Dave Grohl Was ‘Branded For Life’ by John Bonham Obsession
Dave Grohl recalled becoming so obsessed with John Bonham that he tattooed himself with the Led Zeppelin drummer’s triple-circle emblem using a sewing needle.
The Foo Fighters leader also conceded that he was probably his teacher mom’s worst student as a teen, but he credited her with supporting him as he chased his music dreams.
“At 13 or 14, I had a narrow-minded vision that everything could only be punk rock all the time,” Grohl told the Guardian in a recent interview. “I scoured the record shelves for anything dissonant and subversive — death metal, industrial music — anything that wasn’t on the radio or seemed rebellious. By the time I was 15 or 16 […] I had learned to play drums by arranging pillows on my floor and my bed in the formation of a drum set and playing along to Bad Brains.”
He continued: “We discovered Led Zeppelin just as I started progressing as a drummer, and I became obsessed with John Bonham: what he played and why. It’s hard to explain, but his feel and sound is unmistakable and undefinable. Anyone can take the chart of what he played, but it would never be the same because it was as unique to that human as a fingerprint.” He said he’d behaved “like a monk” as he memorized Bonham’s recordings, which were “like poetry” to him. He added, “I became so obsessed that I gave myself a three-interlocked-circles John Bonham tattoo on my arm with a fucking sewing needle and some ink. I was branded for life.”
Grohl’s mom, Virginia, taught at the high school he attended. “She spent her career dealing with rebellious little assholes like me, but she was known as the cool teacher,” he said. “She understood that every child learned differently, and having a difficult time at school doesn’t necessarily mean that a kid can’t learn. I think I was her most difficult student, but she saw the passion in my musical obsession.”
Her understanding meant a lot when Grohl hit his rebellious stage.
“I just glided through it," he said. "My mother was entirely supportive, and she was encouraged by the independence and creativity of the underground punk rock scene, because everybody did everything themselves. There were no record companies helping anyone: You just started a band, wrote a song, played a show, got $50, went to the studio, recorded something, pressed your own vinyl and put out your own record. To see your kid that passionate about anything at that age must have been very inspiring.”
He reflected, “It’s always the things that you most want to do that you do well. Really, all I did was listen to music.”