2020 started off with so much promise. Lots of great bands were hitting milestones this year… Foo Fighters was one of those bands. They intended to celebrate their 25th anniversary and release their 10th studio album. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t get the memo and as a result, the pandemic caused the celebrations to take a back seat to life.
The music industry has been greatly affected by the pandemic and faces an uncertain future, but there is a rich legacy of Foo Fighters to tunes look back on. As one of the most respected and commercially successful rock acts in business, their place in the history of popular music is assured. Record sales and commercial success is not the entire story when it comes to this band. We’ll circle back to that.
The best place to start any story is at the beginning. In those very early days, Foo founder Dave Grohl called Springfield, Virginia home. He’s come a long way since his days growing up with his mom, Virginia Grohl. Lots of things went on with him as a child, but he eventually made his way to DC where he launched his professional musical career.
Dave with his mom, Virginia
Grohl played drums in many hardcore and punk bands in the Washington, D.C. area in the early ‘90s. While a member of the band Scream, Grohl wrote songs that appeared on their 1993 album, “Fumble.” But it was his historic stint of playing powerhouse drums for Nirvana that brought him to the attention of the general public.
Grohl made his way to Seattle where he joined a band with fellow future-guitar heroes Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. Like the Beatles, there was rumor of another band member, a heavy contributor. Actually, he was their touring guitarist, Pat Smear.
Nirvana was a once in a lifetime band. Although there were other bands in the Seattle area that were playing a new music style known as “grunge”, it was Nirvana who set the music world on fire. They had a few smaller hits under their belt, but the world stood still once “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves and became an MTV favorite.
Other songs that catapulted them to stardom include “About a Girl,” “Breed,” “Dumb,” “Lithium,” “Rape Me,” “Sliver,” “In Bloom,” “All Apologies,” “Heart Shaped Box,” “Stay Away,” “Come As You Are,” “You Know You’re Right,” “Penny Royaltea,” and “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For a Sunbeam.” That’s a sample of the number of songs that inspired countless fans.
Needless to say, Nirvana’s place in music is undeniable and well documented. Tragically, the 1994 suicide of Kurt Cobain led to the end of the band. Their legacy lives on, and Nirvana was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 – 20 years after Cobain’s death.
After the dissolution of Nirvana, Grohl had a vision…. and Foo Fighters became a reality. Knowing what success looked like, the best of success that is… a new path was set for Grohl.
The Foo’s were initially conceived as solo project, in which Grohl would play all instruments, yes … a one-man band. Luckily for all of us, the project would go on to become a full-fledged band. Like Nirvana, the music had the trademark loud and quiet choruses incorporating melodic elements with heavier ones.
Since the days of his one-man band, Grohl has been lauded by critics as “his generation’s answer to Tom Petty’s consistent hit machine, pumping out working-class classic rock.” Grohl is known for his likeable personality and wry sense of humor, but his talent is even more impressive. He has performed with many legendary musicians, including Queen, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Garbage, and Queens of The Stone Age (where he played, sang, and produced Songs for the Deaf).
Their first album, “Foo Fighters,” featured Grohl as the only official band member. Bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith, formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate, along with ex-Germs and Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear were part of the initial lineup.
The self-titled release is characterized by a less polished, dynamic and ambitious effort than the records that followed. “This is a Call,” “I’ll Stick Around,“ and “Big Me” were among the radio staples.
By the time their second album, “The Colour and the Shape,” was being recorded in 1997, Goldsmith quit, followed by Smear (who would appear as a guest with the band, and later rejoin as an official full-time member in 2011).
Despite the hit parade, movement was still happening. Goldsmith and Smear were replaced by Taylor Hawkins and Franz Stahl respectively (although Stahl was fired before the recording of the group’s third album).
The song “My Hero” literally became an anthem for so many of their fans and beyond. Their music and persona was taking off to another level of soon-to-be rock God status.
This hits just kept coming…. “Monkey Wrench,” “Everlong” and “Walking After You” became international sensations. Before you knew it, the Foo’s were playing both the Glastonbury and Reading festivals in 1998.
“Learn to Fly” from the group’s third album, and “There is Nothing Left to Lose,” appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Best Short Form Video.
That year the video portion of their sonic vision became evident. The Foo’s began to deliver on parts of who they are with displays of humor, sincerity and out of this world visual development which has been an ongoing theme for the band.
“Next Year” became another uber-hit for the Foo’s, other significant tracks from the album include “Stacked Actors,” and “Breakout.”
“Breakout” was another visual concept project that was funny in addition to it having a great supporting soundtrack. The video created a buzz on its own that propelled the band into another category of uber-coolness.
As the music gods would have it, the Foo’s had been playing as a trio, but in 1999, Chris Shiflett joined the band on guitar.
Luckily, they survived the ‘90s alt rock explosion unscathed. The band’s fourth album, ”One by One,” included monster hits “All My Life,” “Times Like These,” and “Low.”
The album scored GRAMMYs for Best Rock Album and the band appeared at the Reading and Leeds Festivals.
In 2005, “In Your Honor” was spilt between acoustic and heavier materials. The two-disc set included the tracks “Best of You,” “DOA,” and “Resolve.” As the songs received airplay, the band toured with Weezer and headlined the Reading and Leeds festivals.
“Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace,” Foo Fighters’ sixth album, was released in 2007, and nominated for four GRAMMYS. The band won for Best Hard Album and Best Hard Rock Performance. A highlight for the band includes playing Wembley Stadium joined by Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.
The band’s seventh studio album, “Wasting Light,” was created with Nirvana’s producer, the legendary Garbage drummer, Butch Vig. Praised for its production and songwriting, the 2011 “back-to-basics album” earned five GRAMMY nominations with four wins, including Best Rock Album.
FOO FIGHTERS | The NAME
The term foo fighter was used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFO’s or mysterious aerial phenomenon seen in the skies over both the European and Pacific theaters of operations. Needless to say, Grohl read a lot of UFO stories back in the day.
“Sonic Highways” was the band’s 2014 album. It was a passion project for Grohl. Eight songs were written and recorded in eight studios in eight different cities. HBO aired a miniseries documenting the band’s attempt to capture the history and feel of each town for the related tracks.
The interviews were insane. It literally had the who’s who of the music world. The names that have the caption next to them. Interviews included chats with the legendary blues icon Buddy Guy, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Mike D of the Beastie Boys, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Chuck D, LL Cool J, Rick Rubin, Gary Clark, Jr., Joe Walsh, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Rodney Bingenheimer and President Obama. There were several others, it was a fantastic lineup of interviews.
This film was so well done it would go on to earn a GRAMMY Award for Best Music Film, and the band set off on their “Sonic Highways World Tour.”
Unfortunately, as most legends tdo, he had a slip and fall while performing. Grohl broke his leg and had no choice but to cancelled their European tour dates.
But with his characteristic steely resolve, and the ability to find humor in the most difficult situations, Foo Fighters would go on to tour North America with their “The Broken Leg Tour.
In 2015, the band released an EP called “Saint Cecilia” and an indefinite hiatus was announced. After a variety of rumors, the band released a mock documentary about going in an improbable musical direction and pursuing electronic music while fronted by Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees fame.
The demise of Foo Fighters was found to be greatly exaggerated when they released their 2017 album, “Concrete and Gold.” Influenced by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles, “Concrete and Gold” features vocal performances by Justin Timberlake and Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men. Paul McCartney makes an appearance playing drums on “Sunday Rain.” The album showed the band did not suffer from waning popularity: “Run” and “The Sky is a Neighbor” found success on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Once again, the band rocked the Glastonbury Festival.
What started to emerge from the Foo’s camp the last several years is the band’s sense of humor, and their reverence for equal rights for all. The band is not your typical politically charged protest band. What they do is subtle and with humor. What stands out most is they definitely take positions and stand by their convictions. Most of all, they help causes they believe in and the people that need help. Often they participate in benefit shows where they donate proceeds top those who need it most.
Despite their good guy image, the Foo’s will show up and support a good protest here and there. They’ll also hit back when needed.
Circling back to their sonic vision. In the fall of 2019, fans heard from their favorite band in a series of strangely-titled EPs. The numerically-titled releases featured demos, live performances, unreleased tracks, and covers (such as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born On The Bayou”).
Grohl admits that due to the pandemic, he finds it hard to imagine sharing the experience of gigs again. The band was forced to reschedule “The Van Tour” and a number of their upcoming European tour festival dates to 2021.
That said, Grohl also wants to reassure us… and perhaps convince himself, that there is no choice but to play again. Virginia raised him right, he cares about all the right thing and stands up for others when it’s required.
Recently Grohl said “we are instruments in a sonic cathedral. We will share these experiences together again… night-after-night, show after show again.” look out for more from the Foo’s very, very soon!