Hear Dave Grohl’s First Foo Fighters Demo Recordings, As Kurt Cobain Did in 1992

Like ‘em or lump ‘em, you should give ‘em credit—Dave Grohl’s Foo Fight­ers have kind of rede­fined the con­cept album with their lat­est, Son­ic High­ways, push­ing a tired form in a refresh­ing direc­tion. Rather than a self-con­tained nar­ra­tive, the record opens itself up to tell the sto­ries of rock ‘n’ roll itself or, as All­mu­sic puts it, “the clas­sic rock that unites the U.S. from coast to coast.” Pick­ing up where his cel­e­bra­to­ry film Sound City left off, Grohl ties in his newest release with a series of HBO doc­u­men­taries that vis­it cities from New York, to Nashville, Austin, New Orleans, L.A., Wash­ing­ton, DC., and Seat­tle to tell their musi­cal sto­ries.

Of course, the musi­cal his­to­ry of that last metrop­o­lis can­not be nar­rat­ed with­out ref­er­ence to Grohl’s for­mer band, and so, Con­se­quence of Sound informs us, “Nir­vana received heavy focus dur­ing the [Seat­tle Son­ic High­ways] episode as Dave Grohl recount­ed his time in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame out­fit. Among the biggest rev­e­la­tions was the time Kurt Cobain asked to hear solo record­ings Grohl had been work­ing on dur­ing Nirvana’s 1992 tour.”

“Kurt heard that, and kissed me on the face, as he was in a bath,” Grohl revealed. “He was so excit­ed. He was like, ‘I heard you record­ed some stuff with Bar­rett [Jones].’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He was like, ‘Let me hear it.’ I was too afraid to be in the same room as he lis­tened to it.”

At the time, Grohl intend­ed these ear­ly Foo Fight­ers record­ings as an anony­mous side project, but the demos gar­nered enough atten­tion that he lat­er [after Cobain’s death] formed a band and, well… we pret­ty much know the rest of that sto­ry, tragedy and all. But as for the demos, we can hear them too, just as Cobain did, pos­si­bly while in the bath, in ‘92. These ear­ly ver­sions of songs like “Alone + Easy Tar­get” (top), “Big Me” (above), and “Exhaust­ed” (below)—all of which even­tu­al­ly made their way onto the first, epony­mous 1995 Foo Fight­ers album—have been col­lect­ed as an unof­fi­cial release called Nir­vana: Dave’s Demo­tapes 1992–1993.

Grohl plays all the instru­ments on these record­ings (hear more here), and wrote all the lyrics, though, as he tells us in an inter­view below, writ­ing lyrics isn’t some­thing he enjoys. He also dis­cuss­es his admi­ra­tion for Cobain’s nat­ur­al writ­ing abil­i­ty, and reveals that the Nir­vana front­man liked “Exhaust­ed” and “Alone + Easy Tar­get” so much he want­ed to turn them into Nir­vana songs. The oppor­tu­ni­ty was lost, but Cobain’s encour­age­ment clear­ly had pos­i­tive effect on the future Foo Fight­er.

Becom­ing a rock frontman—and a cur­rent sto­ry­teller of rock history—may have been an evo­lu­tion­ary leap for Grohl, but drum­ming has been a con­stant before, dur­ing, and after the Nir­vana phe­nom­e­non. As a denizen of the DC punk scene, Grohl lived part of the rock his­to­ry of that city as well, play­ing with sev­er­al hard­core bands, includ­ing Dain Bra­m­age, the project that fol­lowed his first band, Mis­sion Impos­si­ble. Music blog Antiqui­et brings us that band’s 1986 demo record­ings. They’re well worth a lis­ten, show­cas­ing a clas­sic mid-80s DC sound, backed by what was even then some pro­found­ly excel­lent drum­ming from Grohl. As Dain Bramage’s singer remarked, “After you’ve spent a cou­ple years with Dave Grohl as your drum­mer it’s easy to feel like no oth­er drum­mer exists.” The charis­mat­ic but hum­ble Grohl writes some pret­ty decent songs too, even while work­ing in the shad­ow of super­fa­mous Kurt Cobain.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Nir­vana Plays in a Radio Shack, the Day After Record­ing its First Demo Tape (1988)

The First Live Per­for­mance of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” (1991)

Lis­ten to The John Bon­ham Sto­ry, a Radio Show Host­ed by Dave Grohl

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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