“Whatever,” the throbbing, detuned rant at a departed lover that launched Godsmack’s journey up the charts, almost wasn’t on the band’s self-titled debut at all.
(In fact, it was even absent from the album’s initial version, released by the band themselves in 1997.)
“We recorded the song for a compilation of Boston bands after the album was done,” explains guitarists Tony Rombola. “We were going to put it on our second record, but [radio station] WAAF started playing it and getting great response. People bought the record and were bummed that the song wasn’t on it, so we added it after we got signed to Universal.”
By then, it was clear to Rombola and the rest of the band that the song had a special magic—in fact that never occurred to the guitarist when he and singer Sully Erna wrote the tune. “It’s so stupid simple,” Rombola says with a laugh. “I mean, I taught it to my girlfriend’s 10-year old son. The key to the sound is the tuning—it’s just dropped down a step, then the Ds are tuned down again to C. Sully and I wrote the music really quickly. We were jamming, with him playing drums, and he cam up with the little beat that defines the song. I was just chugging along, trying to come up with something that sounded cool over that drum part. What I hit was so simple it’s mind-blowing. Of all the riffs I’ve ever written, I never would have guessed that would be the on that launched a band.”
The song’s powerful potential became clear to the band almost immediately after they played it live for the first time. “People went nuts,” Rombola recalls. “You see that and you’re amazed. It’s a powerful feeling. And I owe a lot to that song. In 1998, I was working as a carpenter, framing houses. Now I’m on the Ozzfest, standing on stage watching heroes like Tony Iommi play. It’s amazing.”