One of the most contentious moments to ever occur in the history of legendary alternative rockers the Foo Fighters came during the recording of their second album, 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. Two years prior, Dave Grohl had recorded the band’s entire self-titled debut on his own, and although he had recruited bandmates to make the Foos a real band, he still had trouble giving up the drum stool.
“Constantly, there was this feeling that whatever song we were working on, Dave already had a drum part for it,” drummer William Goldsmith recalled in the documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. “What sucked about all that was, I mean, I don’t think the drum performances [I played] were the best, [but] they weren’t horrible.”
Guitarist Pat Smear felt that the recording process was almost set up for Goldsmith to fail. “You’re the drummer for a band, where your singer is the greatest rock and roll drummer in the world, looking over your shoulder waiting for you do to it as good as him,” Smear explained in the documentary. “Alright, that’s just fucked up pressure, regardless of how good you are or whatever it is, it’s just fucked up pressure.”
“If I listen to a song, and I don’t think it has the thing that it needs, it’s not necessarily going to get past me and get on an album,” Grohl plainly stated. When recording moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, Grohl decided that he was going to record a new drum track for the song ‘My Poor Brain’. Unhappy with the material that had been recorded up to that point, Grohl decided that almost the entirety of The Colour and the Shape was going to be re-recorded. Grohl called Smear and bassist Nate Mendel to the studio, but not Goldsmith.
The rest of the Foo Fighters, particularly Mendel, who had previously played with Goldsmith in emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate, began to grow concerned over the situation. “It just ended up, like, ‘Wait, we’re just doing this whole album over.’ I just remember asking someone, ‘Does William know?'” Smear explained in the documentary.
“William’s still up in Seattle so he doesn’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t know this is happening,” Mendel said. “And I’m stressing pretty hard because that’s going to be a big problem.” Goldsmith explained that he attempted to join the sessions but was blocked by Grohl. At that point, Grohl insisted he was just polishing some of the tracks, including some minor drum overdubs. When Goldsmith met with Mendel, however, he was informed that Grohl had re-recorded the entire album and wiped almost all of Goldsmith’s contributions.
“I don’t know whether it was management, the record company, [producer] Gil [Norton], all of the above, Dave, that wanted him to play drums and didn’t want me to play drums,” Goldsmith explained. “But him redoing the drum parts has never been explained to me.” When Grohl asked Goldsmith to stay in the band despite the situation, an exasperated and disheartened Goldsmith declined and officially left the Foo Fighters.
“It’s a tough thing to talk about because I know that William will never forgive me for playing drums on that record,” Grohl said. “I know it, and I wish things were different. But I felt like this is what I had to do in order to make this album happen.” Goldsmith’s drums were retained only for album opener ‘Doll’, the intro for ‘Up in Arms’, and the verses of ‘My Poor Brain’, with the rest of the album featuring Grohl’s drum tracks. That includes the dynamic turns of ‘Hey! Johnny Park’, the album’s third track.
Check out Grohl’s isolated drum tracks on ‘Hey! Johnny Park’ down below.