“The Foo Fighters are a bunch of boring people, we really are,” Dave Grohl told SPIN in 1997.
“This band is relatively free of drama; it’s just a totally different scenario. Nirvana was nuts, it was crazy. I made my way through all of that other bullshit, and now I’m back to square one. That feels nice.”
However hard he tried though to have a ‘drama free’ musical outlet, there was plenty of trouble brewing before, during and after the making of Foo Fighters’ second album The Colour and The Shape concluded.
The evidence is plain to hear on plenty of this record’s tracks.
‘Monkey Wrench’ is, as Grohl told Kerrang!, “About living with someone and feeling like you’re living in a fucking cell, a dysfunctional relationship that’s bound to fail. And then I wound up getting a divorce.”
‘Wind Up’, with its serrated guitars and pointed lyrics like ‘Spare me confession, its confession you sell’ shoots straight about Grohl’s views on the music press and journalists.
And the reflective to roaring ‘February Stars’ feels pensive and desperate with lines like ‘One day I’ll have enough to gamble, I’ll wait to hear your final call.’
This follow up to 1995’s self-titled debut signalled a turning point for Grohl as a songwriter.
“Last time the lyrics were obscure for a good reason. They were nonsense,” Grohl revealed to Melody Maker. “A few songs meant a lot, but for the most part I just needed a vocal track.
“In no way do I consider myself a clever lyricist, or even a lyricist. I can't even write fucking postcards. How am I going to write songs that really grab someone?
“The first album, Foo Fighters, I was just so afraid of anyone understanding anything I had to say – but I had no choice for this record.”
In a Dickensian type scenario, producer Gil Norton laid the ground rules, that "nonsense" lyrics wouldn’t cut it this time round.
“He wouldn't let me have dinner until I'd written some lyrics,” Grohl said. “Every time I wrote a bad line I'd get 40 lashes.”
So, to write with more depth, he turned to the turmoil of his marriage breakdown.
“They're about last winter, the winter of my discontent,” he told Melody Maker.
Discontent and deep frustrations also marred the band’s initial recording sessions with Norton in the rural setting of Bear Creek Studios in Washington. Grohl described it as ‘a bad experience.’
Norton deemed bassist Mendel and drummer Goldsmith to be ‘the rhythmless section’ according to Rolling Stone. Goldsmith in particular was feeling the heat.
“Dave had me do 96 takes of one song, and I had to do 13 hours’ worth of takes on another one. It just seemed that everything I did wasn’t good enough for him or anyone else,” he told Miami New Times in 1998.
In the end, Grohl re-recorded nearly all the drum parts himself.
“I did it because I knew the album wasn’t going to make it unless I did,” he explained to the Telegraph in 2011.
Humiliated, Goldsmith walked.
“There were a lot of reasons it didn’t work out,” Grohl said in the documentary Back And Forth. “But there was also a part of me that was like, ‘you know, I don’t know if I’m finished playing the drums yet’”
Though he also admitted some wrongdoing.
“I wish that I would have handled things differently.”
But out of the turbulence and high stakes pressures of making The Colour and The Shape, also came the song that’s remained their best loved and defining of the band’s career.
On a break from recording, Grohl returned home to Virginia to work on a song that started with a Sonic Youth-like sounding riff he’d been fiddling with. That song became ‘Everlong’.
“I knew it was a cool song, but I didn’t think it would be the one song by which most people recognise the band,” he told Kerrang! “It’s 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 explained the sustained power of this song during VH1 Storytellers session.
“I honestly think that if it weren’t for this song, we probably wouldn’t still be here,” he said. “It opened up so many doors for us melodically, dynamically, it sort of gave us a reason to keep being a band for 12 or 13 more years.”
Foo Fighters return to Australia in early 2018 and now with seven more albums since The Colour and The Shape, including this year’s solid Concrete and Gold, there’s no shortage of songs that will provide for some raucous singalongs and rigorous dancing. But there’s always one song that everyone is waiting to hear.
After 20 years, even Dave Grohl is still swept up by the reaction when he strikes up the opening riff of ‘Everlong.’
“When you play a song like that every night, so many people connect with it,” he told NME. “That sort of communal energy makes it magical every fucking night. Even on your worst night it still feels good.”