There’s only a handful of people that have ever graced the planet who have earnt the right to respond to Dave Grohl by literally telling him to “fuck off” and still have the Foo Fighters singer hero-worship them. But then again, David Bowie was no ordinary man. In Dave Grohl’s eyes, Bowie could do absolutely no wrong and his brutally honest reply only added to his greatness.
Grohl is no different to millions of other people who are of a similar age and had their musical awakening arrive at the hands of David Bowie. A whole generation was swallowed up by the Starman, then taken on an incredible journey following the course of his career as he shifted between different personas and sounds. To some extent, this has been something that Grohl has attempted to integrate into his own career, with him going from being the drummer with Nirvana to becoming the singer in one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world with Foo Fighters. However, Grohl would probably be the first person to admit that he isn’t anywhere near the level of Bowie’s artistry.
“David Bowie provided an indelible addition to the soundtrack of my life from an early age,” Grohl wrote on his Instagram page. “His first live album, David Live was on regular rotation in my living room when I was a kid, and his classic track ‘Suffragette City’ was quite a hit at the backyard parties I played with my nerdy high school band in the early ’80s (I sang the ‘Hey Man!’ background vocals with the best pre-pubescent shriek I could possibly squeeze out of my skinny little neck).”
In 1997, that kid who grew up on a diet of Bowie had his dreams come true when Foo Fighters were asked to be one of the special guests at Madison Square Garden to mark The Thin White Duke turning 50. This was a moment that Grohl has never taken for granted and he was sure to try his hardest to maintain a relationship with Bowie now he had his email address, even if it was slightly one-way.
Grohl vividly remembered what it was like when he first caught a glimpse of Bowie live when Foo Fighters shared a festival bill with him. “So when he walked (levitated?) onstage that night, I felt as if I were being visited by another life form,” Grohl wrote. “The kind of ‘Starman’ I searched the night sky for as a child, waiting for his gilded spacecraft to descend upon my front yard and take me away from my banal suburban life. It was my first time witnessing Bowie’s grace and power live, and it provided me with a surprising revelation.”
After performing together in 1997, Grohl succeeded in keeping the communication flowing with Bowie over the decades and he even naively felt like he could call upon him to work together in 2014. The Foos frontman had been asked to create a soundtrack for a blockbuster film but felt like the track needed a different voice to add some flavour to it and, perhaps audaciously, attempted to get Bowie on board.
The Starman initially politely turned down the request, saying that he watched the film that Grohl had sent over to him and it was “not his thing”. Undeterred by Bowie’s polite way of saying no, Grohl’s correspondence with Bowie continued until the late singer put an end to their chat by bluntly telling the Nirvana drummer: “All right, now that’s settled, then fuck off.”
This response sent Grohl into a state of panic, for a split-second he thought that his hero hated his guts but once he realised Bowie was joking he could finally breathe a giant sigh of relief: “With every muscle in my body loosening from the crippling anxiety of the past few minutes, I sunk back into my living room chair, born again. Hallelujah! I could finally breathe knowing that David Bowie did not actually wish me to ‘fuck off’ (or maybe he did, but in the nicest way possible, and even that was an honour).”
Even though Bowie declined Grohl’s attempt to collaborate, the Foo Fighters man undoubtedly has no regrets about his speculative effort to work with his idol. Being told to ‘fuck off’ is never usually something that you can take pride in but when the vulgarity is uttered by Bowie, it’s hard not to be awe-struck.