September 26, 2020 Good Charlotte’s Debut Album Celebrates 20 Years of the Little Things
If you were a teenager in 2000, and you were always picked last in gym class, never had a date to a school dance, or found yourself repeatedly referred to as a freak, well, there was a band to emerge out of Waldorf, Maryland that was totally for you! Today they are one of the biggest Pop-Punk bands in the world, but on September 26, 2000, Good Charlotte was just a group of East Coast kids trying to live their best lives.
Formed in 1995 by twin brothers Joel and Benji Madden, and inspired by the pair’s attendance at a Beastie Boys’ show, Good Charlotte (affectionately known as simply GC) then featured the Maddens (Joel on vocals, Benji on guitar/vocals) along with Guitarist Billy Martin, Bassist Paul Thomas, and Drummer Aaron Escolopio. After building a hometown following, much in thanks to their performance at the 1998 HFStival, as well as opening for the likes of blink-182, Lit, and Bad Religion, the band were signed to Daylight/Epic Records.
Representing downtrodden youth with a particular pride in being from Maryland, Good Charlotte sported a wide array of influences that included the likes of the Beastie Boys, Minor Threat, Rancid, and Green Day. As such, they sought to create their own signature sound when they entered the studio with producer Don Gilmore to create their debut. Often tackling autobiographical material that leant itself toward high-school themes, GC were a young band who were reaching out to embrace a young demographic.
Perhaps this was never as clear as in the album’s lead single/video and opening track, “Little Things.” A catchy anthem for high school outsiders like the freaks and geeks, the song embraced a light-hearted, almost comedic approach to being a ‘loser’ in the eyes of your classmates. With a vibrantly-colored and energetic music video featuring Pop vixen, soon-to-be actress Mandy Moore as the ‘trick,’ “Little Things” may have embarrassed the band at one time, but it was an iconic song backed by visuals that got them noticed—for better or worse.
Not long out of school themselves—in fact, Martin was still in his senior year when the debut was recorded—the band’s songwriters, the Maddens, had a knack for capturing the angst and pain of the teen experience and making it fun. Case in point, “Waldorfworldwide” took the twins’ personal struggles and turned them to ear-candy. There was a raw honesty as the brothers tried to create their own self-fulfilling prophecy with lines such as “I want to know the meaning of a Christmas list.” And this raw, no-holds-barred vulnerability would be echoed throughout their debut, particularly in the hidden track “Thank You, Mom,” which featured Benji on lead vocals. A blatant love letter to their mom for having the strength to care for their family of five virtually on her own, the quasi-acoustic offering was a beautifully sincere note to immortalize her in words.
Yet, in some ways, “The Motivation Proclamation” was the showstopper of the collection. A relatable look at being down in the dumps and requiring a dose of inspiration, there were few teenagers in 2000 that couldn’t relate to that infectious chorus (“Motivate me, I want to get myself out of this bed / Captivate me, I want good thoughts inside of my head”). The music video featured a tie-in to MTV’s short-lived animated series Undergrads, and the push certainly didn’t hurt GC’s cause. With the single’s release, their name began to slowly become more recognizable as they clawed their way up the charts.
But the album had a lot more to it than just relatable singles. “East Coast Anthem” walked the streets of D.C. to create an anthem for those that were searching for a place to fit in, while “Festival Song” celebrated summers at multi-band festivals (D.C.’s HFStival, specifically). The undeniably infectious energy and upbeat attitude of the latter made it a favorite among the band’s growing fan base. For this, the song earned a live video that featured members of Linkin Park, Mest, and New Found Glory palling around backstage with the GC boys.
However, Good Charlotte was a band that would go always be known for their heartfelt emotions. “Waldorfworldwide” and “Thank You, Mom” were just two of many raw offerings full of longing—such as “Complicated,” “Seasons,” “Screamer,” and “Change”—which created the core of Good Charlotte. Without self-censoring, the Maddens allowed themselves to explore their relationship with their estranged father (“Complicated”), the October air that ignites young love (“Seasons” and “Change”), and what it means to be a dreamer (“Screamer”).
Meanwhile, a smattering straight-up rockers provided an injection that kept the collection from ever growing monotonous. There were the upbeat sounds on “I Don’t Wanna Stop,” the fast-paced “I Heard You,” bopping “Let Me Go,” as well as this writer’s personal favorite, “Walk By,” which forever marked October 9th as Evil Queen Day. And fans in Japan would receive three additional tracks, as well: “The Click,” which was featured in the aforementioned Undergrads; a cover of OMD’s “If You Leave,” which, along with the band, would be featured in 2001’s hysterical Not Another Teen Movie; as well as a live acoustic version of “The Motivation Proclamation.”
Unfortunately, though the album was strong it did not meet sales expectations with the label. Which is odd considering it peaked at No. 13 on the Heatseekers Albums chart, and went on to be certified silver in the UK and gold in the US. Though “Little Things” was slow to pick up steam, it would go on to dip into the Top 30 on the Mainstream Top 40 as well as the Alternative Songs charts. “The Motivation Proclamation” and “Festival Song” also placed the band onto the charts, no doubt thanks to the help of their tours alongside Fenix TX, New Found Glory, and MxPx.
As Good Charlotte continued to build their name throughout 2000, before their first album cycle had come to a close Escolopio left the fold to join his brother’s band, Wakefield. He was replaced by a series of drummers, most notably the fabulous Chris Wilson, before the band partnered with former Morrissey drummer, Dean Butterworth, in 2005. But nothing stopped the group from releasing new music, and, despite a four year hiatus, they would go on to deliver six additional albums—including 2004’s The Chronicles of Life and Death, 2010’s Cardiology, and 2018’s Generation Rx— over the next 18 years.
Of course, Good Charlotte was where it all began. The eponymous disc established the Maddens as viable songwriters, and put the band’s name onto the crowded Billboard charts. It was a foundation stone, one that allowed the band to go on to become a breakthrough artist with massive commercial success thanks to 2002’s The Young and the Hopeless, which would see the quartet emblazoned all over magazines and TV, particularly MTV. With enough clout in their pockets, years later, they would even go on to re-release their debut with a new, tattoo-art style cover, erasing the original cover that had plagued some of the group since their early days.
Though their debut never guaranteed them A-list success or homes in the Hollywood hills, the band continued to prove their tenacity and perseverance throughout the years. Now sitting pretty at the top, no longer the outcasts, Good Charlotte and the Madden brothers are a success story born of the most humble beginnings back on the East Coast. And it all started with a little thing called motivation!