Here we are now, entertain us. That is David Grohl’s mission as the Nirvana drummer-turned-Foo Fighters leader publishes his memoir, Dave Grohl: The Storyteller.
And true to his reputation as “nicest man in rock”, Grohl has delivered a generous, charming and optimistic autobiography. Here are 10 of the things we learned from what is a must-read book for fans of either of Grohl's bands.
Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide devastated Grohl. He fled to Ireland, where he and his mother had holidayed prior to Nirvana headlining Reading in 1992. “I travelled to a corner of the earth that I have always adored: a place of serenity and natural beauty where I hoped to find some healing from my broken life at home: the Ring of Kerry.”
As he took in the sights, Grohl spied a hitchhiker with long hair. Drawing close to offer a lift, he noticed the teenager was wearing a Kurt Cobain t-shirt. Grohl sped past. He describes how it dawned on him that he couldn't escape the past. “This was the moment that changed everything.”
Grohl’s pounding opening on Smells Like Teen Spirit is among the most iconic displays of drumming in modern rock history. And it was on Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham that he modelled his signature ferocious style.
Nirvana needed a new drummer and Grohl, catching wind of the news, called the group’s bassist Krist Novoselic. Novoselic told him the gig had gone to Dan Peters from Nirvana’s Seattle contemporaries Mudhoney [who played on the single Sliver].
But then Novoselic called back – he and Kurt Cobain felt guilty about prising Peters away from their friends. He recommended Grohl called Cobain. The chat went well, and a few weeks later, Grohl moved to Seattle.
When Smells like Teen Spirit rocketed up the charts in the autumn of 1991 and the popular kids started turning up to see Nirvana, Grohl worried he was betraying his punk rock ideals. Cobain was even more traumatised as the fanbase widened to now include “macho monster-truck homophobes and meathead jocks."
Grohl didn’t take drugs and was naive about their use. Three months after joining Nirvana in 1990 he was stunned to discover that Cobain would habitually use heroin. [Nirvana made their first visit to Ireland in August 1991 for gigs in Cork and Dublin, and while there were no public signs the singer was using heroin in Ireland - and may even have been clean at the time - it seems he was already well on the way to full addiction].
He didn’t want Foo Fighters to be tagged as 'The Dave Grohl Experience', so he took inspiration from Stewart Copeland, the drummer of the Police, and his 1980 solo project Klark Kent. Hoping to stay fairly anonymous Grohl played pretty much everything on Foo Fighters' debut album, and did all the vocals. He took the name of the 'group' from a WWII term for unidentified flying objects.
Grohl performed with Tom Petty in 1994 and was offered the opportunity to drum full-time with one of his idols. “It all sounded so perfect,” writes Grohl. He politely declined anyway, and threw himself into Foo Fighters.
Having shared a bill at the Ozzfest metal festival in the UK with thrash icons Pantera, Grohl received an invitation to check out their strip club in Dallas. But en route to the club he lost his wallet. And when he was unable to produce ID at the door, the bouncers told him to take a hike. This was after a three-day drive of 1,400 miles.
Asked to cover a song by the BBC, the Foo Fighters settled on the Stock Aitken Waterman number one Never Gonna Give You Up, sung by Rick Astley. Grohl writes how he quickly released the chord progression bore a strong resemblance to Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Grohl acknowledges how his life was changed for the better by Kurt Cobain, but admits he never got to thank the singer before his death, a regret “I will have to live with until we are somehow reunited.”
- Dave Grohl: The Storyteller – Tales of Life and Music is out now