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Music

Dave Grohl discusses Led Zeppelin influence and the moment he asked them to jam

The affable Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl has been very vocal over the years in paying respect to some of his biggest musical influences, whether it’s his 1980s infatuation with Prince or his formative years drumming along to Beatles records until his fingers bled. 

After rising to fame, first drumming with Nirvana and then fronting Foo Fighters, Grohl was lucky enough to play alongside some of his musical idols. Last year, Paul McCartney inducted the Foo Fighters into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and joined them on stage to perform with them, and in 2011, Grohl found himself jamming with Prince in the empty Los Angeles Forum to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’. 

Led Zeppelin were also a key influence on Grohl, and he even had the chance to play alongside Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones at the Wembley stadium in 2008. For the landmark performance, Grohl took to the drums while Taylor Hawkins stood at the microphone to emulate Robert Plant’s vocals. 

The Led Zeppelin song Prince and Dave Grohl jammed to

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In Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest musicians publication, Grohl wrote about the influence Led Zeppelin had had on his career. “You have no idea how much he influenced me,” he wrote. “I spent years in my bedroom — literally fucking years — listening to Bonham’s drums and trying to emulate his swing or his behind-the-beat swagger or his speed or power. Not just memorising what he did on those albums but getting myself into a place where I would have the same instinctual direction as he had.” 

Showing just how devoted a Led Zeppelin fan he is, Grohl described the tattoo exploits of his youth. “I have John Bonham tattoos all over my body — on my wrists, my arms, my shoulders. I gave myself one when I was 15. It’s the three circles that were his insignia on Zeppelin IV and on the front of his kick drum.”

“It kind of taught me how to learn, so in a way, I almost saw them as more than human — which of course they’re not,” he said. “They’re wonderful generous people that walk the earth as we do, but to me, they just meant so much more that I almost didn’t want to impose any sort of personal relationship on them.”

Naturally, when asked by his management if he wanted to invite some special guests to the stage during the Foo Fighters’ stadium show in London, Grohl could think of nobody better suited for the occasion than Led Zeppelin. 

Reflecting on the occasion, Grohl told Entertainment Weekly: “I thought ‘Well, we’ve gotta call John Paul Jones.’ We had wound up performing ‘The Pretender’ with him that year at the Grammys and we made friends so I figured, this is the most momentous occasion of my entire life, why not call the band that changed it all for me?”

He continued: “So I got on the phone with Jimmy Page and he basically said, ‘Well what do you want to do?’ And I was terrified to answer. I felt like I was in a waking dream. But I had to say something, so I said, ‘How about ‘Rock and Roll’?’ so he said, ‘Yeah, what else?’ I said, ‘How about ‘Ramble On’?’ he said, ‘Great, see you at rehearsals.’ I mean it was that easy, I couldn’t believe it.”

When the day finally came, Grohl couldn’t believe it was happening, and his nerves (and a few beers the night before) seemed to have marred his memory of the occasion. “You know it’s kind of a blur to be honest, I know it’s on fuckin’ Palladia or whatever, but I remember the rehearsals the day before when we were sound-checking at the stadium. I was so nervous, and hungover actually [laughs], and when they showed up I couldn’t believe that finally the moment I had been waiting for — to sit on a drum stool, look to my left and see Jimmy Page, look to my right and see John Paul Jones— was actually happening.”

He concluded: “Just being eight feet away from Jimmy Page as he played this classic song and shredded these classic leads is just so hard to explain. It’s almost as if I had fallen into a Led Zeppelin movie or something, it didn’t even feel real.”

Thankfully, for those of us who weren’t at Wembley that night in 2008 (and Dave Grohl, it seems), the performance was caught on film. Recapture the moment below.