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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Foo Fighters - The Freshmaker

In this day and age, there are many different methods that one can use to freshen their breath.

Trust me, there's a reason why I'm bringing this up. Just bear with me.

I think that one of the first breath fresheners that I sampled in my lifetime was orange flavoured Tic Tacs. They were incredibly tasty. In fact, they were so tasty that I ended up downing half a package in one sitting (which I really don't recommend, by the way). From there, here were a list of some of the other things I tried to make my breath smell minty fresh (well, aside from brushing my teeth with toothpaste every day, that is).

Wint-O-Green Life Savers
Trident Spearmint Gum
Dentyne Ice
Binaca (not really a fan)
Listerine Strips
Those pastel coloured mints that people get at pizza places

(I'm sure that last one has an official name, but for the life of me, I don't know what it is.)

And, then there's these little guys.

Mentos. The Freshmaker.

Mentos is an awesome breath freshener, and one that I love. Unlike a lot of mints which are rock solid and you run the risk of breaking a tooth trying to bite on it, Mentos are nice and soft. It may look like a Scotch mint, but they're kind of like a piece of gum in that you can chew it.

And Mentos also happens to be Diet Coke's kryptonite.

The best part about Mentos is that depending on what area of the world you live in, you can get it in almost every flavour imaginable. In Canada, we have the standard mint flavour, as well as a roll of fruit flavoured ones (which contain flavours like orange, lemon, and strawberry). In the United Kingdom, they also come in raspberry, apple, watermelon, pineapple, black grape, spearmint, and bubblegum. And, Australia takes the cake for having some of the most unique flavours, including cola, sourmint, and Mocktail!

But, would you believe that when Mentos was first manufactured in The Netherlands in 1948, that the first flavour made was licorice? (In the Netherlands, the licorice flavour is still available, only it is known as “Drop Mentos”.)

It took some time for Mentos' popularity to spread from Europe to the United States. It really wasn't until the early 1990s when a series of clever commercials were filmed. The commercials, which were filmed entirely in South Africa, depicted a series of situations in which they are facing a problem that they don't know how to solve...

...until they pull out a trusty roll of Mentos, which allows them to fix the problem in a variety of...well...unusual ways. Just have a look at a couple of examples below.

Yes, the commercials are silly, and no, it's not likely that Mentos can be used as an aid to fall in love, get your dream job, or creating world peace. But, you have to admit that they were creative. I remember wanting to get a package of Mentos after seeing a commercial, so it had to have some effectiveness, right?

In fact, these commercials helped inspire a music video that was performed by a band in the mid-1990s!

ARTIST: Foo Fighters
SONG: Big Me
ALBUM: Foo Fighters
DATE RELEASED: February 25, 1996

Not sure if I'd actually want to try a mint called “Footos”...mainly because I would be worried that it would taste like sweaty socks.

At any rate, let's talk about the band that released this single.

The story begins roughly around 1990. At that time, Dave Grohl had just become the drummer for an up-and-coming band known as “Nirvana”, the grunge band fronted by the late Kurt Cobain. Although Grohl did a little bit of songwriting while on tour with the band, he didn't show his work to anyone else in the band...especially not Cobain, who Grohl was in complete awe of. It wasn't that he wanted to keep his songs to himself...more like he was a bit intimidated of Cobain, and he felt that it was probably better to keep his compositions to himself.

Though, while Grohl was still in Nirvana, he did release a few songs on a demo tape entitled “Pocketwatch” in 1992 under the pseudonym “Late!”.

Throughout the next four years, Grohl enjoyed life as a member of Nirvana, drumming along to hits such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “All Apologies”, and “Heart Shaped Box”. But on one fateful day in April 1994, Nirvana came to an abrupt end.

The body of Kurt Cobain was discovered on April 8, 1994 in his Seattle home, the cause of death being suicide. He was just 27 years old, and left behind wife Courtney Love, and his young daughter Frances Bean Cobain (now 20).

With the death of Cobain, Nirvana was disbanded, and for Grohl, this meant starting all over again. He was recruited to join Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers as their drummer in late 1994, but he passed on the opportunity to start up his own project.

That project was the beginning of the “Foo Fighters”.

TRIVIA: The origin of the band “Foo Fighters” is from the World War II term used to describe unidentified flying objects.

And here's another bit of trivia for you. Foo Fighters originally only had one member in the group. Grohl.

You see, Grohl had always intended to release his solo efforts under a pseudonym because he wanted to preserve his anonymity. As a result, he only recorded a few copies of the demos he performed, and sent it to some of his friends for feedback. Somehow, some of these demo tapes happened to make their way to various record labels, and with several of these labels expressing interest, Grohl had decided to form a band. He briefly considered the idea of having his former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic about joining the Foo Fighters, but both of them decided not to, for fear of alienating the other band members who had no prior connection to Nirvana.

As luck would have it, another Seattle based band, “Sunny Day Real Estate” had recently disbanded, and two of its members (Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith) joined the line-up. Completing the group was Pat Smear, who had toured with Nirvana during their 1993 tour.

With the band now complete, the Foo Fighters played their first public gig in February 1995, and five months later, on July 4, 1995, the band released their debut self-titled album. Four singles were released from the album; “This Is A Call”, “I'll Stick Around”, “For All The Cows”, and the single that we'll be discussing, “Big Me”.

Now, “Big Me” didn't do so hot on the Billboard Charts. It actually didn't chart. However, it did quite well on the American Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart, peaking at #3.

One of the main reasons I loved this song was mainly due to the video that spoofed those wonderfully cheesy Mentos ads. Apparently, MTV loved it too...the video ended up being nominated for five MTV Video Music Awards in 1996, winning one for Best Group Video. Director Jesse Peretz came up with the concept, which the Foo Fighters loved. The band had stated that the song was a “tongue-in-cheek, ridiculously candy-coated pop tune”, and that their main purpose for the video was to make fun of themselves while performing it.

The video was shot entirely in Sydney, Australia, and was released on Valentine's Day, 1996, with the single following suit eleven days later.

Now, the video ended up putting the Foo Fighters on the map, and they went on to huge success, despite losing member William Goldsmith amidst a sea of controversy as the band was recording their sophomore album, and Pat Smear departing shortly after that (though Smear would rejoin the band in 2006). But it wasn't all positive.

One side effect of the popularity that “Big Me” brought the band was whenever they played the song live. Apparently, fans of the band would sneak in Mentos mints into the concert venue and when the song was played live, the Mentos hit the stage...something that Grohl hated. When the Mentos hit the stage, Grohl described the sensation as being similar to getting stoned.

(That's stoned as in rocks, not stoned as in drugs.)

In fact, the band actually quit playing the song live for a couple of years because of the Mentos wielding fans. But, when the band toured with Weezer during the “Foozer” tour, and Weezer started performing “Big Me” as part of their set, the band embraced the song once more.

Just promise me you won't pelt them with Mentos next time you hear Dave Grohl sing the song...he doesn't like that!

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