Operation Ivy (band)

Operation Ivy was an American punk rock 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."

Operation Ivy
Operation Ivy performing live at 924 Gilman Street in 1988
Background information
OriginBerkeley, California, U.S.
GenresSka punk, punk rock, hardcore punk
Years active1987–1989
LabelsLookout, Hellcat
Associated actsBasic Radio, Classics of Love, Crimpshrine, Common Rider, Dance Hall Crashers, Devils Brigade, Downfall, Rancid, Shaken 69, Tim Timebomb, Green Day
Past members

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 popular band Rancid and for wielding a lasting stylistic influence over numerous other bands.



Operation Ivy was formed in May 1987 and was named after the code name of a 1952 American nuclear weapons testing program.[1] 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.[2]

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."[3]


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 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" all the way to 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 of 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. Link 80 was known to cover "I Got No," "The Crowd" and "Room Without a Window" (which appeared on their first demo, recorded at Gilman). 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. In October 2015, Leftöver Crack, a band heavily influenced by Operation Ivy, were joined by Jesse Michaels for performances of "Sound System" and "Unity".[4] Armstrong also joined Boston ska band Big D and the Kids table for a performance of "Sound System" in Montreal.

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. Armstrong also has begun releasing music under the moniker Tim Timebomb.

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, 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 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.

In 2008, Michaels collaborated with the indie/punk group Hard Girls to form a punk band called Classics of Love (who were named after a Common Rider song). 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.[5]

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 track list 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.

Operation Ivy is featured in the 2017 documentary Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.[6]


The group has stated a number of times that an Operation Ivy reunion is unlikely to happen. Michaels addressed reunion issues in a Myspace blog[7] 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:

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.[9]

In 2013 and for the first time in 24 years, Michaels and Armstrong (under the name Tim Timebomb) recorded a song together when Michaels appeared on "Living in a Dangerous Land", a song Armstrong released as part of his Tim Timebomb and Friends series.[10]

Band members

Cameo studio appearance

  • Pat Mello – backing vocals


Albums and EPs

Year Title Label Other information
1988HecticLookout RecordsDebut EP
1989EnergyLookout RecordsOriginal 19-song LP
1991Operation IvyLookout Records27-song reissue including Hectic and Turn It Around tracks
2007Operation IvyHellcat RecordsA 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!Maximumrocknroll2 7" Vinyl compilation
1988"Hangin' Out"The Thing That Ate FloydLookout RecordsCompilation
1989"Officer"Gilman St. Block PartyFor the Fans by the FansCompilation
2004"Unity"Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2Fat Wreck ChordsCompilation


Year Title Label Other information
1987'69 NewportVery Small Records7" Vinyl of unreleased songs. (First of three official bootlegs sanctioned by the band; first pressing only)
1987Ramones (EP)Metropolis RecordsOne-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.
1988Uncut Gilman DemosPeacock RecordsFeatures live recordings of the band playing at the Gilman on Feb. 21 1988 and on June 24, 1988 during Rock Against Racism
1989Lint Rides AgainSlashout!Operation Ivy's last show at Gilman St.
1992Plea for Peace (EP)M&EFirst 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)
1993Lint: The King of SkaSquamosalFeatures 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. Of the 2000, 110 copies were pressed on white blur vinyl. Later pressings have blank white labels on both sides with an additional pressing with blank yellow labels on both sides.
1994Live at GilmanBerkeley ArchiveA live seven-inch bootleg EP, containing an Isocracy cover.
1995East Bay (EP)57 InkA bootleg seven-inch of live recordings. Supposedly pressed on transparent green vinyl, but it is unlikely that any copies were ever released.
1996SeedyKarma KreditA post-breakup collection of unreleased material, released by David Hayes of Very Small Records. (Third of three official bootlegs sanctioned by the band)
1996Unity: The Complete CollectionBerkeley ArchiveCompilation of all of the seven-inch bootlegs and the rare Ramones 12-inch EP.
1996Unreleased EnergyRed Robin RecordsLive demo tracks from original Energy recordings, collecting bootleg seven-inches such as Plea for Peace and '69 Newport.
1999Radio DazeSpiked Belts and BeerRecorded live at KSPC Radio recording on March 17, 1988 and April 21, 1988
2000Sound SystemGilman St. RecordsLive radio show recorded in February 1988
?Smell RancidConfusion RecordsLive at the River Theatre in 1988
2001BoilermakerBuy These RecordsLive at the Boilermaker in St. Louis recorded in 1988, only 1,000 printed
2004There's a PlaceBaltan-692xCD-R collection of live recordings and studio outtakes taken from original analog sources and master tapes with no mixing, noise reduction, or equalization. Limited to approximately 100 copies.


  1. Huey, Steve. "Operation Ivy | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic.com. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  2. Basic Radio also included Michael Valladares and Jeff Kamalian, who would later go on to form the ska band Critical Mass.
  3. Joy Aoki, "Operation Ivy," Flipside, whole no. 57 (Fall 1988), pp. 28-30.
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CW_jcULC_U
  5. "Kerplunk: The rise and fall of the Lookout Records empire." Archived 2009-03-05 at the Wayback Machine East Bay Express. September 14, 2005. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  6. Skinner, Tom (June 6, 2018). "Green Day announce 'Turn It Around: The Story Of East Bay Punk' home release and vinyl soundtrack". NME.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  7. "Jesse Michaels addresses Common Rider and Operation Ivy reunion questions." Punknews.org. February 17, 2007.
  8. "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.
  9. Mercury News Archived January 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. "Tim Timebomb: “Operation Ivy’s Tim Armstrong and Jesse Michaels reunite on new track" consequence of sound. July 12, 2013.
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