Although many people know Tim Armstrong as the lead singer of the highly successful punk band Rancid, he actually got his start in music with this band, which only existed for two years and released one album. Despite this, they have been highly influential on the modern punk scene in the years since, with many bands citing them as an influence and recording covers of their songs in their honor. Existing from 1987 to 1989, Operation Ivy was one of the pioneering bands of the ska punk genre, which combines the influence of the traditional ska sound with that of the more hardcore style of punk. The lineup consisted of Jesse Micheals on lead vocals, Armstong on guitar, Matt Freeman on bass, and Dave Mello on drums.
Operation Ivy could have been a massively successful band and were actually offered to sign with major record label EMI. However, due to their dedication to independence, they turned down this deal and actually chose to break up instead. It would seem that when Armstrong formed Rancid, which also to this day includes Operation Ivy bassist Matt Freeman, they compromised on these morals, with Rancid becoming one of the biggest selling Punk bands of the 1990s along with the likes of fellow Berkley band Green Day and The Offspring.
Ever since their split, Operation Ivy has never reformed or played together in any capacity and the members have stated that they are unlikely ever to do so. Their given reasons for this are that the band split up a long time ago, and it would not feel the same due to how much time has passed. In addition to Rancid, all of the other members have gone on to have active careers in the punk scene, performing with several different bands.
Here is a list of the ten best songs from this band’s short but brilliant career.
#10 – Bombshell
Kicking off this Operation Ivy songs list, we have a song taken from their only full-length album, Energy, released in 1989. At just a minute and four seconds long, this is a frantic track that features dual vocals from Tim Armstong, who at the time was known as “Lint,” and Jesse Micheals. It mixes ska and hardcore very well and packs a lot into its short and sweet length.
# 9 – Hoboken
Up next on our Operation Ivy songs list, we present a track from the band’s 1988 Hectic ep, which is considered to be one of the first records of what is now known as ska-core. The style of Ska-Core is a genre that mixes ska with hardcore punk. Like all of the rest of the songs on this ep, this track was also later included on the band’s self-titled compilation released in 1991.
# 8- Take Warning
Up next is another track from Energy, which is one of the slower tracks on the album. This song actually served as the title track of a tribute album recorded for the band titled Take Warning: The Songs of Operation Ivy. On that particular compilation, the song was covered by Long Beach Dub All-Starrs
# 7- Hedgecore
This song is taken from the seven-inch vinyl record titled 69 Newport, which consisted of the track Hedgecore and the song “Left Behind.” Despite being recorded in 1987, it was not released until 1993, four years after Operation Ivy had split up. The song is about an experience that the band had back in Berkley, California when members of the band were involved in an incident involving driving into some bushes (thus the name hedgecore) and taking them out in a not-so-friendly manner. Well, at least they didn’t throw a bed into a pool from a hotel room window, aka The Who.
# 6- Bad Town
In the number six spot on this very cool Operation Ivy songs list, we present another song from the Energy album that Hollywood Undead also covered. This song is fueled heavily by the band’s ska influence. It features some smoking Paul Bae saxophone playing throughout the song.
# 5 – Plea For Peace
This song is the title track of the band’s final EP. It stands as another posthumous record released in 1992. Like the rest of the songs on this EP, the song “Plea For Peace, is not included on any of the band’s other releases. The EP also featured the songs “Uncertain, Troublebound, and Someday.”
# 4 – Jaded
Nope, this is not the Aerosmith song, in case you were wondering. This one opens up with some really excellent guitar work that has sort of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western feel. The song’s groove and chord changes remind me of the style of the band Social Distortion.
# 3 – I Wanna Be Sedated (Ramones Cover)
This cover of the Ramones hit is taken from a bootleg the band recorded titled Ramones which consisted of six covers of songs originally recorded by the New York punk pioneers. It is a very rare recording, which these days is very hard to find, with only 300 copies of it being pressed by an obscure label in Germany. It is one of the rarest recordings in the band’s discography and has a very raw production quality.
# 2 – Room Without A Window
I always wondered how Jesse Michaels remembered all the lyrics to this song. I can’t keep up with him while being just a listener. In the end, it’s pretty cool stuff, though. At times, he sounds like he may be running out of breath, but by the end, he is still standing.
# 1 – Knowledge
At the top of our Operation Ivy songs list is the opening track from Energy. It is one of the band’s most popular songs and has been covered by several punk bands, most notably Green Day on their Slappy ep. Green Day are known to this day to perform it live, where they often invite fans on stage to play instruments. Rancid also often plays it live. Other bands who have covered it include Mellincolin and The Mezingers. As recently as 2020, Machine Gun Kelly used a lyric from it on his song “All I Know.”
Top 10 Operation Ivy Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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