Ronald Reagan's wars, both on drugs and against the "evil empire," made the '80s a prime time to be a punk band. The scene was ripe in California, notably in the Bay Area, as 924 Gilman Street opened and crossover genres exploded in popularity.
At the heart of it all was seminal ska/punk band Operation Ivy, which performed just under 200 shows over the course of a two-year lifespan.
When the band imploded, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freedman formed Rancid, and enjoyed a long, fruitful career. But guess what? Operation Ivy is better than Rancid, and it always will be.
We can't help but wonder where Operation Ivy would be now if they stuck together.
Would they be a Warped Tour headliner like Rancid, or would they go the way of fellow former Lookout! band Green Day and end up writing rock operas? Watching a kid with guyliner sing "Healthy Body, Sick Mind" seems unlikely, though the band would have had plenty of inspiration from the Bush administration to keep pushing.
When the band broke up, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman started Rancid, and Jesse Michaels started Common Rider. Michaels now performs in Classics of Love and does advocacy work for homeless youth, while Tim Armstrong maintains Rancid and occasionally performs with Eagles-member Joe Walsh and roots reggae icon Jimmy Cliff.
But in a dual, guess which band comes out on top, Rancid or Op Ivy. No contest, and here's why:
Operation Ivy never put out a crappy record.
Op Ivy's only full length album is Energy, and later pressings included th Hectic EP and some compilation tracks. Rancid is best known for ...And Out Come The Wolves, and some newer material that's probably best forgotten.
Though there are no reunion plans, Operation Ivy ended on an inspiration note, one that still rings true and influences young bands to this day.
Just read the liner notes for Rancid's "Journey to the End of East Bay"-
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. Not in a million years, never thought it'd turn out like this, Hell no, no premonition could have seen this!
Operation Ivy had a staunch independent approach.
Gilman Street banned musicians left and right for being sell outs. Operation Ivy disbanded before that could be the case, and still sticks to the same principles.
"[We] never belonged in a big rock club in a one to two thousand seat joint," said Michaels in a MySpace blog post, so don't count on seeing the band at Marquee Theatre any time soon.
Operation Ivy pioneered skacore.
Combining ska and punk is nothing new. The Clash and Bad Brains (look at that dancing) did it long before Tim Armstrong and Jesse Michaels even considered playing music, but Operation Ivy's influence on the genre is unmistakable. Without them, Sublime may have ended up sounding more like Bob Marley and Leftover Crack and Against All Authority may have never existed.
Operation Ivy was partially a ska band, but they performed ska that was easy for punk bands to swallow. They weren't just another band that sounded like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones; they played punk music with upstroked guitars that was, chiefly, fun dancing music.
Lyrical content: "Unity, as one stick together!"
Rancid touches on political issues as well, but songs about dead bodies and some girl named Ruby who cries a lot seem to stick out the most. Operation Ivy tackled real issues (the band is named after a nuclear test), as well as the music scene and girls, never losing its sing along choruses and catchy beats.
Jesse Michaels is a better singer.
Rancid may have inherited the mohawks, raspy voice, and badass bass guitar, but Common Rider received the melodic voiced lyricist. It's a shame that Common Rider never obtained the same level success as Rancid, but like Operation Ivy, that's what makes them special.
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The band made a hobby out of jumping into bushes.
It may be low-res, but thanks to the interwebs, you can see Operation Ivy live.