Saturday, February 5, 2011

Foo Fighters - "Best of You" (the song remains the same)

In honor of tomorrow's quasi-national holiday, Super Bowl XLV...

"Best of You" was the first single of the Foo Fighter's highly successful 2005 LP "In Your Honor". The song is excellent: it has hooks, emotion, power -- everything you want in power pop. Dave Grohl has a great rock/punk voice: raspy, powerful, and with range.

I'm always amazed at the success and longevity of the Foo Fighters: I would not have believed you if you told me in 1994 after Kurt Cobain's death that Grohl, Nirvana's drummer (insert Spinal Tap reference here), would 1) switch to vocals & guitar, and 2) have a 15+ year run of commercial and critical success.

This story really begins with the Foos doing a cover of Prince's "Darling Nikki" on the B-side of their 2003 single "Have it All". In fact, the B-side was originally available on only foreign versions of the single (Australia & UK), but it gained some airplay in the US. The story goes that although Grohl did the cover because he was a Prince fan, Prince was not too happy that the Foos covered his song ("No! I don't like anyone covering my work. Write your own tunes!"), and Grohl later apologized and asked radio stations to stop playing their cover of "Darling Nikki".

Fast forward to 2007 and Super Bowl XLI and Prince is the halftime show. How does one of the most prolific and influential artists of our times fill a 12 minute slot? It begins with the marching band doing "We Will Rock You"; ok that's surely some kind of marching band law, so that doesn't really count. He then does two songs from the Purple Rain LP: "Let's Go Crazy" and "Baby I'm a Star". Then two covers (a medley, really) of "Proud Mary" and "All Along the Watchtower" -- covers, but so well known that they're standards.

We were watching the Super Bowl at Terry's house, and I still remember my total surprise when Prince segued from "two riders were approaching / and the wind began to howl" to "are you gone and onto someone new?" -- was Prince really singing "Best of You"?! That's a rather obscure, recent, and heavy song for a Super Bowl halftime performance. Given all the songs Prince could have chosen, using ~2:15 of a 12 minute slot to cover a Foo Fighters song was a pretty bold decision. From "Best of You", Prince closed the show with the song "Purple Rain".

Some people seemed to think Prince's cover was a dig at the Foos, but that just doesn't make sense: you don't skip over your own songs like "1999", "Little Red Corvette", "When Doves Cry", "I Would Die 4 U", etc. just to insult another artist. I prefer to think of it as a peace offering from Prince, realizing that he had been a bad sport about the whole "Darling Nikki" affair. For the record the Foo's were flattered, their reaction is covered in this story from

Is it too much to hope the Black Eyed Peas have a similar surprise in store? (edit: turns out it was too much to hope for -- I don't think it was the disaster that some claim, but it wasn't very good).

Foo Fighters: studio version, live version, live on Jools Holland, acoustic version

Prince: audio only version, full halftime show ("Best of You" begins at ~6:00).

"Darling Nikki" Bonus links:

Prince: studio version, "Purple Rain" movie version

Foo Fighters: studio version, live version

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