(Jacket photo would appear here, except that Weebly wouldn't let me upload the image, grumble-grumble. This also appears on Goodreads.)
First, regarding the three-star rating (out of five on Goodreads): This is only partly the fault of the author—and, at least according to the Foo Boss himself, he is indeed the author, with no professional ghost writer in the picture. Also, it is not a reflection of the level of enjoyment I received from reading this rock star memoir: I LOL'ed more times than I could count.
In the late 1990s, I played bass in a cover band with a repertoire that I liked to call "31 flavors of rock." We played everything from Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones to 311 and Sublime. Our set lists included the Foo Fighters' "Big Me" and "Everlong." The latter of these two was something of a highlight of our gigs: The vocal harmony on the chorus, my bass tuned to a drop-D, and the faces of the young women in the bars singing along combined in ways that were so incredibly right, so incredibly '90s, for reasons I could never explain so don't ask.
The Foos were the real deal. Along with Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, they stood out from all the pseudo-grunge acts that the big labels were thrusting onto the so-called alternative rock stations. They seemed admirably willing and able to experiment in sounds that could vault them over the walls of the grunge ghetto. But I couldn't envision them as Hall of Fame material, or even wanting to be considered for such an honor.
David Eric Grohl, the Craig Biggio of post-grunge (a Hall of Famer in two positions, drummer and rhythm-guitarist/lead vocalist) has a particular knack for communicating just how awesome his favorite musical acts are without falling back on tired adjectives like awesome. From Little Richard to Elton John to Neil (Rush) Peart to Joan Jett to Lemmy (Motorhead) Kilmister to AC/DC to Naked Raygun to his pal Paul McCartney to the Preservation Hall Jazz Society, Grohl lionizes them all without falling too deep into the pit of clichés. As an aging punker with varied influences myself, I resonate to all of that. More than anything, Grohl is grateful that such people and their music exist in this world and during this time.
Now in his fifties, Grohl is at root a father, a fan, and a Foo Fighter—in that order. Nothing illustrates this better than his story of flying back to California from Australia, mid-tour, to escort his first two daughters to their school's annual daddy-daughter dance. It's a cool story, and it's always pleasant to be reminded that rock stars can be functional, family-oriented people. Grohl is passing on the grace that his mother extended to him, her blessing for him to follow his bliss and his destiny, to his own three daughters.
As fun a read as The Storyteller is—especially for someone like me who turned punk at a young age despite having a mostly OK childhood—the book as a whole just isn't up to the level of quality I'd hoped. The problems are more editorial than authorial. The whole work seems hastily thrown together in places. Particularly in the later chapters, it has a tendency to repeat phrases used a few paragraphs, pages, or chapters ago, sometimes verbatim. It's as if he couldn't decide whether to insert a clever turn of phrase at the end of this paragraph or that one, so he left it in both places.
Another quibble I have with the latter chapters is that they consist mainly of anecdotes in which Grohl meets or otherwise interacts with this or that musical idol. These are all in the service of underscoring just how blessed a life Grohl has led, how he has never allowed himself to become a jaded rock star because dammit he's just a grown-up version of that kid from suburban DC whose whole life was changed the first time he heard (insert godlike artist or band here).
Despite now having spent about half his life as leader of the Foo Fighters, Grohl doesn't provide much material about the creative process involved in the band's recordings beyond the first three albums. The tours get plenty of ink, as do Grohl's various side projects, mostly because the Foos have proven over the years to be much more of a live sensation than a prolific recording outfit. Ten studio albums in 26 years? Srsly? It reminds me of the omissions in Elvis Costello's memoir Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, in which Elvis skips completely over two of my all-time favorite albums, Trust and Imperial Bedroom, as if he has blocked out those unpleasant years 1981-83 either intentionally or due to chemical overindulgence. Nonetheless, Elvis and the Attractions had ten albums out in the space of about nine years, if you count the compilation of singles and B-sides.
Maybe Grohl doesn't find much of interest in the Foos' output beyond 2000. The three songs they played at their induction ceremony were all early material. IMHO, nothing after the third FF album There Is Nothing Left to Lose has had quite the same impact on society or culture, whereas the first three albums introduced some truly fresh sonic flavors, as inspiring as they were inspired by Grohl's omnivorous musical explorations.
The anecdote from this memoir that rubbed me the wrongest was the tale of performing "Who Are You?" in honor of The Who at Kennedy Center Honors for none other than President George W. Bush. By the early 2000s, Grohl was already rock & roll establishment, assured of his place in the Hall of Fame for his efforts with Nirvana and quite likely the Foo Fighters as well. Grohl could not turn down the invitation despite his ideological disagreements with Bush. He rationalizes the whole process as an exercise in civility among people of different partisan affiliations, recalling the way DC used to be. But there's a huge difference between respectful disagreements on policy and facing someone for whom millions of deaths are just the cost of doing business.
Later in the same chapter, he recounts performing in honor of McCartney at the White House in 2010, expressing his great admiration for then-President Barack Obama and...oy, I thought my stomach couldn't have turned any more after reading the parts involving the Bushes. At least fellow Nirvana alumnus Krist Novoselic sees the anti-democratic nature of the partisan duopoly and works on finding ways to wrest power from the duopoly's tentacles.
In 2021, a 79-year-old Sir Paul McCartney stayed up well past his bedtime to officially induct the Foo Fighters into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As I watched the ceremony, I had no idea that McCartney was a close family friend and frequent dinner guests of the Grohls. Macca shows up in multiple chapters of The Storyteller, an ever-looming numinous presence that keeps Grohl connected to the Beatle-worshipping preteen within, inspiring him to keep rocking into his pre-dotage. Considering the Macca is pushing 80 and still making some quality records, perhaps some of that will rub off on his protégé Dave Grohl.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.