There was the time he got caught up in an Amsterdam squat riot between punks and fascists. The day Elton John leapt out of a limo to greet him on Oxford Street. The night he was plucked from obscurity, as the teenage drummer in support band Scream, to play a launch party in Iggy Pop’s impromptu backing band. And the first of several White House performances, when George W. Bush called him “dude”.
Dave Grohl’s debut book The Storyteller is a catalogue of such unimaginable experiences, a series of beers-after-dinner tales compiled like snapshots from one of the most storied rock’n’roll lives. When he isn’t dining with Paul McCartney after star-studded award shows, he’s shaming every dad on the planet by shifting Australian stadium shows to fly across the globe to be at his daughter’s school dance, only to contract food poisoning on the flight back. Throughout, Grohl presents himself as the ultimate fan struck lucky, gate-crashing his personal hall of heroes on the back of a deep-seated addiction to punk rock. Here are the 10 most head-spinning moments.
Dave’s teenage rock star premonition came true
Grohl only ever had one drum lesson, from Washington, D.C. jazz legend Lenny Robinson; he largely taught himself how to play by smacking pillows along to punk albums and AC/DC. Yet aged 13 he foresaw his future as a roaring titan of stadium rock. Dumped by Sandi, his girlfriend of about a week – the anguish from which has driven him to exorcise his heartbreak through songwriting ever since, he claims – he had a dream in which he was playing to an arena of adoring fans, only to spot Sandi in the front row, wracked with tears of regret. Almost 30 years later, on the ‘Wasted Light’ tour, Sandi did indeed show up in a Foo Fighters front row – flipping him the finger.
Both Dave and Kurt played drums with their teeth
Dave was born with a natural biological metronome, in his molars. As he’d walk to school as a teenager, he ‘played’ his teeth like a full drumkit, and even put on a dental performance of Rush tracks for his dentist. The only other person he ever met who did this? Kurt Cobain.
He sold his soul to John Bonham at a séance
Aged 17 and delving into mysticism, Dave constructed a makeshift candle-lit shrine in his garage, festooned with John Bonham’s three circle logo and the number 606, as part of a rite he hoped would “harness the power of the universe to achieve my greatest desire”: rock stardom. Maybe Tenacious D know something we don’t.
Nirvana were almost killed by security in Dallas
Dave’s Nirvana years are brushed over in about two chapters of The Storyteller, but there are plenty of intriguing snippets crammed in. Their period of pre-‘Nevermind’ poverty, even as major labels scrambled for their signatures, saw Dave sleep on Kurt’s sofa in a one-bed apartment alongside Cobain’s pet turtle and live on three gas station corn dogs a day, plus Kurt’s specialist dinner ‘Shit On A Shingle’ (canned tuna, pepper, flour and toast) on treat nights.
And then there’s the mayhem that kicked off coast to coast as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ hit MTV, most notably the night Kurt crowd-surfed at a wild show in Dallas and brained a security guard with his guitar. An all-out onstage brawl kicked off and Kurt had to make a sharp exit in a cab, chased down the street by the guard’s vengeful gang of punk thugs. At which point, like a rather more violent ‘bus wankers’, the traffic ground to a standstill…
He almost joined Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers
The aftermath of Kurt’s death is treated with no little delicacy in The Storyteller, as Dave flees to Ireland to process the loss only to be haunted by Cobain’s face on T-shirts and confesses that, to this day, he sees him at the microphone every time he takes a drum stool. But one of the most fateful moments comes when the now aimless, band-less, 25-year-old Dave, having recorded the first Foo Fighters album entirely solo, is offered the drummer’s seat with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, touring in relative luxury with his own bus. In another universe, the Foos never happened and Grohl spent 25 years running down his post-Nirvana dream. In this one, he turned the job down and started touting out his tapes.
He got turned away from Pantera’s strip club
Having met the metal legends Pantera at a festival at the Milton Keynes Bowl, Grohl was invited to visit them at The Clubhouse in Dallas, the band’s very own strip club. Within months, a cross-country trip from LA to Virginia was rerouted two hundred miles out of Grohl’s way to take up the offer, only for Dave to lose his wallet en route and turn up at the door with no ID. Mötley Crüe video experience: denied.
Foo Fighters started at a Ouija board session in Dave’s haunted house
With Nirvana’s fame at its peak, Grohl bought his first house in Seattle, only to be terrified by bangs, bumps and footsteps in the night, the sense of being followed through the house and recurring dreams of a soil-smeared old woman wandering the rooms. In the hope of tackling the spectre, Dave organised a Ouija board session, and it was here, as he became even more convinced he’d moved into The Amityville Horror, that he first met Nate Mendel of Sunny Day Real Estate, who would help him form the Foos some years later.
He was arrested for drunken scootering in Australia
Big Day Out festival, Australia, 2000. With plenty of time free in beach-side resorts on a touring festival known in the band community as The Big Day Off, Grohl and Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins hire scooters to potter around the Gold Coast before their show. They even ride them to the gig itself, where Grohl proceeds to drink several beers and then putter back towards his hotel, straight into the waiting arms of the booze cops. Cue a night in the slammer amongst his drunkest fans, and a permanent criminal record in Oz.
Them Crooked Vultures formed at a jousting feast
For his 40th birthday in 2009, Dave took a bunch of friends and family to Anaheim’s Medieval Times restaurant, where parties can feast on sumptuous dishes bare-handed while legions of knights joust and sword-fight for their pleasure. It’s a warm Friday night in Lincoln Nando’s, basically, but it was here that Dave introduced Josh Homme to Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and their secretive supergroup Them Crooked Vultures was formed.
Dave had ‘LEGO synesthesia’
From an early age, Dave has ‘seen’ music in the form of colours, but The Storyteller makes a curious confession: that he learns the structures of songs by imagining them as different coloured blocks of LEGO. We feel a minifigure series coming on, complete with click-on leg cast and guitar throne…
– The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music is out now via Simon & Schuster