Playing the Grohl game with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

“I bet Dave Grohl is the one who nominated them.”
“Dave Grohl will show up. He’d give the speech.”
“Who was THEIR champion in the room? Probably Dave Grohl.”
“Dave Grohl plays the game.”

Almost six years ago, right after Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility, everyone with even a passing interest in the Hall wondered what effect having Dave Grohl as a member of the nominating committee would have on the future of the institution.

Years after he inducted Queen in 2001, Grohl went on a remarkable three-year run with HBO’s HOF showcase, sandwiching his own iconic induction and performance in 2014 with an induction and performance with Rush in 2013 and another induction performance with Joan Jett in 2015. As Hall watchers like to say, he’s “played the game” for years.

So, I mean, c’mon … we ALL knew he wouldn’t just be a voter, and we were right. He got in the room almost immediately.

We know, based on the compilation work of the great Hall resource, Future Rock Legends, Grohl is responsible for Bad Brains, Jane’s Addiction, and Devo ending up on ballots. He’s a huge proponent for Lemmy and Motorhead. And he was one of the loudest voices for Ringo Starr’s solo induction, which led to this, which is absolutely the most Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever Rock and Roll Hall of Famed:

I don’t remember when it was or where it was exactly, but I remember FRL – probably on Twitter – positing the idea that maybe those of us invested in the institution should take a good look at Grohl’s musical documentary work to get an idea of who this so-called “ambassador of rock” might take up arms for in the future.

As far as I can tell, they never did it.

So … I did it for them. The following might be a good barometer for what might be in store from the Head Foo In Charge.

Here we go:

FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH (2011)

The band’s 2011 documentary – while also using many songs from the Foos’ previous bands: Scream, Nirvana, Germs, Sunny Day Real Estate, Alanis Morissette, and Queens of the Stone Age – opens with private home movie footage of the band’s five core members, over a mishmash of songs that inspired the group as youngsters.

The opening credit songs include:

  • Queen, “You’re My Best Friend”
  • Sex Pistols, “Pretty Vacant”
  • Motorhead, “Ace of Spades”
  • Dead Kennedys, “Stealing People’s Mail”
  • Foo Fighters, “Iron And Stone ” (The Obsessed cover)
  • Ramones, “We Want The Airwaves”
  • Scream, “Bet You Never Thought”
  • Hüsker Dü, “Dead Set On Destruction”
  • Fugazi, “Waiting Room”
  • The Jesus Lizard, “Nub”

In addition to being a long-form historical document about the band’s evolution, “Back and Forth” also chronicles the making of the band’s 2011 album, “Wasting Light.” Along with welcoming Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic back into the fold, indie rock legend Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar) also makes an appearance in the film, recording his guest spot on the album track “Dear Rosemary.”

Mould’s appearance is noteworthy in that it preceded Grohl’s appearance in Mould’s own documentary – 2012’s “See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould.” It’s especially noteworthy all because of one scene … where Dave flat-out asks Bob if he can give the induction speech when Mould gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

SOUND CITY (2013)

Grohl’s documentary about the legendary recording studio basically was the trial run for the “Sonic Highways” series – Episode 0, if you will.

Grohl threw the doors open and interviewed pretty much anybody who wanted to talk about their experiences in the studio: Hall of Fame icons like Tom Petty, Neil Young, John Fogerty, and Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks; his contemporaries from bands like Weezer, Rage Against The Machine, and Pixies frontman Frank Black; and even right down to ‘80s niche stars like Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Pat Benatar’s guitarist (and husband) Neil Giraldo, and Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini.

What’s notable isn’t necessarily who he interviewed – obviously, nobody consulted him when they chose to record at Sound City in the ’70s and ’80s – but who ended up participating on the film’s “soundtrack album.”

When Sound City closed its doors, Grohl bought the studio’s famed Neve Console (in the film, Grohl says “this thing is a piece of rock and roll history. I thought that board would just go straight to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”) and installed it in his home studio, inviting scores of musicians – dubbed the Sound City Players – to jam and record all-new compositions.

Let’s take a look the track listing of the film’s companion album, “Sound City: From Real to Reel”
(keep in mind that Grohl also plays on every track):

  • “Heaven and All” (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes)
  • “Time Slowing Down” (Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age producer Chris Goss of Masters of Reality, along with Rage Against The Machine’s Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk)
  • “You Can’t Fix This” (Stevie Nicks, with several of the Foo Fighters)
  • “The Man That Never Was” (Rick Springfield, with several of the Foo Fighters)
  • “Your Wife Is Calling” (punk legend Lee Ving of Fear, with longtime Palm Desert Scene contributor Alain Johannes and several of the Foo Fighters)
  • “From Can to Can’t” (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder)
  • “Centipede” (Joshua Homme of Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, with Goss and Johannes)
  • “A Trick With No Sleeve” (Homme and Johannes)
  • “Cut Me Some Slack” (Paul McCartney with the surviving members of Nirvana)
  • “If I Were Me” (Foo Fighters violinist Jessy Greene and keyboardist Rami Jaffee, with studio drum king Jim Keltner, a.k.a. the “other” Traveling Wilbury)
  • “Mantra” (Grohl and Homme with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor)

Worth mentioning: one of the discarded tracks allegedly featured Corey Taylor, Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini, and longtime Dio/Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice. Alas, it missed the final cut.

Also, a significant interview comes from longtime Sound City engineer Nick Raskulinecz, whose credits have included Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains, Mastodon, Korn and Deftones. In addition, Raskulinecz played bass with Grohl and Taylor Hawkins during the “2112” performance at Rush’s 2013 Rock Hall induction (he produced Rush’s 2012 album “Clockwork Angels”).

FOO FIGHTERS: SONIC HIGHWAYS (2014)

The set-up of Grohl’s HBO series is pretty well known at this point: Along with producers Butch Vig and engineer James Brown, the Foo Fighters celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band by picking eight different studios in eight different American cities, all with a diverse and musically-rich heritage, and recording a song at each one, usually with a guest musician from that region. The eight songs then comprised their 2014 album of the same name.

Each episode also contained the following:

  • A title card for the featured city, usually accompanied by a montage of its greatest artists.
  • You arrive at the studio and meets its proprietor, sometimes accompanied by a montage of the most notable albums either recorded at that studio or by its proprietor.
  • The series had myriad interview subjects who show up in multiple episodes, but each episode typically features (right before the music video) a slow-motion montage of the most integral interview subjects for that particular episode, providing the insight into the city’s legacy.
  • Each episode ends with a music video of the finished song, which usually stars the guest musician, as well.
  • Also notable: the song that runs over the end credits.

There are tons of artists and albums to choose from here. I mean, he could have picked anybody.
So let’s take a look at who he DID pick, episode by episode:

Episode 1: Chicago

  • Song: “Something From Nothing” (guest musician: Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick)
  • Studio (proprietor): Electrical Audio (Steve Albini)
    Produced albums featured: Pixies, “Surfer Rosa”; Gogol Bordello, ”Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike”; The Breeders, “Pod”; P.J. Harvey, “Rid of Me”; The Jesus Lizard, “Goat”; Bush, “Razorblade Suitcase”; Nirvana, “In Utero”
  • City montage: Cheap Trick, Etta James, Naked Raygun, Chicago, Wilco, Gene Krupa, Kanye West, Ministry, Muddy Waters
  • Interviewees: Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Marshall Chess (producer and son of Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess), Rick Nielsen, Naked Raygun (Jeff Pezzati, Santiago Durango, John Haggerty), teen punks Tracey Bradford (Dave’s cousin) and Jason Narducy (Bob Mould, Superchunk), Julia Nash (daughter of Wax Trax! Records co-owner Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher), Ken Ehrlich (TV producer)
  • End credits song: Naked Raygun, “Bombshelter”

Noteworthy: Grohl’s comtemporaries, the Smashing Pumpkins, were not in the city montage. By far, the biggest Chicago band of the ‘90s alt-rock explosion. For some reason, this just stuck out to me.

Episode 2: Washington, D.C.

  • Song: “The Feast and the Famine” (guest musicians: Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson of Scream)
  • Studio (proprietor): Inner Ear Studios (Don Zientara)
    Produced albums: None featured, but Bad Brains and Ian MacKaye’s Dischord Records are extensively profiled.
  • City montage: Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington, Rollins Band, Nils Lofgren, Chuck Brown, Fugazi, Trouble Funk (Starland Vocal Band, ironically)
  • Interviewees: Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), Seth Hurwitz and Dante Fernando (music club owners), D.C. mayor Vincent Gray, Scream, Bad Brains, Pharrell Williams, Big Tony Fisher (Trouble Funk), RDGLDGRN, Skip Groff (record store owner), Mark Andersen and Amy Pickering (D.C. activists)
  • End credits song: Fugazi, “Waiting Room”

Noteworthy: I mean, if there was ever any doubt as to how Bad Brains ended up on a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot, this episode lays that to rest.

Episode 3: Nashville

  • Song: “Congregation” (guest musician: Zac Brown)
  • Studio (proprietor): Southern Ground Studios (formerly Fred Foster’s Monument Records) (Zac Brown and Matt Mangano)
    Produced albums: None shown, but Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson are prominently mentioned as having recorded there.
  • City montage: Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Lady Antebellum, Roger Miller, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band
  • Interviewees: Dolly Parton, Steve Earle, Tony Brown (musician/producer), Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Carrie Underwood, Tony Joe White, Erika Nichols (Bluebird Café manager)
  • End credits song: Tony Joe White, “Woodpecker”

Episode 4: Austin

  • Song: “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness” (guest musician: Gary Clark Jr.)
  • Studio (proprietor): Austin City Limits Studio 6A (Terry Lickona)
    Showcased ACL shows: Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Buddy Guy, The Black Keys, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Neil Young, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, fun., Neko Case, Fats Domino, Tom Waits, Foo Fighters
  • Interviewees: Jimmy Vaughan, Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers), Jimmie Dale Gilmore (The Flatlanders), Gary Clark Jr., Terry Lickona (Austin City Limits executive producer), Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators), Tim Kerr (Big Boys), Darin Klein (SXSW festival producer), David Yow (The Jesus Lizard)
  • End credits song: 13th Floor Elevators, “Two-Headed Dog”

Episode 5: Los Angeles

  • Song: “Outside” (guest musician: Joe Walsh)
  • Studio (proprietor): Rancho De La Luna (David Catching and Fred Drake)
  • City montage: The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, Love, The Doors, Linda Ronstadt, The Runaways, Motley Crue, Red Hot Chili Peppers, N.W.A, Beck. (plus, the Germs are prominently featured. Not a surprise, given Pat Smear’s relationship with both bands)
  • Interviewees: Joan Jett, Joe Walsh, Robby Krieger and John Densmore (The Doors), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses), Daniel Lanois (producer), Lenny Waronker (producer), Mario Lalli (Palm Desert icon), Dave Catching and Hutch (Rancho co-founder and sound engineer), Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stones Age), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Rodney Bingenheimer (legendary Los Angeles DJ), Scott Reeder (Kyuss), Chris Goss (producer/musician)
  • End credits song: Eagles of Death Metal, “Wannabe in L.A.”

Noteworthy: A love letter to the Palm Desert Scene. Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal … everything Homme will be a priority for him one day.

Episode 6: New Orleans

  • Song: “In The Clear” (guest musicians: Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
  • Studio (proprietor): Preservation Hall (Ben Jaffe)
  • City montage: Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong, Big Freeda Explode, Harry Connick Jr., Little Richard, Juvenile, The Meters, Aaron Neville, Dr. John
  • Interviewees: Allen Toussaint, Cyril Neville (Neville Brothers), Ben Jaffe (musician/musical director), Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, Ronald Lewis (museum director), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Tracey Freeman (producer)
  • End credits song: Glen Campbell, “Southern Nights”

Episode 7: Seattle

  • Song: “Subterranean” (guest musician: Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie)
  • Studio (proprietor): Robert Lang Studios (Robert Lang and producer Barrett Jones)
  • City montage: Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Melvins
    Jimi Hendrix, The Ventures, The Wailers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Sonics, Heart
  • Interviewees: Duff McKagan, Nancy Wilson (Heart), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Jack Endino (producer), Robert Lang (studio owner), Barrett Jones (producer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Larry Parypa (The Sonics), Sub Pop Records (Bruce Pavitt, Jonathan Poneman, Megan Jasper), Charles Peterson (photographer), Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees), Macklemore
  • End credits song: Foo Fighters, “Kids In America” (recorded at Robert Lang Studios in the ’90s)

Episode 8: New York

  • Song: “I Am A River” (guest musicians: Tony Visconti and Kristeen Young)
  • Studio (proprietor): The Magic Shop (Steve Rosenthal)
    Produced albums: Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”; Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”; Bjork, “Vespertine”; The Cranberries, “No Need To Argue”; Norah Jones, “The Fall”; David Bowie, “The Next Day”
  • City montages: New York Dolls, Ramones, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Sonic Youth, Chic, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Barry Manilow, The Notorious B.I.G., Carole King, Lou Reed, A Tribe Called Quest, Cyndi Lauper, The Ronettes, Bobby Darin, Little Eva, Manfred Mann, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Kiss, Blondie, Dead Boys, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, De La Soul, Public Enemy
  • Rapid-fire N.Y. album montage: “The Velvet Underground and Nico”; Television, “Marquee Moon”; “LCD Soundsystem”; Eric B. and Rakim, “Paid In Full”; “Aaliyah”; Pete Seeger, “American Industrial Ballads”; Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue”; The Notorious B.I.G., “Ready To Die”; Grizzly Bear, “Veckatimest”; Kool Moe Dee, “How Ya Like Me Now”; Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die”; “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick”; Alicia Keys, “Songs in A Minor”; Quincy Jones, “Back On The Block”; Boogie Down Productions, “By All Means Necessary”; Barbra Streisand, “Guilty”; “The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon”; Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, “Planet Rock: The Album”; Pat Benatar, “Crimes of Passion”; “Vampire Weekend”; John Coltrane, “Blue Train”; Nas, “Illmatic”; TV On The Radio, “Return to Cookie Mountain”; Steely Dan, “Pretzel Logic”; Mary J. Blige, “Where’s the 411?”; Charlie Mingus, “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady”; Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me”; “Talking Heads: 77”
  • Interviewees: Joan Jett, David Fricke (journalist), Mike D (Beastie Boys), LL Cool J, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Tony Visconti (producer), Chuck D (Public Enemy), Steve Rosenthal (studio owner/archivist), Nora Guthrie (Woody Guthrie Productions), Jimmy Iovine, Paul Stanley (Kiss), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Rick Rubin (producer), Chris Martin (Coldplay), Seymour Stein (Sire Records founder), Clive Davis (industry legend), President Barack Obama
  • End credits song: Beastie Boys, “An Open Letter to NYC”

Noteworthy: He went all out on this one. Multiple montages, both artists and albums. But more than anything, it put the CBGB scene and the birth of hip-hop squarely in the spotlight.

A special thanks to the podcast, “Who Cares About The Rock Hall?” New episodes drop every Thursday night at 11 p.m. sharp and I devour them instantly, so much so that I have a routine to drive out of the way to get gas so I’m able to enjoy each episode in its entirety on my nightly midnight commute home. And I’ve been the Joe and my buddy Teck has been the Kristen for the entirety of our 25 years of friendship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s