YEAR FORMED: 1987
HOME TOWN: East Bay Area, CA
Jesse Michaels - Vocals
Tim "Lint" Armstrong - Guitars/Vocals
Matt Freeman - Bass/Backing Vocals
Dave Mello - Drums/Backing Vocals
Operation Ivy was an influential ska-punk band that originated from the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. The band consisted of frontman Jesse Michaels (vocals), Tim Armstrong (credited as "Lint") (vocals/guitar), Matt Freeman (credited as Matt McCall) (bass/backing vocals), and Dave Mello (Drums/backing vocals). Their name was derived from the Operation Ivy series of nuclear tests; the name was one of many previously abandoned by another Gilman band, Isocracy.
The band existed between May of 1987 and May of 1989, as was chronicled in the lyrics of Rancid song "Journey to the End of the East Bay", which appeared on Rancid's ...And Out Come the Wolves: "Started in '87 / Ended in '89 / You got a garage or an amp, man we'll play anytime / It was just the four of us, / Yeah man, the core of us, / Too much attention unavoidably destroyed us".
Their first show was performed on May 16, 1987 in Dave Mello's garage. The next day began a tradition of performances at the Berkeley ska/punk collective center 924 Gilman Street. They began playing a lot of gigs which led to their almost immediate cult-following. Later in 1987 they made their debut on a Maximum Rock'n'Roll compilation called Turn it Around. In January 1988, they signed to Lookout! Records, and released Hectic, their first E.P., which became one of Lookout!'s strongest sellers. By this time Operation Ivy (along with Crimpshrine and The Mr. T Experience) was one of the most popular Gilman/Berkeley Punk bands. They began getting many gigs and set out on a tour across the United States. By mid-1988 they began selling out larger venues and the pressure to sign to major labels began to rise.
They released Energy on Lookout! Records in May 1989. The band broke up the same month, and their last official show was on May 28, 1989. It was also Green Day's first show with the name "Green Day" at Gilman, at what was supposed to have been their release party. They played one more show the following day, mainly 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 28 songs.
The lyrics and tone of Operation Ivy's music portray a youthful desire for social justice and a strong distrust of mainstream or conformist culture.
Green Day did a cover of the Operation Ivy song "Knowledge" on the 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours compilation and have continued to play the song live. Several other artists have covered Operation Ivy songs, many of which are included on Glue Factory Records' 1997 Operation Ivy tribute album, titled Take Warning: The Songs of Operation Ivy. The most notable bands on this tribute are: Reel Big Fish covering "Unity" (track 2), Blue Meanies covering "Yellin' In My Ear" (track 5), Cherry Poppin' Daddies covering "Sound System" (track 6), The Hippos covering "Freeze Up" (track 10) and The Aquabats with a campfire-style cover of "Knowledge" (track 13). Other bands to cover Operation Ivy songs include a rendition of "Healthy Body" by Area-7, "Sound System" by Big D and the Kids Table, "Caution" by No Trigger and more covers of "Knowledge" by both Millencolin and Evergreen Terrace (band). Many local bands from around the country are keeping the spirit of 87' alive, covering Operation Ivy songs. Additionally, it is not uncommon for Rancid to play a few Operation Ivy songs at their shows.
In 1991, two years after their breakup, Lookout! put together a compilation consisting of the Energy album, the Hectic EP, and songs from compilations. It was released as a complete discography (sometimes referred to as a re-release of the Energy album). It contains 27 songs, following the band's recorded history.
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), Dance Hall Crashers, Basic Radio, Downfall, Devil's Brigade, Shaken 69 and Transplants. Additionally, Freeman has performed with Auntie Christ, Generator, MDC and Social Distortion.
Mello went on to perform with Schlong, and currently The Bowel-Tones and Jewdriver.
There was a great deal of speculation regarding the fate of Michaels. He revealed in an interview that he became a Buddhist monk for about 6 months in 1992 . Legend had it that he had moved to Nicaragua. Michaels eventually resurfaced into the music world with a project band, Big Rig who only released a 4 song EP titled Expansive Heart, and later with a more active band, Common Rider, which included bassist Mass Giorgini (producer and bassist for Squirtgun and occasionally Screeching Weasel) and drummer Dan Lumley (of Squirtgun and Screeching Weasel). Common Rider released a 7" EP and two full-length albums and did some nationwide touring in the United States before eventually disbanding. The band then got back together and did a split EP with the Florida Skacore band Against All Authority. This created rumors of a potential third album by Common Rider, but there has been nothing hinting toward anything coming to fruition.
During Rancid's 2006 US tour, Operation Ivy alumni Armstrong and Freeman were playing a select few tracks from their previous bands catalog. At a stop in San Francisco on December 17th, Jesse Michaels reunited with his two former bandmates to perform the track "Unity." It was his first time on stage with the two in over 15 years.
Leaving Lookout! Records
On 4 May 2006, it was announced that Energy had officially been removed from Lookout! Records' catalog. The album had been, after Green Day's first two albums, the label's biggest-selling album. Following such bands as Green Day, Screeching Weasel, The Queers and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Operation Ivy is the latest in a series of bands who have left Lookout! in recent years and taken back the rights to their back catalog due to unpaid royalties. Originally Rancid Records had set a reissue date for July 10th, 2007, but recently it has been said that the record will come out on Epitaph Records with a planned release date of October 9th, 2007, remastered and with a digipak case. A reunion of the band is not planned for anytime in the future.