Today marks the 24th anniversary of one of Foo Fighters most enduring hits. Released on August 18th, 1997, ‘Everlong’ was the second single off their uber-successful second album, The Colour and the Shape. Featuring some of the band’s most memorable guitar riffs, vocal melody and music video, it is no surprise ‘Everlong’ is a rock favourite worldwide. It has reached millions of people over the years and established a sincere connection more often than not. It remains one of the gorup’s most beloved tracks.
It is fitting then that a song of such size should have an appropriate backstory. As is the case with most of our beloved songs, this is a dense emotional tale. Featuring cues from the usual suspects of divorce, love-lost, love-found and a sneaky, accidental riff, the song triumphs as a reminder of the authentic talent at the heart of Dave Grohl’s iconography.
After the breakthrough success of the Foo Fighters’ eponymous debut album in 1995, band mastermind and ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl was in need of a follow-up. Fast forward to late 1996, and Grohl and the band found themselves lodging at Bear Creek Studios in the pastoral Woodinville, Washington. Here they were recording the first parts of what would become The Colour and the Shape. To get a proper feel of the setting, bassist Nate Mendel described it as “a converted barn with a salmon stream running through it”.
While fiddling around on his guitar during the downtime between takes of the album’s lead single ‘Monkey Wrench’, Grohl stumbled on an earworm of a riff. With his guitar tuned down to drop D, Grohl thought that this lick was a “Sonic Youth rip off” as it had the same vibe as their 1987 track ‘Schizophrenia’.
Grohl took a liking to the new riff and decided to develop it into a fully-fledged song. The band jammed the song, but it did not get past the rudimentary stage, as Grohl needed to plan out the song’s structure, and the band couldn’t figure out what direction to take it. However, the seed was sown for the band’s biggest track, and it would begin to sprout in Dave Grohl’s mind.
Christmas that year, Grohl returned home to his native Virginia. This wasn’t a happy yuletide, though. The Foo’s frontman was going through a messy divorce from his first wife, photographer Jennifer Youngblood. Homeless due to the split, he was staying in a sleeping bag on a friend’s floor. It was on this floor, while at this critical juncture in his life, that he took the riff that had formed in Bear Creek and developed it into a full song in only 45 minutes.
It’s amazing what humans can achieve when backed into a corner. Grohl would later reveal that his state was so dire, he didn’t even have access to his bank account after the divorce. Then came his shining light. Famously, the song’s lyrics were inspired by his ongoing romance with Louise Post of Chicago rockers Veruca Salt.
In 2006 he told Kerrang!: “That song’s about a girl that I’d fallen in love with, and it was basically about being connected to someone so much, that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them, you harmonise perfectly”.
Not long after, during a visit to a friend’s studio in the nearby Washington D.C., Grohl laid down a demo playing all the instruments himself. In structure, it was the same as the final version on The Colour and The Shape, but “super raw”.
The worn-out Grohl then decamped to Hollywood to continue to work on the album. He reconvened with the album’s producer Gil Norton at Grandmaster Recorders, a former silent movie theatre, in January 1997. Grohl played him ‘Everlong’, and Norton was convinced it should make it onto the album. So much so, he thought it “brought the whole album together.” The band then got to work recording their signature opus.
Given the significant impact on the song’s composition, Grohl wanted Post to provide backing vocals. However, she was in Chicago at the time, so Grohl took to calling her. The song’s classic “doos” were recorded through two different telephone lines. One connected as a Post’s monitor to hear what she was singing, and the other line was recorded. Genius.
In an Instagram post, Post recalled: “I sang these back-ups over the phone at 2am after being woken up from a deep sleep in Chicago by (Dave Grohl) who was tracking the vocals for ‘Everlong’ in LA.”
She continued: “He wanted me to sing the doo-doo’s, which were inspired by our song ‘Shimmer Like a Girl.’ While I was at it, I wrote a harmony for the chorus and sang that too. The whispered section of this song was originally the dream I was having when the phone rang. It was a dream about us. He later removed it and replaced with his own whispers, one which was a love letter to me. Maybe I’ll tell the full story…eventually…if I feel like it.”
In addition to the Post’s input, in the breakdown, Grohl’s spoken word also meshed with a retelling of a childhood story from the studio’s assistant engineer, Ryan Boesch. It described being punished for disturbing his father’s sleep. In conjunction with Grohl and Post’s lovelorn dreams, it now makes sense why the iconic video concerns itself with the fantasy dreamland. So on its birthday, why not revisit this dense classic?
Listen to ‘Everlong‘, below.