It’s been awhile. It feels good. And weird. Good and weird.
Edit: I wrote this on the morning of March 25th. Later that day, we find out news that Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins, died while on tour with the band in Colombia.
An excerpt from the book on the fast friendship between Taylor and Dave:
“Taylor and I had become practically inseparable since he had joined the band the year before, becoming devious partners in crime from day one. During his stint as Alanis Morissette’s drummer, long before he became a Foo Fighter, we would bump into each other backstage at festivals all over the world, and our chemistry was so obvious that even Alanis herself once asked him, “What are you going to do when Dave asks you to be his drummer?” Part Beavis and Butthead, part Dumb and Dumber, we were a hyperactive blur of Parliament Lights and air drumming wherever we went…”
One way to know I’m getting old is that I’m reading (and enjoying!) all sorts of biographies. Some of the more recent ones I’ve read are about Bad Religion and Kurt Cobain. There’s something especially fascinating about sitting down and learning about the people who shaped the soundtrack to my adolescent life.
Anyway, The Storyteller by Dave Grohl has been on my to-read list for a bit now. He’s always seemed like such a character and though I don’t consider them one of my favorites, I’ve definitely enjoyed listening to the Foo Fighters over the years.
His story seems so improbable. (Interestingly, I said the same thing after reading Heavier than Heaven: “Also, after reading this, I think it’s incredible and seemingly improbable that Nirvana actually happened.”)
How did this guy go from a scrawny, goofy high school dropout who was just bashing on the drums for Scream (and then onto Nirvana) to fronting a mega rock band, collaborating with some of the biggest names in music, appearing / performing at countless awards shows, the White House and appearing on Saturday Night Live more than any other musician?
Luck, being in the right place at the right time, and raw tenacity. Plus, being open to whatever the universe throws at him and always up for going along for the ride.
He reflects on his life as he’s gotten older:
“Sometimes I forget that I’ve aged. My head and my heart seem to play this cruel trick on me, deceiving me with the false illusion of youth by greeting the world every day through the idealistic, mischievous eyes of a rebellious child finding happiness and appreciation in the most basic, simple things.”
Aye, I hear that!
He writes about how much music affected and shaped his life and it’s so true. How he spent countless hours practicing guitar and drums by playing along to his favorite bands. I can relate — I remember looping songs over and over again so I could try to nail certain guitar riffs and trying to imagine the slightest bit of what it would be like to be a rock star.
The book is a quick read and I found myself wanting more details about every aspect of his life. But I found myself laughing out loud at a number of parts, and nodding my head in agreement in others (the passages he writes on being a dad and how much his daughters mean to him got me good).
Anyway, if you appreciate Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters, or rock music in general, you’ll probably dig this.
Spotify has wrapped (which is fun and cool) and I had some initial opinions on it, via Twitter:
My Spotify Wrapped 2021 is just going to be kids songs all the way down, isn’t it?
Fortunately, it wasn’t! With regards to looking back at musical tastes, I’ve always been partial about Last.FM and it’s also a fun thing to look back on when I remember to grab the data in time — especially since Spotify Wrapped is fully baked around the beginning of December. (Though, that’s probably because a lot of people’s profiles will be overrun with Christmas music.)
My top artists for 2021 are:
1. Bad Religion
2. Bob Dylan
4. Fat Freddy’s Drop
5. The Sounds
6. Hot Water Music
7. Joe Strummer
9. Bing Crosby
10. The Beatles
Bad Religion tops the list due to reading their biography earlier this year and just really going back through their catalog remembering some of their songs.
It’s kind of interesting comparing it to my musical tastes from 10 years ago. Hot Water Music and Bob Dylan were there. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Bad Religion was probably one of my top 3 favorite bands while growing up as an angsty teenager. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost some of my punk rock sensibilities and the desire to keep up with the bands that I used to love so much.
But I have so many pleasant and vivid memories of listening to various albums on full blast in my room or car, while driving around during the sweltering Southern California summers. I remember wearing my cross buster t-shirt and feeling so smug when a fellow student (who went to one of these crazy mega churches) in a high school class asked “why on Earth would you wear something like that?” I remember keeping a dictionary nearby to look up every third word of a song because their wordy lyrics were so ridiculously complex.
And although some of their albums came out half a decade or more before I started listening to them, “Suffer”, “No Control”, “Against the Grain”, and “Generator” were critical components in the sound track of my teenage life.
I think one of the reasons I liked them so much was because their lyrics were a bit more highbrow than the average punk band of the day. It was less “fuck yeah anarchy, smash shit up” and more thought provoking stuff that pondered our existence and place in the universe — for example, these lyrics from “No Control”:
There’s no vestige of beginning, no prospect of an end
When we all disintegrate it will all happen again, yeah
If you came to conquer, you’ll be king for a day
But you too will deteriorate and quickly fade away
Hopeless? Sure! But also a thought provoking message about how the universe and existence is about so much more than just us and what we do? Sure! Excuse me while I go listen to this song real quick.
Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve given them a serious listen, so, imagine my surprise when I see a friend add “Do What You Want”, a biography about Bad Religion, to their reading list. A book?! About Bad Religion?!
The book spans 40 years of the band’s history, from their first practice sessions inside a hot garage in the valley, to their most recent album (Age of Unreason). (Have they really been at it for forty years and have something like 17 albums!? It’s really unbelievable to me that these guys are pushing 60 and still at it and enjoying it.)
Despite being fairly emotionless and dry (imagine reading about a history of a band in a newspaper article), this book was a really easy read. There’s nothing scandalous or exceptionally profound within, but it does share interesting anecdotes from tours and recording sessions of every album they’ve put out. And hey, I definitely learned some interesting things about the band!
I also found myself flipping back and forth between this book and then loading up Spotify in order to listen to various songs and albums that were mentioned. I forgot how good some of these early albums are. And I’ve really missed out on some of the more recent stuff. There are some good tunes there.
All in all, the book provided a nice sense of nostalgia and even helped me rediscover some more recent tunes from one of my all-time favorites.
I vaguely remember how big of a deal Kurt Cobain’s death was when I was in middle school, but I never really thought too much about him as a person, or the deeper meaning behind various Nirvana songs. All this, despite being a huge part of the sound track of my teenage life.
One of my biggest takeaways after reading this book was: how can you help those who don’t want it?
What a tortured, tormented soul who really struggled with life. I honestly felt down and depressed after reading certain parts of this book. I would put it down and mope about the house while I processed what I just read.
That said, another part of the book that I really enjoyed and appreciated was hearing how much joy and life his daughter brought to his life and how much he loved being a dad.
Also, after reading this, I think it’s incredible and seemingly improbable that Nirvana actually happened.
I often found myself flipping between this book and Spotify to listen to various Nirvana songs that were mentioned, trying to appreciate them in a new light and really hear them and looking at various performances on YouTube.