No one is you and that is your biggest power - Dave Grohl
With a career dating back to 1994, Foo Fighters have long been considered modern rock icons. Since their formation, they’ve played over 1,500 concerts selling out stadiums the world over, amassing over 32 million total albums sold and winning accolades across the globe including a staggering 15 Grammy awards. Their entry into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 only cemented their place as one of the greatest bands in a generation.
Formed in Seattle, Washington in 1994, the band started as a one-man project for former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, following the suicide of frontman Kurt Cobain. The group took its name from “Foo Fighter”, a nickname coined by Allied aircraft pilots during WWII for UFOs and other aerial phenomena.
Initially, Grohl had intended that his new musical project would be a solo, anonymous venture with many of the bands first songs being written by Grohl during his time with Nirvana. To occupy himself during tours, he took a guitar with him and wrote songs although he held them back from the band; he said in 1997, “I was in awe of frontman Kurt Cobain’s songs. And intimidated. I thought it was best that I keep my songs to myself.”
Ultimately, despite a variety of offers to play drums in different bands, Grohl declined and instead entered a studio in October 1994 to record twelve of the forty songs he had written. Except for a guitar part on ‘X-Static’, Grohl played every instrument and sang every vocal on the Foo Fighters first demo. Grohl completed an album’s worth of material in five days and handed out cassette demo copies of the sessions to his friends for feedback. However, regardless of Grohl’s desire for anonymity, the demo tape circulated in the music industry, creating interest among record labels.
After playing all the instruments on the demo tape, Grohl decided it would be wise to form a band to support the album and possible future works. The original band line up consisted of Grohl on lead guitar and vocals, drummer William Goldsmith, former Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Nate Mendel.
The group played its debut show at a keg party in February 1995 in Portland, Oregon with Grohl refusing to do interviews or tour large venues to promote the album. Foo Fighters undertook their first major tour in the spring of 1995, with their debut album ‘Foo Fighters’ released in July. Their single, ‘I’ll Stick Around’ hit No. 8 on the US Hot Modern Rock charts and the album was received with acclaim by many critics.
‘Foo Fighters’ was a commercial success, eventually going platinum in the USA, UK, and Canada, laying the foundation for the success they would experience in later years. The band spent the following months on tour, including their first appearance at the Reading Festival in England in August 1995.
The Colour and The Shape
Despite initial success, drama began to splinter the band during the recording of their second album in ‘The Colour and The Shape’ in 1996.
While Grohl once again wrote all the songs, the rest of the band collaborated on the arrangements. With the sessions nearly complete, Grohl took the rough mixes with him to Los Angeles, intending to finish up his vocal and guitar parts. While there, Grohl realized that he wasn’t happy with how the mixes were turning out, particularly the drums and decided to have the band re-record everything. Grohl took over the drums during the recording sessions without telling Goldsmith, causing a hurt Goldsmith to leave the band.
In need of a replacement for Goldsmith, Grohl contacted Alanis Morissette’s touring drummer Taylor Hawkins to see if he could recommend anybody. Grohl was surprised when Hawkins volunteered his own services as drummer and Hawkins made his debut with the group in time for the release of its second album, ‘The Colour and the Shape’.
Foo Fighters second album was another commercial success, spawning two hit singles, ‘Everlong’ and ‘Monkey Wrench’. Certified platinum in the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia, ‘The Colour and The Shape’ reinforced Foo Fighters position as one of the biggest rock bands to emerge from the post-grunge era of the early 90’s.
After the release of ‘The Colour and The Shape’ in 1997, Pat Smear simultaneously announced his departure from Foo Fighters and introduced his replacement, Grohl’s former Scream bandmate Franz Stahl.
There Is Nothing Left To Lose
In 1998, Foo Fighters travelled to Grohl’s home state of Virginia to write music for its third album. However, Grohl and Stahl were unable to co-operate as songwriters and notwithstanding that Stahl was a childhood friend of Grohl’s, he was fired due to creative differences before the recording of ‘There Is Nothing Left to Lose’,
The remaining trio of Grohl, Mendel, and Hawkins spent the next several months recording the band’s third album in Grohl’s Virginia home studio. After recording was completed, the band auditioned several potential guitarists, and eventually settled on Chris Shiflett. Shiflett initially joined the band as touring guitarist but achieved full-time status prior to the recording of the group’s fourth album.
There is Nothing Left To Lose went on to win Best Rock Album at the 2001 Grammy Awards and the video for the album’s hit single ‘Learn To Fly’ won Best Short Form Music Video on the same night. ‘Learn to Fly’ received extensive airplay on both pop and rock stations with a hilarious music video to entertain all ages and listeners. It could be considered the band’s first real breakout hit with the mainstream audience.
One by One
Near the end of 2001, the band reconvened to record their fourth album. After spending four months in a Los Angeles studio completing the album, Grohl spent some time helping Queens of the Stone Age complete their 2002 album ‘Songs for the Deaf’. Inspired by these sessions, Grohl decided to reconvene Foo Fighters to rework a few songs on their album. Instead, in a ten-day stretch, they re-recorded virtually the whole album at Grohl’s studio in Virginia.
The final album was released in October of 2002 under the title One by One. The album was a commercial success, topping the charts in Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, and sold over one million copies in the United States. One by One was positively received by critics, who praised its sound and production, and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 2004, the second for the band. Hit singles from the album included ‘All My Life’ and ‘Times Like These’.
In Your Honor
Post-release of ‘One By One’, Foo Fighters spent a solid 18 months on tour promoting the album and after such a hectic schedule, Grohl did not want to rush into recording another Foo Fighters record.
Initially Grohl intended to write acoustic material by himself, but eventually the project involved the entire band. Grohl insisted that the album be divided into two discs–one full of rock songs, the other featuring acoustic tracks. ‘In Your Honor’ was released in June 2005. The album’s hit single was undoubtedly ‘Best Of You’.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
For the follow-up to ‘In Your Honor’, the band decided to call in ‘The Colour and the Shape’ producer Gil Norton. ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ was released in September 2007. The album’s first single, ‘The Pretender’, was issued to radio in early August.
In mid-to-late 2007 ‘The Pretender’ topped the Modern Rock chart for a record 18 weeks and made them the only artist besides Red Hot Chili Peppers to have four consecutive albums have songs reach the top.
Not long after completing the recording sessions for the album, the band participated in Live Earth at Wembley Stadium in London, England, performing the penultimate set of the night.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was nominated for 5 Grammys in 2008, winning Best Rock Album and Best Hard Rock Performance (for ‘The Pretender’).
Hiatus and A Return To Music in 2011
After taking a break from music, Foo Fighters returned in 2011 with the album ‘Wasting Light’. The album was recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage and peaked at number 1 on the albums chart in 12 countries, including the US and UK.
Between 2014 and 2021, Foo Fighters would release three more albums; ‘Sonic Highways’ (2014), ‘Concrete & Gold’ (2017) and ‘Medicine at Midnight’ (2021) winning 9 more Grammy’s in the process.
Foo Fighters enshrinement in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 only further cemented their place in the pantheon of truly great rock bands. After releasing their tenth studio album ‘Medicine at Midnight’, a huge world tour was planned for 2021 and 2022.
Death of Taylor Hawkins
On March 25, 2022, drummer Taylor Hawkins died suddenly in his hotel room in Bogotá, Colombia. Foo Fighters were scheduled to perform that night at the Estéreo Picnic Festival and after the show was cancelled, the stage was turned into a candlelight vigil for Hawkins. A few days later, the band cancelled all remaining performances and took a 6-month hiatus prior to their tribute show at Wembley.
What’s Next For Foo Fighters?
After blowing the roof of Wembley Stadium in what was a stellar performance, who knows when Foo Fighters will be back in the UK! What you can be certain of is that when they do return, fans will be clamouring to buy concert tickets and purchase their music. After what has been a sensational career, Foo Fighters show no sign of stopping yet, and we can’t wait to see them headlining back in the UK (hopefully) soon.