Dave Grohl may well be one of modern rock’s greatest frontmen, taking Foo Fighters to stadium-sized success as well as worldwide recognition on the way — but don’t let that defeat from the fact that he is one of the best drummers on earth. The man often dubbed ‘the nicest man in rock’ was handed a major jump-start in 1990 when he got his lucky break to sit behind the drum kit alongside Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic in Nirvana. It was a move that rescued the band as much as it rescued him.
Nevermind, Nirvana’s seminal album, then took the group to unexpected heights in 1991 and they became one of the biggest groups on the planet with Grohl at the helm. Of course, the addition of Grohl wasn’t the only reason for Nirvana’s ascendancy to stardom but, after years of plodding along with a gaping hole at the kit in the eyes of Kurt and Kris, in Grohl, they finally had someone they could trust. Grohl’s role in Nirvana is not often given the recognition it deserves and on top of the world-class drumming, the calming influence that he had on the band kept them going.
Since the end of Nirvana following Kurt’s tragic death, Grohl has intermittently stepped behind the drum kit with the likes of Queens of The Stone Age, Killing Joke and with his star-studded side project Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme along with John Paul Jones. Although it’s not something that he does often now, it always provides a special moment.
Find out why Stevie Nicks recently christened Grohl as “one of the best drummers in the world” and check out these five isolated performances from the Foo Fighters’ man’s career, it will prove the Fleetwood Mac singer unequivocally correct in her assumption.
Let’s dive in!
Dave Grohl’s 5 best isolated drum tracks:
Nirvana – ‘Smells Like Teens Spirit’
There’s no place better to start on this list than the song which accelerated his journey to stardom back in 1991 and the magnificence of his drumming on Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is what helped make it such a riotous anthem. Released on September 10th, 1991, from album Nevermind, the iconic song initially didn’t chart and only really had an impact on the band’s fanbase at the time.
Soon enough, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ began finding airtime on local radio stations and across the country and the song began to pick up notoriety. When it hit MTV everything changed and the band were selling out stadiums across the US in no time at all.
Right from the get-go ‘Teen Spirit’ starts with a drum fill that is instantly recognisable. He doesn’t hold back, and he never gives up, dropping bomb after bomb and enjoying every furious minute of it. Listen below to Dave Grohl’s isolated drum track on Nirvana’s anthemic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
Nirvana – ‘In Bloom’
‘In Bloom’ is another cut taken from Nirvana’s iconic album Nevermind, one which is a perfect example to show the expert precision and power of the expert percussionist. The nicest man in rock always delivers a cherry exterior, more often found wearing a giant smile on his face but don’t let that hide away from the fact that his sticks are filled with thunder.
The arrangements for ‘In Bloom’ and the other songs previously recorded with iconic producer Butch Vig in 1990 were largely unchanged after Grohl’s arrival into the fold but, under instruction, were re-recorded with renewed venom. This meant the recently hired drummer Dave Grohl stayed mostly with his predecessor’s patterns but he added so much more to the song’s final spot in the hearts and minds of Nirvana’s fans as ‘In Bloom’ is a testament of.
Foo Fighters – ‘Everlong’
Featuring on the band’s album The Colour and the Shape from 1997, ‘Everlong’ has become a symbol of Grohl breaking out from the iconic grunge trio and firming up his place in front of the mic. However, that’s not to say he didn’t lay down some killer drums as well.
Released on May 20th, the album was the first real foray into music for Grohl after the Foo Fighters self-titled LP was more a rough demo cut with Grohl and producer Barrett Jones performing all the roles. This time the band was nearly fully-formed and ready to deliver some alt-rock joy but Grohl was still the man with the sticks—something you quickly pick up on when listening to the isolated drum track from the Foo Fighters classic.
The song may well be remembered for Grohl’s powerful lyrics or his acoustic strumming before anyone thinks of the drums on the track. The song is rightly seen as Grohl’s emergence as a songwriter but, when you isolate the percussion of Foo Fighters ‘Everlong’, you can see that he was always a drummer at heart.
Queens of the Stone Age – ‘No One Knows’
Although Grohl had already proved his brilliance with Foo Fighters and Nirvana, his finest drumming excellence might actually be on Queens of The Stone Age song ‘No One Knows’ which sounds even greater when isolated.
The friendship between Josh Homme and Dave Grohl goes back decades with the brothers in arms even famously forming the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures together along with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones—but their finest work was with those desert rockers QOTSA.
The release of pressure of being away from the microphone made Grohl fall back in love with the process of making music. It saw him get behind a drum kit for the first time in eight years, which was a riveting experience for him that he absolutely adored. You can hear that thundering passion across the album but, on this isolated version of ‘No One Knows’, that fierce sound that Grohl created is unavoidable and all-encompassing.
Them Crooked Vultures – ‘Scumbag Blues’
The final Grohl classic comes from another link up with Josh Homme, this time along with John Paul Jones from their Them Crooked Vultures project and their sniping effort, ‘Scumbag Blues’. Their one album was a fun-filled passion project that provided Grohl with the perfect escape away from the pressures of being the lead singer of one of the biggest bands on the planet and it is one that the Foo Fighters man would love to do all over again.
In an interview with The Guardian in August 2019, Grohl stated: “It’s still hard to accept that I got to play in a band with [John Paul Jones]. Technically we’re still a band. We practice once every decade, and we’re coming up on another decade aren’t we? I don’t have any official news but there’s always something cooking.”
Fingers crossed that we get to see these three titans of rock music back in rock get back in the studio and conjure up more magic together. For now though, we’ll have to settle for this impeccable isolated drums from ‘Scumbag Blues’.