Dave Grohl, like many rock musicians, does not come from a classically trained background. Instead he has an ability to write according to what sounds good, and where noodling around in the studio can bring great rewards. That’s where The Foo Fighters’ best song “Everlong” originates.
In this 2020 clip from Oates Song Fest, Grohl tells the story of “Everlong,” and how it came to him in the studio one day in between working on the band’s second album. It started with a chord.
“I’m not a trained musician, so I don’t know what that chord is,” he says. (The Intertubes seem to agree it’s a Dmaj7). At first he thought it was a chord from Sonic Youth (“Schizophrenia,” in fact), one of his favorite bands of all time. So that was a good start. One chord led to another and soon he had a sketch of a song.
At the time, Grohl was essentially homeless after a divorce from his wife, photographer Jennifer Youngblood. And the band were at a low ebb as well, not happy that their debut album hadn’t taken off like they wanted. But Grohl then fell in love again, this time with Louise Post of the band Veruca Salt. Over Christmas 1996, he wrote the lyrics. He would tell Kerrang magazine in 2006: “That song’s about a girl that I’d fallen in love with and it was basically about being connected to someone so much, that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them you harmonize perfectly.”
He recorded a demo of the song, playing all the instruments (he might not be a *trained* musician, but he is a well rounded one), and the finished studio version really didn’t stray too far from the original. Post provided harmonies recorded down a telephone, as she was in Chicago at the time. (You can hear them isolated, along with a lot more gearhead chat on this Produce Like a Pro episode): “I never considered doing this acoustically, I thought it was a rock song,” Grohl adds. That was until he did the Howard Stern show, early in the morning at 6 a.m., and performed it with just solo guitar. “It gave the song a new life,” he said. “It makes the song feel the way I always wish it would.”
The song catapulted the band to the top of the charts, and is considered one of the great rock songs of the 1990s. David Letterman considers it his favorite song, and asked the band to play it at the close of his final show in 2015. For a very specific lyric written about a very specific woman, with chords discovered while just goofing about, it has a universal quality.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.