“Million Dollar Demos:” The Album that Nearly Broke Up the Foo Fighters

Courtesy of Qtrax

Courtesy of Qtrax

By Nicholas Stalford

Late this summer, an unknown user on Reddit created an account with the express purpose of posting a link with a download for the lost tracks of the Million Dollar Demos, a demo tape recorded by the Foo Fighters in 2001 of songs considered for what would become their fourth record, One by One.

The Million Dollar Demos had been produced during an intense four-month session, resulting in the recording of twenty-nine songs—eleven of which were chosen for commercial use—that cost approximately $1 million, hence the name. But after reviewing the demo, band manager John Silva was quoted on the Foo Fighters documentary Back and Forth to have said, “Well we could put this out, but I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sell any of them.” Silva’s comment rang true with the band, as they had been exhausted and uninspired during the recording session, leading to intense arguments that threatened to break up the band. So for the time being, the album was shelved.

For a while, things looked glum for the Foo Fighters, as frontman Dave Grohl began drumming for Queens of the Stone Age, and bassist Nate Mendel reunited with his old band, Sunny Day Real Estate. Tension arose between Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins, stemming from Hawkins’ resentment towards Grohl for drumming in another band, and the two stopped speaking to each other. This tension came to a tipping point during a rehearsal for a show at Coachella—for which Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters were booked back to back—when guitarist Chris Shiflett asked about the band’s future. Grohl and Hawkins had it out in a heated argument, resulting in the decision that the Coachella performance would be the band’s last performance. But miraculously, the Foo Fighters played an amazing show that night, and they decided to give the band one more chance.

The Foo Fighters went back to Grohl’s hometown in Virginia to play a few jam sessions and see if there was any hope left for the band. Inspired by the Foo Fighters’ near demise, Grohl wrote the song “Times Like These,” which became the driving force behind what eventually became One by One. The Foo Fighters recorded eleven tracks in Grohl’s basement in just one week, a feat that had been unachievable during the first attempt in a professional studio with $1 million to spend. One by One went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 2004, selling over 120,000 copies its first week, and going gold and platinum in over five countries. The album was a major success, but years later, many fans wondered what had become of the original record, now known as the Million Dollar Demos.

While some of the eleven tracks from the Million Dollar Demos were later officially released as B-sides, seven remained lost or were only available in short clips. So when these seven tracks suddenly surfaced on Reddit, it was a complete surprise to Foo Fighters fans worldwide. On the Reddit forum where the link was posted, fans reacted mostly positively, and many in disbelief, such as Reddit user “fftamahawk009” who posted “Holy fucking shit…holy fucking shit.” Other reactions include one from user “morebacons” who said, “Personally I think I may like this more than the actual album. Less polished imperfect but passionate,” which surprisingly seemed to echo the thoughts of many of the other listeners who commented.

Of these seven recently unearthed tracks, most sound similar to the versions that were released on the official fourth album, but several sound completely different. “Come Back” and “Lonely as You” are most notably different from their official counterparts. The One by One versions of these two songs are considerably heavier and more emotional: “Come Back” starts off with grainy, overdriven guitar and lasts for nearly eight minutes due to the addition of a long instrumental section. While One by One is an introspective look back at the dark and tense period that the band had just gone through, the Million Dollar Demos presents the opposite viewpoint, showing the Foo Fighters in the midst of the band’s lowest moment.

Unfortunately, the link to download the tracks was quickly removed by the mysterious Reddit user, and for those who did not download the tracks, they became lost once again. Luckily, users who had downloaded the tracks have uploaded them to YouTube, so fans can hear them while they are still available.

After the download link was posted, many fans pondered the identity of the mysterious Reddit user and how they obtained the missing tracks. A conspiracy theory quickly developed, claiming Grohl was behind the leaks. This conspiracy is backed with evidence such as the fact that the user’s name was “Dale_Nixon,” a pseudonym commonly used by musicians such as Greg Ginn of Black Flag, and that the Reddit post featured a quote from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, a film that Grohl had stated to have been obsessed with. In response to these allegations, Foo Fighters made no comment other than to deny that Grohl had any part in it. But whether or not Grohl, or anyone else associated with the band, intentionally released the tracks isn’t important. What’s important is that the Million Dollar Demos can finally be heard in their entirety, allowing fans to listen to the album that nearly broke up the Foo Fighters.

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