Dave Grohl: "Foo Fighters", "Nirvana"
and Other Misadventures
by Martin James
Writing a biography of a legendary musician can be a subtle
art. You can either express fully the significance of the artists work
based around an insightful chronology of their life - see Jon Savage's
"Touching from a Distance" about the rise and fall of Ian
Curtis. Or you can get so obsessed with detailing your musical hero's
career that in the end the fruits of you labour turn out to be used
as evidence against you in an injunction for a restraining order - see
any Pete Doherty biography.
In "Dave Grohl: Foo Fighters, Nirvana and other misadventures"
Martin James manages to keep on the former side of biographical writing,
producing an outstandingly detailed description of Grohl's career, from
a garage band covering The Rolling Stones and Led Zep to fronting Foo
Fighters and packing out stadiums and enchanting festival-goers. Oh
and also that grunge band he played drums in for a little while.
James seems very keen to capture the drummer-come-frontman's underdog
spirit. Firstly fighting the prejudice surrounding his generation with
his heavily punk influenced music and secondly destroying the assumption
that drummers are musically illiterate and tone-deaf. The assumption,
which has spawned the many drummer jokes common to anyone who has picked
up the sticks and smashed the life out of a snare head for kicks.
It is clear from the start that the book is for fans first and literary
critics second, as in his meticulously detailed depiction of the Washington
punk scene circa 1984. This, it is stressed, was a significant influence
to Grohl as his skill and passion for music matured through each successive
band he played with, culminating in his recognition in the mainstream
popular music world with arguably one of the most important bands of
the last 50 years - Nirvana. Of course it would be very easy to weigh
the piece down by focusing on Grohl's interpretation and reaction to
Cobain's suicide and instantly sell a few million copies. But James
steers clear of this topic and remains faithful to the gospel according
to Grohl. For this I give him muchos kudos.
What is most striking about the sporadically placed interviews with
the grunge legend himself is his humble nature when discussing the longevity
and consistent influence of his career throughout modern music. His
time drumming for Queens Of The Stone Age was hailed a great coup in
obtaining Grohl's talent on the kit for their breakthrough record "Songs
for the Deaf" yet he merely sees as it "fuckin' awesome fun",
more interested in complimenting singer Josh Homme and co. as the "the
hardest rocking band alive today" before suggesting they would
"shit all over Led Zeppelin".
This biography does not tell us anything we didn't know before about
the great man himself - instead it compiles each era of Grohl and provides
some context to understand how a legend was born.