Operation Ivy
Operation Ivy performing at the legendary Gilman
Operation Ivy performing at the legendary Gilman
Background information
Origin Albany, California
Genres Hardcore punk
Ska punk
Years active 19871989
Labels Lookout! Records, Hellcat Records
Associated acts Rancid
Big Rig
Common Rider
Green Day
Dance Hall Crashers
Basic Radio
Shaken 69
Classics Of Love
Former members
Jesse Michaels
Tim Armstrong
Matt Freeman
Dave Mello
Pat Mello (unofficial 5th member)

Operation Ivy was an influential Ska punk band formed in Albany, California. 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). The band's name, previously abandoned by another Gilman group, Isocracy, was derived from the Operation Ivy series of nuclear tests.


The band existed between May of 1987 and May of 1989, as was chronicled in the lyrics of the 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, 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]

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 EP, 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 the album 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 32 songs (28 released officially, 4 on the bootlegged Plea For Peace EP), as well as songs which were recorded only as demos, such as "Hedgecore" (about a favorite pastime of the band which involved artfully jumping over manicured bushes), "Hangin' Out", "Sarcastic" and "Left Behind". Recordings from their aborted attempt to record the Energy LP live at Gilman also exist, and include some 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 their 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.

Green Day did a cover of the Operation Ivy song "Knowledge" on the Slappy EP (later released on the 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours compilation album) 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 Buck O Nine, "Caution" by No Trigger and more covers of "Knowledge" by both Millencolin and Evergreen Terrace. 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.


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 than 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 careersEdit

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.

Drummer Dave Mello went on to perform in the spastic 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 7" EP and two full-length albums and did some nationwide touring before disbanding in 2003. B-sides from their second album This Is Unity Music were used in a split EP with the Florida skacore band Against All Authority.

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 at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre on December 17 2006, Jesse Michaels reunited with his two former bandmates 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]

Leaving Lookout!Edit

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 highest-selling albums, after Green Day's first two albums. Operation Ivy followed such bands 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 rumorsEdit

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:


Michaels' sentiment was later echoed by Tim Armstrong:



LPs and EPsEdit

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
1992 Plea for Peace M & E Records Posthumous EP, featuring Uncertain, Troublebound, Someday, and Plea for Peace
2007 Operation Ivy Hellcat Records A remastered reissue of 1991 "Energy" album, "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 Maximum Rocknroll 2 7" Vinyl compilation
1988 "Hangin' Out" The Thing That Ate Floyd Lookout! Records Compilation
 ? "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 RecordingsEdit

Year Title Label Other information
 ? Unreleased Energy Red Robin Records Live demo tracks from original Energy LP recordings, collecting some bootleg 7-inches such as Plea For Peace and '69 Newport.
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 500 copies pressed by an obscure German label. Notorious for being the rarest bootleg, yet having repulsive recording quality.
1988 Uncut Gilman Demos Peacock Records Features live recordings of the band playing at the Gilmore 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 Fanclub First Operation Ivy "Bootleg," put out by friends of the band. Contains four outtakes from the "Hectic" sessions.
1993 Lint: The King of Ska Squamosal This 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 7" bootleg EP, containing an Isocracy cover.
1995 East Bay EP 57 Ink A bootleg 7" 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 several 7" Bootlegs and the rare Ramones EP 12".
1999 Radio Daze Spiked Belts and Beer Live KSPC Radio recording from March 17, 1988 and April 21, 1988
2000 Sound System Gilman St. Records Live Radio Show recording, Feb. 1988
 ? Smell Rancid Confusion Records Live at the River Theatre, 1988 recordings
2001 Boilermaker Buy These Records Live at the Boilermaker in St. Louis, 1988 recording, only 1000 made
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.
  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." February 17, 2007.

External linksEdit

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