The Storyteller - Critical summary review - Dave Grohl

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The Storyteller - critical summary review

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Biographies & Memoirs

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: 

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN:  978-0063076099

Publisher: Dey Street Books

Critical summary review

Rock music fans probably know Dave Grohl as the former drummer of the famous rock band Nirvana and the singer and guitarist of Foo Fighters. Now they have a chance to get to know him as a storyteller who reflects on some of the most memorable moments from his life—his first heartbreak, first gigs, tours, time in Scream, Nirvana, and many more! All these memories are full of music, so turn it up and listen!

Sunday afternoons with Lenny Robinson

    The moment when their child expresses its interest in music is, probably, one of the most precious moments in the life of every musician. Therefore, when his eight-year-old daughter Harper asked Dave to be her drum teacher, he was overwhelmed with happiness and pride. However, for a while, he wondered whether he was up to this task, as he himself had never taken any formal lessons in playing drums. ‘’The closest I had ever come to any structured music instruction was a few hours with an extraordinary jazz drummer by the name of Lenny Robinson,’’ he writes. Together with his mother, Dave would watch Robinson perform every Sunday afternoon at a local Washington DC jazz joint called One Step Down. Although he mainly listened to punk rock back then, he loved the ‘’feeling of beautiful, structured chaos’’ jazz triggered in him. ‘’But, most of all,’’ he writes, ‘’I loved Lenny Robinson’s drumming. This was something I had never seen before at a punk rock show. Thunderous expression with graceful precision; he made it all look so easy (I now know it’s not). It was a sort of musical awakening for me.’’

    At the end of his performances at One Step Down, Robinson would invite musicians who signed up to join the band on stage. One Sunday afternoon, Dave's mother asked him to play drums with a band as her birthday present. Having ‘played drums’ only by ear on his bedroom pillows, Dave thought at first her request was unimaginable. However, he still agreed and put his name on the list. When Robinson called him, Dave got up on stage and played with a band. Even though the performance went quickly and without any incidents, it made Dave realize he should not try to figure out how to play drums by himself on the bedroom floor anymore. He needed a professional teacher, and the best one he could think of was no other than Robinson. So, a few Sundays after his performance on stage, Dave approached him and asked if he could give him classes. ‘’​​It was finally real,’’ he thought at the time. ‘’This was my destiny. I was soon to become the next Lenny Robinson, as his riffs would soon become mine.’’


    Apart from Lenny Robinson, Dave’s greatest teacher was the American hardcore punk band called Scream. ‘’With my pillows and a pair of oversized marching band drumsticks, I would sit and play along to my Scream records until there was sweat literally dripping down my bedroom windows, doing my best to try to emulate Kent’s lightning-speed drumming,’’ Dave remembers. He would often fantasize that he would fill in for their drummer who could not come to their gig due to an emergency. Amazingly, one day something similar to this scenario happened. As Dave passed by the bulletin board at the music store, he saw a short ad saying: ‘’Scream looking for a drummer. Call Franz.’’ Dave immediately decided to call—even if they refused to meet him, he could later tell his friends he talked with Franz on the phone. To his surprise, not only did the two of them talk, but also arranged a meeting in a dingy basement in Arlington. After a few sessions with Dave, the band agreed that he was the drummer they needed. However, as he did not want to quit high school then, Dave declined their offer. 

    A few months later, after listening to Scream at a local club, Dave decided he wanted to join the band after all. They welcomed him with open arms, and soon his life turned upside down. He dropped out of school, took a job at the local furniture warehouse, and began rehearsing with Scream regularly. After a few months, the band set on a tour of America. ‘’The idea of traveling town to town with no other responsibility than to rock you night after night almost seemed too good to be true,’’ Dave comments. One of the most memorable moments from the tour was when Iggy Pop asked Dave to replace his drummer at the record release party in a small underground in Toronto. ‘’I had finally made it,‘’ Dave thought at the stage, ‘’even if only for one night. And it was just like I’d always dreamed it would be.’’

Have you heard of Nirvana?

    ‘’Have you heard of Nirvana?’’ Of course he had heard of Nirvana. After the band released the debut album ‘’Bleach,’’ it quickly became one of Dave's favorites since they stood apart from the other noisy, heavy punk records in his collection. ‘’And that voice, no one had a voice like that,’’ Dave writes. Now, the band needed a drummer, and a mutual friend called Dave to inform him Nirvana was impressed with his playing. When he gathered the courage to call them, Krist told him that their good friend Dan Peters from Mudhoney had already taken the position. However, Dave's telephone rang the same night. “Maybe you should talk to Kurt,” Kirst said. The thing was, although he was an extraordinary drummer, Peters’s drumming style was not quite what the band was looking for. 

    On January 11, 1992, two years after Dave joined Nirvana, their album ‘’Nevermind’’ knocked Michael Jackson out of the No. 1 spot on the Billboard album charts. The same day, the band played Saturday Night Live for the first time. ‘’The audiences were growing exponentially, and looking out from the stage every night, it was clear that a radical cultural shift was imminent from the energy and aesthetic of the fans who sang along to every word with a deafening volume,’’ Dave writes. Nevertheless, as often is the case, fame brought troubles to the band members, and they became more and more distant from each other. Eventually, the only thing that kept them together was the performance. After it, they would live their own lives, each very different from the others. Kurt was particularly unwell and started using heroin. ‘’I had never known anyone who used heroin before and knew very little about it, so I was shocked,’’ Dave comments. ‘’Perhaps naively, I didn’t peg him as someone who would do that sort of thing.’’

    Dave thought things would improve after he heard Kurt started rehab. He could not imagine the opposite scenario. After all, they were at the beginning of their journey with so much to look forward to. 

The beginnings of the Foo Fighters 

    News of Kurt’s death came on an early morning in April. ‘’I don’t remember much of that day other than turning on the news and hearing his name over and over again. Kurt Cobain. Kurt Cobain. Kurt Cobain.’’ Of course, Kurt was more than a name to Dave. He was his former roommate, friend, role model, ‘’the point that our entire world orbited.’’ Although they were friends for a relatively short period, Dave says that period significantly shaped him and still defines him today. ‘’I will always be ‘that guy from Nirvana,’ and I am proud of it,’’ he adds.

    A few months after Kurt’s death, an associate manager of Tom Petty rang Dave to see if he was interested in playing with the rock legend on Saturday Night Live. This phone call caught Dave in the studio room, with a guitar around his neck, recording what would, unknowingly, become the first Foo Fighters album. In fact, this was the first time he got back to playing music after being in paralyzing grief for months. And although he admired Petty’s work, he said he needed a few days to think about the offer. ‘’I had always known the day would come where I would be asked to cross this bridge, to move on with life after a year of mourning, but I wasn’t prepared for the catalyst to be something like this,’’ he writes. The thing was, Dave felt he was ready to dedicate himself to another project—to record the songs he wrote over the years in a studio. However, he did want to launch a solo career. ‘’I couldn’t imagine ‘the Dave Grohl Experience’ was a name that would have people running to the record stores, and quite honestly, I knew that the connection to Nirvana would certainly outweigh any listener’s objectivity.’’ So, he came up with another—Foo Fighters—the name military used as a nickname for unidentified craft flying over Europe and the Pacific. ‘’I thought it was just mysterious enough for me. Not only did it sound like a group of people, it almost sounded like a gang: Foo Fighters.’’ 

The real superhero Joan Jett

    Dave had a chance to meet and perform with plenty of legendary musicians throughout his career. One of them was Joan Jett, who not only played with Foo Fighters at Madison Square Garden during their 2011 tour but also read bedtime stories to his daughter Violet. 

    Before meeting Joan, Harper and Violet were familiar with her. In fact, they first got to know her through the Joan Jett Barbie doll their father bought them at the London toy store. After that, he taught them she was ‘’a feminist icon who proved to the world that women can rock even harder,’’ and an inspiration to generations of young female guitarists to follow her lead. He also played them her ‘’I Love Rock ‘ n Roll” video. Afterward, the girls took the doll and went to their room, humming the classic tune along the way. ‘’Deep in my heart I could tell that they had just discovered their new superhero.’’

    One weekend, Dave invited Jane to work with him on writing some songs at Foo Fighters’ studio. There, they began working on ‘’Any Weather,’’ the song Joan released later in 2013. Dave remembers how inspiring it was to see her work and sense her contagious love of rock and roll. ‘’After all these years,’’ he thought then, ‘’she still sang from the heart.’’

You can guess the girls’ amazement when they saw their superhero in front of them in their house. However, they quickly became quite comfortable in her presence. After all, seeing a Joan Jett in pajamas would unquestionably make anyone relaxed (Yes, Joan put on pajamas when bedtime came.) Then, Dave witnessed a memorable scene. His daughter Violet asked Joan to read bedtime stories with her. ‘’As I watched the two walk hand in hand upstairs, I prayed that Violet would never forget this moment, that she’d look back on this night someday and know that some superheroes are indeed real.’’

Final Notes

    Since he managed to hold our attention throughout the book, Grohl demonstrated that apart from being an excellent musician, he is also a storyteller worth listening to. For this reason, his memoir is a real treat both for his fans and those who love reading good stories.

12min Tip

    Have you ever listened to Scream? Why don’t you try now? Perhaps you can find some of their videos featuring Dave Grohl on drums.

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Who wrote the book?

David Eric Grohl is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and documentary filmmaker. Grohl became known on the international music scene when he joined Nirvana as a drummer in 1991. Not long after this band fell apart in 1994, Grohl founded Foo Fighters and ha... (Read more)

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