What Is Dave Grohl Whispering in Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’?
The enduring rock song's moody instrumental break — you know the one, when the music suddenly goes quiet and Grohl, muffled and practically indecipherable, recites what sounds like a string of multitracked poems — has long been mysterious for rock fans, at least in what the Foo Fighters bandleader is uttering.
Longtime listeners who were also early internet users might remember there was a seemingly official answer given around the time that the single, the second from the band's The Colour and the Shape, emerged in 1997. The Foo Fighters newsgroup used to have an FAQ section stating the murmurs were separate tracks of Grohl reading from three different passages — one a love letter, another from a technical manual and the final a story about a studio technician's father.
But is that really the case? Since "Everlong" first hit, some hearsay about the spoken section has cropped up online. But with evidence that's recently come forth — in one case just this year — we can mostly be sure of the material Grohl utilized to mutter into the mic.
Working backward, starting with the story about the technician's dad, we know that tale is indeed true and was settled by one of The Color and the Shape's recording engineers, Bradley Cook, in a 2019 video that breaks down the song's studio multitracks.
"Assistant [engineer] Ryan Bosch told us a story," Cook recalled. "His dad would come home from his night job and he had to sleep in the daytime. When he and his brother were too loud, his dad would give them military punishment [raises arms] and [make them] hold [his] boots at the foot of his bed, hold them up while he slept. That's Dave retelling the story."
The wording of the part, one of the more decipherable of the "Everlong" orations, was first picked apart by players of 2008's Rock Band 2 thanks to its inclusion as a playable song in the video game — the isolated tracks could then be extracted. Here's what it says:
"So Dad would take the Sundays off / And that's the only time he could ever get any rest / And so, because we were loud on Sundays / He'd make us hold his construction boots over our head, till he'd sleep / And they were really heavy boots / And I used to say, dad come on, please / And like start crying, 'cause they're too heavy."
Quite the heartbreaking excerpt, isn't it? But Cook didn't seem to remember a love letter, though he suggested his memory is a tad hazy. However, he did say Grohl read from a book for other portions.
"I don't know if it was a tech book or just some book," the engineer offered. "So we did three tracks — it was Ryan's story and a couple of tracks of him reading from some random book. But … it appears it's just the story at first, and then the other stuff jumps in. I haven't thought about this for so long."
So is there a love letter in there at all? According to musician Louise Post, there sure is.
Post, co-leader of Veruca Salt, was dating Grohl during the making of "Everlong" following his split from his first wife, photographer Jennifer Youngblood. Post added some of her vocals to the song over the phone after Grohl called and woke her in the middle of the night.
"The whispered section of this song was originally the dream I was having when the phone rang," the Veruca Salt singer-guitarist revealed in July. "It was a dream about us. He later removed it and replaced with his own whispers, one which was a love letter to me."
Post also shared a clip that better exhibits the harmonies she added to the chorus, buried in the final mix. "I sang these back-ups over the phone at 2AM after being woken up from a deep sleep in Chicago by DG who was tracking the vocals for 'Everlong' in LA," she said. "He wanted me to sing the doo-doo's, which were inspired by our song 'Shimmer Like a Girl.' … I wrote a harmony for the chorus and sang that too."
All considered, connecting the remarks from Cook and Post solidifies the explanation first given to newsgroup surfers. Except now we know a whole lot better how it likely went down.
Still, we'll probably never see the full text of the love letter or tech manual.