Additionally, Rancid have played Operation Ivy songs at its live performances.

In 1991, two years after its break-up, Lookout! released a compilation album consisting of Energy, Hectic, and the songs "Officer" and "I Got No" from Turn It Around!. It was released as a complete discography (sometimes referred to as a re-release of Energy). It contains 27 songs, following the band's recorded history.


In the liner notes to the 1991 reissue of Energy, Jesse Michaels expressed the philosophy of the band:

Music is an indirect force for change, because it provides an anchor against human tragedy. In this sense, it works towards a reconciled world. It can also be the direct experience of change. At certain points during some shows, the reconciled world is already here, at least in that second, at that place. Operation Ivy was very lucky to have experienced this. Those seconds reveal that the momentum that drives a subculture is more important then any particular band. The momentum is made of all the people who stay interested, and keep their sense of urgency and hope.

Post-Operation Ivy careers

Two of the band's members, Armstrong and Freeman, also perform(ed) with the bands Rancid (their current and biggest project), The Ljs, Dance Hall Crashers, Generator, Basic Radio, Downfall, Devil's Brigade, Shaken 69 and Transplants. Additionally, Freeman has performed with Auntie Christ, MDC and Social Distortion.

Drummer Dave Mello went on to perform in the punk band Schlong with his brother Pat and singer Gavin.

Michaels eventually resurfaced with a project band, Big Rig, which released a four-song EP titled Expansive Heart. In 1999 he formed Common Rider, which included bassist Mass Giorgini (producer and bassist for Squirtgun) and drummer Dan Lumley (of Squirtgun and Screeching Weasel, among others). Common Rider released a seven-inch EP and two studio albums and toured nationwide before disbanding in 2003. B-sides from its second album This Is Unity Music were used in a split EP with the Florida skacore band Against All Authority.

During Rancid's US tour in 2006, Armstrong and Freeman played select tracks from their previous bands catalog. At a performance at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco on December 17, 2006, Michaels reunited with Armstrong and Freeman to perform the tracks "Unity" as well as "Sound System". It was his first time on stage with the two in over 15 years.[2]

In 2008, Michaels collaborated with the indie/punk group Hard Girls to form a punk band called Classics of Love. The band plays traditional punk rock with Michaels serving as the band's lead vocalist. They have a 6 song EP released on Asian Man Records.

Leaving Lookout!

On May 4, 2006, it was announced that Energy had officially been removed from Lookout! Records' catalog. The album had been one of the label's best-selling albums, after Green Day's first two albums. Operation Ivy followed bands such as Green Day, Screeching Weasel, The Queers, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists in leaving Lookout! and taking back the rights to their back catalog due to unpaid royalties.[3]

Energy was later reissued on November 6, 2007 by Epitaph Records subsidiary Hellcat Records as a self-titled compilation album. Hellcat Records is former band member Tim Armstrong's label. While the Epitaph reissue's tracklist is identical to the 1991 Lookout! release, the 2007 re-release features remastered audio and new Digipak packaging.

Reunion rumors

A reunion of the band is unlikely to happen. Michaels addressed reunion issues in a Myspace blog[4] citing the legal and logistic difficulties in getting the 4 members together for a reunion, as well as the fact that the band "never belonged in a big rock club in a one to two thousand seat joint." He concluded the post with the following:

[Will] it happen? The most honest answer is probably not.

Michaels' sentiment was later echoed by Tim Armstrong:

I love what we did back then, but what we do now is move forward.... To go back 20 years wouldn't feel right. I'm super proud of what we did then, a big part of me is in that band. But it's always about the future for me.[5]


LPs and EPs

Year Title Label Other information
1988 Hectic Lookout! Records Debut EP
1989 Energy Lookout! Records Original 19-song LP
1991 Operation Ivy Lookout! Records 27-song reissue including Hectic and Turn It Around tracks
2007 Operation Ivy Hellcat Records A remastered re-release of the 1991 version of Energy, including the band's Hectic EP, and compilation tracks.


Note: these are compilation albums featuring multiple artists. Most of them contain only one or two Operation Ivy songs.

Year Song Title Album Title Label Other information
1987 "Officer", "I Got No" Turn It Around! Maximumrocknroll 2 7" Vinyl compilation
1988 "Hangin' Out" The Thing That Ate Floyd Lookout! Records Compilation
1989 "Officer" Gilman St. Block Party For the Fans by the Fans Compilation
2004 "Unity" Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2 Fat Wreck Chords Compilation

Live/Rare recordings

Year Title Label Other information
1987 '69 Newport Very Small Records 7" Vinyl of unreleased songs.
1987 Ramones (EP) Metropolis Records One-sided 12" Vinyl Bootleg of 6 Ramones covers, only 300 copies pressed by an obscure German label. Known for being the band's rarest bootleg, yet having very distorted recording quality.
1988 Uncut Gilman Demos Peacock Records Features live recordings of the band playing at the Gilman on Feb. 21 1988 and on June 24, 1988 during Rock Against Racism
1989 Lint Rides Again Slashout! Operation Ivy's last show at Gilman St.
1992 Plea for Peace (EP) M&E First Operation Ivy "bootleg", released by friends of the band. Contains four outtakes from the Hectic sessions. Original pressing was on white vinyl, limited to 2,000.
1993 Lint: The King of Ska Squamosal Features a live track and two demos. First pressing has Foghorn Leghorn on side A, black label on side B. This pressing was numbered out of 2,000 copies. Later pressings have blank white labels on both sides.
1994 Live at Gilman Berkeley Archive A live seven-inch bootleg EP, containing an Isocracy cover.
1995 East Bay (EP) 57 Ink A bootleg seven-inch of live recordings.
1996 Seedy Karma Kredit A posthumous collection of unreleased material, released by David Hayes of Very Small Records.
1996 Unity: The Complete Collection Berkeley Archive Compilation of all of the seven-inch bootlegs and the rare Ramones 12-inch EP.
1996 Unreleased Energy Red Robin Records Live demo tracks from original Energy recordings, collecting bootleg seven-inches such as Plea for Peace and '69 Newport.
1999 Radio Daze Spiked Belts and Beer Recorded live at KSPC Radio recording on March 17, 1988 and April 21, 1988
2000 Sound System Gilman St. Records Live radio show recorded in February 1988
 ? Smell Rancid Confusion Records Live at the River Theatre in 1988
2001 Boilermaker Buy These Records Live at the Boilermaker in St. Louis recorded in 1988, only 1,000 printed
2004 There's a Place Baltan-69 2xCD-R collection of live recordings and studio outtakes taken from original analog sources and master tapes with no mixing, noise reduction, or equalization.



  1. ^ Rancid. "Journey to the End of East Bay." ...And Out Come the Wolves. Epitaph, 1995.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Kerplunk: The rise and fall of the Lookout Records empire." East Bay Express. September 14, 2005 . Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  4. ^ "Jesse Michaels addresses Common Rider and Operation Ivy reunion questions." Punknews.org. February 17, 2007.
  5. ^ "Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman on the possibility of ever seeing an Operation Ivy reunion." LA Times music blog. June 4, 2009 . Retrieved June 5, 2009.

External links

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