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(Credit: Andreas Lawen)

Music

The stories behind Dave Grohl's Led Zeppelin tattoos

@TylerGolsen

You would be hard-pressed to find a bigger Led Zeppelin fanatic than Dave Grohl. The modern heir to John Bonham’s hard-hitting style of drumming, Grohl has lived the dream of any Zeppelin fanatic: not only has he covered the band’s music, but he’s done it in front of thousands of people while playing with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. Grohl even got to be in an entirely separate band with Jones, with whom he formed the hard rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures alongside Josh Homme.

Grohl is a lifer, originally learning how to play drums by performing a seance to Bonham as a child, which he details in his 2021 memoir The Storyteller. Grohl was so obsessed with Bonham that, when it came time for him to get his first tattoo, Grohl decided to pay tribute to his hero with some homemade ink in the style of Bonham’s three interlocking rings from Led Zeppelin IV.

“I did the first one myself when I was 16,” Grohl told Rolling Stone back in 2009. “I tried to get different colored ink to make it seem pro, but now it looks like someone put a cigarette out on my fucking arm.” Undeterred, Grohl opted for a second tattoo, this time from an illegal squatter in Amsterdam while he was on tour with D.C. punk legends Scream as a teenager.

“It was done by an Italian guy named Andrea whose tattoo gun was made out of a doorbell machine,” Grohl explained in the same interview. “When my mother saw it, she was like, ‘David!’ I was like, ‘Mom, I’ve done a lot worse shit than this, believe me. Look at my other arm.’” Grohl talks about that experience in The Storyteller as well. 

Grohl’s third and final Zeppelin tattoo came courtesy of the first check he ever received as a member of Nirvana. “Kurt and I were living with each other in Olympia. The place was so depressing,” Grohl said. “I took the $400 and bought a Nintendo, a BB gun — mind you, I was 21, not 12 — and got that tattoo. One of my fondest memories of living in that rat-shit-hole apartment was buying a dozen eggs at the A&P, bringing them to Kurt’s backyard, and me and Kurt and Buzz [Osbourne] from the Melvins shooting at the eggs. Those were the days.”

Check out Grohl playing ‘Rock and Roll’ with Taylor Hawkins, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones down below.