Green Day Go to War

“Wake Me Up” video shows young couple torn apart by the conflict in Iraq
Green Day are making their most powerful anti-war statement yet with the riveting video for American Idiot’s fourth single, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” Starring Evan Rachel Wood of Thirteen and Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot, the seven-minute clip chronicles a young man’s decision to leave his girlfriend and join the Army — which deploys him to Iraq, where he watches terrified and helpless as his fellow soldiers are wounded in battle.
“I didn’t do it to be political,” says director Samuel Bayer. “I did it to be emotional. I find it extremely tragic that eighteen-year-old kids with their whole lives ahead of them are joining the military and seeing horrors that, even if they survive this, they may never get over.”
MTV premiered the video this month, and it’s been airing since in a five-minute edited version (MTV2 plays the uncut original). It’s the fourth MTV hit off American Idiot, which came out last September and has sold 3.9 million copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “It’s just a really well-structured, thought-out clip,” says Peter Baron, vice president of label relations at MTV.
“There is a message in the video, but I don’t think it’s really an overt message — it’s about these kids and their relationship. I think that’s why it works with our audience. It’s just a story that’s tugging the heart.”
Although singer Billie Joe Armstrong wrote “Wake Me Up” for his father, who died of cancer in 1982, the band had no problem letting Bayer turn the ballad into an anti-war statement. “It’s my interpretation,” says Bayer, who also directed Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video. “I sent the idea to them, and they loved it. I’m not taking a political stance about whether the war in Iraq is right or wrong, but I’m definitely saying war is a terrible thing.”