I can’t believe that the last time that rock music had a cogent and important movement which emanated from primarily one city (Seattle) was around 30 years ago! Seriously?!?! Yep, it’s been over 30 years now since the Big Four of grunge and a bunch of alternative music personalities momentarily lit up the rock world. If you are an older Gen X person as I am according to more recent timelines, the number of decades which have passed is staggering since many of us remember when people labelled this music in the Eighties as college rock or modern rock.
Looking back to that time of the early- to mid-Nineties, I remember my having the CDs by such alternative luminaries in my CD players as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, The Offspring, Liz Phair, Alanis Morissette, among many others. It was a very heady five year period of time when some of the best music of the moment was also its most popular. But, when looking back at that brief list, I find it surprising that only two of those artists have continued with their lineup and sound relatively intact, Pearl Jam and Green Day. Alanis and Liz both were in a more pop direction, while Nirvana, Alice, Soundgarden and STP all lost their distinctive lead singers to mental health issues. The Offspring keeps trudging onward, though at a much reduced profile. And, finally, the Pumpkins became lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan’s vehicle, with its original lineup jettisoned shortly after the big success arrived.
Some may say that grunge ended with the death of Nirvana’s visionary leader Kurt Cobain, and I would agree that the commercial appeal of most grunge music did become passé in Kurt’s death. But, Cobain’s suicide also signified the end of the “anti-rock star,” an artist who shunned the spotlight often thrust upon the rock personalities from the beginning of the musical form in the Fifties. Oddly, though, was the end of Nirvana allowed one member to stake his claim to the title of rock’s LAST rock star. Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl would eventually put down his drumsticks, pick up a guitar and grow into one of rock last and truly charismatic frontmen.
I have memories of my high school students at the time being intrigued by the possibility of Grohl carrying the torch for Nirvana music. While Grohl kept the sonic nature of Nirvana’s music intact, he took a more mainstream, nearly classic rock, approach to his music all the while celebrating his punk roots. Plus, Grohl, under the moniker Foo Fighters, created a sound that actually combined everything in which a Gen X-er would have grown up listening to. In fact, Grohl has said that every one of his Nirvana drum introductions was nicked from the Gap Band, Chic or some other funk band of the Seventies and Eighties (yet another reason why R&B and rap artists are welcomed into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame).
So, what humbly began as a Dave Grohl solo project without his name being initially attached, Foo Fighters morphed and evolved into rock’s truly great band still standing. Remember, the other two bands left standing with the Foos are Pearl Jam and Green Day. Pearl Jam continues to do great work while packing arenas around the world; yet, the band continues to take something of the anti-rock star approach with their stardom. And, Green Day has lost their edge over the past decade with some middling albums released during that time. All that proves is that has got to be difficult for a punk band to continue to grow artistically.
So, that leaves the Foos, who have become much beloved by fans not simply for their music, but their chemistry on and off the stage and in and out of the studio. In the nearly three decades since Cobain’s passing, Grohl has established himself as a legendary musician by playing both live and in the studio with such rock icons as Tom Petty and The Queens of the Stone Age. And the man’s kindness to fans and critics alike has been inspiring as well, which has built up massive amounts of good will throughout the world.
Hell, the Foos were nice even when they were protesting people of a crazy church who were picketing a venue the day of a Foos concert. And how did the band protest back? By playing disco music, of course. The video of this moment went viral in 2021 as artists were emerging from the pandemic quarantine, only making the band that much more loveable.
Then, we all were shocked to learn that the band’s terrific drummer Taylor Hawkins had died after a concert. The band was shocked, and the rock world mourned. In all honesty, I had not seen as large of an outpouring of emotion that Hawkins’ death elicited since Kurt Cobain’s in 1994. Of course, I did not know the man. But, every time I watched a video in which he was performing, he looked like he was having the time of his life. I understand that the musicians of Foo Fighters have something of a brotherhood feeling between them, often referring themselves a big family, including the wives and children. So, I am certain that Hawkins’ death hit the group like a sledgehammer.
However, the tribute concert to the drummer held early this month in September helped with the healing process. It was appropriate when Taylor Hawkins’ sixteen-year-old son Shane stole the show with his emotional drumming during the band’s signature number “My Hero.” After that performance, many have speculated that Shane would join the band, but I suspect that void will eventually be filled by someone with more seasoning whose personality fits in with the band. The drummer who manned the skins for most of the Foos set was the son of legendary Queen drummer Roger Taylor whose name is Rufus Taylor. If Rufus grows into just half of the drumming entertainer that he father is, the Foos will be in great hands.
By the way, there will be another tribute concert later this month. The first one took place in Wembley Stadium in London, while the next one will take place at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles. I understand why the concert will be in LA but wouldn’t it have been cooler if the concert would have been held in a huge outdoor stadium, such as in Dallas or even in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. Why do I say those? Mainly because the locations are centrally located in the country. I’m just saying.
I know it has taken me a while to get this entry together, I feel that it made a much better read than the moment I heard the news about Taylor Hawkins. When I write emotionally, I tend to make more stupid mistakes than I normally do.
Enough is enough! Let’s do a countdown of my 40 favorite songs by Foo Fighters.
40. “Saint Cecilia” (Saint Cecilia EP, 2015)
39. “Erase/Replace” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)
38. “Statues” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)
37. “Shadow Dancing” (Hail Satin! – Dee Gees, 2021)
36. “Another Round” (In Your Honor, 2005)
35. “DOA” (In Your Honor, 2005)
34. “Bridge Burning” (Wasting Light, 2011)
33. “The Last Song” (In Your Honor, 2005)
32. “Hey Johnny Park” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
31. “Cold Day in the Sun” (In Your Honor, 2005)
30. “My Poor Brain” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
29. “I Am a River” (Sonic Rivers, 2014)
28. “La Dee Da” (Concrete and Gold, 2017)
27. “Night Fever” (Hail Satin! – Dee Gees, 2021)
26. “Run Rudolph Run” (single, 2021)
25. “Home” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)
24. “Medicine at Midnight” (Medicine at Midnight, 2021)
23. “Next Year” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999)
22. “In Your Honor” (In Your Honor, 2005)
21. “Waiting on a War” (Medicine at Midnight, 2021)
20. “Cheer Up, Boys (Your Makeup Is Running” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)
19. “Resolve” (In Your Honor, 2005)
18. “You Should Be Dancing” (Hail Satin – Dee Gees, 2021)
17. “Generator” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999)
16. “Making a Fire” (Mark Ronson Re-Version, 2021)
15. “The Line” (Concrete and Gold, 2017)
14. “Congregation” (Sonic Highways, 2014)
13. “Long Road to Ruin” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007)
12. “Breakout” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999)
11. “Monkey Wrench” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
10. “Run” (Concrete and Gold, 2017). This song is an example of the Foo Fighters doing a Led Zeppelin-plays-Wings type of number. It is melodic, heavy and 90s classic rock all rolled up into one 21st century version of power pop.
9. “Big Me” (Foo Fighters, 1995). One of the first songs released by the band from their eponymous debut album, “Big Me” may be more recognizable for its humorous video than this updated power pop sound. “Big Me” showed that this band should NEVER be confused with Nirvana.
8. “Shame Shame” (Medicine at Midnight, 2021). “Shame Shame” defies the Foos’ usual blueprint for a song since the band shuns the wall of guitar distortion for a tune which shows the band’s true versatility by building this one upon a throbbing, thundering bass. This song is vastly underrated by most Foo fans because of this show of musical maturity.
7. “All My Life” (One by One, 2002). This blistering song is arguably the Foos’ most aggressive tune in their catalog. Yet, it still stands proud in an anthemic setlist for which the band has become known.
6. “Best of You” (In Your Honor, 2005). “Best of You” is yet another stadium anthem, yet this one is more of a tender song lyrically speaking. It’s a mini-“Stairway,” or at least a Foos’ “Under the Bridge.”
5. “Everlong” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997). Arguably, this is the band’s most recognizable song. It is a patented Dave Grohl arena anthem.
4. “The Pretender” (Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, 2007). “The Pretenders begins as if it were a ballad, only to switch to a burner by the second verse. I think really got this method from listening to Kiss.
3. “Learn to Fly” (There Is Nothing Else to Learn, 1999). This song shows what happens when the Foos turn down the distortion and nearly jangle out – they make a power pop hit. Now, if Dave Grohl had only used a Rickenbacker…
2. “Times Like These” (One by One, 2002). Although I much prefer the quieter opening version the Foos have been using as of late in their shows, this song is still very strong in its studio form. The live version simply changes the song to make it much more dramatic, allowing it to become something of a “Here I Go Again”-type of power ballad.
1. “My Hero” (The Colour and the Shape, 1997). This arena rattler is a perfect mix of Nineties grunge power and Seventies power pop. The lyrics, the music and the ready-made sing-along nature of the chorus all push this song into anthem-hood, making it a song for the ages. This song was first used to perfection in the MTV-produced Nineties coming-of-age football story Varsity Blues. My older son used to jokingly sing this song to his young brother when the younger one became a football quarterback, making a comedic nod to the aforementioned film.