All aboaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaardahahaha! Welcome to Riff University, where each week, Dr* Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler), with his PhD in Riffology** will walk you through some of the biggest, baddest and boldest riffs of all time, right from the genesis of rock and roll, to some of our future classics. By the end of this intensive course, you will be able to recognise a classic riff from the first note, make pub conversations awkwardly unbearable, and alienate Tinder matches from the word go.
*Abbreviation of “Dad Rock”
**Not a real PhD
Up This Week: Everlong by Foo Fighters
Read Last Week’s Lecture on Map of the Problematique by Muse here.
There is no finer feeling than being in love; you, and someone else, twined in perfect harmony, connecting like your WiFi at home, bonding like your back to a leather sofa on a hot night. However, it’s often hard to find the words to perfectly describe how you feel about that one person, so through the medium of music, through art, we accurately describe how we feel about that person. See; mixtapes, playlists, playing Freak Me by Silk (or Another Level, depending how sensual you’re feeling) outside the house of that girl you fancy at 4am after a solid 15 hours on the cans. All of those can help us to describe what we feel when we see that person.
However, one song stands head and shoulders above the others when it comes to describing just how you feel about someone. Right from the start, the song conveys the raw emotion of meeting that one person that flips you on your head, and rightly so, as that is its intended purpose. Nothing stirs your soul quite like this, admit it.
The band? Foo Fighters. The album? The Colour And The Shape. The song? You guessed it, Everlong.
Written in a tumultuous period for the band and especially everyone’s favourite goofball Dave Grohl, Everlong is the story about finding true love. Written as Dave was breaking up with his then wife Jenifer Youngblood whilst falling for Veruca Salt guitarist Louise Post, and in his own words;
“[Everlong] was basically about being connected to someone so much, that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them you harmonise perfectly”
Straight off the bat, the song has a certain power to it. The gently plucked riff is instantly recognisable, and automatically floods you with emotion. Slightly echoed as the guitar slides up and down the neck in the same rhythm, Everlong is the starting pistol on true love. The distorted guitar kicks in and moves the riff into a similar feel, but slightly heavier, still dancing. Whilst the Foo’s sound has developed over the years, originally when it came to writing riffs, Grohl would use the same principle he did for writing drum beats, and that shows in Everlong’s rhythmic sound.
Lyrically, the song says so little, without saying not a lot at all, as characterised in the first line of the song:
“Hello, I’ve waited here for you, everlong”
It sums up the feeling of finding that one person you instantly connect with. Think about it, finding true love is literally just a wait, being patient and biding your time, and when you meet that person, you know it’s the one you’ve been waiting your whole life for.
However, it’s the anthemic chorus that everyone knows, loves and belts out, something you might have done this week on their UK tour. The buildup is fantastic as the guitar goes up the neck into
“And I wonder // when I sing along with you”
But let’s face it, nothing in terms of a love song will ever come close to
“If everything could ever feel this real forever // if anything could ever be this good again // the only thing I’ll ever ask of you // you’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when”
In just over four minutes, you can lock yourself into your own perfect moment. When you feel like that, you just want to capture those perfect little moments and constantly replay them.
Everlong marked a turning point in the band’s live career as well; though Grohl had been the drummer in Nirvana, the Foos had to build themselves from the ground up, and Everlong was one of the first songs that fans would properly sing back, with fans often repeating “Breathe out, so I can breathe you in”.
Apparently written in the space of 45 minutes, Everlong was originally an acoustic track with Grohl just jamming out the opening riff, before bringing the full band into it. It’s also probably the most well-known Foo Fighters song, amassing over 200,000,000 plays on Spotify, and can easily bridge the gap between people who enjoy the Dad Rock vibes of the Foo Fighters, and people who just really want a rocking love song.
Everlong was also written during a strained time to the band; drummer William Goldsmith was on the verge of quitting, largely due to Grohl’s control over, and eventual playing of drum tracks on The Colour And The Shape. Guitarist Pat Smear also left the band due to the fatigue and exhaustion of being out on tour. Perhaps the lyrical theme not only refers to that of finding your true love, but Grohl also wanting to hold onto the magic of being in the Foo Fighters forever.
The bridge in the song is interesting; moving back into that gently plucked riff and a whispered bridge. What the bridge is actually comprised of remains a mystery, apparently it’s a combination of a love letter, an instruction manual and a tale about a studio engineer. Maybe the whispered bridge can be manipulated by your ear to say whatever you’re really feeling right then, maybe it is just a load of inane babble, but hey, that’s true love for you.
The love song’s love song, Everlong is absolutely iconic, with that gently plucked riff instantly recognisable, and anthemic choruses perfectly describing the feeling of finding true love.