Surely, you know of the timeless grunge classic that is Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and a part of what makes that song so great is its drum intro from legendary drummer (and Foo Fighters frontman) Dave Grohl. Well, turns out that drum part, as well as other drum parts Grohl did on Nirvana’s Nevermind, were largely influenced by The Gap Band, Cameo, and Chic drummer Tony Thompson.
In Grohl’s new TV series From Cradle to Stage — where he and his mother Virginia talk with other musicians and their mothers about their relationship — he speaks with Pharrell, with the conversation turning to their shared upbringing as drummers, before Grohl makes the revelation.
“If you listen to Nevermind, the Nirvana record, I pulled so much stuff from The Gap Band, and Cameo, and Tony Thompson, on every one of those songs,” Grohl shares in a clip from the episode that has surfaced on social media. From there, the clip highlights Grohl’s opening drum part on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” before cutting to the opening of The Gap Band’s “Early in the Morning,” where it becomes very clear how similar the grunge classic’s opening drums are similar to the funk classic’s opening drums.
“That’s straight up Gap Band,” Pharrell says, surprised at the connection.
From there, Grohl shares how he told Thompson about his influence on Nevermind.
“He came to my house for a BBQ with somebody and I was like, ‘Man, I just wanna thank you because I owe so much, I’ve been ripping you off my whole life.’ He goes, ‘I know,'” Grohl recalled.
This isn’t the first time Grohl has shared history on his opening “Smells Like Teen Spirit” drums. He’s previously shared how Bad Brains drummer Earl Hudson influenced that opening part.
If you want to watch Grohl’s interview with Pharrell in its entirety, as well as the rest of the From Cradle to Stage series, it’s available to stream on Paramount+.
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