Following the heartbreaking death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, Dave Grohl found himself engulfed in personal turmoil. In a period of intense grief, Grohl found a moment of relief during this time he spent in purgatory before Foo Fighters took over his life; sharing the stage with Tom Petty. It might have been a one-off, but the unlikely partnership provided one of the all-time SNL musical moments.
The chance to line-up alongside Petty was one that Grohl simply couldn’t resist, and the showing on Saturday Night Live marked his first public performance since Cobain’s death five months earlier. At this laborious juncture, Grohl was unsure if his destiny was to go it alone with Foo Fighters or stay in his place behind a drum kit.
Even though he was unsure about what the future held for him, when Tom Petty asks you to be his drummer on SNL, that’s an opportunity that is simply too irresistible to reject. For one night only, Dave Grohl became an adopted Heartbreaker, and his audition went so swimmingly that Petty even attempted to recruit him on a full-time basis.
“We had so much fun and we all got along so well,” Grohl later told Howard Stern. He then explained his shock when Petty wanted him to play with him as he “could get a world-class drummer – like any dude”.
Grohl continued: “We played SNL, and afterwards, he was like, ‘Man, that was good. It would be a shame if that’s the only time we do it’ sort of thing. And then he called me at home and he’s like, ‘Well look, if you want, here’s how we do it: you get your own bus, and we don’t tour too hard’. He was kind of explaining like, ‘If you’re into it, come out and do it for a little while’.”
Adding: “I just felt weird about going right back to the drums, because it would have just reminded me of being in Nirvana. It would have been sad for me personally. It would have been an emotional thing to be behind the drumset every night and not have Kurt there. So I was like, ‘Nah, fuck it. I’m gonna try this other thing’.”
After listening to their magnetic performance of ‘Honey Bee’, it’s not an ardent task to decipher why Petty would want to recruit Grohl permanently, but the Nirvana sticks man knew in his heart that he needed a fresh start.
Foo Fighters represented an exciting new challenge for Grohl, and while playing with Petty was a dream come true, the memories that flood back every time he sits down on stage at a drumkit made it impossible for him to join The Heartbreakers. Thankfully, he did at least perform with Petty on one occasion, and he’d have made a perfect Heartbreaker.
Life had other plans for Grohl, and Foo Fighters would become the perfect vehicle for the next chapter of his musical life. However, sometimes it’s easy to just see him as another stadium rock frontman and forget that he is one of the greatest living drummers, but this performance of ‘Honey Bee’ is nothing short of a masterclass.