If one takes a long look at the annals of music history, a few names find themselves continually attached to the finest moments of musical triumph. One of the more modern additions to this list is the wonderfully wholesome Dave Grohl. Not only was he the iconic drummer of Nirvana, but he has since found worldwide acclaim for his band Foo Fighters, where he dropped his drumsticks for a microphone and a guitar. It means his pick for favourite guitarist of all time is an interesting one.
Of course, like any musician who has lived the life of a rock star for over thirty years, Grohl’s admiration for players of the past knows no bounds. Across the years, the drummer has found time to speak at length about his admiration for some of rock and roll’s most legendary acts. Whether it is Tom Petty, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie or The Beatles, Grohl knows just how vital the forefathers of modern music are. But, for the singer, one band trumps them all, the heavy metal heroes, Led Zeppelin.
Usually, Grohl’s most significant appreciation for the band resides in his sincere idolisation of John Bonham. A noted drummer in his own right, Grohl’s appreciation for Bonzo can leave no questions remaining as to who his favourite drummer in the world might be. “John Bonham is the greatest rock drummer of all time,” wrote Grohl for a piece in Mojo. “Bonham played directly from the heart. His drumming was by no means perfect, but when he hit a groove, it was so deep it was like a heartbeat. He had this manic sense of cacophony, but he also had the ultimate feel. He could swing, he could get on top, or he could pull back. Led Zeppelin, and John Bonham’s drumming especially, opened up my ears.”
So far, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. But a slight change of pace comes when Grohl turns his attention away from the drums and towards his newly-beloved instrument; the guitar. Having made the transition from the back to the front of the stage with Foo Fighters, Grohl clearly has a deep appreciation for playing the guitar and has often noted that he believes Zeppelin axeman, Jimmy Page, to be the greatest of all time, once labelling him “freakier” than the late, great Jimi Hendrix.
“Heavy metal would not exist without Led Zeppelin, and if it did, it would suck,” begins Grohl while speaking with Rolling Stone. “Led Zeppelin were more than just a band — they were the perfect combination of the most intense elements: passion and mystery and expertise.” The ‘Everlong’ singer also notes how the band would have continued to defy expectations without the death of drummer John Bonham.
“Zeppelin served as a great escape from a lot of things,” says the singer, sharing perhaps his own vision of what the band meant. “They were never critically acclaimed in their day because they were too experimental, and they were too fringe. In 1968 and ’69, there was some freaky shit going on, but Zeppelin were the freakiest.” Grohl then offers his boldest statement: “I consider Jimmy Page freakier than Jimi Hendrix.”
He continues” “Hendrix was a genius on fire, whereas Page was a genius possessed,” notes Grohl. “Zeppelin concerts and albums were like exorcisms for them. People had their asses blown out by Hendrix and Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, but Page took it to a whole new level, and he did it in such a beautifully human and imperfect way. He plays the guitar like an old bluesman on acid.
“When I listen to Zeppelin bootlegs, his solos can make me laugh, or they can make me tear up,” says Grohl noting the powerhouse virtuoso performances that Page had in his locker on almost any occasion. “Any live version of ‘Since I Been Loving You’ will bring you to tears and fill you with joy all at once. Page doesn’t just use his guitar as an instrument. For him, it’s like some sort of emotional translator.”
With that resounding endorsement ringing in our ears, it is easy to claim that Jimmy Page is Dave Grohl’s favourite guitarist of all time, primarily because he trumps him above any other noteworthy contender. Of course, this may well change, but, chances are, Jimmy Page will remain undefeated as the ultimate guitar hero for decades to come. At least for Dave Grohl, he will.