Dave Grohl is not afraid to invoke the sounds of the past. Whether he’s ripping off the drum pattern to The Gap Band song ‘Burn Rubber on Me’ for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ or plugging into the sounds of Britpop to conjure up ‘Floaty’, Grohl is unapologetic in his pilfering of essential musical elements to make up his signature sound.
The origins of the Foo Fighters’ music isn’t difficult to find: mix up the grungy DNA of Nirvana, add an essential layer of arena rock, sand the edges down just enough to bring in major pop hooks but not enough to keep Grohl from screaming his face off and you’ve got Foo Fighters. But if there’s one band who served as an immediate precursor and inspiration for Grohl’s unique style of alternative rock, it would have to be Hüsker Dü.
Formed in Saint Paul, Minnesota, during the late 1970s, Hüsker Dü were originally one of the fastest and most aggressive hardcore punk bands in America. But quickly, the trio grew bored of the frantic speed and intense distortion. Guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart were both intensely gifted singers and songwriters, and punk rock simply didn’t provide the proper platform for them to display all their talent. So they created a new genre of music, one that retained the intensity of punk but incorporated the grandeur of classic rock and even the hooks of classic pop songs.
Not by accident, Grohl took in Hüsker Dü’s unique sound and saw a path forward for his own musicianship. In an interview with RTÉ’s Planet Rock Profiles in 1996, Grohl sang the praises of the band. “I mean, Black Flag was early on, and then when I discovered Zen Arcade I thought, God, these people write songs, man,” he commented, adding: “It’s amazing. It’s like the Byrds meets Black Flag, and it just blew me away, and the songs just stuck in your head forever and they were just amazing”.
Grohl immediately took on the band’s signature sound, and the full-volume guitar chime of Bob Mould can be found in classic Foo Fighter tracks like ‘Everlong’ and ‘Learn to Fly’. But in the mid-2000s, Grohl decided to pay tribute directly to Hüsker Dü by incorporating one of their albums into the lyrics for one of the band’s most popular songs.
That would be ‘Times Like These’, the eternally optimistic rocker that Grohl crafted as the band were on the verge of breaking apart. While recording the album One by One, drummer Taylor Hawkins suffered a drug overdose, differences between band members became increasingly apparent, and Grohl put the album’s production on hold to briefly join Queens of the Stone Age. If ever there was a time when Foo Fighters were going to disband for good, it was then.
But Grohl rallied the troops and put a new emphasis on resilience, punctuated by the lively words and encouraging message of ‘Times Like These’. The song’s second verse begins with the line: “I / I’m a new day rising / I’m a brand new sky to hang / the stars upon tonight”. While that might sound like Grohl getting poetic, it’s actually a direct nod to Hüsker Dü’s third album, 1985’s New Day Rising. In a moment when Grohl needed to remind himself who he was, he gave a nod to the Hüskers just to acknowledge their massive influence in shaping his musical mind.