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Operation Ivy (band)

Operation Ivy
Operation Ivy performing live at 924 Gilman Street in 1988
Background information
Origin Berkeley, California
Genres Ska punk, hardcore punk
Years active 1987–1989
Labels Lookout, Hellcat
Associated acts Basic Radio, Classics of Love, Crimpshrine, Common Rider, Dance Hall Crashers, Devils Brigade, Downfall, Rancid, Shaken 69, Tim Timebomb, Green Day
Past members Jesse Michaels
Tim Armstrong
Matt Freeman
Dave Mello

Operation Ivy, sometimes called "Op Ivy," (op Iv) was an American Ska punk band, from Berkeley, California formed in May 1987. The band was stylistically important as one of the first bands to mix the elements of hardcore punk and ska into a new amalgam called ska punk and was critical to the emergence of Lookout Records and the so-called "East Bay Sound."

The band's name was derived from the Operation Ivy series of nuclear tests in 1952. Although the band released just one full-length album before breaking up in May 1989, Operation Ivy is well remembered as the direct antecedent of the popular band Rancid and for wielding a lasting stylistic influence over numerous other bands.


  • History 1
    • Formation 1.1
    • Recordings 1.2
    • Lyrical themes 1.3
    • Break-up and legacy 1.4
    • Subsequent careers 1.5
    • Leaving Lookout 1.6
    • Reunions 1.7
  • Footnotes 2
  • Band members 3
  • Discography 4
    • Albums and EPs 4.1
    • Compilation appearances 4.2
    • Bootlegs 4.3
  • External links 5



Operation Ivy was formed in May 1987 and was named after the code name of a 1952 American nuclear weapons testing program. The name had previously been the original name of the contemporary Berkeley punk band Isocracy.

The band consisted of Jesse Michaels (lead vocals), Tim "Lint" Armstrong (guitar, vocals), Matt "McCall" Freeman (bass, vocals), and Dave Mello (drums). Prior to the formation of Operation Ivy, Armstrong and Freeman had played together in the Berkeley ska punk band Basic Radio.[1]

Operation Ivy's 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.

After witnessing a live show in Southern California, Joy Aoki of Flipside magazine described the energetic new band as a "swell bunch of guys" who "mix hard-edged ska with the intensity of young thrash."[2]


In October 1987, the band made its recording debut with a track on the Maximumrocknroll compilation album Turn It Around!.

In January 1988, the band signed to Lookout Records and released its debut 7-inch record, 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 bands from the 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, the group began selling out larger venues and the pressure to sign to major labels began to rise.

Operation Ivy released its only studio album Energy through Lookout in March 1989. The group broke up two months later in May, and its last official live performance was on May 28, 1989. This was also Green Day's first performance with the name Green Day at 924 Gilman Street, at what was supposed to have been Operation Ivy's record release party. Operation Ivy played one more unofficial 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 their 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.

Lyrical themes

The lyrics and tone of Operation Ivy's music portray a vociferous desire for social justice and a strong distrust of mainstream conformist culture.

Break-up and legacy

Operation Ivy broke up in May 1989.

In 1991, two years after the group's demise, Lookout Records released a compilation album of 27 tracks including Energy and Hectic in their entirety 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).

Although Operation Ivy released only one studio album, Energy and had little mainstream success during its career, the band maintained a large underground cult following and influenced numerous bands.

An array artists have covered Operation Ivy songs, most of which are featured on a 1997 tribute album, Take Warning: The Songs of Operation Ivy. Included are recordings by such bands as 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, "Smiling" by Goldfinger, "Sound System" by Buck O Nine, "Caution" by No Trigger and more covers of "Knowledge" by both Millencolin and Evergreen Terrace. 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 which 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). Additionally, Rancid have played Operation Ivy songs at its live performances.

Subsequent careers

Two of the band's members, Armstrong and Freeman, have performed with the bands Rancid, 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, 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 band's 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.[3]

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 released a 6 song EP released on Asian Man Records in 2009, and a full-length record (also with Asian Man Records) in 2012.

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.[4]

The 1991 compilation Operation Ivy 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. Hellcat re-issued the original versions of both Energy and Hectic on red and clear vinyl in April 2012.


The group has stated a number of times that Operation Ivy reunion is unlikely to happen. Michaels addressed reunion issues in a Myspace blog[5] citing the legal and logistic difficulties in getting the four 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:


  1. ^ Basic Radio also included Michael Valladares and Jeff Kamalian, who would later go on to form the ska band Critical Mass.
  2. ^ Joy Aoki, "Operation Ivy," Flipside, whole no. 57 (Fall 1988), pp. 28-30.
  3. ^ [2] Mercury News
  4. ^ "Kerplunk: The rise and fall of the Lookout Records empire." East Bay Express. September 14, 2005 . Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  5. ^ "Jesse Michaels addresses Common Rider and Operation Ivy reunion questions." February 17, 2007.
  6. ^ "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.

Band members

Cameo studio appearance

  • Pat Mello - backing vocals


Albums 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.

Compilation appearances

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


Year Title Label Other information
1987 '69 Newport Very Small Records 7" Vinyl of unreleased songs. (First of three official bootlegs sanctioned by the band; first pressing only)
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. (Second of three official bootlegs sanctioned by the band; first pressing only)
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 post-breakup collection of unreleased material, released by David Hayes of Very Small Records. (Third of three official bootlegs sanctioned by the band)
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.

External links

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