The John Lennon song Dave Grohl wishes he’d written: “that song just never sounds old”

One of the most revered forces in modern rock, Dave Grohl’s love of The Beatles is well-documented. Despite rising to fame as a member of one of the most iconoclastic guitar outfits of the 1990s, Grohl is a self-professed student of pop music. Indeed, it was Kurt Cobain’s own respect for the Fab Four’s pop craft that allowed the underground no-wave outfit to rise to such great heights. Here, Grohl discusses the John Lennon song he wishes he’d written.

Grohl has often talked about his affection for The Beatles’ 1970 album Abbey Road. During a conversation with BBC Radio 2 back in 2019, the Foo Fighters frontman was asked to pick his favourite track from the album. “The one that stands out to me the most, and has always been my favourite from that record, is called ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’,” he said. “I love heavy music, I love Black Sabbath, I love Motörhead, but I think that nothing is heavier, melodically darker and deeper than the riff in this song.”

When it comes to actual songcraft, however, Grohl is more interested in John Lennon’s solo material. Dave’s Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain was equally obsessed with Lennon. During a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain said: “John Lennon was definitely my favourite Beatle, hands down. I don’t know who wrote what parts of what Beatles songs, but McCartney embarrasses me. Lennon was obviously disturbed [laughs]. So I could relate to that.”

Cobain was rightly fascinated by Lennon’s ambiguous relationship with fame. Of course, that same notoriety allowed the former Beatle an important platform, one he used to share a message for peace. Few song’s are as demonstrative of John’s effort to use music as a tool for social change than 1971’s ‘Imagine’ from the album of the same name.

“I really wish that I had written ‘Imagine’”, Grohl said in an interview for the Red Bulletin, “Because it’s such a beautiful song with a really timeless quality – the song just never sounds old. When I was young and I first started playing guitar – around the age of ten or eleven years old – I would sit and strum along to [John Lennon’s] records all day long. That’s how I learned to play guitar – John was my teacher.”

Inspired by Yoko Ono’s 1964 book Grapefruit (a sort of forerunner to Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies for artists) ‘Imagine’ tends to divide Beatles fans. And for good reason. The track was written by Lennon from the comfort of his expansive mansion on the Tittenhurst Park estate, which certainly makes it harder to take Lennon’s call for ordinary people to “imagine no possessions” seriously.

Grohl doesn’t seem to mind, though. You can revisit ‘Imagine’ below.

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