On a cool rainy morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee, my son came over to ask if he could pick out a record to play. “Of course,” I replied, “Any record you want.” He immediately scurried over to the cabinet that houses the rock and blues records and came back with this. Solid choice, dude.
As I have begun building a vinyl collection, I absolutely love random finds that speak to me. This was such a record. I was flipping through the stack at a local record store, not looking for anything in particular when I stumbled on Play by Dave Grohl. There was only one. I had to take it home.
I’ve long been a fan of Dave Grohl and The Foo Fighters. Seriously, who hasn’t? However, I had no idea this record even existed until I came upon the video last year. Before the music, as he explains how he recorded it, he speaks to the love of making music thats starts when we’re kids, and the (not so) borderline obsession that musicians have with that journey and mastering their craft. That’s how it started for me and his words naturally struck a chord as I approach my musical exploits much in the same way… Clearly not at the same level.
Regardless, it makes me wonder, if you strip away the super stardom, the Grammys and Rock Hall inductions, are the musicians that operate at the level of bands like The Foo Fighters, at their core simply people in pursuit of the same goal: to express the complexity of human emotion through music? I’d like to think so.
And also to make eleventy billion dollars.
They do say the first billion is the hardest.
Further, is that goal of expression so intangible, just far enough out of reach, that the writing, the creating, the playing never really stops?
Now to the record. The twenty-two and a half minute recording is a single instrumental piece played completely by Dave (we’re on a first name basis, you know). What is interesting about the recording process is that he played the entire piece, moving from one instrument to the next, in order, endeavoring to record one full take on each before moving on. Any mistakes meant starting over at the top. Having done a bit of recording I can tell you, this is no small feat.
You might think that an instrumental rock piece that long might get dull, lag somewhere, not be able to hold your attention. I assure you, this is not the case. The music rises and falls, shifting every few minutes changing from straight hard rock, to some thing softer, sometimes more melancholy, then shifting again, keeping you engaged. Once you can begin to hear and feel when the transitions come, the listening experience is enhanced just that much more. Add to those changes the intricate layers of drums, percussion, keys, guitars and bass and what you have is not far short of musical genius. Played entirely by one man.
A quick word on album art. This record is a perfect example of why I buy vinyl. The jacket opens to a diagram of the studio set up and includes a mic list for each instrument. Pulling the record out of the sleeve I discovered that the music is on one side and on the back there is another engraved studio diagram. It’s art on top of art inside art. Brilliant. It’s theses little things that, I believe, give vinyl so much more soul and character over digital downloads or even CDs.
As much as I recommend listening just to the record, I would entirely recommend watching the video of how it was done and watching Dave play through the whole thing. If that doesn’t inspire you to pick up an instrument and start playing, perhaps tennis is more your thing.
And that’s cool too.