A couple of years ago, I picked up a copy of the biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier than Heaven by Charles R. Cross, in my local library. It was an excellent and engrossing read, but there was one drawback. There were no interviews with Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, who joined the band for their second album, the massively successful and genre-defining Nevermind.
So, naturally, when I stumbled upon a biography of Dave Grohl, This is a Call by Paul Brannigan, I felt compelled to buy it. After all, Dave Grohl has led a thrilling life: he’s bashed the skins for Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age and has fronted Foo Fighters since around 1995. His is a life that many dream of but few are fortunate enough to live. Grohl is known as the nicest man in rock, and that certainly comes across in interviews. Brannigan charts Grohl’s life from his childhood in Virginia, to the split of his parents, to his first tentative steps into rock ‘n’ roll. Grohl’s older sister supplied him with many of the records which he grew to love and he often went to gigs, going insane with throngs of teenagers to the grubby tunes of local bands. Grohl’s first major stint in a band was with a group called Scream. Later, when Nirvana was searching for a drummer, Grohl seemed like the obvious choice. From his early teenage years, people noticed Dave Grohl. He belted at his drums with a passion and intensity like no other and many at gigs noticed him over the lead singer. The book chronicles Nirvana’s unprecedented success and the sad consequences of that for the mental health of Cobain. It is quite touching when Grohl says that, to him, Kurt was just a best friend, rather than the tragic icon he has become for millions in the years since his suicide in 1994.
When Nirvana’s life ended with the death of Cobain, Grohl was in limbo. He released some solo work as he pondered what to do next. He did what any hard-working musician would do and forged another band, rising from the ashes of Nirvana with aplomb and a new band, Foo Fighters. Their first album was well-received and Grohl managed to crawl from the shadow of Nirvana’s legacy. It’s a testament to the man’s perseverance that he managed to form a new band after being in a band as legendary as Nirvana. That’s Grohl, though. He has rabid determination and a love of making music that burns deep. Foo Fighters haven’t been without their share of drama. Taylor Hawkins, their drummer, almost died of an overdose at one point. This must surely have been an unpleasant reminder for Grohl of the demons that plagued Kurt Cobain in years gone by. Hawkins managed to get clean and so the band continued touring and recording albums. It has to be said that the book focuses far more heavily on Nirvana than Foo Fighters, and Grohl’s stint with Queens of the Stone Age also doesn’t feature as much as his time on the drum stool with Nirvana. Still, that’s to be expected. After all, it was Nirvana that catapulted Grohl into superstardom. A weakness in the book is that Brannigan writes in too much detail about other bands that broke through in Grohl’s hometown in the ‘80s. It’s a bit excessive and I found myself wondering at times if the book was about these bands or about Grohl. However, this would be my only real criticism and it is a small one.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Dave Grohl seems to genuinely deserve the title of nicest man in rock, and his story is a gripping one which is well worth delving into.