British journalist Mick Wall has penned books about AC/DC, Guns N'Roses, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Pearl Jam. Now, with Learning to Fly, he turns his attention to the Foo Fighters, charting the band's rise – or, more accurately, Dave Grohl's journey from punk rock everyman to stadium rock hero. "There is only one real Foo Fighter," Wall attests, "and his name is Dave Grohl.
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Grohl could have ended up in the brass section
Music was in Dave Grohl's blood – sort of. His father played the flute, his mother briefly sung in acapella groups. Young Dave's first instrument was a trombone. "But he just felt ridiculous," writes Wall. "You couldn't join a high school rock band playing the fucking trombone, man."
Beating Michael Jackson was an anti-climax
In January 1992, Grohl's pre-Foos band Nirvana knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts with their Nevermind album. The Seattle trio didn't know how to react. "They weren't gonna be jumping up and down, and going like, ‘Yeah!'" recalls the band's then-publicist Anton Brookes. "It was such an anti-climax... Nobody seemed to be taking much notice of it."
It's lucky anyone heard Grohl's songs
"I always tried to keep them sort of a secret," Grohl says of his early demos. "I wouldn't give people tapes. I always freaked out about that. I have the stupidest voice. I was totally embarrassed and scared that anyone would hear them. I just wanted to see how poppy or how noisy a song I could write. It was always just for fun."
Franz Stahl is still sore
When Pat Smear left the Foo Fighters in 1997, his replacement was Grohl's former Scream bandmate, Franz Stahl. In 1999 Stahl was informed his services were no longer required when the band contacted him via a conference call. "There's never been any sort of closure on any of it," he tells Wall. "And we're going on twenty years now."
Them Crooked Vultures' album almost killed Grohl
Not quite, but he did end up in hospital in the midst of recording it, while also tending to new Foos material and being kept awake most nights by his then-newborn daughter, Harper. The Foos leader was rushed to ER when chest pains were mistaken for a heart attack. The doctors did tests and, he says, "finally turned around and told me that I needed to stop drinking so much coffee!"
Foos almost re-recorded their debut album
Grohl briefly toyed with the idea of getting the band to re-record their 1995 debut to mark their 20th anniversary. Drummer Taylor Hawkins wasn't a fan of the idea. "Are you out of your fucking mind?" Wall quotes him as saying. "That's the worst idea! People would fucking hate it!"
From issue #769 (December, 2015), available now.