FRIEND OF A FRIEND

IN­SIDE THE SOUND­TRACK TO DAVE GROHL’S WILD EARLY DAYS LIV­ING WITH KURT COBAIN

Kerrang! (UK) - - News - WORDS: PAUL BRAN­NI­GAN

Around Hal­lowe’en 1990, Dave Grohl moved into Kurt Cobain’s one-bed­room apart­ment at 114 North Pear Street, in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton. Though the 21-yearold drum­mer had spent the pre­vi­ous two weeks shar­ing a cramped tour bus and scuzzy ho­tel rooms with Kurt on a six-date Nir­vana tour of the UK, noth­ing had pre­pared him for the squalor in which his new room­mate lived at home.

“It was chaos,” Dave noted, re­call­ing a filthy, foulsmelling, mould-cov­ered res­i­dence lit­tered with rot­ting take-away food, beer cans, rolling pa­pers and the messy de­tri­tus of Kurt’s bach­e­lor life. “You walked in and there was sculp­tures and paint­ings, there were tur­tles and med­i­cal books and Leonard Co­hen records. It was like, ‘This is Kurt.’”

Dave Grohl spent the next eight months sleep­ing on Kurt’s couch. Home­sick and lonely – “Olympia, Wash­ing­ton, is fuck­ing de­press­ing enough,” he later ex­plained, “and I was liv­ing with this per­son that I didn’t know” – the drum­mer would wake up each day as the sun was go­ing down, travel to nearby Ta­coma to re­hearse with Kurt and bassist Krist Novoselic, then sit up all night play­ing gui­tar, play­ing qui­etly so as not to wake his flat­mate. On one such evening, he bor­rowed Kurt’s four-track home stu­dio, and sketched out a del­i­cate song based upon his ob­ser­va­tions of the in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship shared by his new band­mates – the in­tro­verted singer who ‘plays an old gui­tar / With a coin found by the phone’ and his best friend who ‘thinks he drinks too much’. It was the first acous­tic song Dave had ever writ­ten.

The drum­mer never played Friend Of A Friend to Kurt or Krist. But on De­cem­ber 23, 1990, while back in Vir­ginia to spend Christ­mas with his mother, Dave recorded the song, along with a clutch of other com­po­si­tions con­ceived on Kurt’s couch, at his friend Bar­rett Jones’ Laun­dry Room stu­dio in Ar­ling­ton. That same evening, Jenny Toomey, the owner of lo­cal record la­bel Sim­ple Ma­chines and front­woman of Ar­ling­ton in­die-rock­ers Tsunami, dropped by Bar­rett’s stu­dio, and was given a play­back of the ses­sion. “She said: ‘Wow, this is re­ally cool, we should put out a cas­sette,’” Dave re­called. “I was like, ‘Okay…’ I was just ex­cited that some­one was ex­cited enough to want to hear it.”

The fol­low­ing year, Friend Of A Friend emerged as track three on Dave Grohl’s de­but solo al­bum, Pock­et­watch, re­leased un­der the pseu­do­nym Late! as part of Sim­ple Ma­chines’ cas­sette-only Tool Cas­sette Se­ries. With Dave opt­ing not to pro­mote the re­lease in any way, mind­ful of ir­ri­tat­ing Nir­vana’s man­age­ment, their new la­bel Gef­fen and in­deed the sub­jects of the song, ini­tially Pock­et­watch went largely un­no­ticed. That was un­til Nir­vana’s Nev­er­mind al­bum ex­ploded into the main­stream con­scious­ness, and de­mand for their drum­mer’s low-key record­ings al­most tor­pe­doed the in­die la­bel, lead­ing Jenny Toomey to per­ma­nently with­draw it from sale. As such, Friend Of A Friend might have re­mained a cult cu­rio, had Dave not de­cided to rere­cord the song for Foo Fight­ers’ 2005 dou­ble-al­bum In Your Honor, de­scrib­ing it as “a nod to the past” on an al­bum “about look­ing ahead”.

“Of any song that I’ve ever writ­ten, Friend Of A Friend is most bla­tantly about my time in Nir­vana,” he ac­knowl­edged that same year.

Un­de­ni­ably, the 1994 death of Kurt Cobain gives Friend Of A Friend an added poignancy, as a re­minder of a sim­pler, more in­no­cent time for Dave and his new pals. But which­ever ver­sion of the song you know best, it re­mains a charm­ing, frag­ile and rather bit­ter­sweet sketch of a bur­geon­ing friend­ship that would go on to trans­form the rock mu­sic land­scape and change life for­ever for two young men shar­ing a shit-hole apart­ment in a non­de­script Amer­i­can town.

PHOTO: MARTIN PHILBEY

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