When Kurt Cobain took his life in April 1994 and the incredible success that Nirvana had achieved came to an abrupt halt, the last thing that anyone could imagine was that within a relatively short time the drummer Dave Grohl would be standing in front of a packed stadium, as the leader of another band, with a Gibson DG-335 electric guitar in his hand. But this is what happened, and at the time it seemed like something miraculous had taken place. And it still seems like that 25 years later.
The fact that Grohl had written all the songs, recorded them in only seven days, practically played all the instruments, and packaged the whole thing up with the name WWII pilots gave to describe UFOs, Foo Fighters - while slapping an antique Buck Rogers’ raygun on the front cover - only added to its mystique. The eponymous named album was released on 4 July, 1995 (Capitol Records) and went on to hit number 3 in the UK charts; certify platinum in the US and in other countries.
Following the death of his friend and bandmate, Grohl was depressed to the point that he found it difficult to even listen to music. He considered abandoning the industry altogether but found it had "some sort of cathartic therapy to go out and record songs that I'd written by myself." So he booked six days at Seattle's Robert Lang Studios, and recorded "my favorite songs I had written in the past four, five years that no one had heard", with the assistance of producer Barrett Jones. Grohl had never fronted a band and had doubts about his singing, which led to him often double-track to boost his vocals. "The first Foo Fighters record was not meant to be an album, it was an experiment and for fun,” Grohl said. “I was just fucking around. Some of the lyrics weren't even real words."
Grohl’s record company wanted him to have a band and so for the ‘live Foo Fighters’ he recruited Pat Smear on guitar, Nate Mendel on bass and William Goldsmith on drums.
The first four songs on the album represent what most people imagine when they think of the Foo Fighters’ sound. This Is a Call might be “the fragmented story of a wildly dysfunctional family or a raucous punk-rock fantasia” but whatever it is, it is decidedly catchy. It recalls Nirvana because of its quiet-loud grungy format but its lyrics, as elsewhere on the album, never grab you as intensely as Cobain’s.
I’ll Stick Around — ostensibly a bitter love song, perhaps relating to Courtney Love — again is ‘Nirvanaesque’, and the screamed repetition of “I don’t owe you anything,” certainly recalls Cobain. The third song, Big Me, is a quieter and more melodic pop number, which in many ways is reminiscent of the Beatles. The outstanding Alone + Easy Target reportedly refers to the period when Nevermind was starting to make huge sales. “Crazy TV dreams might be true… Did you ever listen?” sings Grohl in anger, “… Get out, get out, get out.”
For All the Cows is in a similar vein, with quiet early ‘ruminating’ verses, suddenly exploding into hardcore punk. “My kind has all run out,” Grohl sings, perhaps railing against those who mindlessly follow the herd. Exhausted closes the album, and perhaps describes Grohl’s state of mind, as an extremely long feedback section half-way through finally gives way to a more melodic outro.
Following the tragedy of Cobain’s death, Dave Grohl chanelled his demons and fears into a project that he himself had serious doubts about, but following this outstanding debut the band he created became huge. Grohl consolidated the band’s success through global tours and successful follow-up albums and, in many ways, this transformation can be considered nothing short of miraculous.