When Paul McCartney replaced Taylor Hawkins as the drummer of Foo Fighters

Before he passed away, Taylor Hawkins had the chance to realise many of his childhood dreams. As kids, both Hawkins and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl were massive fans of the Beatles. That’s not unusual in itself; The Beatles are perhaps the most celebrated band in the history of popular music after all. What is unusual is that, because of their fame, Grohl and Hawkins were able to meet Paul McCartney and become close friends with him. More than that, the former Beatle even replaced Hawkins on drums for a track on Foo Fighters’ 2017 album Concrete and Gold

Even before McCartney came along, Hawkins was already one of two drummers in Foo Fighters. During an interview with Rolling Stone back in 2021, Hawkins talked about Grohl’s talent behind the kit: “There’s no competing,” Hawkins began, “You won’t win. You can’t compete with Dave. He’s the winner.” However, Hawkins also knew that Grohl would come to him as soon as he ran out of ideas. On one such occasion, Dave approached Taylor and made a surprising suggestion: “When he wants an idea — he said like the last album, ‘Hey, I got this song, ‘Sunday Rain.’ I want Paul McCartney to play drums on it. I want you to sing it and write it. Here’s the music. Here’s a little bit of a melody idea if you want it.’”

“And I did,” Hawkins continued. “And I have a song on a Foo Fighter record with me singing my lyrics, putting my Eagles and Queen harmonies all over it, with Paul McCartney playing drums. I have my own Wings song, because of Dave.” Grohl would later explain how the collaboration came about during an interview with PBS, in which he said that McCartney wasn’t as difficult to get in contact with as one might expect. In fact, arranging for him to drop into the studio was as easy as dropping him a text. “We have a song on our record called ‘Sunday Rain’ that Taylor sings, and on the record, Paul McCartney plays the drums,” Grohl said. “I had written it, and demo’d it by myself, and we jammed it as a band. And, I love it when Taylor sings because he’s got such a great voice.”

“I was gonna play drums on this song because Taylor was gonna sing it,” Grohl elaborated. “And they said, ‘I don’t know, you know what? You should get Paul to come in and play drums.’ And not a lot of people know that Paul McCartney has played drums on a lot of songs that you’ve heard – Beatles songs too.” Grohl didn’t need convincing; he sent a message to Paul and recieved a reply instantly. “I was like, ‘Hey man, you want to play drums on a new song on our record?’ And he texted back, he was like, ‘You’ve always got crazy ideas!’”

According to Grohl, the collaboration was effortless. “He came into the studio, had his drum set up, and just immediately starts doing that thing that he recognises. He’s got a real swing to it! And the greatest part was watching him do it because he’s got this huge smile on his face. He was so into it when he was playing! And so Taylor sat on a stool and like conducted like ‘Chorus!’ ‘Pre-chorus!’ as we were tracking. I think our version of the song was maybe five minutes long. But Paul’s version was like twelve minutes. He just didn’t want to stop!”

With McCartney on-side, it took only one take to record the drum track. “So we did one, we’re like ‘Oh my god that’s amazing,’ and we had it. We went in and listened, and we were like, ‘Wow that was easy, man!’ He is amazing.” McCartney would later induct Foo Fighters into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, marking the continuation of one of the most joyous friendships in rock.

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