Complete Guide to Green Day 'Holiday'

Everything you need to know about the story behind the song, amp and pedal settings as well as used guitar techniques.

Ultimate Guitar
Complete Guide to Green Day 'Holiday'

We’re here with our 3rd issue of complete guide rubric and today we’ll tell you about “Holiday” by Green Day.

Some of you may think: “Why the hell you choose this song it’s so simple to play”. Well, the reason is kinda simple as well, it’s because one of our dev guys really wanted to see a complete guide to this song. So, enjoy this guide, leave you comments and feedback in the comment section below and tell us which song you would like to see in the next issue of our Complete Guide rubric.

Green Day 'Holiday'

Writers: Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool
Producer: Rob Cavallo
Album: American Idiot (2004) (UG score is 8.2)
Released: March 14, 2005
Label: Reprise, Warner Bros.
Genre: Punk Rock
Length: 3:52

Additional Information:
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard): #1 (Jun, 2005)
US Alternative Songs (Billboard): #1 (May, 2005)
US Pop Songs (Billboard): #13 (Aug, 2005)
US Billboard Hot 100: #19 (May, 2005)

Story behind the song

You can’t speak about “Holiday” without speaking about the whole “American Idiot” album. "American Idiot" is a rock opera in which the characters represent the youth of America in a modern-day metropolis filled with rhetoric, lies, and censorship. The entire story is an exploration of the main characters' thoughts and interactions with each other that takes place over the time span of approximately one year. The main character - Jesus of Suburbia, represents the average young American who doesn't quite fit in and has "disciples", or a clique consisting of the rest of the unheard youth who don't feel as though they fit into the well-established structures of the corporate American society. In Holiday, Jesus breaks free and finally leaves his dead-end town. Now he's entering the City and is obviously extremely excited about it. He's on holiday, he's starting a new life. He thinks that now he's free.

He's living his life on the streets ("Hear the sound of the falling rain..."). He's speaking out loud and acting in vain, but it seems like he's talking himself into believing that running away was the right thing to do, explaining his reasons for discontent to himself. He still feels alone and shunned from society, but it seems he feels a little more self-confidence and happiness out on the road. It's Jesus of Suburbia yelling out and expressing his own dead beliefs onto the world. Like screaming into mid air.

This is about the American government and society during the Iraqi War. It begins by commenting on how the thousands of dead Americans and Iraqis are nameless to the average American citizen. The song expresses resentment with the corporate greed and corruption involved in the "rebuilding" effort and shows how the average protester realizes that the pro-war money involved has more power than they can ever have. It also points out the irony of the Christian right-wing feeling religiously justified in this war: "Can I get another 'Amen'? There's a flag wrapped around the score of men."

While the song is a dig at conservative agendas, it doesn't entirely spare liberals. Armstrong told MTV: "I am anti-war, so a lot of [the album] has to do with that, and there're different sides of it too. Like, there's one line that sort of messes with liberals a little too, where it says, 'Hear the drum pounding out of time/ Another protester has crossed the line/ To find the money's on the other side.'" He continues. "That song ['Holiday'] is about this mishmash of people with all these strong opinions who really can't agree, and leaving [decisions] to the person who's sort of standing in the middle confused and overwhelmed."

Music Videos

The first half of the official music video takes place in a car (a 1968 Mercury Monterey convertible), where band members are hanging around in Las Vegas. In the second half, they are partying in a bar where each of them plays several different characters. At the end of the video, the car smokes to a halt in the area where "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" begins in.

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Funny fact: The band arrived at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards in the same car.

Behind the scenes of making "Holiday".

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Green Day plays "Holiday" live from the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ.

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They changed the bridge lyrics from "Pulverize the Eiffel Towers" to "Pulverize the Donald Trump Towers".

Gear and settings


Billie Joe Armstrong uses Gibson Les Paul Jr. (UG Score 8.6) with an "H-90" pickup and a silver-sparkle signature Gibson Les Paul Jr. singlecut with a Seymour Duncan P-90 Antiquity in the bridge for live performances.

Jason White's main guitar is Gibson ES-335 (UG Score 8.4) Electric Guitar with Fishman Acoustic. For the live sessions of "Holiday" White plays the lead guitar part.

Mike Dirnt uses his signature Fender Road Worn Precision (UG Score 9.2) bass.

Billie and Jason use custom Dunlop Tortex .73 picks.

Amplifiers and effects

Billie Joe Armstrong's amps and effects

Billie uses two Marshall 100-watt 1959 SLP (UG score is 9.3) reissue heads modified by Martin Golub. The top head (Pete) has a crunch mode (a.k.a. “Dookie” mod or Bradshaw gain mod) and Meat (lower head) has Golub’s SE Lead mod. Both heads run through two Marshall 1960B cabinets that are equipped with Celestion Vintage 30s.

Top head (Pete) settings

Presence: 5
Bass: 6
Middle: 6
Treble: 4
Master: 4
Gain: 4

Lower head (Meat) settings

Presence: 5
Bass: 6
Middle: 6
Treble: 4
Master: 4
Gain: 3

Billie's tone isn't really about tons of gain. It's much cleaner than you can think it is. His technique of playing and using a pick is more about from where the sound comes out.

Blended together these 2 amps give a lot of punch and a lot of impact, when Billie is just hitting a chord.

In a part before the solo Boss BD-2 Blues Driver (UG Score 9) pedal is used.

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver settings

Level knob is set up at 1 o'clock, gain - at 10, and tone - at 3.

Jason White's amps and effects

White uses 100-watt Marshall heads with the Dookie mod (top) and SE Lead mod (bottom) too, and like Billie's two amps, White's top head has more crunch, vintage sound, and the bottom head has more gain. These amps are always used in connection with each other for a full, rich, rounded sound with sustain and cut.Whereas BJA's Marshalls are set to noon, White scoops mids on the bottom head. So the produced sound is not heavy overdriven. That can be surprising, cause the sound is so big and full, but you don't need a lot of gain to get that sound.

Top head (Dookie mod) settings

Presence: 4
Bass: 7
Middle: 6
Treble: 4
Master: 2
Gain: 2

Bottom head (SE Lead mod) settings

Presence: 2
Bass: 6
Middle: 4
Treble: 6
Master: 2
Gain: 3

White uses a Chandler Limited Little Devil Colored Boost for the lead parts.

Chandler Limited Little Devil Colored Boost settings

Boost Range is set to MIDs
Color Boost - 2.5
Feedback & Bias - 2
Highs are set to Smooth

But as admitted by his guitar tech, 95% of his sound comes from the amps.

Mike Dirnt's amps

Mike Dirnt uses 2 of his signature Fender Super Bassman heads (one of them is a backup one) which he designed with Fender. He doesn't use any effects units, cause all the effects he needs are built in.

Fender Super Bassman settings

Volume - 6,5
Bass - 7
Mid - 7
Treble - 7,5
Gain - 7
Blend - 3
Volume - 5
Bass - 7,5
Freq - 8
Mid-Level - 6
Treble - 8
Master - 4

And his cabinets of choice is Fender stock speakers.

Universal amp settings

Gain - 6
Treble - 10
Mid - 8
Bass - 5
Reverb - 3


These are top tabs rated by the UG community:

Chords versions: Holiday chords
Tab version: Holiday tab, Holiday bass tab
Interactive versions: Chords Pro, Guitar Pro, Tab Pro


Both guitar parts are tuned to standard tuning: E A D G B E

Bass tuning: E A D G


"Holiday" seems to be an easy song for learning, as it mostly consists of power chords, mixed with dead notes.

The guitar solo is a short one and relatively easy even for beginners, but for warm-up, it will be useful to repeat such techniques as hammer-on and pull-off, vibrato and slides. Due to its rather slow pace, solo can be easily played with the use of down picking or alternate picking.

Very important to keep in mind that interlude, where Billie chants anti-war mottos, is played on a bass guitar.

Recommended lessons

Main riff

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Bass Cover

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37 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'd like to suggest Voodoo Child (Slight Return) by Jimi Hendrix. Or really any Hendrix song. Great work with these articles, thanks so much!
    I'm shocked that hendrixfreak93 would suggest a song by Jimi Hendrix! Although that would be an excellent song to have a complete guide to.
    I'm not really a Green Day fan, but this article is great! We need more stuff like this!
    Amazing how they are loudmouth activist when a republican is in office, but were silent when Obama bombed innocent civilians and prosecuted whistleblowers for exposing truth.
    No such thing as a perfect politician. Not sure how you can use the bombing innocent civilians argument. Number of civs killed by Obama is said to be at under 150. Republican's started the bullshit war on terror which has killed more people than it has saved and also the ridiculous war on drugs. You post your Republican bullshit everywhere. Just accept that most musicians are left-leaning because that's the way it's always been. And when it gives rise to an album as great as this, who cares?
    Obama bombed 7 countries and expanded all the bullshit ultra right programs of Bush so you are talking out your ass like many so called "liberal's". He cracked down on more pot dispensaries than Bush his first year citing federal law. Pro drug war. He expanded the "patriot act" and destroyed our right to privacy. Edward snowden proved how the nsa spies on us under his order. Any time a whistleblower exposed bullshit Obama locked them up. He started more wars, added trillions to the debt, and failed to close gitmo. Real hero.
    No there is not a perfect politician, so why try to defend one side compared to the other, when both clearly have major issues that need fixing? Quit buying into the two party system, or even saying you are choosing between the lesser of two evils. That is how these politicians who it seems no one likes are gaining power. "You post your republican bullshit everywhere" as you blame all the war on terror on republicans. Maybe step back and see the bigger picture and stop being manipulated by the media and politicians and formulate beliefs that you truly believe in.
    Ok First of all, Obama pushed the "war on terror" much further than the repubs did, the repubs simply initiated it. Ridiculous "war on drugs" If you don't find drugs to be a massive issue in America (and the world) then you're clearly a special kind of stupid. Obama put us in debt far more than all other presidents combined, Tons of people killed for an unjustifiable cause under his order, tons of false target drone bombings, Supported people like sharpton who work along side cartels etc. behind the scenes to further their agenda, said he would attempt to end the war and instead invades several other countries and many more issues. Circumstance23 is definitely making a valid point and you're clearly ignorant to the world around you. Also rock music and punk specifically have always had an anarchic view more than any other. "Fuck all government" mentality, not whatever group will help get records sold, because they realize it's just 2 sides of the same coin. Music hasn't been oriented in the manner you speak since the 60's
    Why, oh why, can't political beliefs, religions beliefs, etc. be kept personal? Airing it out just breeds hatred (mostly). Almost no one knows what the words 'tact' or 'respect' mean online. I know, I know, "a healthy dialog, blah blah blah". How healthy is it to call someone a Nazi in a forum? (Not that anyone here has or would do that, mind you.) I'm all for voting, petitioning, using the system to advance one's cause, etc. But, speaking for myself, I don't wanna come to a music site and hear about politics. There are TONS of other websites for that kind of thing. But anytime a politically-charged band comes up, out come the politics and the finger-pointing and all the rest of it, and it becomes How about this: treat the way you feel about politics, either way, as if it were an STD, and you didn't want anyone to know about it. (At least around these parts.) Deal? And, to bring it back to music, American Idiot was a HUGE landmark/statement album from GD, and I love it from start to finish.
    @zalant - totally agree about the politics thing. Well said. For me, AI was a great album for my teenage years, but I feel like I've grown out of it (stupid, I know). Such an influential record.
    They are cowards. It's that simple really. It's also why black metal, which is actually anti-establishment is one of the few music scenes that isn't butthole worshipping liberalism.
    Yeah. Somehow it's worse not to allow certain people into your country than actually bomb their country and kill them.
    Please inform yourself before accusing people of stuff. Bassist Michael Pritchard says that while this might appear as code for “we only become politically vocal when a Republican is in office,” that it shouldn’t be taken that way. Sources close to the band report that “Kill the DJ” was originally titled “Kill the Pakistani,” but Armstrong felt as though the critique of President Obama had to be more subtle.
    Could I suggest something by Opeth? Perhaps Will O the Wisp or the Drapery Falls?
    Really digging this style of article guys, I'm hoping to see more of this down the road!
    Saw them live at a small club in Cleveland before their rock hall induction - I was there on behalf of GDC, a dedicated Internet forum that Loves them some Green Day (I'm not even that big of a fan, haha). Holiday absolutely stood out the most that night. The energy, the full sound, the crowd response - it was great. The next night, I was hanging out at a bar around the area & in walks two Canadians from that forum. Locked eyes with one & we've been madly in Love ever since. Later on that night, in that bar, this song came on. For our one year anniversary, we went to the same bar. Guess what god damn song came on? Needless to say, this song has a special place in my heart &, as a guitarist, I can appreciate the fine details this article lays out. Thanks!
    Would love for you guys to do this for a Metallica song. Especially mid - late 90s era.
    I second that notion! How about Bleeding Me? Always loved that tune.
    Man, I was gonna suggest at least having a note on bass guitar settings in future ones, but looks you got it covered. Nicely done, UG/Shura.
    Please do it for HIGHWAY TO HELL ! I know a lot of infos can be found on the internet, but you do it so good ! thanks
    Is this a guide to the live version? I thought these guides were for album versions of songs.
    This is great for the live components, but a lot of this gear wasn't out yet during the song's studio recording, specifically most of Mike's gear. I believe on the recording Billie did most of the guitars through a 15 watt Park amp though.