Like most music icons of the latter 20th century, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl isn’t a classically trained musician. Beginning his musical odyssey as a drummer, Grohl would spend hours on end “in my bedroom practising alone to Beatles records (…) battering my drums until my hands literally bled,” as he remembered in his book Dave’s True Stories.
Following the death of his Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain in 1994, Grohl decided to turn a leaf to the successful chapter that became Foo Fighters. Until this point, Gohl was predominantly a drummer, but as the leader of Foo Fighters, he began to try his hand with the guitar and vocals.
In a 2020 clip from Oates Song Fest seen below, Grohl tells the story of Foo Fighters’ emotional 1997 hit ‘Everlong’ and how it simply manifested in the studio one day while he was working on the band’s second album, The Colour and the Shape.
According to Grohl, it all started with a random guitar chord. “I’m not a trained musician, so I don’t know what that chord is,” he explained. After laying out the chords, a rough sketch of the positive yet emotionally intense lyrics materialised. At first, he thought he may have plagiarised the progression from Sonic Youth’s ‘Schizophrenia’, but was later relieved to realise its originality.
“That song’s about a girl that I’d fallen in love with, and it was basically about being connected to someone so much that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them, you harmonise perfectly,” Grohl told Kerrang of ‘Everlong’ in a 2006 conversation.
Shortly before writing the track, Grohl had been couch-surfing following a divorce from his former wife, photographer Jennifer Youngblood. Over the Christmas period in 1996, the tides seemed to change when Grohl found a new love in Louise Post, the vocalist and guitarist of the band Veruca Salt. As well as offering Grohl the companionship he sought, she was the muse behind a song that helped launch Foo Fighters to global acclaim as the figurehead of their masterpiece sophomore album.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2018, Grohl was asked if he still connects with the original emotion behind more ruminative and personal songs like ‘Everlong’ during live shows. Ostensibly, some musicians will notice the initial emotion of a given track wear off over time, but for Grohl, as soon as he starts playing, the feelings come flooding back, and he “giggles” to stifle the tears.
“Oh, yeah,” Grohl answered. “There are nights where you’re thinking about what toppings are on the pizza on the bus and whether you need to do laundry tomorrow, but when you launch into a song like that, it immediately brings you back. We’re not robots. What chokes me up is when I see people singing lyrics back to me with the same emotion. So if you hear me kind of giggling in the middle of a song, it’s because I’m trying not to just fucking totally break down in front of everybody like a fool.”