In 2013, Foo Fighters set out to make a record unlike any they had made before.
The album – which, under the name Sonic Highways, would be released the following year – features eight tracks that were cut in eight different legendary studios, with location-specific guests contributing to each song.
Perhaps the most legendary of the studios the band chose was Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California, where they tracked the song, Outside. To add some mojo to that particular tune, the band invited a man who knows a thing or two about West Coast guitar rock, Joe Walsh.
All of the Foo Fighters were fans of the Eagles electric guitar hero, but nobody in the band – or, perhaps, the world – was as big a Walsh fan as the band's late drummer, Taylor Hawkins.
To say that Hawkins was thrilled about Walsh's guest spot would be quite an understatement. When his hero arrived at Rancho De La Luna and set to work on his solo, Hawkins – seated mere feet away from Walsh on a couch – could barely contain his enthusiasm. The touching scene was, thankfully, captured for posterity in the 2014 TV mini-series that chronicled Sonic Highways' creation. It can be seen below starting at around the 5:50 mark.
No doubt inspired by the desert setting himself, Walsh – Stratocaster in hand – concocted a beautifully atmospheric solo for the song, slowing things down and using his impeccable phrasing, articulation, and vibrato to get incredible milage out of each note.
At one point, during a gap in tracking, Hawkins – with a sheepish grin – says to the room, "This is my new favorite Foo Fighters song."
As Walsh's first take on the solo gets played back to the room, Hawkins is overcome to the point that he can barely sit up straight.
It was good, too, that Hawkins was there to hear that first take, because Walsh didn't need another one. Towards the end of the playback, the guitar hero begins to nod in confidence at producer Butch Vig, who exclaims – at the take's end – "That's it, it's done!"
Hawkins came to the studio that day sporting a baseball cap adorned with the logo of the James Gang, Walsh's pre-Eagles power trio. He appreciated all of Walsh's work, but was a true-blue James Gang fanatic, even naming a song on Red Light Fever – the second album Hawkins released with his solo group, the Coattail Riders – after the band.
It was all too appropriate, and bittersweet, then, that the first Taylor Hawkins tribute concert – held on September 3, 2022 at Wembley Stadium in London, six months after the drummer's tragic death at the age of 50 – played host to the James Gang's first performance in 16 years.
“If you’ve ever seen a picture of Taylor Hawkins, most likely he was wearing a fucking hat that said James Gang on it,” Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl told the London crowd that evening by way of an introduction to the band.
“Taylor was like my little brother who was always asking questions,” Walsh said in a statement prior to the concert. “He had an insatiable curiosity about playing hard and loud like we used to do in the ’70s.
“We spoke a lot about being in a three-piece, how we recorded James Gang Rides Again [the band's 1970 album] and what life was like for a musician before he was even born. He thought I was pretty cool and the feeling was mutual.”