They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Dave Grohl turns 51 today, and in half a century he has managed to be part of legendary bands such as Nirvana and the Foo Fighters as well as play with Scream, Them Crooked Vultures, Late!, Probot, and Queens of the Stone Age. He is also raising a kick-ass daughter who is brimming with musical talent.
The Foo Fighters have recently been releasing live and acoustic songs from the “Foo Files.” Since July, 10 EPs have appeared, giving fans a fresh take on old favorites and a trip down memory lane for those lucky enough to hear them live. New music is in the works for the Foo Fighters as well, and this headline says it all. Oh, the anticipation!
Speaking of fresh takes, we wish a “Happy Birthday” to Grohl with homages to some of the Foo Fighters hits. If you are more in the mood for Nirvana covers, we understand! Check out our post on their MTV Unplugged album and our list of the Best Nirvana Covers.
Juliana Hatfield – Learn to Fly (Foo Fighters)
Juliana Hatfield is no stranger to this site, and she is here to hook us up with a new “Learn to Fly” revolution. This song was the first Foo Fighters song to be in the Billboard Hot 100, kicking off their third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Contrasting the rock opening of the original, the backing instrumentals that start this cover induce a dreamscape. The time-keeping tambourine of the original is replaced by synth sounds. The requisite urgency builds with the conga-like percussion in the chorus, and the song then transitions to the more traditional guitar and percussion. Throughout, Hatfield has pockets of solo where she is backed with minimal accompaniment, her chance to fly.
Foo Fighters Cover Ribeirão – These Days (Foo Fighters)
Reportedly (Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt), this is Dave Grohl’s favorite song that he has ever written. “These Days” comes from the Foo Fighters’ seventh album, Wasting Light. This version by a Brazilian cover band starts with the original’s mellow, yet precise guitar plucks. Hearing a softer side, the first lyrics are elegiac. The instrumentals in this cover remain acoustic throughout, but the vocals take on the edge of the chorus, lyrics quickly turning bitter and borderline caustic: “Easy for you to say / Your heart has never been broken / Your pride has never been stolen.”
aFOOstic – Next Year (Foo Fighters)
Maybe you know this song as the theme song for the under-appreciated gem of a show, Ed. Who among us hasn’t felt like they’ve been living in Stuckeyville at some point? Another cover band, with the perfect name, throws back to this 1999 hit. This cover stays faithful to the original, a relatively muted Foo Fighters song, including the iconic stutter-step drum beat that transitions into each verse. The team of acoustic guitars strip the song even further back, and the power of the band dampens the vocals, mirroring the far-away, perhaps in the sky, vocals of the original. And of course, when you think the song is over, the band rallies for one last chorus.
Pickin’ On Series – Monkey Wrench (Foo Fighters)
You may be used to headbanging to “Monkey Wrench,” but try out a little foot stompin’ instead. Banjo shredding replaces the original’s electric guitar, but we still get the characteristic stop-everything pause before the lyrics start. The fiddle contributes by chiming in with the “fall in, fall out” lines. Don’t worry, you can still scream along to “One last thing before I quit / I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head.” You might want to channel the narrator in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” though. If this style resonates with you – and admit it, it totally does – the Pickin’ On Series has a whole tribute album to the Foo Fighters.
Stereophonics – Best of You (Foo Fighters)
I’ve got another confession to make… I’m a fool for this song. An acoustic version especially gets me right in the heart. I’m in good company, though. Prince even covered it during his Super Bowl halftime show. The song was the first single off of the Foo Fighters’ fifth album, In Your Honor, written after the band had appeared with John Kerry on the campaign trail. This single is the band’s only one to achieve Platinum status in the US. This cover’s light acoustic guitar and simple vocals, clear yet resigned, almost soft enough to be talking to oneself and not an audience, make the lyrics extra poignant. Instead of increasing the intensity in the second verse like the original, this version keeps its measured pace and vocals. The Stereophonics don’t even escalate during the “Has someone taken your faith? / It’s real, the pain you feel” bridge. This bold choice pays off though. If the original song is buried in the anger stage of grief, this cover is right on the border of depression and acceptance. P.S. This cover introduced me to the Stereophonics, a Welsh band, and if you are in the mood for an original, I recommend this one.
Rudimental – Sky is a Neighborhood (Foo Fighters)
Time for a mashup! “The Sky is a Neighborhood” was the second single off of the Foo Fighters’ ninth album, Concrete and Gold. Who knew Drake and the Foo work so well together? I guess it was all part of God’s plan… This cover maintains the percussion heavy and almost spoken-word style of the opening lines. The backup vocals match the original’s sighs. True to the lyrics “heaven is a big band now,” brass is introduced into this version, adding an element of funk. The “Sky is a Neighborhood” beat provides a steady frame for the most beloved bars of the Drake hit.
Bronson Arroyo – Everlong (Foo Fighters)
This post wouldn’t be complete without an “Everlong” cover. As much as I love a good acoustic version, I couldn’t resist this cover, complete with a dramatic reading from Stephen King in the middle. Arroyo was a pitcher in Major League Baseball, but as a man of many talents, released a cover album, Covering the Bases, in 2005 after his team won the World Series Championship. The songs featured on his album were those that he performed for his teammates throughout the season. King, of horror writing fame, is a big Red Sox fan, so he was persuaded to participate. The origin, if there is one, of the material King is reading is still a mystery, though. This cover stays true to the original, starting quietly, building with a few electric guitar strums and high-hat, striving for full-blown rock legend status in the build-up and follow-up to “and I wonder.”
Happy Birthday, Dave Grohl! My wish for you is that everything feels this real forever.