Foo Fighters are as synonymous with rock music as bread is with butter at this point.
After the tragic passing of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl’s music career hung in the balance, and he could’ve easily blended into the background, where he was for most of Nirvana’s successes, lodged behind a heavily bruised drum kit. An avid, talented songwriter and musician, Grohl began Foos as a one-man project.
He had been writing original songs when on tour with Nirvana, although the material he wrote was kept secret from the rest of his former band. Following Cobain’s death, Grohl headed into the studio to record some of his own tracks – rejecting offers to join various other bands to begin his solo work – a decision (or sliding doors moment) that ultimately changed his fate.
Grohl recorded every part of the album’s instruments himself. When completed, he gave out cassettes of his recordings to his pals, under the name of ‘Foo Fighters’ due to him reading books about WWII UFOs at the time of recording. Not soon after, record labels picked up the scent of Grohl’s work, and soon he’d signed to Capitol Records, before releasing the synonymous debut on Roswell Records, and Grohl enlisted Nate Mendel, William Goldsmith and Pat Smear to be the band’s bassist, drummer and guitarist respectively, albeit the latter two didn’t stay for very long.
The band’s next album, ‘The Colour And The Shape’ – widely considered the Foos brightest moment – was recorded and released in May 1997. Following Goldsmith’s departure, the band hired Alanis Morrisette drummer Taylor Hawkins and Scream guitarist Franz Stahl to replace Smear. Since it’s release, the record has been certified platinum in Australia, Canada, the UK and US – not bad, huh?
As the band prepared to write their third album, the group switched labels to RCA following issues with Capitol and recorded ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’. During this period, they held auditions for a new guitarist, before picking Chris Shifflett as the main for the role. The record again saw Foo Fighters retain prominence in the rock sphere, with tracks like ‘Learn To Fly’ and ‘Breakout’ reaching chart success in various countries worldwide.
After the turn of the millennia, the Foos set about recording their fourth effort in 2001. Following some writing struggles, Grohl helped Queens Of The Stone Age record ‘Songs For The Deaf’ – an album that suggested everything Grohl touched turned to gold, with his drumming at the centre of a greatly impressive record. After that, Grohl and his band returned to the studio where they laid the foundations of ‘One By One’ – a record that failed to replicate the brilliance of the previous three, yet still had its moments with the emphatic ‘Times Like These’ and, arguably one of their best numbers in ‘All My Life’.
2005’s ‘In Your Honour’, the group’s fifth album, followed much in the same vein – a solid effort by all accounts, with tracks like ‘Best Of You’ and ‘DOA’ reside in the groups greatest hits, while their status as one of the world’s biggest rock outfits was getting cemented with every release.
When the band released their first single from 2007’s ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’, ‘The Pretender’, they probably weren’t expecting it to dominate the charts as much as it did. It was top of Billboard’s Modern Rock chart for a record 19 weeks, and getting certified platinum twice in the US, once in Canada and in the UK, as well as gold in various other countries. As such the hype for the album was incredibly high, and the record was No. 1 in the UK Album Charts, as getting third in the US Billboard 200, and was even nominated for a Grammy. The band went on to release a Greatest Hits album in 2009, although that now seems a bit premature, as they’ve continued to write belters worthy of a place on that record for the past decade since its release.
‘Wasting Light’ was the next record to make waves. The lead single ‘Rope’ was emphatic, and had the typical Foo Fighters punch that many had come to love over the years. The record differed to any release before, as Grohl recorded it all in his garage using only analogue equipment. The record was highly critically-acclaimed, winning five of the six Grammy Awards it was nominated for. What’s more, the record saw Smear return as a full-time member of the band too.
The band had initially planned for a break but decided instead to get going on album number eight, which ultimately turned out to be ‘Sonic Highways‘, which was released in November of 2014. While not as successful as the previous two releases, the record wasn’t deemed as a failure, but rather just another consistent release from a band well versed in that department.
While to tour in Sweden in 2015, Grohl fell off stage and broke his leg, comically announcing to the crowd that he’s going to have to go to hospital. There’s no real story there: it’s just peak Dave Grohl, with a video of the incident going viral online as one of the most rock’n’roll things to happen since the turn of the 2000s. The band later rebranded a North American Tour as ‘The Broken Leg Tour’ because why the hell not.
In November 2015, the band shared Saint Cellicia EP – a free to download EP, before announcing an indefinite hiatus. Again, that was not to be too serious – the band releasing a mockumentary about life after the band in which Grohl became an electronic solo artist, although while they poked fun, it was clear they did want a bit of a break from proceedings.
Yet, in 2017, the band recorded and released their ninth album, ‘Concrete & Gold’ – a record that notably had a classic rock influence, while single ‘Run’ had that trademark Foos snap to it that saw it rise high up the charts.
A brief look over the band’s history shows their tremendous rise. Following the death of Kurt Cobain, Foos was just a solo project for a multi-talented musician. Now, it’s one of the biggest rock bands ever to grace planet Earth.
Check out our playlist below, compiled with what we think are some of the best Foo Fighters tracks in the band’s catalogue, both for newcomers to the band and already firmly established fans.
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Below is our choice of the most accessible Foo Fighters records. With such a choice of acclaimed, lauded, stylistically evolved music, it may be a tough choice to know where to begin. Leave it to us to pick the three essential LPs below.
Released: May 20th 1997
The Colour And The Shape is the definitive Foo Fighters album. Single-wise, ‘Monkey Wrench’ is the first song that springs to mind, if not that then ‘My Hero’, or what’s that other one that people always like? Oh, yeah, only bloody ‘Everlong’. But even away from the big tracks, the album as a whole feels huge, the group’s first full-band effort just came together perfectly, and the amount of huge, momentous moments on ‘TCATS‘ is incomparable to the rest of their discography. It’s simply just one of the best rock albums ever made.
Even the album’s creation is laced with stories, as Nate Mendel admitted after its recording that during its writing, “two marriages fell apart, we lost a drummer, someone nearly went to jail, and we discovered late in the day that record making is hellishly expensive and best done with a budget prepared beforehand.” Despite all that, Foos soldiered on through to, thankfully, make their best album.
Best tracks: Monkey Wrench / My Hero / Everlong
Released: November 2nd 1999
The choice between ‘Wasting Light’ and ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’ for the Top 3 records is tricky, but the former takes the win on this occasion, for their ingenious recording techniques as well as a collection of really, really good tracks. Recorded solely in Grohl’s garage, and all with analogue equipment, it’s no surprise this effort earned so many awards. Add to that some solid, 90s style Foos numbers in the shape of ‘Rope’, ‘Bridges Burning’, ‘These Days’, and ‘Back and Forth’, alongside the newer post-2000s sounding efforts like ‘Arlandria‘, ‘Dear Rosemary’, and ‘Walk’ and you’ve got a perfect balance of great Foos. Sorry, TINLTL, but ‘Wasting Light’ just has a little bit more.
Best tracks: Rope / Walk / Bridge Burning
Released: July 4th 1995
The album that started it all. Recorded in a studio with a Dave Grohl sat behind every instrument. Nirvana and grunge/post-punk was already changing the way many thought about rock music, and the first Foo Fighters album, aptly self-titled, only added to that growing movement. These were also songs that Grohl had kept to himself for a long time during his time in Nirvana, meaning he’d had time to perfect them and get them fully up to scratch. As a result, tracks like ‘I’ll Stick Around’ and ‘This Is a Call’, as well as much of the record, still felt very much influenced by that 90s Nirvana sound. A great all-round album by a greatly talented musician – Foo Fighters, quite poetically (being born in an era of musical angst), began with ‘Foo Fighters’.
Best tracks: This Is A Call / I’ll Stick Around / Big Me