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29 May 2019 1,829 views 3 Comments

On the occasion of John Bonham’s 71st birthday….

I love this photo – it may not be the sharpest image but for me, it captures the joyous spirit of John Bonham in full flight during Kashmir. It’s taken at Knebworth of course and frames the screen shot of Bonzo as it was being relayed on the backdrop screen by the video cameras. John Bonham’s total commitment to making it all tick over those two nights was pivotal to the success of that comeback. They all knew they had a lot to lose if they did not step up to the mark. As Robert reflected years later ” One or two of us might have been struggling at that point but Bonzo still had it.’’.

His performances on August 4 and 11 were exemplary and as you will read on below, were amongst his finest. John Henry Bonham…forever missed and forever loved….Happy 71st Birthday…

Dave Lewis – May 29,2019  


Greatest Beats – Percussive Perfection – 71 Examples of the John Bonham Drum Craft

Friday May 31, 2018 is John Bonham’s 71st birthday. The intervening years since his untimely death at the age of 32 in 1980, have only enhanced his reputation as the outstanding rock drummer of all time.

To quantify that statement and in celebration of his life and legacy, what follows is a listing of 71 of his most notable performances.

It’s continually evident how integral the percussive element was to the overall impact of Led Zeppelin’s unique sound.

This was well apparent at the 02 reunion -clearly Jason Bonham’s understanding and contribution to that ethic was a key factor in the overwhelming success of that night.

It was his father of course who first laid down the template – the following listing highlights the varied aspects of his playing – from snare drum stampedes, though hi hat syncopation, jazzy interludes and sheer brutal power – it was this percussive talent that was at the heart of the group from the very start.

As with any celebration of their music, it’s designed to point readers in the direction of the 71 selections that span the man’s entire career. So be ready to be overawed once again by the sheer inventiveness of this very special musician.

For John Bonham at 71, this is his greatest beats…and percussive perfection…

Notes about this listing: The 71 selections are presented in chronological order of their year of recording – for the studio inclusions that means not necessarily the year they were released (ie in the case of Physical Graffiti recorded 1974 released 1975). The list covers John Bonham’s entire recorded career from the first Band Of Joy demos in 1967 through to the final performance on stage with Led Zeppelin on July 7, 1980 – it also hones in on performances  on the Companion Audio Discs of the Jimmy Page produced reissues released during 2014/5/6.The commentary tracks his ongoing prowess and periodically clocks the appropriate points of percussive perfection to be heard amongst the various examples of his vast percussive skills.

So air drumming at the ready….

For What it’s Worth Band Of Joy (1967)

Hear It: Robert Plant – Sixty Six To Timbuktu (Atlantic)

Hey Joe – Band Of Joy (1967)

* The earliest recorded remnants of the teenage Bonham with the Band Of Joy and fellow Midlander one Robert Plant.

Robert Plant said: ‘’You can hear Zeppelin in there. Bonzo’s doing a lot of those drum figures and fills which were quite popular with drummers like Carmine Appice all that virtuoso drumming. It was like ‘’Here I am everybody: somebody get me in a really big band quick -I want to get away from Plant!‘’

Hear it: Robert Plant – Sixty Six To Timbuktu (Atlantic)

Jim’s Blues/George Wallace Is Rollin’ In This Mornin’ – PJ Proby (1968)

* Enter The New Yardbird and his speed king foot pedal is heard for the first time with his new band mates on this PJ Proby session just prior to the recording of  the first Zep album.

Hear It: Your Time Is Gonna Come /The Roots of Led Zeppelin (Castle)

Good Times Bad Times (1968)

*From the dramatic two beat opening, John Bonham puts the whole kit through it’s paces. That pioneering use of bass drum triplets heralded the arrival of a very special drummer.

Jimmy Page said: ‘’In terms of John’s playing, a big point of reference is Good Time Bad Times. He’s playing brilliantly on everything else but this is right out of the norm – playing a bass drum pattern that no one else has ever heard.’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin (Atlantic)

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (1968)

* The noble art of percussive dynamics as Bonzo alternates from cymbal crashing crescendo to hi hat swing.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin (Atlantic)

Sugar Mama (Mix) (1968)

*To quote from my review of Sugar Mama when it first appeared on the Coda reissue, in 2015 – ”Then there’s drummer John Bonham – long time friend of the aforementioned Plant and drafted into this new line up at the recommendation of the singer who had performed in the Band Of Joy with him. John had more recently forged a reputation touring with Tim Rose – Jimmy Page duly checked him out at a Tim Rose gig in Hampstead the previous July and saw the immense percussive potential. That potential is all over this track, most notably from 1 minute 23 to I minute28 -in that space of time, Bonzo as he will become known, delivers one of those seemingly impossible bass drum shuffles that will became a unique part of the Led Zep sound.”

Hear it: Coda Reissue –  Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic/Swan Song)

Pat’s Delight (Live Fillmore West 1969)

* Before Moby Dick, Bonzo’s live solo outing was known as Pat’s Delight affectionately named after his wife. On this early live rendition from the April 27 Fillmore West show in San Francisco ,you can clearly trace elements of the soon to be recorded Led Zeppelin 11 solo.

Hear It: Kozmic Blues (Beelzebub bootleg)

Communication Breakdown ( BBC Session 1969 )

* This take from their first John Peel session cut on March 3 1969 sizzles along -and Bonzo’s right at the heart of it.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 2 minutes 22 seconds the point were it veers off and the drummer free falls across tom tom and snare of the much employed maple Ludwig kit.

Hear It: The Complete BBC Radio Sessions (Empress Valley bootleg)

How Many More Times (Live BBC Playhouse Theatre 1969)

* An early live fave of course with that stimulating Gene Krupa inspired jazzy opening.

John Bonham said :‘’Gene Krupa was the first big band drummer to be really noticed. He came out and played the drums much louder than they ever had before. People didn’t take notice of drums until Krupa came along’’

Hear It: The Complete BBC Sessions (Atlantic)

Whole Lotta Love (Rough Mix with vocal)  (1969)

Nearly four decades on this track has lost none of it’s originality or power. One of one of their most potent studio moments and perhaps Bonzo’s best studio performance.

On this welcome alternate take from the 2014 reissues there’s no cough at the intro and straight to the riff. Where the chorus should come is a wonderfully disorientating moment because there is no chorus! Equally startling is the middle section which is devoid of the later overdubbed backwards echo effects. Instead, there’s sparse use of tympani and some neat rim shots from Bonzo. The whole mix has Bonzo right upfront enabling to him shine on this track like never before.

Clock the percussive perfection: Where else but that battering ram snare roll at 2.24 that leads into where Jimmy’s solo normally kicks in – but not on this occasion…

Hear It: Led Zeppelin II reissue Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic)

Ramble On (1969)

* The pitter patter of bare hands against drum dominates throughout.

John Bonham said: ‘’You get a lovely little tone out of the drums that you couldn’t get with the sticks. You get an absolute true drum sound because there’s no wood involved’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 2 (Atlantic)

Moby Dick (1969)

* The drum solo to play to those that claim they don’t like drum solos. A veritable Bonham stickfest.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic)

La La (Intro Outro Rough Mix) (1969)

A newly discovered instrumental for the 2014 reissue, this is  a brilliant piece of Page wizardry with Jones keyboards to the fore initially all supplemented by Bonzo’s speed fast playing. He is in there  tearing along and then on into yet another time signature switch as it slows to a bluesy feel and then a step on the wah wah for a scintillating Hendrix like finale.

Clock the percussive perfection: At 1.05 just prior to Jimmy’s switch to acoustic – Bonzo kicks in at lightening speed across the kit.

Hear it: Led Zeppelin II Reissue Companion Audio Disc)

Good Times Bad Times/Communication Breakdown (Live at The Olympia 1969)

*A short lived set opener that combined the instrumental intro of Good Bad Times with a frantic Communication Breakdown.

Clock the percussive perfection:  At 00.39 when John leads them into the into of Communication Breakdown with a storming barrage of snare and tom tom attacks.

Hear it: Led Zeppelin reissue Companion Audio Disc) 

Wailing Sounds – Lord Such & Heavy Friends (1969)

* A rare session for the outrageous Sutch. Note Bonzo’s two beat snare drive that dominates the track – a tactic that he would later repeat notably on the live Over The Hills And far Away arrangement and Candy Store Rock on Presence

Hear It: Your Time Is Gonna Come -The Roots of Led Zeppelin (Castle)

We’re Gonna Groove (Live at The Royal Albert Hall 1970)

* Simply Devastating. From the moment Bonzo warms up the kit through the frenzied opening and ride cymbal onslaught. Definitive John Bonham.

John Paul Jones said: ‘’I’ve seen all three James brown drummers stand around him at the Newport Festival in disbelief wondering how one guy does what all three of them did’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Music Vision)

I Can’t Quite You Baby (Live Royal Albert Hall 1970)

* A wonderfully atmospheric performance from the glorious Royal night of Albert thankfully all captured on film.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Music Vision)

Moby Dick (Live at The Royal Albert Hall 1970)

* Yes seeing is believing – superbly restored for the 2003 DVD this is 15 minutes of sheer percussive brilliance. Bonzo clatters, rattles, shakes and bangs his way into percussive immortality.

John Bonham said: ‘’My son Jason plays. I’ve got a kit made to scale for him. He’s got a great sense of time- even when we go out in the car he takes his sticks to bash on the seats. Before the end of Led Zeppelin I’m going to have him onstage with us at the Albert Hall’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Music Vision)

Immigrant Song (1970)

* Marvel at how he drives this tremendous opening track  with a forceful full on percussive attack. The pace here is just relentless.

Hear It : Led Zeppelin III (Atlantic)

Friends (1970)

* In which Bonzo forfeits the sticks for the bongos, and has no trouble in keeping up with JPJ’s relentless string swirl.

Hear it: Led Zeppelin III (Atlantic)

Since I’ve Been Loving You (1970)

* Proving there’s no sin in omission, Bonzo’s sparse incisive back beat allows the rest of them to build the tension. The opening two minutes are just masterful.

Clock the percussive perfection: 48 seconds in with that positively nuclear cymbal crash over Page’s Gibson squeals and Plant’s instinctive shout of ‘’Oh!’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 3 (Atlantic)

Out On The Tiles (1970)

* Not for nothing did he have a joint song writing credit for a performance of sheer explosive power.

Clock the percussive perfection: At 2.35 as the long fade out kicks in with Bonzo flailing around the kit – all deftly panned in stereo splendour.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 3 (Atlantic)

Gallows Pole (1970)

*Again that sense of  light and shade dynamics is applied to this tradition tune in a manner only they could muster.

* Clock the percussive perfection: The tension builds and then blam! John Henry is in at 2.04 to gallop amongst the gallows.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 3 (Atlantic)

Poor Tom (1970)

* An invigorating New Orleans jazz straight eighth shuffle opens and carries the track throughout. An absolute masterclass of controlled percussion.

Hear It: Coda (Swan Song)

St Tristans Sword (rough mix) (1970)

This three way instrumental work out from 1970 is built around a totally invigorating bass and drum pattern – the bass and drum syncopation between JPJ and Bonzo is just outstanding. Bonzo putting to good use his best New Orleans shuffle ala Poor Tom. This was one of the finds of the whole reissue series and yet another prime example of Bonzo pushing the percussive boundaries beyond the norm.

Hear it: Coda Reissue –  Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic/Swan Song)

Bring It On Home (Live at LA Forum 1970)

*One of the all time great Zep live performances.

* Clock the percussive perfection: From 6.25 as Page and Bonzo lock horns in a classic guitar and drums battle.

Hear It: Live On Blueberry Hill (Trade Mark Of Quality bootleg)

If It Keeps On Raining (When the Levee Breaks Rough Mix) (1970)

* This is a simply sensational initial run through from November 1970 with a totally alternate laid back swampy feel, slightly faster in tempo to the original. Robert’s vocals have a sparse low register echoed scat singing element to them, adding to the almost soundcheck run through quality of the piece. It certainly has a total groove of its own with incessant bass line from JPJ, Bonzo’s drumming funky as hell with a distinctive snare drum sound

Hear it: Coda Reissue –  Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic/Swan Song)

Rock And Roll (1971)

* Guaranteed to cause severe outbreaks of air drumming from the moment that cymbal crashing intro commences.

*Clock the percussive perfection: It has to be that final flurry at 3.25. The most concise percussive statement ever committed to tape.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 4 (Atlantic)

Black Dog (1971)

* To paraphrase a Jason Bonham album title, this is clear case of the disregard of time keeping. Simple in it’s execution -nigh on impossible to copy -John is totally locked in to the rhythm with JPJ.

John Paul Jones said: ‘’Musically we were very proud of our capabilities. The empathy we had when we played was always incredibly exhilarating, but then I was fortunate. I was playing with the best drummer Id ever known – and I’d know a lot’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 4 (Atlantic)

Misty Mountain Hop (1971)

* Clock the percussive perfection: From 3.55 to 4.01 as Bonzo strikes up a magnificent drum roll and the whole affair drifts off into the psychedelic sunshine. ‘’I really don’t know..ohoh ohoh.’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 4 (1971)

Four Sticks (1971)

* Yet another remarkable percussive statement. Bonzo tears along with a four stick attack clicking the rims of the drums in the process. Innovative and totally infectious.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 4 (Atlantic)

When The Levee Breaks (1971)

* The remake – one drum kit, one stairwell, one microphone over the banister…a thousand samples…and the greatest of beats.

Robert Plant said: John always felt his significance was minimal but if you take him off any of our tracks, it loses it’s potency and sex. I don’t think he really knew how important he was‘’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 4 (Atlantic)

Heartbreaker (Live at Berkeley 1971)

A classic live performance as recorded on September 14 1971 and immortalized on the Going To California bootleg.

Clock the percussive perfection: At 5.04 the moment Bonzo re enters after Jimmy’s virtuoso guitar solo. The power of his pummelling even for him is just immerse…

Hear it – Going To California TMQ Bootleg double album

No Quarter (Rough Mix with JP keyboards -overdubs -no vocals) (1971)

Another standout highlight from the 2014 reissue. A December 1971  instrumental mix with JPJ piano very prominent, theremin effects and the drums crystal clear. This is a clear case of Bonzo allowing the feel of the song to breath – as was so often the case – it’s not what he plays  but what he doesn’t play that provides the air between it all.

Clock the percussive perfection: At 3.58 when he comes in out of JPJ’s solo to add a subtle hi hat shuffle – the right effect at the right time…

Hear It: Houses Of The Holy Reissue Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic)

The Crunge (1972)

* Talking of which – the boys get off on the good foot and Bonzo applies a ridiculous 9/8 time. Could anyone do The Crunge..? John Bonham evidently could…

Walters Walk (Rough Mix) (1972)

This vocal less rough mix only heightens Bonzo’s driving of the rhythm – it’s a relentless groove

Clock the percussive perfection: From 2.28 when the riff kicks back in and Bonzo tears along with it right to the fade…

Hear It: Houses Of The Holy Reissue Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic)

D’yer Ma’ker (1972)

* Less reggae, more 50’s fun time led all the way by Bonzo’s huge upfront wide screen playing -leading to a deserved lead song writing credit.

Hear It: Houses Of The Holy (Atlantic)

The Rover (1972)

* First tried for Houses, it’s eventual release three years later was well worth the wait. Bonzo’s snare drum torrents subside for Page’s melodic embellishments.

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

Dazed And Confused (Live at LA Forum 1972)

* A 25 minute tour de force with Bonzo in the middle of it all guiding them through early stabs at Walters Walk and The Crunge in the process.

Hear It: How The West Was Won (Atlantic)


Happy Birthday Dear Bonzo/Heartbreaker (Live LA Forum 1973)

* A fantastic sequence – ‘’John Bonham! John Bonham! John Bonham!’’ exclaims R. Plant on the night of John’s 25th birthday. Then it’s the obligatory ‘’Happy Birthday To You’’ and a comment of ‘’Far out’’ from Plant. Bonzo’s intro to the old live warhorse Heartbreaker is just that.

Hear It: Bonzo’s Birthday Party (Trademark Of Quality bootleg)

The Rain Song (Live Madison Square Garden 1973)

* More controlled dynamics.

Clock the percussive genius: From 5.59 after Robert’s ‘’But I know that I love you so’’ line. Bonzo is all across the tympani right though to the final flurry on the gong.

Hear It: The Song Remains The Same Soundtrack (Swan Song)

No Quarter (Live Madison Square Garden 1973)

* Clock the percussive perfection: From 9.01 as Bonzo plays behind Jimmy’s wah wah solo displaying a hi hat syncopation favoured by the likes of 70’s funkateers Sly Stone and Tower of Power

Hear It: The Song Remains The Same Soundtrack (Swan Song)

The Ocean (Live Madison Square Garden 1973)

* Totally uplifting. This is mid period Zep in all it’s unchained unabashed carnal glory. Via the DVD we can vividly see Page playing not only to an ocean but right off the drummer’s cues and shouts. Absolutely joyous.

Hear It: The Song Remains The Same Soundtrack  2007 reissue (Swan Song)

Kashmir (Demo 1973)

* Heard in it’s purest form – no overdubs, no vocals – just Page, Jones and Bonham driving the riff on and on.

Hear It: Brutal Artistry (Midas Touch bootleg)

Everybody Makes It Through (In The Light) Early Version/In Transit) (1974) 

A totally different work in progress arrangement with John Paul Jones’ Elizabethan harpsichord keyboard sequence being later replaced by the drone links.  Very much a Headley Grange mix with live drumming. Some elements of this version were retained for the re make  –notably Bonzo’s drum parts and Jimmy’s guitar melody.

Clock the percussive perfection: The closing moments from 5.42 to 6.29  with John Bonham’s relentless drum fills are some of the very best applied to any Led Zeppelin track.

Hear It: Physical Graffiti Reissue Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic)

The Wanton Song (1974)

* Classic machete Zep. Again it’s John Henry steadying the ship as Page’s angular riffs take hold. It’s that rock steady beat that keeps it all in line.

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

In My Time Of Dying (1974)

* Perhaps their most intense and brutal studio performance – and it’s Bonzo constantly underpinning it all.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 7.12 and those four military barrages of power shared by Bonham and Page before Robert comes in with the line ‘’And I see it in the streets’’

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

Trampled Underfoot (1974)

* Journalist Lisa Robinson commented at the time ’’It sounds like The Beatles battled the Stones in a parking lot, and Led Zeppelin won.’’ Yet another example of their diversity.

John Bonham said: ‘’When we first ran through it John Paul and Jimmy started off the riff and we thought it was a bit souly for us. Then we changed it about a bit. It’s great for me – a great rhythm for a drummer.It’s just at the right pace and you can do a lot of frills.’’

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

Kashmir (1974)

* Now in it’s full splendour and yet another masterful Bonham contribution. There’s no doubt that the economy in his playing gave the song it’s vastness.

Robert Plant said: ‘’A lot of Kashmir was done to Bonzo. He was a real thrifty player. It was often what he didn’t do that made it work.’’

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

Over The Hills And Far Away (Live Earls Court 1975)

* Always a live favourite – the studio version was merely the starting point for this particular tangent within the framework.

Clock the percussive perfection: From Plant’s shout of ‘’Acapulco gold’’ at 2.35 as Bonzo drives the rhythmic experiments of Page’s solo with a two hit snare run not dissimilar to that employed on Candy Store Rock

Hear It: To Be A Rock And Not To Roll (Watch Tower bootleg)

In My Time Of Dying (Live Earls Court 1975)

* The brutality of the studio version carries though to the live performance and as can be seen in close up on the DVD. Bonzo’s bass kick was all important here.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Music Video)

Bron Yr Aur Stomp (Live Earls Court 1975)

* The good vibes of the time perfectly encapsulated. Bonzo’s the star as he leads them on a merry dance, contributing backing vocals and even castanets.

John Bonham said: ‘’I enjoyed those concerts. I thought they were the best shows we‘ve ever put on in England. I thought the video screen was really worth doing. You could get close ups you would never be able to see normally at a concert’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Home Vision)

Achilles Last Stand (1975)

* The chemistry of all four perfectly in sync to pull off perhaps their most inventive composition.

Clock the percussive perfection: So many to choose from – how about 1.17 and the first fill ,then again at 2.29 and another burst of power, or there’s the point at 4.08 when the first machine gun rally with Page kicks in.

Hear It: Presence (Swan Song)

Royal Orleans (1975)

* Bonzo cleverly plays against the riff with a funky edge on another of his co compositions.

Clock the percussive perfection: 1.56 and the interjection of bongos with the main drumming. A deft touch.

Hear It: Presence (Swan Song)

Hots On For Nowhere (1975)

* As Charles Shaar Murray noted, what the Glenn Miller orchestra would have sounded like had they been a murderously heavy four piece rock band. This one swings along with some incredible fills.

Clock the percussive perfection. At 4.01 through to the finish as he clatters around the spiralling Page runs.

Hear It: Presence (Swan Song)

10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod” (Reference Mix) (1975)

So Jonesy did take the piano out of the flight case for the Munich recordings – it’s emergence on the 2015 reissue throws a new light on what had previously thought to be an  18 day frenzy of guitar, bass and drums arrangements.

Mournful, forlorn and reflective, it creates a beautiful atmosphere. Jimmy drifts in at 2mins 39 with some minor descending electric strumming, quite possibly courtesy of the Telecaster B bender. Behind all that there’s an acoustic guitar – all very autumnal and Ten Years Gone- ish. Then John Bonham enters at 3 mins 02 and like Jimmy says, it will make you smile – it might even make you cry. It all leads on to something of a crescendo in an All My Love outro tempo.

Clock the percussive perfection: The aforementioned entry at 3.01 -so poignant – the three of them instrumentally coming together in perfect harmony.

Hear It: Presence  Reissue Companion Audio Disc (Atlantic)

Bonzo’s Montreux (1976)

* Enter the John Bonham orchestra. Bonzo had long harboured a plan for a dramatic new solo piece and the period in tax exile gave him the opportunity to experiment in Mountain Studios. The result – another percussive landmark.

Hear It: Coda (Swan Song)

The Song Remains The Same (Live LA Forum 1977)

* Despite all the off stage lunacy surrounding them now, Bonzo came through when it mattered. It certainly mattered any time they played Los Angeles and this opening night in LA was a triumph.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 1.25 to 1.36 a ten second torrent of furious snare attack as the song builds.

Hear It: Listen To This Eddie (Empress Valley bootleg)

Over The Top/Moby Dick (Live LA Forum 1977)

* The last hurrah for the long drum solo. On the ‘77 tour the opening riff preceding the solo was cribbed from Out On The Tiles.

Hear It: Listen To This Eddie (Empress Valley bootleg)

Keep Your Hands On The Wheel – Roy Wood (1978)

* With Zep off the road there was ample time for extra curricular work. Helping out fellow Brummie rocker Roy Wood, he brings that huge Bonham sound to a melodic stomper from the Wizard man

Clock the percussive perfection: From 2.42 to 3.03 with Bonzo reprising the mighty snare roll of Whole Lotta Love as they switch back to the main chorus.

Hear It: Roy Wood On The Road Again (Warners)/The Bonham Sessions (Hammer Jack bootleg)

Rockestra Theme – Paul McCartney & Wings (1978)

* A massive jam sharing the drum chores with Kenny Jones and Wings Steve Holly down at Abbey Road for the fab Macca’s rock orchestra – later to be reproduced on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon for what would be Bonzo’s last live performance in the UK. Footage of this studio session where he plays a black Billy Cobham flared style kit, can be seen on the Paul McCartney Wingspan DVD

Hear It: Wings – Back To The Egg (EMI)/The Bonham Sessions (Hammer Jack bootleg)

South Bound Suarez (1978)

Another masterclass of understated percussion as he underpins the shuffle of the song with pin point precision.

Clock the percussive perfection. At 3.27 as John’s snare, bass drum and hi hat combination ushers them into that delightful ”sha la la la” fade out

Hear It: In Through The Out Door (Swan Song)

Fool In The Rain (1978)

* On this outstanding Bonham showcase we can hear the fusion influence of jazz players such as Benard Purdie and Alphonse Mouzon.

Clock the percussive perfection. Firstly at 2.25 when the whistle blowing ushers in a Latin samba delight, then to the dexterity of his playing from 3.32 to 3.50 and the entry of Jimmy’s solo.

Robert Plant said: ‘’If you listen to Bonzo on that album -things like Fool In The Rain ,well he was weaving with as much dexterity and finesse as on the early days. One or two of us might have been struggling at that point but Bonzo still had it‘.’

Hear It: In Through The Out Door (Swan Song)

Wearing And Tearing (1978)

* He’d mixed it with the punks down at the Roxy club in ‘77 so attacking this track with Rat Scabies like vigour was chicken feed. Fast and loose and then some…Punk rock? Never ‘eard of it…

Hear It: Coda (1978)

Sick Again (Live Knebworth 1979)

* As mentioned above, Knebworth was an absolute triumph for Bonzo -his playing throughout was exemplary. One of the surprise highlights of the set was this  stand alone version of Sick Again – and he is just phenomenal all the way.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 3.44 and onwards as he puts the metallic kit through it’s paces and whips up a storm right through to the stop gap ending at 5.07

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Home Vision)

In The Evening (Live Knebworth 1979)

*More magnificence as Bonzo builds the drama with that phased tympani intro.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 7.10 onwards as he compliments Plant’s pleading and Page’s Stratocaster strut with a tribal tom tom assault.

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Home Vision)

Whole Lotta Love (Live Knebworth 1979)

* The finale – a stripped down remodel with added spice and a new middle section that gave the song a new lease of life.

Clock the percussive perfection: From 2.16 where Page kicks in the new riff and Bonzo supplements it with a solid beat.

Hear it: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Home Vision)

Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Live Cologne 1980)

* The 1980 Over Europe tour brought with it a clear sense of  rejuvenation. John attacked this latter day favourite with all the verve and bluster of their first Europe trek nearly eleven years earlier.

Hear It: A Close Shave bootleg (Condor)

Whole Lotta Love (Live Munich 1980)

* With Simon Kirke guesting, Munich witnessed the rare sight of two drummers jamming it out for what would be the penultimate delivery of the classic anthem

Simon Kirke said: ”I remember we were in his hotel room literally with our hands on our knees just getting the rhythm. It was a wonderful experience to be on stage with Zeppelin.’’

Hear It: Munich 1980 (Tarantura bootleg)

Kashmir (Live Berlin 1980)

* Perhaps the best received number on the tour – rightfully taking it’s place at the latter end of the set.

Clock the percussive perfection: At around 7.12 as Bonzo paves the way home with a serious of phased drum fills each one a little more frenzied as they reach the climax.

‘’John Bonham on drums….’’

They did not know it but Robert Plant had just made the last introduction to his life long friend and integral band mate.

Hear It: Last Stand (Toasted Condor bootleg)

Stairway To Heaven (Live in Berlin 1980)

* And finally…

An extraordinary performance. Page’s solo on this last ever Led Zeppelin delivery meandered to take the track to nearly fifteen minutes in duration. Bonzo’s task was to intrusively follow the guitarist lead which he does with deft skill.

The camaraderie of recent weeks seemed to will them on to keep the flame burning for as long as they could on this final night.

A little over 80 days later Led Zeppelin were no more

Robert Plant said: ‘’The band didn’t exist the moment Bonzo had gone to me.”

Hear It : Last Stand (Toasted Condor bootleg)

So there you’ve it – 70 vivid examples of the John Bonham drum craft – play them today and remember him this way…

Happy 71th Birthday John Bonham…

John Bonham 71 at 71 listing compiled by Dave Lewis – May 2018

Rocklands to Rock for Bonzo’s Birthday:

On Friday 31st May, Headless Cross will be celebrating the 71st Birthday of one, John Henry Bonham, with an evening of classic Led Zeppelin music performed by the ever popular, Led Hendrix.

Rocklands LIVE! is organising the event, at the Birchfield Road Club just yards from where Bonzo was born.

“There’s still a lot of people in the Headless Cross area who knew local lad, John Bonham, before he became a global star with Led Zeppelin” says Neil Marsh, Rocklands LIVE! Promoter, “and we’ll be celebrating his birthday with great music and a few ales, as the man himself would likely have done.”

After rocking the audience at last year’s Celebration event in the town centre, Led Hendrix, return to Redditch with an expanded set list and a new line-up. The gig will be something of a homecoming for new bass player, Ady Hellyer, who grew up opposite the Rocklands and is a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan.

Local singer-songwriter-guitarist, Alan Sheward, will get the evening’s entertainment underway with a selection of his self-penned songs.

Advance Tickets £6 (£5 Club Members) are available from the Rocklands bar, Vintage Trax Records or online via OTD price £8 (subject to availability). Doors open 7.30pm

John Bonham A Celebration II Event cancelled:

Unfortunately, this year’s planned John Bonham A Celebration event has been cancelled – here is the official statement from the organisers:

 John Bonham A Celebration II Cancelled By Organisers

Plans to celebrate the life of Redditch-born Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham with a two day music festival in the town have been scaled down.
The “John Bonham A Celebration II” event has been cancelled after organisers decided they were not able to deliver the event to a standard that would do justice to the town’s most famous musical son.
Organisers hoped to build on the success of the town centre festival last year which was timed to coincide with the unveiling of the John Bonham memorial statue and helped raise more than £23,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust. They hoped to establish an annual festival in memory of the rock legend known to fans worldwide as Bonzo.

More than a hundred tickets had already been sold for the event in September – to fans as far afield as the USA, Canada, Norway, Australia and even Turkmenistan. Full refunds have already been paid.

Eight acts had been booked with legendary blues singer Maggie Bell among the headliners. The decision to cancel was taken after consultation with John Bonham’s sister Debbie, whose band performed at last year’s event.

Promoter Ros Sidaway said:”We can only apologise to people who have been inconvenienced and were looking forward to what promised to be another memorable event. I’m sure we have made the right decision in cancelling this year with a view to providing something even better in future. We were doing this in the name of one of the all-time greats of rock music and it would be wrong to deliver anything less than the best.

“John’s family recognise this, and we wouldn’t want to embarrass them or sell his memory short in any way. It’s encouraging that we know people are prepared to travel from all over the world to honour his memory in his hometown.”

CODA – Led Zeppelin tribute act, who were due to close the festival on Saturday September 21st will now play at the nearby Queen’s Head and the Black Tap will also host live music.

The organisers are hoping to put on a full scale tribute next year – the 40th anniversary of Bonzo’s death. Anyone locally interested in joining the Organising Group to help with this should contact Ros via the website as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, an event to celebrate John’s birthday this Friday 31st May at the Rocklands Club is going ahead, with Led Hendrix leading the celebrations. Doors 7.30pm. Advance Tickets £6 (from Club or Vintage Trax) or £8 OTD subject to availability.


I’ve been in touch with Ros and due to various reasons, this year’s event could not go ahead as planned. However, as stated above  Ross and her team are hoping to stage the John Bonham A Celebration event in 2020 – which will mark the 40th anniversary of his passing. I know this cancellation decision would not have been taken lightly  – Ros and everyone involved work tirelessly to support the John Bonham memorial and keep his memory very much alive. I am sure they will be back in 2020 with an event that will do the 40th anniversary justice -and one everyone can enjoy.

To leave on a positive note – it’s great news that Coda will be performing on September 21 at the Queens Head pub in Redditch. I am still aiming to come up for that one if I can.

Led Zeppelin News Update:

In conjunction with the Led Zep news site, each week I will be re- producing highlights from their weekly email update news summary. This goes out every Sunday. Sign up details are below. Many thanks to James Cook.

Led Zeppelin

  • The surviving members of Led Zeppelin have been interviewed for a new feature documentary about the band that will include never-before-seen archive film and photographs. The film was shown to potential distributors at the Cannes Film Festival, but no release date has been provided.
  • An English translation of a book of photographs of Led Zeppelin performing in Denmark between 1968 and 1970 has been released. The book, titled “Led Zeppelin Denmark: 1968-70” features the photographs of Jørgen Angel.

Jimmy Page

Robert Plant

Upcoming events:

May 29 – Robert Plant will perform with Saving Grace in Somerset, UK.
June 3 – The first episode of Robert Plant’s podcast will be released.
June 13 – Robert Plant will perform in Stockholm, Sweden.
Mid-June – The partial soundboard bootleg of a Led Zeppelin show in Los Angeles in March 1975 will be released by Empress Valley.
June 15 – Robert Plant will perform at Bergenfest in Norway.
June 17 – Robert Plant will perform at The Big Challenge festival in Norway.
June 19 – Robert Plant will perform in Harstad, Norway.
June 21 – Robert Plant will perform in Bodø, Norway.
June 23 – Robert Plant will perform at the Secret Solstice music festival in Iceland.
June 25 – Robert Plant will perform in Tromsø, Norway.
June 27 – Robert Plant will perform in Svalbard, Norway.
June 29 – Robert Plant will perform in Svalbard, Norway.
July – The 45th issue of Tight But Loose magazine will be released.
July 2 – Robert Plant will perform in Halden, Norway.
July 4 – Robert Plant will perform at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.
July 13 – Robert Plant will perform at the Rhythmtree music festival with Saving Grace on the Isle of Wight.
July 18 – Robert Plant will perform with Saving Grace at the Galway International Arts Festival in Ireland.
July 25-28 – Robert Plant will perform with Saving Grace at the WOMAD festival in the UK.
August 4 – Tight But Loose editor Dave Lewis will hold a fan meetup in London to mark the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s Knebworth performances.
September 13 – Robert Plant will perform at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in Fredericton, Canada.
September 15 – Robert Plant will perform at the CityFolk festival in Ottawa, Canada.
September 17 – Robert Plant will perform in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
September 20 – Robert Plant will perform at the Outlaw Music Festival in Indianapolis and the first day of the 2019 John Bonham memorial concert will be held in Redditch.
September 21 – Robert Plant will perform at the Bourbon & Beyond music festival in Louisville, Kentucky and the second day of the 2019 John Bonham memorial concert will be held in Redditch.
September 23 – Robert Plant will perform in Clear Lake, Iowa.
September 25 – Robert Plant will perform in Moorhead, Minnesota.
September 27 – Robert Plant will perform in Missoula, Montana.
September 29 – Robert Plant will perform in Spokane, Washington.
October 1 – Robert Plant will perform in Salt Lake City, Utah.
October 3 – Robert Plant will perform in Bend, Oregon.
November – The “Play It Loud: Instruments Of Rock And Roll” exhibition will move to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Many thanks to James Cook.

The complete Led Zeppelin News email goes out every weekend. To receive it each week sign up here:

Led Zeppelin News Website: Check out the Led Zeppelin news website at

Announcing the forthcoming TBL 45 – Led Zeppelin Knebworth 40th anniversary special issue:

Publication July 2019 – – limited edition run pre order now!

TBL 45 is one of the most ambitious TBL magazines yet produced – almost a double issue.

A 60 page issue this will include a reprint of the complete 40 page  Tight But Loose issue 3 – the Knebworth special first published in October 1979.

The TBL 3 – 40 page reprint includes the following:

News Background

Communication/ Letters page,

Quiz 2

Full TBL Led Zeppelin Poll results

Ten Years Gone/Five Years Gone feature

Knebworth ’79 – 15 pages of coverage – The nation assembles

Zeppelin’s Blind Date: Seeing is believing – Knebworth August 4 and 11 Dave Lewis review

Knebworth who played what and when chart,

In Through The Out Door Dave Lewis review

Loose Talk and free ads columns

This is a complete facsimile reproduction of the entire contents of TBL issue 3 – as it was first produced and published in October 1979.

This is the first time this issue has been available for many years – copies change hands on eBay etc for up to £100!

Plus further Knebworth content:

I was there: Pat Mount’s Knebworth memories from out in the field,

The Knebworth Bootlegs: Andy Adams on the vinyl releases -Paul Sheppard on CD

The Tape 1979 Analysis: Andy Crofts’ dissects the Copenhagen warms ups and August 4 and 11

Nick Anderson Collectors Column on Knebworth rarities

Plus latest news and views:

Jimmy Page Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ‘Play It Loud’ New York Exhibition report

Robert Plant: Saving Grace in St Albans. Love Rocks in NYC.

John Paul Jones 100 Club Resonance FM benefit gig on the spot review

Latest official Led Zeppelin documentary news and more.

This special issue is being produced in a strict limited edition  – all individually numbered. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Don’t miss out – be sure to pre -order now… not so much a magazine – more a mini book!

You can pre-order TBL 45 at this link:

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – it was 52 years ago:

This Saturday marks the 52nd anniversary of The Beatles Sgt Pepper album – I’ve been playing it all week and it really does sound as fresh as ever.

Here’s some thoughts from myself and fellow long time TBL supporter and massive Beatles fan Paul Humbley that I ran to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

TBL Celebrates Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  at 50:

I’ve been aware of The Beatles album Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band for 50 years. Back in early June 1967 I was at a friends house playing Subutteo table football one of my big passions of the time. His older brother was holding an LP record as we called them back then. I had a quick look at it – I realized it was The Beatles – it’s colourful cover was certainly eye catching and the reverse had all the words to the songs printed on it.

After a flirtation with pop music when I was 7 and 8 I had moved on to football and my other passions included , Thunderbirds ,The Man From Uncle and James Bond.  did not hear the album then – but I was aware that it was something important.

A couple of years later in early 1969, music was back on my agenda big time led by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and many of the top 40 artists of the day -and later that year Led Zeppelin entered my radar. I first heard Sgt Pepper on a huge radiogram at a friends house in our street.

It sounded incredible.

Of course it also looked amazing with the elaborate front cover, the inner cut outs – the Sgt Pepper vinyl also looked very different  -it was one of the first records I noticed that had no banding of tracks -it all merged into one.

I was hooked.

When I started work in June 1972, Sgt Pepper was one of the first albums I bought. In 1978 I bought the limited edition picture disc version that was issued. In the 1980s I bought various Sgt Pepper bootlegs -as I wanted to hear as much as of The Beatles as I could from that period.

In August 1983, the good lady Janet and I attended The Beatles at Abbey Road show staged inside Abbey Road. This unique presentation featured various then unreleased Beatles outtakes including A Day In The Life -it was incredible exciting to be in the actual location where the actual album had taken shape.

On June 1, 1987, I purchased the CD version that was issued to mark the 20th anniversary – and in the Our Price  shop I managed in Bedford we really went to town with in store displays etc. It’s worth mentioning I had no CD player at the time but was planning on getting one which I finally did that Christmas.

The arrival of The Beatles catalogue on CD and particularly Sgt Pepper was a turning point in the mass acceptance of the CD as a serious and lasting music carrying format

In 1988 I was lucky enough to be in Abbey Road Studio number 2 again for the launch of Mark Lewishon’s groundbreaking Beatles Recording Sessions book. This was a log of every Beatles recording session which Mark compiled after having the luxury of hearing all the session tapes. Amongst many revelations it chronicled that the George Harrison track Only A Northern Song was recorded during the Sgt Pepper sessions and was once considered for the final track listing. It would eventually emerge on the Yellow Submarine film soundtrack.

I was back in Abbey Road in late 1993 for another book launch event -Mark Lewishon’s Complete Beatles Chronicle. Bizarrely, on the same day Jimmy Page and David Coverdale were in Studio 3 mixing the Coverdale -Page album.  I bumped into to David and chatted for a bit – Jimmy was busy in the studio – I told David I was here for a Beatles book launch. Years later when I spoke to Mark about this he informed me he had a request to show the book to Jimmy and David – a direct result of me informing the Coverdale man about it!

The 1995 release of  The Beatles Anthology  volume 2 offered a host of alternate mixes from the Sgt Pepper period. When I tell you I am the sort of guy that get’s rather excited when I hear John Lennon mumbling ”sugar plum fairy,sugar, plum fairy” as a count in to the Anthology 2 version of A Day In The Life you will realise I am relishing the prospect of dissecting the new Giles Martin produced remix along with the previously unheard work in progress versions of many of the tracks.

I recently acquired a bootleg CD that presents the actual broadcast of the BBC’s Light programme preview of Sgt Pepper broadcast on Saturday May 21. I was otherwise engaged on that day as a ten year old watching Spurs beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup Final.

Had I tuned in back then on that Saturday afternoon I would have heard the legendary DJ Kenny Everett interviewing Ringo, Paul and John about their new LP. Listening to it 50 years on the air of optimism and sheer wonderment of these new Beatles recordings is more than evident. It’s an amazing timepiece that captures the impact this album was having on DJ’s and fans alike.

For this album really was a game changer in so many respects. It was the first real complete album presentation with every song making its presence felt in sequence – and yes a concept album of sorts as The Beatles took on the persona of Sgt Pepper and his band.

There had of course been many an important album before it – not least The Beatles own catalogue and the likes of The Rolling Stones Aftermath, The Beach Boys Pet Sounds and Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde. All major musical statements but Sgt Pepper was something else.

Over the years , Sgt Pepper as had its critics. I vividly recall the noted journalist (and one of my journalist heroes) Charles Shaar Murray denouncing it in a retrospective review in the NME under the title ”Silly Charlie and the not so red hot Pepper’.

Some say Revolver has better songs, the sprawling White Album more scope and Abbey Road as being more polished. I myself have sited the White Album as their best album and my favourite – this new round of Pepper pandemonium might just challenge that.

Put simply, Sgt Pepper is The Beatles finest creation as a group. There’s a wealth of unified creativity running throughout the album that they never quite attained again.

I duly purchased the new remaster in Fopp on Saturday -the double vinyl set which has a second disc of outtakes.  This presents alternate version of the Sgt Pepper album in the same sequence as the original album – a Companion Disc if you please – and right in line with Jimmy Page’s concept with the Led Zeppelin reissues – Mr McCartney must have been eyeing those!

I have yet to have a really detailed listen but on initial plays the new remix sounds sound’s really sprightly with an improved instrument separation. There’s so much to admire on Sgt Pepper – the harmonies for instance, marvel at the vocal interplay on With A Little Help From My Friends and It’s Getting Better.

Along  the way there are so many things going on – from riding in newspaper taxis to undertaking ten somersaults on solid ground. Oh and there’s a certain poignancy that I am closer to 64 and ‘doing the garden digging the weeds’ than I was when I last listened to that sweet McCartney paean to old age.

It’s going to be an absolute delight to re-discover these sounds of the summer of 1967 that still resonate so effectively.

They’d love to turn you on –  and 50 years on, Sgt Peppers one and only Lonely Hearts Club Band show no signs of stopping – and a splendid time is always guaranteed.

Dave Lewis – May 29, 2017.

TBL Celebrates Sgt Pepper at 50: Look out next week for a detailed overview of the Sgt Pepper remixed releases by long time TBL contributor and Beatles expert Paul Humbley.

TBL Celebrates Sgt Pepper at 50: 

Following my piece on the remixed re-released Sgt Pepper album – here’s a very informative overview from long time TBL contributor and Beatles expert Paul Humbley

Over to Paul…

Let me introduce to you, the act you’ve known for all these years. Discovering Sgt. Pepper.

Being born in August 1964, I was not quite three years old when ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was released on June 1.1967.

So no, 50 years ago I wasn’t rushing to my local record shop to pick up a copy of the new Beatles album. However with parents who had wide and varied musical tastes – jazz, pop, musicals, singer song writers, in fact anything. I grew up in a home filled with music. That matched to an uncanny memory for music related facts – release dates of records, labels, catalogue numbers, all stored in my memory ready to be called off at the drop of a hat -really sad I know, but it does mean I have two distinct memories of listening to the radio back in 1967.

My first memory is hearing ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’ – Alan Price. The second is hearing ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. No not by The Beatles, instead a cover by actor Bernard Cribbins. Of the two, the later song is the most significant. A cover of the Paul McCartney song featured on side 2, track 2 of ‘Sgt. Pepper’. This cover version never made the UK charts. However, according to the date printed on the label of the promotional copy of this Parlophone record. It was released the day after the Beatles original, June 2, 1967. Little did I know then, how important hearing this song would be in my life long musical journey?

My personal introduction to ‘Sgt. Pepper’ the album followed a similar path to how the album reached the public back in 1967. After six months of no new material, a lifetime in the 60’s pop scene. The Beatles issued a taster for the album in February. Although ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ / ‘Penny Lane’ where never included on ‘Pepper’, they were among the first songs recorded when sessions began in November 1966. Four months later the album appeared in June, The first album of new material to be released since Revolver 10 months earlier. In a world which demanded an artist release at least two albums and three singles in a 12 month period. This six month period of recording was unprecedented. In fact the media reported that the fab four were losing their magic and not able to come up with new songs. Little did they know what was in store?

I have been a Beatles fan since April 15, 1974, the date when the BBC premiered the animated feature ‘Yellow Submarine’ on UK television. By the time the film finished I was hooked and my collection was starting to be built from the records I could find in my parents collection. Over the next couple of years I collected together a few vinyl albums and singles and a number of cassette tapes recorded from albums borrowed from friends and relatives.

It was March 1976 when my induction into the psychedelic world of ‘Sgt, Pepper’ began. In February of that year The Beatles contract with EMI expired. EMI wasted no time in repacking and reissuing all 22 original Beatles singles in March, together with a new addition for the UK market, ‘Yesterday’. Within weeks all 23 singles had entered the UK Top 75 and for the first time I was able to purchase Beatles records while they featured high in the current singles chart.

My first selection was the aforementioned ‘Yesterday’. With the second being and a single containing two songs I had no recollection of previously hearing, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ / ‘Penny Lane’. Why did I make this choice? All these rereleased singles came in generic green picture sleeves. The only difference being, the rear sleeve image changed to reflect the ever evolving fashions the band adopted. The sleeve for ‘Strawberry Fields’ featured an image of the fab four sporting moustaches and John using a cine camera. For some reason this image intrigued me, as it was not a formal pose like the other featured images. Unbeknown to me at the time, I was purchasing the single almost 9 years to the day after its original release, give or take a few weeks.

Hearing the disc for the first time on Dad’s prized Fidelity UA5 music centre (the 3 in 1, turntable, cassette and stereo radio systems, which were the mp3 players of there day). I had one of those rare experiences when you discover a piece of music and it has an unforgettable effect on you. To this day when I hear John sing the opening lines ‘Let me take you down…’ it gives me goose bumps. What I was experiencing, was what record buyers had back on February 17,1967. This new direction in sound for The Beatles, was the first fruits of the bands extended recording sessions in EMI. Sessions which evolved into Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts club Band.

Back in 1967, ‘Pepper’ the album, followed ‘Strawberry Fields 4 months later, on June 1. Similarly for me 9 years later in 1976. My first encounter with ‘Pepper’ followed four months after I encountered ‘Strawberry Fields’, in July of the long hot summer of 1976.

Discovering The Beatles as I had in the mid 70’s, was great timing on my part. Since the official split in 1970, the solo Beatles were never far from the singles and album charts. Paul released his fifth album ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound’ in March 1976. Over the next few months the hit singles ‘Let’Em In’ and ‘Silly Love Songs’ would gain blanket coverage on UK radio and climb high in the charts. This resulted in my dad coming home from work in July 1976, with a copy of that new Wings album together with a Beatles album. Both loaned from a work colleague. That Beatles album was ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

It’s difficult for me to understand now, but it was the Wings album that I wanted to hear first. Within a few days both were recorded onto blank cassette tapes, Curry’s the electronics retailers own brand of C60. Maybe it was because the Wings album was new and my friends didn’t understand why I was obsessed with and old band from the 60’s. To eleven and twelve year old’s the Beatles having split six years ago, made them ancient. Or because within days I was away on holiday on the Isle of Wight with school mate Alan and his family. Whatever the reason ‘Pepper’ took a back seat for a few weeks.

Gradually over the coming weeks I started to pick up on the magic of ‘Sgt. Pepper’. Over the next couple of years that C60 cassette tape would be on constant rotation. I would however have to wait until Christmas day 1977 to receive my first vinyl copy.

It was then that I started to realise that my cassette copy sounded different to the vinyl record. Some songs sounded faster. Background noises audible on one, were not present on the other. Slowly as my Beatles knowledge grew, I worked out that what I had recorded was a mono copy of Pepper. While the vinyl pressing was stereo.

Over the last 40 years my Pepper collection has expanded far beyond the wildest dreams of the 12 year I was back in 1976. Multiple vinyl and CD pressings have been joined by reel to reel, cassette and 8 track tape formats. 20th anniversary box sets and audiophile pressings have also joined my hoard. Plus of course those under the counter albums and CD’s, featuring recording sessions and alternate mixes which have leaked out of EMI over time.

Fixing A Hole and Getting Better? – My view of the 50th Anniversary Reissues

For an obsessive collector like myself. Do the new 50th anniversary issues have anything to offer? The answer to that is a big YES. Since news broke at the start of the year, that the anniversary would be celebrated. It soon became apparent this was going to be a celebration of a Beatles album like no other.

With a selection of releases to please dedicated casual fans, die hard collectors, or young music fans wanting to understand what all the fuss is about. The 1CD, 2CD, 2LP and Deluxe 4CD, Blue Ray & DVD box set covers all bases.

The media focus has been on Giles Martin and his new stereo mix. As Beatle historians know the mono mix of ‘Pepper’ has always been considered the approved version, As George Martin spent approximately three weeks mixing the album for mono and during many of the mono mixing sessions either one, two, three of four Beatles were present. Compared to the stereo mix which was produced in a few days.

Unlike the stereo mixes George Martin created for earlier Beatles albums. The stereo separation used on the original 1967 mix was not the hard vocals on one channel and instruments on the other, particularly noticeable on the original stereo mixes of ‘Help’ and ‘Rubber Soul’. Over the years this primitive mixes came under a lot of flak. Indeed when the first Beatles CD’s were issued by EMI in 1987. George Martin remixed both of these albums, so that they had a stereo separation suited to modern ears. Indeed when listening to the placement of the instruments and vocals of the original 1967 ‘Sgt. Pepper’ stereo mix, the separation is very tame. With the majority of the vocals placed centrally.

When you compare both the original 1967 stereo and mono mixes. The mono sounds more powerful, with a denser sound. One thing however that both mixes have in common. Is due to the 4 track recording process used, and the constant bouncing down of one 4 track tape to another. Is that both suffer with a muddy sound on the instruments and backing vocals.

In order for me to assess Giles Martin’s 2017 stereo remix I reacquainted myself with the original mono mix via an original 1967 UK Parlophone vinyl pressing. Then I listened to the original stereo mix played from my 1977 pressing. From the pressing ID in the run out grooves it is clear that this copy is cut from the original Harry Moss master lacquerers. Harry being the EMI engineer who cut the majority of Beatles album masters. Then while listening to the new 2017 mix I A/B compared with a high resolution digital file of the 1982 Mobile Fidelity UHQR Stereo master and a similar file of the Nimbus Supercut pressing from 1984. I avoided the 2009 remasters as I have never been a fan. They are all that is wrong with too many digital remasters of classic albums. Too loud, with no subtlety and painful on the ears.

For me, the biggest revelation of the new Giles Martin Stereo mix, is that those layers of instruments and backing vocals come to life. By going back to the individual 4 track session tapes, Giles has created a mix which breathes new life in to the music. It’s like looking at an old master which had been restored. You see revealed the true colours of the painting which the artist had intended you to see. The sound of Ringo’s drums is now much clearer. The bass drum and cymbals shine through. You can hear him tap the drum skins with brushes during ‘When I’m Sixty Four. Back in 1999 Peter Cobbin assisted by Paul Hicks remastered the soundtrack of Yellow Submarine. The accompanying Yellow Submarine Songtrack album featured 4 songs from ‘Pepper’ and was universally praised for the quality of the remix work they had undertaken. Now18 years later, these mixes although good, still suffer from the muddy sound, which Giles Martin has now eliminated.

Many of the Beatles original stereo mixes don’t have the same power of the mono. With this new stereo mix Giles has successfully recreated the power of the mono mix in the stereo domain. The majority of new mix keeps all the elements, lead vocals, lead instruments, background vocals, and orchestrations in the centre of the stereo image. There is no extreme panning of sounds from left to right. Just a very clean, open, but powerful mix.

As with Ringo’s drumming, Paul’s bass guitar is a revelation. In the Anthology TV series / DVD. Paul McCartney explains that due to this new recording technique of layering sounds and bouncing down a full 4 track tape to another to create multi, multitrack recording as you would find in a modern studio. He had the opportunity to play melodic bass lines which complemented each song. Rather than just underpinned each song. These bass lines now have a greater definition and clarity.

The vocals throughout now have a new dynamic to them. Despite the layer of sounds employed on ‘Pepper’ the vocals you hear are live, no auto tuning back in 1967. The new mix now brings these vocals to life. It’s like you are there in the studio standing at the microphone next to John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Having now lived with the new stereo mix for four days, the tracks which continually impress me are ‘Fixing A Hole’, ‘She’s Leaving Home’, ‘When I’m Sixty Four’, ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’ and ‘A Day In The Life’.

With the exception of the single disc CD. These new 50th anniversary editions don’t stop at the new stereo remix. George Martin described the process of recording ‘Sgt. Pepper’ as “Painting pictures with Sound”. What we are presented with are the initial sketches from which these sound paintings were based. The skeleton frame of each song, before the Beatles and George Martin built the final master. For the casual fan expecting an alternate, stripped down ‘Sgt. Pepper’, you will be disappointed. What we hear are raw takes direct from studio sessions tapes. Allowing the listener to eavesdrop on how John, Paul, George and Ringo. together with George Martin, Geoff Emerick and the technicians at EMI crafted the album.

For the 2 CD edition the listener is treated to an outtake from each song in the same running order as the finished album, together with an outtakes of ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Penny Lane’. For the box set aimed specifically at the obsessional fan. You are presented with multiple versions of each song across 2 CD’s. Sequence chronologically as the recording sessions took place between November 1966 and April 1967.

Now Beatles fans are a difficult bunch to please (a bit like Led Zep fans!- ED). They moan when opportunities are missed to open the EMI tape vault. Then moan when they do get presented with new material. One thing that becomes clear very quickly when you listen to all the unreleased material presented in these anniversary packages. Is that George Martin did the right thing when he collated together ‘Sgt Pepper’ studio sessions for the ‘Anthology’ project back in the mid 1990’s. At the time he was criticised for editing together small sections of multiple takes of songs to create new mixes. As you would expect from George Martin, he was right. Although from a historical perspective the outtakes presented across these anniversary packages deserve to be included, in truth are a hard listen and I doubt will receive regular repeated plays from casual fans.

In addition to the 2017 remix and studio outtakes you also receive within the deluxe box set. The original mono mix. A 5:1 surround mix which I can’t play due a lack of compatible playback equipment. A copy of the 1992, 25th anniversary ‘Making of Sgt. Pepper’ TV documentary. Which now makes my rather warn out VHS tape recording and pirate DVD complete with Japanese sub titles, redundant. Finally there is a truly magnificent book all housed in a beautiful box replicating an EMI Tape library box.

Yes there are some negative aspects about these anniversary sets. The selection of outtakes presented on the 2CD set could have been improved. Featuring the full ‘Hums’ session, rather than tagging a single ‘Hum’ to the end of the ‘A Day In The Life – Take 1’. The ‘Hum’ being the original idea to close ‘A Day In The Life’ before the piano chord was recorded. Take 1 of ‘Within You, Without You’ should have been swapped with the version featuring George coaching the assembled musicians. The 2017 stereo mix of ‘Penny Lane’ sounds too bright and not a patch on the excellent 2015 mix of ‘Strawberry Fields’ presented. While finally, whoever approved the dub of the rare and unique USA promo mono mix of ‘Penny Lane’ recorded from a worn out and distorted copy of the original vinyl 45, needs shooting. The infamous audiophile bootlegger, Dr Ebbetts presented collectors with a very clear dub on his ‘US Singles Collection’ set back in 2001.

All in all, what Apple and Giles Martin have presented is a very worthy release to honour ‘Sgt. Pepper’ on its 50th anniversary. It is leaves me wanting to revisit and listen again in depth and explore The Beatles back catalogue all over again. I also find it hard to believe that John, Paul, George and Ringo were aged between 24 and 27 when they recorded this masterpiece. How creative they and George Martin were back then 50 years ago! Lets hope that with 22nd November 2018 being the 50th anniversary of the ‘White Album’, that Apple and Giles Martin work on an equally impressive set to honour that great work.

After that I think it’s time for tea and meet the wife!


I wonder how many people record shopping back on the 1st June 1967, headed for the ‘Bs’ in the LP section, but passed by Beatles and Sgt. Pepper and instead headed to ‘BO’ and picked up the first long playing record album on Deram of a young wiper snapper going by the name of David Bowie? His debut album was released on the same day as ‘Sgt Pepper’….

 Paul Humbley

Many thanks to Paul for that wonderful overview.

Some final words on Sgt Pepper written by me on the TBL/DL Facebook page on June 1,2017:

On  the player – what else?…and it’s truly magnificent –the new mix punchy with greater separation of the instruments and vocals. Record 2 The Sgt Pepper Sessions is just fantastic – with the same line up of tracks as the main album, a Companion Disc if you will (now where has that idea been used before!

It’s an illuminating and enlightening experience. It’s the creative process with pleasing off-mic chat from the boys and George Martin , false starts and alternate arrangements. Back
in 1988, the brilliant Beatles author Mark Lewishon produced The Beatles Recording Sessions book based on his enviable task of listening to every Beatles session tape at Abbey Road – I used to wonder how amazing that must have been – well Record 2 The Sgt Pepper Sessions has given me some idea,–it really is like being in the studio next to them and some of the off mic chat particularly from the so sadly missed John and George, is incredibly moving and sends shivers down the spine

So it’s the act we’ve known for all the years and their story continues to enthral – Sgt Pepper Remixed is a revelatory, celebratory listening experience – and 50 years on, a splendid time is still guaranteed for all….Dave Lewis – June 1, 2017.

Next Tueaday it’s our Sam’s birthday  – 29 years old…

Thus it was 29 years ago when I saw Robert Plant upstaged for the only time – the evening gig at Hammersmith Odeon I attended was very good – but it was not in the same league as the afternoon events with the birth of my daughter Sam at 2.30 pm.

I should never have really been at the gig but somehow I managed to fit it all in. I’ve told the tale many a time and forgive me for relying it all again but it was a mad day for sure!

These are the circumstances Samantha Elizabeth Lewis entered the world 29 years ago in 1990.

29 years ago on Monday June 4th 1990 I awoke with the prospect of a couple of Robert Plant gigs ahead over the next two nights. These were the London dates Robert was playing in support of the Manic Nirvana album. Tickets were sorted, arrangements made – I was planning to hook up with the TBL crew in Hammersmith.

It’s actually worth mentioning at the time I was ensconced in writing the A Celebration book as well as managing the local Our Price record shop. It was as full on it is now…

The good lady Janet was pregnant and our first born was due in July. Well it didn’t quite work out like that. On that morning of June 4th twenty four years ago, Janet informed there were stirrings… and sure enough there were. So of we went to Bedford North Wing hospital where we were informed that our forthcoming bundle of joy was ready to enter the world. With all notions of the gig ahead banished (honest!) I steeled myself for a lengthy labour (well not me as it were!)

sam pic 2

Things moved quickly and at 2.30 pm with impeccable timing, our daughter Samantha Elizabeth was born.

A lot of you out there know the rest… Sam is tiny and beautiful….mother and baby are doing well…anxious new father will only be in the way and heads on the train for …yes you guessed it Hammersmith Odeon – arriving to the shock of the TBL crew…just in time for the gig.

As I mentioned this was the only time I’ve ever seen R. Plant upstaged – as good as he was he didn’t match the afternoon proceedings!

Pushing it a bit more – I was back the next night for gig number two celebrating Sam’s birth with a large intake of Directors ale. Later in the month I was at Knebworth with Mr Foy for the Robert & Jimmy’s reunion. What with the World Cup Italia 90, World in Motion at number one (Cue the John Barnes rap : ‘’You’ve got to hold and give – but do it at the right time – You can be slow or fast but you must get to the line’’) – that June of 28 years ago was some month….29 years on, nothing much has changed around these parts!

It wasn’t too long before Sam realised this Led Zep caper was a little bit important to her Dad! In the above pic we are together in 1991 at the time of the publication of the A Celebration book –which was being written as she entered the world. Sam would also go on to have an affinity for the written word (a bit like her Dad) and would carve a career in journalism. I have to say that her additional skill of being able to teach Yoga did not come from me – my aching limbs are not supple enough for all those movements! Here’s a more recant pic taken in London earlier this year…

Happy Birthday Sam!


DL Diary Blog Update:

Friday treats at the Vinyl Barn – at a very sunny Vinyl Barn last Friday I was well pleased to find a copy of The Kinks compilation 20 Golden Great plus a very quirky Beatles cover version album – Beatle Music by The Session Men has orchestral instrumental interpretations of 16 Beatles songs – arranged by jazz musician Ronnie Ross including a rare cover version of Baby You’re a Rich Man –- this covers album was all recorded at Olympic Studios in September 1967 – the same studio used by The Beatles for recording the original a couple of months earlier – and by Led Zeppelin to record their debut album a year later. Thanks Darren!

On the player and providing much inspiration to the workload lots of great stuff including:

Led Zeppelin – Companion Audio Discs from the reissues as I compiled the John Bonham 71 at 71 listing

John Bonham – The Bonham Session CD

The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band deluxe box set (it was 52 years ago)

Stax Plays The Beatles (RSD release)

Elton John – Empty Sky, Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection – the good lady and I are looking forward to catching the Elton John Rocket Man film

John Lennon – Imagine -Raw Studio Mixes (RSD release)

Fleetwood Mac – The Alternate Fleetwood Mac (RSD release)

Those gems amongst others, will be soundtracking the weeks ahead.

44 years on from that celebrated week of Earls Court gigs and here I am still immersed in the world of Led Zeppelin…at StudioMix today working with TBL designer Mick Lowe on the in progress TBL issue 45. There’s a way to go but it’s looking good…be sure to pre order your copy at the link above.

And finally…on Saturday it’s the Champions League Final in Madrid between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. This is the most important match in Spurs long history – and certainly in the time I’ve been a fan which is since 1966. We will eagerly soaking up the action in the Fox And Hounds and hoping amongst hope, that Spurs can emerge triumphant. That certainly won’t be easy -whatever happens, it’s been an amazing journey this season and those Champions League nights have provided so many highs…good luck to Mauricio Pochettino and the boys – come on you Spurs…

Dave Lewis – May 29, 2019.

Until next time –have a great weekend

TBL Website updates compiled by Dave Lewis

with thanks to Gary Foy and James Cook

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  • Miguel said:

    THANK GOD for Dave Lewis. I no longer have the time or energy I once did to compile a list like this. I could see me doing it at 15 but not 55. So Thank you Dave. I wish I had some or any of the boots you refer to, but still enjoyed the list.
    with 2 busy boys, I was only able to hit a few, surprised myself with no Moby Dick this year?, but did find a you tube of Over the Top,didn’t make it all the way-LOL, I just can’t do those 25 minute drum solos these days. BUT I made sure to do Bonzo’s Montreux twice and the next day. I guess with melancholy I found myself listening to various versions of Stairway. When I think of Bonham, I think of Moby, Levee, Kasmir, but for some reason I found myself drawn to Stairway their holiest of songs.

  • Graham Rodger said:

    George Harrison famously said that he never heard the stereo mix of Sgt. Pepper until 1975. Apparently, the Beatles weren’t remotely interested in early stereo mixes, leaving studio engineers to put those together afterwards. For the Beatles it was all about mono. The Giles Martin mix of Sgt. Pepper is superb though. Wish he’d apply his skill to remastering Harrison’s Wonderwall album, the first Apple release in 1968.

  • Mark Brian Carroll said:

    Wanted Ajax to beat you…But GOD PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEEEEZRE BEAT LIVERPOOL. You’ll NEVER hear the last of it if you don’t……

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