Foo Fighters started out as a one-man-band, with D.C. hardcore-raised ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl playing and singing nearly everything on the surprisingly polished self-titled debut, released on the 4th of July in 1995. But over the years, Grohl has filled out the full band lineup, while bringing in a dizzying array of guest musicians and vocalists to add something extra to the band’s albums and concerts.
Over the years, Foo Fighters have jammed with classic rock heroes, Grohl’s former bandmates from Nirvana and Scream, and members of Queen, System of a Down, even Boyz II Men. Obviously, Foo Fighters had to push back their “D.C. Jam” anniversary concert due to the COVID-19 lockdown. But to celebrate the band’s silver anniversary, here’s a look at 25 memorable occasions that Foo Fighters got a little help from their friends, onstage or on wax.
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25. “Make It Right” with Justin Timberlake (Concrete and Gold, 2017)
Foo Fighters recorded Concrete and Gold at EastWest Studios, a large L.A. recording complex where several other major acts were working on their own records. And Dave Grohl fostered a party atmosphere by barbecuing for everybody in the parking lot, which resulted in several of the collaborations on the album, including unlikely guest vocalists like Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman and pop superstar Justin Timberlake. “We’d drink whiskey in the parking lot,” Grohl told Rolling Stone, explaining the Timberlake cameo. “Then the night before his last day, he says, ‘Can I sing on your record? I don’t want to push it, but – I just want to be able to tell my friends.”
24. “Panama” with David Lee Roth (Live in Los Angeles, 2015)
Many Foo Fighters shows have featured one or two big-name guest musicians joining the band onstage. But there’s probably no single Foos gig that attracted more star power than the show at the Forum celebrating Dave Grohl’s birthday in January 2015, a few days before he turned 46. Alice Cooper, Slash, Perry Ferrell, Lemmy Kilmister, Paul Stanley, Zakk Wylde, and Tenacious D all joined the band onstage for a set that featured almost as many covers as Grohl originals. But the highlight was the encore that featured two Van Halen classics with David Lee Roth. “There was one guy that I never played with before,” Grohl told the audience as he introduced Diamond Dave. “He was the fuckin’ bucket list motherfucker. We got the bucket list motherfucker tonight.” Somewhere out there, Sammy Hagar is fuming.
23. “Virginia Moon” with Norah Jones (In Your Honor, 2005)
Superstar jazz balladeer Norah Jones sang and played piano on one of the loveliest songs from the mellower acoustic disc of the band’s double album In Your Honor. Jones also included the track on her 2010 collaborative album …Featuring.
22. “Something From Nothing” with Rick Nielsen (Sonic Highways, 2014)
Dave Grohl’s HBO miniseries Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways was a multimedia project that followed the band as they visited studios in 8 American cities, and interviewed and jammed with famous hometown musicians. The resulting album of the same name was the most collaborative Foo Fighters record, with guests on every track. And the always starstruck Grohl never seems to fan out more in the series than in the Chicago episode, when he drafts Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen to rip a baritone guitar solo on the album’s lead single “Something From Nothing” at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio. Nielsen performed the song with the band on numerous occasions, bringing his signature checkerboard guitar with him on The Late Show with David Letterman.
21. “Saint Cecilia” with Ben Kweller (Saint Cecilia EP, 2015)
Foo Fighters dashed off the Saint Cecilia EP as a quick stopgap project while touring in support of the ambitious all-star Sonic Highways. But even the lo-fi EP they recorded at their hotel while performing at the Austin City Limits festival had a guest. Singer-songwriter and native Texan Ben Kweller, formerly the teen prodigy of the ‘90s post-grunge band Radish, joined Foo Fighters onstage for “Big Me,” and then sang backup on the EP’s title track, which peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
20. “Rope” with Deadmau5 (The Grammys, 2012)
In 2012, producers of the Grammys telecast decided to celebrate EDM’s burgeoning commercial relevance by cramming producers like David Guetta into a medley with artists from other genres like Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. This concept somehow turned into Foo Fighters playing the first half of 2011’s “Rope,” before a curtain dropped to reveal Deadmau5, in his big silly mouse helmet. Dave Grohl briefly sings along with Deadmau5’s official remix from the “Rope” single and then jumps into the audience to awkwardly bob his head to the beat.
19. “Gimme Some Truth” with Billy Idol (Live in Jacksonville, Florida, 2018)
Foo Fighters followed Billy Idol onstage at the Welcome to Rockville festival in 2018, so they joined forces to play “Gimme Some Truth,” the John Lennon song that Idol’s own band Generation X covered in 1979. Then for no apparent reason, John Travolta also materialized onstage with the Foos a minute later, standing around awkwardly while the band played “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease.
18. “Holiday in Cambodia” with Serj Tankian (MTV Video Music Awards, 2007)
MTV held the VMAs at the Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas for the first and only time in 2007, with an experimental format including frequent cutaways to Fantasy Suite rooms hosted by stars like Mark Ronson and Kanye West with surprise guests. The Foo Fighters had their own suite, in which Dave Grohl and his band jammed with Cee-Lo Green, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal and Lemmy Kilmister. And for a brief moment during MTV’s highly touted annual awards show, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian fronted Foo Fighters for a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ satirical punk classic “Holiday in Cambodia.” The performance finally got a proper commercial release in 2019 on the 01070725 EP, one of a series of archival releases Foo Fighters rolled out to celebrate their 25th year.
17. “Miracle” with John Paul Jones and Petra Haden (In Your Honor, 2005)
Foo Fighters jammed with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones at Wembley Stadium in 2008, and Dave Grohl formed the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Jones in 2009. But before all of that, Jones linked up with Foo Fighters for a couple of delicate tracks on the second half of In Your Honor. Jones played piano on “Miracle,” which also featured That Dog. violinist Petra Haden, who was part of the expanded lineup that recorded the 2006 acoustic live album Skin and Bones.
16. “Dear Rosemary” with Bob Mould (Wasting Light, 2011)
Dave Grohl has often cited Hüsker Dü as one of his biggest influences, and Foo Fighters covered the Dü’s “Never Talking to You Again” live in 2002 as the B-side of the “Low” single. So it was no surprise when Bob Mould appeared on two songs on 2011’s Wasting Light and frequently joined them on tour to sing and strum on “Dear Rosemary,” including on Conan.
15. “The Feast and the Famine” with Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson (Sonic Highways, 2014)
Dave Grohl joined the Virginia hardcore band Scream as a teenager, touring the country with them for a few years before he got the call to join Nirvana. And Grohl always remained friends with his old bandmates, bringing guitarist Franz Stahl on as a member of Foo Fighters for a couple of years in the late ‘90s and participating in a Scream reunion in 2010. When an episode of Sonic Highways brought Grohl back to his old Washington, D.C. stomping grounds, Scream’s Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson sang backup on the throwback punk anthem “The Feast and the Famine,” recorded at Inner Ear Studios in Arlington. Dedicated Foo Fighters fans will also recall Thompson from the comical anecdote in ”Just Another Story About Skeeter Thompson” from the 1992 cassette where Grohl debuted his first solo compositions under the name Late!
14. “Dirty Water” with Inara George (Concrete and Gold, 2017)
Concrete and Gold producer Greg Kurstin is best known for his chart-topping work with major pop stars like Adele and Kelly Clarkson. But the skilled multi-instrumentalist also played in alternative bands like Geggy Tah and the Bird and the Bee. And Kurstin brought in the Bird and the Bee singer Inara George (daughter of Little Feat frontman Lowell George) to do some backing vocals on the Concrete and Gold highlight “Dirty Water.” Last year Dave Grohl returned the favor, playing drums for the Bird and the Bee when they covered Van Halen on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
13. “Never Gonna Give You Up” with Rick Astley (Live at London O2 Arena, 2017)
Dave Grohl didn’t technically Rickroll his London fans in September 2017 – he came right out and announced British pop singer Rick Astley before the Foo Fighters backed him on a surprisingly good, guitar-driven rendition of his 1987 hit. And just last month, Rick Astley tipped his hat to the Foo Fighters and sang “Everlong” on a livestream.
12. “X-Static” with Greg Dulli (Foo Fighters, 1995)
Dave Grohl famously played virtually everything on the first Foo Fighters album, save for some backing vocals by co-producer Barrett Jones and a guitar cameo by Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs. Dulli, who played with Grohl in the all-star band that recorded the Beatles’ early covers repertoire for the Fab Four biopic Backbeat in 1994, was one of the few visitors in the studio when Grohl was recording the Foo Fighters’ debut. “I was just watching him record, and he asked me if I wanted to play,” Dulli told Rolling Stone in 1995. “I didn’t even get out of my chair. He just handed me a guitar.”
11. “Subterranean” with Ben Gibbard and Barrett Jones (Sonic Highways, 2014)
One of the weightiest moments in Sonic Highways docuseries was the Seattle episode, where Dave Grohl returned not just to his former band’s hometown but to Robert Lang Studios, the site of Nirvana’s final recording session in January 1994. But instead of featuring one of Nirvana’s grunge era contemporaries on the song Foo Fighters worked on at the studio, Grohl brought in Ben Gibbard, whose Bellingham band Death Cab For Cutie, helped point the Washington rock scene to indie rock’s future beyond heavy Big Muff riffs in the late ‘90s.
10. “Walking After You (soundtrack version)” with Craig Wedren and Jerry Harrison (X-Files: The Album, 1998)
Dave Grohl named both his band and his label Roswell Records in homage to his enthusiasm for researching UFOs and Area 51 conspiracy theories. Naturally, he became closely associated with the TV series The X-Files, and the band contributed to the soundtrack albums for both the series and the 1998 spinoff film. At the end of The Colour and the Shape’s promotional cycle, Foo Fighters entered the studio to re-record a slicker new version of the album’s closing track “Walking After You.” With producer Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads on piano and Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren sang backing vocals. The re-recorded “Walking After You” is also notable for being one of only two studio tracks that feature Scream’s Franz Stahl on guitar from his two-year tenure in Foo Fighters.
9. “Sunday Rain” with Paul McCartney and Greg Kurstin (Concrete and Gold, 2017)
Calling Foo Fighters the Wings to Nirvana’s Beatles is a popular jab, but Grohl doesn’t shy away from the comparison – they even covered “Band on the Run” in 2007. And Grohl and McCartney have collaborated on a number of occasions, including “Cut Me Some Slack” for Grohl’s 2013 film Sound City, and a recent livestream to benefit the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Anybody who’s listened to the first two tracks on The White Album knows that Sir Paul is a talented drummer in addition to his other musical gifts, and Grohl had Macca lay down drums for one track on Concrete and Gold that was sung by Taylor Hawkins.
8. “We Will Rock You” with Harper Grohl (Live in Reykjavik, Iceland, 2017)
“There’s another Grohl on the drum set now,” Grohl proudly announced at the Secret Solstice Festival in Iceland. Then his daughter Harper Grohl, who at the time was eight, got behind Taylor Hawkins’s drums and pounded out the beat for the first song she’d learned, the Queen classic “We Will Rock You.”
7. “Tired of You” with Brian May (One by One, 2002)
Foo Fighters have also played “We Will Rock You” with the members of Queen at Hyde Park in 2006, collaborating with Brian May on a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have A Cigar” for the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack the same year. But the only time the Queen guitarist’s distinctive tone graced a Foo Fighters album was on “Tired of You,” a slow-burning One by One deep cut that appeared in the 2007 film I Think I Love My Wife.
6. “Congregation” with Zac Brown (Sonic Highways, 2014)
Dave Grohl went a little country to produce a few songs for The Zac Brown Band that became 2013’s The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1 EP. And the following year, Zac Brown played a twangy guitar break and sang backup on “Congregation,” the Sonic Highways single recorded in Nashville. After the release of the album, Brown made a few appearances at Foo Fighters shows, usually joining in on a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”
5. “Razor” with Josh Homme (In Your Honor, 2005)
Hard rock superfriends Dave Grohl and Josh Homme have collaborated many times, often on suitably heavy songs by Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. But the only time Homme appeared on a Foo Fighters song, it was to pick out an intricate acoustic riff on the surprisingly quiet and folky In Your Honor closing track “Razor.”
4. “Outside” with Joe Walsh and Chris Goss (Sonic Highways, 2014)
The fifth episode of Sonic Highways took Foo Fighters to Rancho De La Luna, the California studio famous for Josh Homme’s series of The Desert Sessions albums. But instead of tapping Palm Desert Scene band Eagles of Death Metal, Grohl went to an actual Eagle, Joe Walsh, for an extended solo in the tradition of “Hotel California.” “If you’re gonna have Joe Walsh on your album, you’re not gonna just give him four bars,” drummer Taylor Hawkins told Q Magazine. “You’re gonna give him 40 bars and take us out into the fuckin’ desert, man!” Walsh also joined Foo Fighters onstage in 2018 to play his solo hit “Rocky Mountain Way.”
3. “Planet Claire (live)” with Fred Schneider (“Times Like These” single, 2002)
“Planet Claire” is the eerie sci-fi epic that opens The B-52’s self-titled 1979 album. In 2002, The B-52’s vocalist Fred Schneider joined Foo Fighters onstage for a heavy rendition of the song with screaming metal guitars in place of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s otherworldly harmonies. A recording of the performance first appeared on a single B-side and was more recently collected in 2019 on one of the archival releases marking the band’s 25th anniversary, the 00020225 EP.
2. “Everlong” with Louise Post (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
You might have listened to Foo Fighters’ signature song hundreds of times without realizing that someone outside the band performs on the track. Much of The Colour and the Shape was about Dave Grohl’s divorce, but “Everlong” was about his new relationship at the time, with Louise Post of Veruca Salt. Post wasn’t officially credited on the track, but her backing vocals, recorded over the phone from Chicago, added harmonies to the cathartic chorus and some sweet doot-doot-doots to the main guitar riff. Last year, Bradley Cook, the engineer who recorded “Everlong,” appeared on the YouTube series Inside the Song to tell the story behind the song, isolating individual tracks on the mixing board so you can hear Post’s long-distance vocals more clearly.
1. “I Should Have Known” with Krist Novoselic, Bob Mould, and Jessy Greene (Wasting Light, 2011)
Sweet 75 notwithstanding, Krist Novoselic has been less musically active than Dave Grohl since the breakup of Nirvana. But they’ve linked up on a few occasions for big gigs like Nirvana’s 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and Novoselic’s vocal cameo on “Walking a Line” from 2002’s One by One. In 2011, Grohl reteamed with Nevermind producer Butch Vig for the Foo Fighters album Wasting Light. And Novoselic stopped by Grohl’s home studio to play both bass and accordion on “I Should Have Known,” which also featured vocals from Bob Mould and spine-tingling violin by Jessy Greene of the Geraldine Fibbers. But obviously, the main attraction is hearing Foo Fighters evoke Nirvana’s signature roar more overtly than ever before when Novoselic cranks up his Gibson Ripper on the cathartic climax of “I Should Have Known.”
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