Towards the end of 1990, after playing a handful of shows with his new band NIRVANA including a short tour of the United Kingdom, Dave Grohl returned home to Arlington, Virginia. Whilst there he decided to go to a studio to record the songs he had penned and recorded in the Olympia apartment he shared with Kurt Cobain, as well as some other ideas he had. He naturally decided to once more visit the Laundry Room Studio of friend Barrett Jones, still set up in the basement of his Arlington house.
Grohl and Jones had become good friends since first meeting six years earlier and after recording together on several projects the pair had begun to get into a rhythm when in the studio together. "Over the past six years, Barrett and I had perfected our own method of recording", Grohl recalled. "Start with drums, listen to playback while humming tune in head to make sure arrangement is correct, put down two or three guitar tracks - Mind you, all amplifiers and everything are ready to go before recording begins - Do bass track and move on to next songs, saving vocals for last" he added.
The pair went to work on 19th December 1990 and together recorded 9 tracks - four of Grohl's, four of Jones' and the ninth a collaboration between them. The Grohl penned tracks recorded - 'Throwing Needles', 'Friend Of A Friend', 'Pokey The Little Puppy' and 'Just Another Story About Skeeter Thompson' featured Grohl on all instruments with Jones hitting the record button. Grohl then helped Jones with his demos, recording drums on the tracks 'Living In Command', 'For The Record', 'Be (Bad)' and 'Embarrassed', as well as the joint effort 'Hooker'.
In 2013 Jones posted an image of the master tape for this session, revealing those 9 tracks and in turn confirming that other Grohl songs long thought to have been recorded at this session were in fact not. The reel also revealed the true date of the session, four days earlier than long thought.
Later in October 2013 Jones shared recordings of two tracks from this session, the joint effort 'Hooker' and his track 'Living On Command'. 'Hooker' had actually been publicly debuted long before that however. In the summer of 1994 Barrett appeared on Seattle radio station KISW, chatting about his band Churn, his recording studio and played some songs of the bands he had recorded.
The final track played on the air was jokingly introduced by Barrett as featuring James Brown, Perry Farrell, Neil Young, Glenn Danzig, and Ian Astbury, titled 'Hooker'. What the track actually featured was Dave Grohl on vocals, impersonating the vocal style of the artists mentioned, recorded as a bit of fun between the pair.
Rather surprisingly this broadcast and song then went undocumented and unheard until October 2013 when Jones uploaded a recording of the broadcast to the Laundry Room website, bringing the track back into public light. The track then surfaced again in October 2014 when during the Seattle episode of 'Sonic Highways' Grohl and Jones were back at the current incarnation of the Laundry Room Studio, listening back to some tracks they had recorded, one of which was 'Hooker'. Grohl was visibly embarressed by the track, despite it's obvious less than serious nature.
'Living In Command' was one of the four tracks recorded at the session written by Barrett Jones and recorded as a demo for his band Churn. Nothing was known of this track until November 2013 when Jones shared the song on YouTube, as a music video. The track featured Jones playing guitar, bass and performing vocals, Grohl on drums and Jimmy Sin on lead guitar.
All but one of the four Grohl penned tracks had vocals recorded, the exception being 'Pokey The Little Puppy'. 'Just Another Story About Skeeter Thompson' was a slightly unconventional track in that as the title implied it was Grohl recalling a story about his former Scream band mate Skeeter Thompson. Grohl told the story in spoken word over a heavy grunge style riff.
The track 'Friend Of A Friend' was written by Grohl about his time and experience with new Nirvana band mates Novoselic and Cobain, in particular the time spent with Cobain in his Olympia apartment, the song written and recorded there around a month earlier. The track featured lyrics such as "He plays an old guitar with a coin found by the phone" referring to the guitar he used in the apartment and "He thinks he drinks too much", referring to Novoselic's heavy alcohol intake at the time.
"I probably have to talk about that song the most because everybody tries to make some sort of correlation to Nirvana out of almost every song I write" Grohl recalled in a 2008 interview. "I just tell them that there are lots of people in this world that I love and hate, not just two. But that song is about Kurt, Krist [Novoselic] and me, and it was written that way. They were strangers. I had just joined that band and didn't know them at all".
Either during recording or a short time afterwards Jenny Toomey (local hardcore musician and co-founder of the 'Simple Machines' record label) visited the Laundry Room Studio and heard the music Grohl had recorded. "I thought it was great," Jenny said. "I hassled him for a tape. About six months later, he gave me one when I was visiting in Olympia. My label was releasing a series of cassettes that focused on music that was either unfinished, imperfect or finished and perfect by bands that no longer played out, like Geek, My New Boyfriend and Saturnine. It made perfect sense to ask Dave to add his solo tape to the list".
Grohl was initially hesitant, feeling coy about people other than his closest friends hearing him sing. Eventually he decided to say yes and gave the go ahead for Toomey to produce the tapes, giving her a second generation tape to use as a 'master' for duplication.
The songs (along with six other recorded at later sessions, detailed here and here) were released on a cassette entitled 'Pocketwatch' under the pseudonym 'Late!' in the summer of 1992. The 'Late!' name was something of a joke from Grohl, envisioning naming a band 'Late', so that when they played live shows he could walk on stage and say "Hi, we're late!".
The cassette was released in 1992 through the Simple Machines mail order service at a cost of $3 but very quickly demand was far outweighing the speed at which tapes could be produced, word quickly spreading about a solo release from "The drummer in Nirvana".
A few years after releasing the cassette it was still causing Simple Machines grief according to Toomey. "It's sort of been a thorn in our side. Each mention of the cassette in Rolling Stone or wherever translates to piles of mail, and for the most part, these kids have never bought anything through the mail from an independent record company, so when they haven't received their tape in two weeks they write us nasty notes about how we've stolen their $5 and their mothers are going to sue us." she recalled of the ongoing heavy demand for the tape. "The Late! tape has broken many an intern! But the one strange redeeming quality of the tape is the tape itself. Almost every time I listen to it - even now at this point of definite saturation - I still have to think it's a great record" she added.
Simple Machines did have plans to get upgraded copies of the sessions and release them on CD, along with bonus tracks. "He went back and forth with the idea and then it fell off the face of the earth," Toomey said of the plans. "I think he's worried about the quality. Which I can understand and appreciate, but his modesty is killing us! I know he also thinks it's cooler to have it this way. Which it definitely is. But it's been a mixed bag as our cassette masters degenerate. It's really only a matter of time until the cassette gets removed from the catalog" said Toomey in 1997.
An upgrade or re-release never materialised and the cassette did indeed get removed from their catalogue, production of the cassette ceasing with no replacements for their worn out cassettes.
The 'Pocketwatch' cassette is now out of print and genuine copies are commonly sold on auction websites such as eBay for prices in excess of $200 making it one of the most expensive and sought after Grohl releases amongst fans.