With recording for the fourth Foo Fighters studio album 'One By One' finally complete after seven long months of work that included a near break up the band decided to let their hair down and record some cover songs to use as B-Sides on singles of the upcoming album. "Whenever we finish an album we just think it's fun to do a couple of covers" explained Hawkins.
Rather than return to Studio 606 in Virginia the band instead headed to Taylor's home studio in Topanga Canyon, California. The studio had seen a lot of use by Foo Fighters over the previous year whilst working towards the new record, the band recording early demos there, Grohl using it as a place to work on recordings whilst Hawkins was in rehab following his overdose and then in April 2002 he and Taylor returned there to work on new songs after scrapping the first version of the record.
It isn't clear exactly when this recording session took place but given the tight schedules for the band at the time including Dave's performances with Queens Of The Stone Age and Foo Fighters own shows it is possible to determine it occurred at some point between June 30th and August 14th, 2002.
Each band member chose a song they wanted to cover and Grohl's choice was 'Darling Nikki', a track from Prince's critically acclaimed 1984 album 'Purple Rain'. "Dave loved Darling Nikki because it was really funky and so we just recorded our version in my garage" Hawkins explained of his band mates choice. The band were happy with the recording and despite Hawkins claiming they "just did it as a sort of joke" they had intended to include it as a B-Side on singles issued worldwide. Prince himself however put pay to that plan. "We wanted to put it out here in the States, but Prince wouldn't let us," Hawkins said, adding "I heard that he didn't like our version. Or maybe he just didn't like us doing it." Hawkins didn't seem sure what his issue with the cover was but Prince himself made his feelings clear when asked for his thoughts in an interview. ''No! I don't like anyone covering my work. Write your own tunes!" was his blunt response to the question asking if he liked it.
Despite Hawkins saying "Prince wouldn't let us" when talking of releasing the song in the United States that wasn't an entirely accurate description of the situation. US Copyright law states that a writer must give a license to anyone wishing to cover their song although it comes at a cost in the way of royalties. Usually the writer/rights holder will negotiate the royalty fee with the artist covering the track but in some cases they will refuse to do so.
This means the artist covering the track will have to pay the standard royalty fee which is usually very high, which is likely what Hawkins actually meant. Despite this setback they did release the song as a B-Side to the 'Have It All' single in the Australian and European market in 2003, pressed in relatively limited numbers because of the licensing issue.
Despite not being released in the United States not long after the CD singles were released the song became popular there and many US radio stations started airing the song, many retail chains stocking import copies of the CDs.
The song chosen by Chris Shiflett to cover was the Ramones track 'Danny Says'. As well as choosing the song and recording his guitar track as usual he also recorded the lead vocal track, the first time he had ever done so in a studio and became the third different Foo Fighters member to sing lead vocals on a track after Grohl and Hawkins.
Naturally Shiflett was apprehensive about his first vocal performance. "(That) was the first time I ever sang a vocal for real in a studio. I was really nervous" he told Rolling Stone Magazine in a 2002 interview. He quickly lost the nerves however, adding "Once I did it, it gave me a lot more confidence I was like, 'Wow, I can do this if I just double the fuckin' thing [referring to the technique of recording the vocal track twice and dubbing the second recording onto the first] . . . sounds pretty good'".
As well as being the first Foo Fighters recording featuring Shiflett on lead vocals the track had another break from normality. The track was released as a B-Side in 2003 and it was long assumed that Taylor Hawkins played drums on the track with the liner notes in several releases featuring the recording not suggesting otherwise.
However with the re-release of the track on 2011 compilation album 'Medium Rare' the liner notes mention that prolific session & touring musician Gregg Bissonette in fact played drums on the track. It's however unknown exactly how the collaboration came about with neither Bissonette nor any member of the band discussing it.
Taylor's choice of cover was the Joe Walsh track 'Life Of Illusion' and the vocal duties were again switched up, Hawkins taking the lead on the recording and Grohl playing drums. It's not known who chose the final cover song recorded, 'Sister Europe'.
One might assume by process of elimination it was Nate although this has never been explicitly stated by any band member. Rumours amongst fans suggested that Mendel wanted to cover a Talking Heads song and that either the choice was shot down by the others in the band or he backed out of it.
These rumours are unconfirmed however and the 'Sister Europe' cover, a song originally by new wave outfit Psychedelic Furs, was recorded with everyone on their usual instruments and Grohl on lead vocals. All four covers recorded were released as B-Sides to various One By One singles as planned and they were again featured on the 2011 covers compilation record 'Medium Rare' with the exception of 'Sister Europe'. 'Darling Nikki' was also only featured on the vinyl version of the album and not on the two CD versions.