What Dave Did Next: what is Dave Grohl’s “Pocketwatch” demo - the link between Nirvana and Foo Fighters?

What was Dave Grohl’s first project before forming Foo Fighters, and did any end up as Nirvana songs?
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April 5 2024 marks 30 years since the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Considered by many media commentators a “spokesperson for Generation X,” Cobain was found dead after a self-inflicted gunshot wound three days later in his home at Lake Washington Boulevard in Seattle, Washington. 

The death caused shockwaves across the pop culture world, with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” becoming not only a rallying anthem for those disenfranchised with the way of the world at the time but also a firing shot towards the “rock and roll” excesses of the glam rock scene and the waning interest in the pop world. 

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While the band’s bassist, Krist Novoselic, tried his hand with music once again with Sweet 75 in 1994 and then The No WTO Combo alongside Soundgarden’s Kim Thayill in 2000, it would be the “Ringo” of the group who would go on to have much more success within the music industry - with some arguing that perhaps the career of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl being greater than that of Cobain’s.

But did Dave Grohl immediately form Foo Fighters after Kurt Cobain’s death, or was there a project in between musical groups? There is always the talk of how the late Tom Petty invited Grohl to be an official member of the Heartbreakers, even going as far as to have him perform during a guest stint on “Saturday Night Live” in 1994.

Well, before Grohl recorded the first Foo Fighters record by himself, the drummer-turned-frontman was dabbling with a few of his musical endeavours while Nirvana was blowing up after the release of “Nevermind.” So what was Dave Grohl’s project, “Pocketwatch,” under the pseudonym Late? 

What is “Pocketwatch” by Late?

The original tape inlay for "Pocketwatch" by Late! - the project by Dave Grohl before starting work on Foo Fighters after Kurt Cobain's death (Credit: Simple Machines/Discogs)The original tape inlay for "Pocketwatch" by Late! - the project by Dave Grohl before starting work on Foo Fighters after Kurt Cobain's death (Credit: Simple Machines/Discogs)
The original tape inlay for "Pocketwatch" by Late! - the project by Dave Grohl before starting work on Foo Fighters after Kurt Cobain's death (Credit: Simple Machines/Discogs)

“Pocketwatch” was a demo that Dave Grohl recorded under the pseudonym Late! that was initially released in 1992 by the independent label Simple Machines as part of their Tool Cassette Series. The demo comprises several songs recorded around 1990 and 1991, some of which ended up as part of Foo Fighters’ “The Laundry Sessions” release.

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Much like the self-titled debut album “Foo Fighters” released in 1995, “Pocketwatch” saw Dave Grohl take up all the instruments for the works, demonstrating early on in his career that he wasn’t just the drummer du jour for many, but a creative multi-instrumentalist in his own right, laying down the foundations for future records to come.

The tape became quite the collector's item after the success of the first Foo Fighters album, leading to many fans clamouring for a copy of it - as it stands, if you’re after one of the very few physical copies available, you’ll be looking at spending in excess of £50 for a copy on vinyl through Discogs.

But even then, much like a number of “official” Nirvana bootlegs (the Blue Moon “Outcesticide” releases for example), there are some bootlegs of bootlegs regarding “Pocketwatch.” To determine if a cassette tape is legitimate, the releases were hand duplicated on order and because of this, there were a variety of Late! cassettes and covers released, including the following covers: black on yellow cover with no overlay, black on yellow cover with red overlay, red on yellow with black overlay, and red on white with no overlay.

“Pocketwatch” tracklist

  1. Pokey The Little Puppy
  2. Petrol CB
  3. Friend Of A Friend
  4. Throwing Needles
  5. Just Another Story About Skeeter Thompson
  6. Colour Pictures Of A Marigold
  7. Hell's Garden
  8. Winnebago
  9. Bruce
  10. Milk

Did any songs on “Pocketwatch” appear on later Foo Fighters records?

A few of them indeed did; perhaps most famously, the song “Friend of a Friend” appeared on the 2006 live album “Skin and Bones,” where Grohl commented that the song was indeed about sharing a home with Kurt Cobain - matching up with the dates the demo was recorded. 

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“Colour Pictures Of A Marigold” was re-recorded by Nirvana during their “In Utero” album sessions, going under the more abbreviated title “Marigold” and was one of the only times that Dave Grohl sang lead on a Nirvana track. It was released as the B-Side to Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” single that was released in 1993. That too also appeared on Foo Fighters’ “Skin and Bones” album.

“Winnebago” was also a constant played during live shows by the band during their 1995 world tour, as it was included also as a B-Side to the single “This Is A Call” that same year. 

Is there anywhere I can stream Dave Grohl’s “Pocketwatch” demos?

Sadly there isn’t anywhere legally you can stream the entire “Pocketwatch” demo on streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music, without going into the annuls of B-Side catalogues for both Nirvana and Foo Fighters. 

However, there are some very kind individuals on YouTube who have uploaded the demo for your listening pleasure - so if ever you wanted to know what Foo Fighters initially sounded like before their 1995 debut, you are in luck.

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