After playing a handful of warm-up shows including a private keg party and benefit show for Mia Zapata April 1995 saw the newly formed Foo Fighters begin their first full tour to support Dave Grohl’s recordings. Playing support to former Minutemen and Firehose frontman Mike Watt on his solo tour the band journeyed across the United States, undertaking a grueling schedule which saw them play twenty-seven shows in forty-two days. The band was a hit with crowds all wanting to get a glimpse of “The drummer from Nirvana” in his new position as leader of a band.
The band would only play for around forty-five minutes each night on this first tour but with only one album of music set-lists were still somewhat repetitive each night, something guitarist Pat Smear soon became frustrated with - “I’m playing the same songs two or three hundred nights a year!” the guitarist exclaimed.
Grohl was also very much aware of their limited repertoire, regularly telling crowds that “we don’t have many songs.” The band also avoided what many suspected (or perhaps hoped) they would play, Nirvana covers. They did, however, add a cover of the Gary Numan/Tubeway Army song ‘Down In The Park’.
It wasn’t just about having songs to play live, however. If Foo Fighters were going to continue forward, they were going to need to work as an actual band and be able to write new material together. When recruiting his future band members Grohl was very conscious that they were not going to be the Dave Grohl backing band, but a real band, working together. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Can Dave write more songs? How was this writing process going to work?” recalled bassist Nate Mendel. “I had no idea if this band had a future or not.” With their busy touring schedule, the only real opportunity to work on new ideas in the initial months was during soundcheck for the shows, but respite and more time would arrive in the summer.
The band was booked on their first headline tour from July onward but with a six-week break beforehand Dave saw an opportunity to go home and work on some new songs. One of those songs was ‘My Hero’. “When I wrote that, I had this house in Seattle and downstairs in the basement there was a laundry room and right next to the laundry room was this other, tiny concrete room.” Grohl managed to squeeze his drum kit into the room, set up his 8-track cassette recorder and got to work.
With a simple drum track laid down, he headed upstairs to try work on the other parts of the song, coming up with the guitar riff whilst watching TV. A couple of guitar and bass tracks were added with vocals, as usual, left for last. He had nothing fully written but wanted his band mates to get an idea of what he had planned – “[I] just sang that over it, just as a temporary lyric and it stayed. I just wrote them super quick so you could hear what the vocal would sound like” recalled Grohl of the main “There goes my hero, watch him as he goes” line. The lyrics for the verses were mostly gibberish nonsense at this point, simple phonetics.
Dave took the rough demo to his bandmates who were instantly positive of the new track. “I knew that we were going to be ok after I heard the song ‘My Hero’ because it was great,” said Mendel. Despite the lack of proper lyrics, the band wasted no time in testing out the song live, debuting it as the very first song of their first show on their summer tour, July 20th, 1995. Grohl told the crowd that the song had been written just three days earlier but despite its embryonic state, the song went down well.