Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stuff Happens - Part II

I don't always understand it, but one of the most universal truths that we all share is that "stuff happens."  Occasionally, that "stuff" is amazing and wonderful and we're on top of the world.  We remember every detail of that time because we knew that it was special...noteworthy...heavenly.  On the other hand, sometimes we are flattened by what life throws our way. 

Sometimes one minute life is normal...and the next minute it's not. 

And we are left flailing away in the wake of what has just capsized us.  Some people handle grief by being gracious, others by avoiding mention of it, some by falling apart, and a few just seem perfectly the time.  Most find a way to cope...some never do.  Sadly, none of us is immune to the pain of the unexpected if we're breathing. 

Usually, the most common words spoken by someone whose world has just been rocked is "it just happened so fast..." or "I should have known."  We just wonder why "stuff happens" and we go through the stages of grieving our unmet expectations, our loss, or our shattered dreams. 

The final stage is acceptance.  When we get to acceptance...we can breathe again.  When we can breathe again...miracles tend to happen.  We just have to figure out that first step.

Imagine being 25 years old, you're experiencing success in a major way, and then one is all over.  You're a drummer for a band...and your front man...the one everyone associates with the band...has checked out.  I can imagine that it is inconceivable to know exactly what to do...especially in light of the resulting guilt that normally accompanies the survivors of the suicide of a close friend or family member. 

You sit.  You grieve.  You are suspended in time.

And then one get off the couch and get over yourself.  You move.  You produce.  You create.

Well, if you're Dave Grohl you do.

He rented studio time and took the songs that he had been writing for the past several years and he recorded them by himself.  He played guitar, bass, drums, and he sang.  One song had a second guitarist, but every other song that he recorded was done on his own.  After years behind the drum set...he was out in front.  He was creating again.  Moving forward.  Giving it a shot.

The easy thing would have been to have found another gig as a drummer.  But fortunately, not everyone takes the easy road.  Some of us take the hard road...just because it is there.

He took those songs and had cassettes made of the session. (CASSETTES.  Remember those?  They were right after the 8-tracks...)  He decided to put a band name on them just to get a reaction of whether or not they would be received on their own merits and not simply because they were done by "Nirvana's drummer" since fans were still mourning the loss of the band.  He chose the name "Foo Fighters" - which was apparently a code name for the British UFO seekers in the World War II era. 

The cassettes got a good response from those he shared it with and interest from a record label followed soon thereafter.  So, he put a band together to tour the album.  Instead of re-recording the tracks with the new band, the album that he made on his own was released. 


Songs from the album included "Big Me," "This Is a Call," and "I've Been Around." 

True story about "Big Me."  Because the video was a parody of the Mentos threw Mentos on the stage every time the band played this song live.  They had to take it out of the set list for a long time because they got tired of being assaulted with candy.

Also, the band did "funny videos" to get play time on MTV.  During the mid 1990s, pop bands ruled.  In order to get on the rotation, they had to do something more than just present the music.  This was the first of numerous videos that the band did that got the attention they were looking for at the time.

Here's "This Is A Call" and you can hear what I just wrote in Dave's own words...

This is one of my two favorite songs on the album.  The other is...

This is "Alone + Easy Target" and it was what we used to call a "B side." 

I guess I like this song because I think it was how he thought of himself at the time.  The "alone" part is easy to figure out...but the "easy target," you ask?  

Well, that was because there were a lot of people who wanted to put the guy in a box.  He was a drummer.  He was a member of Nirvana.  He was supposed to stay exactly as people perceived him to be.  Most people do because the pressure to conform is ridiculously strong.  Not Dave.  Thank goodness.

There was also a lot of criticism in that people thought he was trying to pick up where Nirvana had left off.  That he should move on and do something different.  In all fairness, the bands are both loud...and Grohl was a common denominator (as was Pat Smear, the guitarist).  But Nirvana is like a verbal interpretation of an "I don't give a rat's behind" attitude coupled with a haunting but melodious bad dream.  The early albums were full of angst and anger...and the later ones were more mainstream while still being edgy.  Foo Fighters, on the other hand, is like raw energy with strong pop and punk influences.  It evolved from what essentially was a "demo" cassette into a band that refuses to rest on its laurels...because they just don't think that they are finished creating great music yet.   

That's another reason why I love this band.

The album sold well and people supported the band.  However, Dave's identification with Nirvana was so strong that it took someone with the right combination of guts, talent, will, and timing to pull it off.  Thankfully, he didn't give up.  Personally, I greatly admire people who take the hard road and are able to follow their dreams in spite of the harping, the jealousy and the obstacles that less talented people throw up to try to trip them up.  That kind of belief in yourself is so rare in this life.  And yes, I am normally a fan of the underdog.  Think about it...wouldn't life be grand if we could just do that in the most challenging area of our lives?  What could we actually accomplish if we did?

I don't know what path you've walked...where you've struggled...and what you've had to overcome.  I do know that watching someone make it through is incredibly inspiring. 

Come back tomorrow and I'll continue the story in Part III.  Lots of great music left to cover.  Thank you for reading. 

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