FOO FIGHTERS learning to fly
Learning to fly by Mick Wall (2015) Book review by Ian Browne Shamrock News
I’d read about foo fighters before, and I think I have even seen something like them in Oz too. These wee flying balls that accompanied the British and Allied Forces on their way to Germany on bombing campaigns during WWII, were they the curious wanderings of UFOs from another astrological civilization, wondering as to why we bothered to cause each other so much harm? As for the band that craftily borrowed their title from this energetic curiosity, as much as I do enjoy their songs; and I appreciate Dave Grohl, they are not high up in my list of favourite bands. But this book was an absolute winner.
From the outset author Mick Wall announces that this is a story about Dave Grohl: front man, songwriter, leader. His time in Nirvana would hound him endlessly, well in the band’s first decade at least, before there was enough history laundered within basement recording studios, on touring buses and in hotel rooms - for the Foos to develop their own legend. I really enjoyed the story associated with Dave’s punk background over in DC in Dain Bramage, and then Scream’s tours of the UK & Europe, leading up to him becoming Nirvana’s drummer, whereby this stage Mr Grohl was also known as one of the best rock drummers on the go. The psychology behind Kurt Cobain, his rampant drug use, and relationship with Courtney Love, and how all this affected Nirvana; Dave himself, are explored fluently, the fallout from which leaving Dave Grohl scarred to this day.
Nirvana sourced via Wikipedia
In this book you tour the globe with Nirvana and the Foos, and Dave says some nice things about our neck of the woods: “I was just blown away because it was the best of both worlds. It almost had a European feel to it, but it was a little too friendly and sunny and beautiful to be considered Europe.”
I relished how Dave Grohl suggested that many of the Seattle bands were not true to their streets, some didn’t even hail from the city itself, jumping on the bandwagon as the ‘sound’ became popular. I was never much of a Seattle Sound fan - though I did appreciate much of it - I found it all so mainstream. However, pioneers Mudhoney, and early days Nirvana, did turn me on. In some ways I felt a part of a few aspects of this book’s journey, as I have seen Mudhoney twice in Sydney, and I saw the Foo Fighters play in their early days on the Spit on the Gold Coast - on a seriously hot summer’s day - alongside the Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth, with my crew from Cronulla.
But this story too is one of self-reflection, where Dave Grohl laments past options he implemented when dealing with band members he felt had served their time, and the patience required when it came to his jousting with Courtney Love, for example. In fact, a chapter which described a coming together of enemy camps made me weep. I was reading at my fav café by the beach near Byron Bay when the moment took me by surprise. I had just collected the attention of two gorgeous young ladies in the café, for whatever reason, and just when one of ladies was heading my way, the tears fell. She was taken aback by the moment that played out on my face, and kept on her way, diverting her gaze to less disastrous scenery.
I was intrigued with how Mick Wall explores the wheeling-n-dealing of the movement of new Foo Fighter albums within the minefield of new musical landscapes, and how Dave came to make his decisions on how to pave the way forward when it came to touring and promoting them. Interesting too was the variety of connections Dave gained with famous music and television identities, who came his way during all this. But best of all, I thoroughly enjoyed Kurt Cobain’s revelations of his dislike of at least one rock genre, where Nirvana and the grunge that followed pretty much destroyed the ‘hairspray bands’. Along with 30 plus years of going out on the weekend to pubs, only to see low-on-creativity-Australians boorishly being excited by six-string-dickheads covering the same ol shit like: ‘Hotel California’, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, my other pet hates have been bands falling within the American ‘glam-rock’ genre. And Kurt Cobain’s description of this abhorrent food chain, especially the likes of Guns N’ Roses, nailed it for me too: “Whether we’re proficient in saying what we want to say doesn’t matter, it’s just the fact that we are trying to communicate something different, something those cock-rock bands don’t.”
Mick Wall captures the life of this popular indie rock band Foo Fighters very well and allows us into the life of Dave Grohl with a kind dignity and earthy honesty. I’m guessing having been around Dave Grohl since the early 90’s - him being on TV, and me being at that early days’ sun-struck concert, I’m not the only one who feels they know this talented musician and singer. And while I never included the Foos or any Seattle bands, other than one Nirvana song in my Face Book Indie series, Mudhoney will appear in my FB punk-n-hardcore series later this year. Anyway, to wrap it up (great book, do), my fav Foo Fighter songs are: Monkey Wrench, The Pretender, Best of You, Times Like These, and of course Learn To Fly.
Dave Grohl sourced via Inside Hook