This week, Billboard celebrates the 30th anniversary of our Alternative Songs chart. Here, we dive into the in depth Alternative Songs catalog and beautiful consistency of Foo Fighters, the No. 1 band within the chart's decades-long historical past.
When Billboard launched its Alternative Songs chart 30 years in the past, Dave Grohl was a young person drumming for the DC-area hardcore band Scream, mendacity about his age to safe a spot behind the package. Even although Scream was then, and has been ever since, too various for the choice itemizing, Grohl was a fan of Siouxsie and the Banshees, the chart’s inaugural primary; he instructed Mojo final 12 months that the gothic British new wave act was an curiosity he held in frequent along with his older sister.
It solely took Grohl three years to make the choice No. 1 spot himself. In 1990 he auditioned for and was accepted as a member of the Seattle ur-grunge trio Nirvana, and it’s his pounding that kicks into gear “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the track that modified eternally how America, the report trade, and the remainder of the world considered various rock. With its sharply accelerating, quick–loud dynamic and melodic chaos, “Teen Spirit” is the quintessential various rock track.
But the flash grenade blast that was Nirvana shouldn't be various rock’s quintessential band: Grohl’s subsequent band could be the sound’s most enduring presence, for higher or for worse. Foo Fighters land atop Billboard’s 100 Greatest of All Time Alternative Artists record (ranked by Alternative Songs chart methodology) as a result of, greater than every other various artist, they've caught round. From their 1995 debut onward, the Foos have been a close to fixed presence on the chart, and so they have matched their longevity with consistency: a Foo Fighters chart entry may be relied upon to be interesting, sturdily constructed, and, as a rule, impressively in style.
There have been higher bands than Foo Fighters over the previous thirty years of sharp-edged, radio pleasant guitar music. They’re not as fiercely beloved as Weezer, as ingenious as Fall Out Boy, or as intertwined with the rock zeitgeist of any specific second as Korn or No Doubt or Mumford & Sons have been. But since “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” simply two calendar years have handed during which Grohl didn't have a brand new track peak on the Alternative Songs chart -- 2001 and 2010 -- and the immense majority of these appearances was with Foo Fighters. (Grohl additionally secured placings with supergroup Them Crooked Vultures and as a ringer on a few Queens of the Stone Age songs, together with the primary “No One Knows.”) Pitiless because the solar, Foo Fighters are the enduring fixed of other rock, and Foo Fighters are Dave Grohl.
That was actually the case on the band’s self-titled debut album. Grohl performs each instrument on the album, aside from a short guitar cameo from The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli on “X-Static.” Recorded in Seattle solely months after the suicide loss of life of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the album drew again from the burned depth of Grohl’s outdated band, and shifted its outlook into brighter, much less fraught, and extra vibrant territory. It would end up that rock music as a complete was able to do the identical.
Songs like “This is a Call” and “I’ll Stick Around” had Nirvana’s urgency, however matched it with verve; contemplating the context during which they have been recorded, it was not exhausting to mistake the decided affirmation of life in them. Meanwhile, the melodic “Big Me” demonstrated Grohl’s want to chart his personal inventive course, and its playful video was the primary of many excessive idea and crowd-pleasing clips that valued goofy enjoyable over punk seriousness.
Soon after recording that solo debut, Grohl gave his band an precise line-up, together with, in an indication of his scene bona fides, two gamers from cult Seattle emo group Sunny Day Real Estate. And then, not a lot modified: Foo Fighters recorded albums, launched them, and toured. Radio performed their songs as a result of they have been catchy, folks appreciated them, Grohl had a straightforward charisma, and his band sounded nice on stage. When they have been completed, they'd make one other album, one which wasn’t too totally different to the one earlier than it, and do it over again. In 2018, they’re nonetheless doing it; their most up-to-date Alternative Songs look was with “The Line,” which reached No. 30 this previous June.
But to focus on Foo Fighters’ steadfast competence is to not detract from them. This is, to begin with, as a result of simply displaying up is more durable than it appears. One of Grohl’s Seattle contemporaries, Pearl Jam, has offered 32 million albums within the United States, and their debut Ten has been licensed Diamond by the RIAA. At Pearl Jam’s 1990s peak, they have been a way more highly effective, extra thrilling band than Foo Fighters, pushing their arena-ready sound into stranger and extra assorted territory on albums like Vitalogy and No Code. For the previous twenty years, Pearl Jam has adopted an analogous path to Foo Fighters, reliably releasing proficient but unflashy variations on a stable method of guitar, bass, and drums — but with way more modest outcomes, notably on various radio, the place they've solely scored one prime 5 hit this decade. Pearl Jam’s stoic method to its profession appears tumultuous alongside the Foo consistency.
And second, Foo Fighters steadiness is laudable as a result of, even gone the band’s peak, they continue to be able to sudden, clarifying pleasure: songs that burst out of the audio system with the colourful, canny precision upon which the band made its title. It is a reputation constructed on songs, and on radio hits notably. Unlike best-selling fellow chart heavy-hitters Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day, Foo Fighters have by no means even had a multi-Platinum-certified album -- however they've had ten Alternative Songs quantity ones throughout fifteen years, and eight extra that reached the highest 5. It isn't any shock then that they've claimed seven spots to themselves in Billboard’s Top 300 Alternative Songs of all time record. Listeners didn’t need to have purchased a single Foo Fighters report to have heard the band repeatedly, 12 months after 12 months.
The band secured its legacy with its first three albums. Grohl’s unaided first LP was adopted with The Colour and the Shape, their most balanced and guaranteed album, which was anchored by the anthemic fan favourite “Everlong” and the muscular riffing of songs like “My Hero” and “Hey Johnny Park!” even whereas it ventured into each more durable and softer territories on “Monkey Wrench” and “February Stars.” That was succeeded by There Is Nothing Left to Lose, which sharpened its predecessor’s intention and resolved its guitar crunch into gleaming missiles of charged melody: “Generator,” “Breakout,” and particularly their first Alternative Songs primary “Learn to Fly” have been as apparent and direct as something the band would provide you with throughout its 23 years.
No subsequent Foo Fighters album would mark as much as the usual set by their first three, however the band would haven't any scarcity of deservedly profitable singles after that early peak. Some of their best-loved songs have been produced in these later years, together with 2005’s “Best of You,” a screamed hurricane that sounds gargantuan in scale and too fragile to carry collectively. “The Pretender,” launched two years later, has the identical relentlessness, however Grohl is accountable for his colleges, hanging on with teeth-gritted dedication. And two extra years after that got here “Wheels,” one other profession excessive level, however one which solely ever appeared on the group’s Greatest Hits compilation, proof of their dedication to the craft of the radio single. An optimistic and nostalgic roll by way of widescreen Americana, it gave the impression of Tom Petty, whom Grohl briefly drummed for in 1994. Like Petty, it was conventional with out being staid.
Straddling the outdated and the brand new is a trademark of other rock, a type that takes the experimental ethos of extra outré acts and grounds it in an American FM radio heritage whose sounds have turn out to be as acquainted and formalized as ritual: Gibson guitars belong subsequent to Ford motorcars and McDonald’s burgers as shared incidents of nationwide reminiscence. Foo Fighters do belong to the now, however, with maybe The White Stripes, they're additionally one of many final rock bands that would discover a place within the canon of even probably the most traditionalist traditional rock stalwart. They will not be right this moment’s most enjoyable guitar act, or yesterday’s finest, however they're higher suited to bridging that three-decade divide than every other.
The best Foo Fighters track, the unimpeachable traditional that may outlast all of them, is “Everlong,” the second single from their second album. Poised but frenetic, earnest and romantic, it creeps in with guitar textures that sound like Sonic Youth cleaned up. Grohl murmurs and mutters, and, ultimately, neither he nor his band can maintain again: the drums pile on, Grohl’s voice strains for feeling he doesn’t have the technical skill to completely understand, and the refrain explodes. It is as if each single sound is glowing.
Foo Fighters songs are all the time nicely made, and Grohl is able to red-lining them with exceptional depth when he must, however “Everlong” is the band’s solely track that sounds larger than the lads who made it. For 4 minutes, it exists in its personal universe with corners unknowable even to its creators, defying the consummate craftsmen of other radio who introduced it into being. It is comprehensible that the band would by no means once more make one thing so ephemeral or so luminous.
“If the whole lot may ever really feel this actual eternally,” Grohl sings, and it appears proper. Even lengthy after the guitars have light away, the Foo Fighters endure.