'The Young And The Hopeless' was the start of Good Charlotte's world domination, and opened up a LOT of doors for people just getting into rock and pop-punk circa 2002. It also celebrates its 15th (!) birthday on October 01.
Here, in their own words, Benji and Joel Madden recount the days that shaped their lives.
Leaving their Maryland home behind to chase down their dreams, Joel and Benji Madden spent the early ’00s trying to get their band Good Charlotte off the ground, and hitting the US punk circuit for all it was worth. After drawing major label support they seemed on top of the world, but one commercially disappointing debut later, things looked less rosy. The scene was set for a remarkable turnaround.
Joel Madden (vocals): “When we started Good Charlotte we were just 16, and at 18 we left home with 30 bucks, a guitar and a backpack between us. We were very green, and the world was a bit of a mystery. Music was the only thing in our lives that felt real.”
Benji Madden (guitar / vocals): “For us, even being able to leave our home state felt like a huge success. Getting signed and releasing that first record, we had the absolute time of our lives; it was like we’d won the lottery. The label weren’t quite so happy, though.”
Joel Madden: “It’s funny, but we very nearly didn’t get to release ‘The Young And The Hopeless’ at all. Honestly, we came this close to being dropped after the first album didn’t sell like the label expected, but our fans stood by us, and Sony decided to give us another shot."
Eric Valentine (producer): “I was drawn to the project by something in GC’s writing that was a little deeper than a lot of the pop-punk bands floating around. There was another dimension to it that I wasn’t hearing in other stuff, and that was exciting to me. I knew there was something special there.”
Given a second chance to make their mark and with the experienced Valentine behind the production desk, GC hit the studio to record the most important songs of their lives…
Eric Valentine: “The band had a lot of maturing to do; they were still kids then. The job for me was half record producer, half camp counsellor. There were definitely times when we were working on pre-production, rehearsing parts, and they would be bickering like little kids. It was like ‘You shut up, no, you shut up’ (laughs). I’d end up screaming ‘Everybody shut up!’”
Joel Madden: “I have to give Eric Valentine credit for creating the sound that’s stuck with us. We still wanted it so much, we wanted a hit record, to do something big and important. I don’t think we knew exactly how to do it, though, and that’s where he came in.”
Benji Madden: “Joel and I always wanted to be in a big band. We never set out to be the cool, underground band that the elite listened to: we wanted to play shows all around the world, to anyone who would hear us. Nothing about that record was pre-meditated, we were just having fun, and trying to do the best we could to achieve that goal.”
Eric Valentine: “There were a bunch of boybands around at the time, like *NSYNC, who’d exploded two or three years earlier. The kids who’d been really excited about that were starting to get to 12 or 13, and were maybe looking for something a little more dangerous than the Backstreet Boys. Good Charlotte were perfectly oriented to scoop up that demographic. The door was open, the opportunity was there, and if we did a good job we knew it would connect.”
Benji Madden: “Our golden rule has always been ‘Do the work and never complain’; we’ve never been happy to do anything by halves. The whole point of the song ‘Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous’ was that if they didn’t want it, we’d take it, because we had jack shit. We were so naïve at that point, but not stupid. Working with Eric brought the best out of our writing, but he also helped instil some of the values we’ve kept to this day, and helped keep us focused.”
With their single ‘Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous’ riding high in the charts, Good Charlotte took to the road once more. Little did they know what the world had in store…
Eric Valentine: “As soon as the record dropped things went insane. So much crazy shit came out of nowhere.”
Benji Madden: “At first, we were so stoked about what was happening. We’d come from the very bottom in life, so when we started being invited to play arenas and selling stupid amounts of records, it blew our minds.”
Joel Madden: “It was an amazing experience, but I do think it fucked us up a bit. Everything that you can imagine, we were doing it. There were so many girls, so many parties, so much craziness… I look back now at some of the things I said and did at that time and think ‘What was that all about’?"
Benji Madden: “It was weird, because on one hand everything was amazing, so many people loved us, and on the other hand we were being ripped apart by the critics and other bands. At every show we showed up wanting to make friends, but when ‘The Young And The Hopeless’ hit, that became difficult. A lot of people didn’t want to know us.”
Joel Madden: “As the touring went on, we were made to feel like outcasts in the scene we’d grown up in. People were so cruel. I’ll never forget when we played Reading And Leeds, because we got our asses handed to us. We got one of the worst bottlings that the festival’s ever seen, man.”
Benji Madden: “We started our band in a garage as starving kids, barely making ends meet. When we ‘made it’, we couldn’t understand why people weren’t happy for us. At 23, when you get a bad review or something, you’re like ‘why does that guy hate me?’ We’ve always stood up and taken that shit, though.”
Joel Madden: “Touring that record, I think we did 365 shows in 365 days, for three years. We had about two weeks off each year… we’d get home on Christmas Eve and leave on Boxing Day, you know? It was amazing, but by the time we came to the next record we’d been ground down by it, we’d gotten bitter and cynical.”
Years on, Good Charlotte’s sophomore effort remains a controversial work, but its impact on bands that followed, as well on the lives of its creators, has been vast.
Joel Madden: “That record stretched what the world would accept, what the mainstream would embrace, in terms of look as well as music. The whole tattooed, emo-rocker thing wasn’t always as normal to see, and now it’s like a uniform. Back then we were going into new territory, we weren’t happy staying in our lane. We always wanted more, and it paid off for us.”
Eric Valentine: “I think ‘The Young And The Hopeless’ still stands up well today. The band were so energetic and excited, and they were great songwriters… those things still shine through.”
Benji Madden: “There are some classic pop songs on that record, for sure. I love it still, but the most special thing about it for me is the impact it had on my loved ones. Before we got a record deal, our whole family was hanging by a thread. There’d been generation after generation of nothing: no college, no savings, no retirement. Those songs literally changed the lives of everyone in my family. I don’t know where we’d be if that hadn’t happened, but it probably wouldn’t be a good place.”
This feature originally appeared in Issue 167 of Rock Sound (November 2012).