Sunday, January 3, 2010


I remember watching The Backbeat Band on the MTV Movie Awards in 1994 and wondering if Dave Grohl would ever play to such a large crowd again.

At this point, of course, Nirvana had ended with Kurt Cobain's death, and no one could have anticipated that Dave Grohl would have become what he became. Dave was playing drums for a "supergroup" that also featured Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner (a huge star at that time), Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Don Flemming of Gumball and Mike Mills of R.E.M. They recorded an album of garage rock classics for the soundtrack of the film Backbeat, about the early days of The Beatles when they were playing clubs.

Of course we know how it all turned out: Grohl became the singer/songwriter/leader of Foo Fighters, one of the biggest rock bands of the second half of the '90s. 1995's Foo Fighters (essentially a solo album on which Dave played everything, except one guitar track by Dulli), 1997's The Colour and The Shape and 1999's There Is Nothing Left To Lose showed that Grohl was a great songwriter and leader in his own right, certainly influenced by Nirvana, but not afraid to go more metal, or more pop. Refreshingly, he didn't have a problem with being popular, playing arena stages, and rubbing shoulders with classic rockers.  That would continue in the '00.

2000's releases were a cover of Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar" for the Mission Impossible II soundtrack (Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins sang lead, and Queen's Brian May played lead guitar), and a bunch of guest appearances.  Dave, along with Frank Black and David Bowie guested on a great song, "Jewel," from Bowie (then-) guitarist Reeves Gabrels' solo album, Ulysses.  In interviews, Grohl expressed hope that those musicians would work together again (which never happened). Also that year, Dave wrote, sang, and played drums on "Goodbye Lament" from Tony Iommi's debut album Iommi. Grohl has always had a great sense of humor (remember the Nirvana In Utero commercial with Bobcat Goldtwhait, and the Foo Fighters "Big Me" video?). In 2001, he played drums on Tenacious D's debut album, a rocking album.

Speaking of rocking, in 2002, he briefly joined Queens Of The Stone Age for the Songs For The Deaf album, probably the best album Dave played on in the '00s. The lineup at that point was singer/guitarist/songwriter/founder Josh Homme, along with bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri and singer Mark Lanegan (formerly of Screaming Trees). I don't always buy into the Queens, but I have a lot of respect for Josh, and this is his finest moment. The album really overshadowed the next Foo Fighters album, One By One, which came out later that year, and that point, I kind of wondered if Dave was still into the Foo Fighters.

There were more sessions: he played guitar on Bowie's cover of Neil Young's "I've Been Watiting For You," played drums and some bass on Cat Power's You Are Free album and played drums on the entire Killing Joke self-titled album (reportedly free of charge).

In 2004, he put out the long-talked about Probot project. A full-on underground metal project, Grohl was recording (on his own) metal jams in the style of some of his favorite old bands.  Eventually he started calling the frontmen of those bands to contribute lyrics and vocals, and the album includes Lemmy, Max Cavalera, King Diamond and Mike Dean of Corrosion Of Conformity among others. The album got respect among real metal fans who didn't give a shit about Nirvana or the Foo Fighters.

In 2005, he played drums on one of Garbage's best songs, "Bad Boyfriend" (filling in for the band's usual drummer, Nevermind producer Butch Vig), and also on most of Nine Inch Nails' With Teeth. It turns out that these outside projects help keep him inspiried for the Foo Fighters, because on the next album, the double CD In Your Honor, he seemed rejuvinated.

Named in tribute to John Kerry (who Grohl "opened" for on his campaign trail in 2004), the album was half rock and half more acoustic stuff.  The acoustic side had some notable guests, including Norah Jones, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones. This was the best of the decade's three Foo Fighters albums, and led to two tours: a rocking arena tour and an acoustic theater tour, which yielded the band's first live album, Skin and Bones. The album featured a song that Dave wrote while in Nirvana, "Friend of a Friend," and during the tour Dave started playing "Marigold," the Cobain-less Nirvana tune that he wrote and sang.

In 2006, Dave returned to rocking and comedy by reprising his role as Satan (first played in Tenacious D's "Tribute" video).  This time he played the role in the D's film, The Pick Of Destiny, also adding satanic vocals to "Beezleboss (The Final Showdown)."  The next year saw another great Foo Fighters album, Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. Since then, they've released a very Petty-esque song "Wheels," for their Greatest Hits album, and of course now Dave is spending time with his new band, Them Crooked Vultures, featuring Josh Homme and John Paul Jones. I haven't even gotten into the Foo Fighters jams with John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page,  or the fact that Dave has also jammed with Paul McCartney.

The guy really has the best of all worlds: he can play loud rock and also acoustic, he's got a great band but can play in other bands and guest on other people's albums.  He can jam with McCartney and King Diamond. He's got the rock star lifestyle and remains a cool guy (and a family man at that). I imagine he'll be on the road for much of 2010 with Them Crooked Vultures, and after that, who knows.

No comments: