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JOHN BONHAM REMEMBERED 30 YEARS GONE: 30 AT 30 THE TBL BONZO PLAYLIST

22 September 2010 7,549 views 5 Comments

Greatest Beats – Percussive Perfection

30 Examples of the John Bonham Craft

To mark the 30th anniversary of his passing, this is the TBL John Bonham playlist designed to direct you into the company of his Greatest Beats and Percussive Perfection.

In remembering the legacy of John Bonham this weekend, paramount to any acknowledgment will be the music he created and I’m sure we will all be searching out the CD’s and vinyl that capture his magic in the next few days.

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 30 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 Dad of course who laid down the template – these selections e highlight 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.

This listing is of course by no means definitive – I’m sure there are many more that can be considered –so play the following and much more – and be ready to be overawed once again by the sheer inventiveness of this very special musician.

To mark the anniversary of John Bonham 30 years gone – here are 30 examples of his greatest beats…and percussive perfection.

DL

Note: The year next to each selection signifies the year it was recorded, not the year of release.

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)

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)

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. Unwisely omitted from the official BBC Sessions album.

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: Complete BBC Radio Sessions (Empress Valley bootleg)

Whole Lotta Love (1969)

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

Clock the percussive perfection: Where else but that battering ram snare roll at 3.02 that leads into Page’s solo

Hear It: Led Zeppelin 2 (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 playing with your hands 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 2 (Atlantic)

We’re Gonna Groove (Live 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 it took all three of them to do’’

Hear It: Led Zeppelin DVD (Warner Music Vision)

Moby Dick (Live 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)

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.

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)

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)

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)

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)

* 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)

Dazed And Confused (Live 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)

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  song writing credit.

Hear It: Houses Of The Holy (Atlantic)

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.

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

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 all in line.

Hear It: Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)

In My Time Of Dying (1974)

* Perhaps their most intense and brutal 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)

* In all 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 the tangents 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)

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)

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)

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)

Sick Again (Live  Knebworth 1979)

* Knebworth was a 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)

Stairway To Heaven (Live in Berlin 1980)

* And finally…

An extraordinary performance. Page’s solo on this last ever 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. Sometimes I still shout up there at that mass of blue and go ’’That was not a very good trick’’

Hear It : Last Stand (Toasted Condor bootleg)

Compiled by Dave Lewis  September 2010

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5 Comments »

  • Walt said:

    Good times Bad Times 1968, The Rover 1975 and the ocean live 1973 the way to go John ‘like no other’. There was a Great tribute programme Tuesday night BBC Radio 2 28/09/10 @ 10pm-11pm.

  • Lubos MAJER said:

    Wanton Song and Hots On For Nowhere – recommended 🙂

    Now everything’s finally happened
    Now and then you’ve got to take time to pause
    When you’re down on the ground, don’t be messin’ around
    Or you’ll land in a boat without oars.

    Greetings from Slovakia
    Lubos MAJER

  • Tim Coffey said:

    I’d like to add to this list the August 4, 1979 version of “Achilles Last Stand”. Bonzo had this knack of not only driving the rhythm but embellishing the track with these insane fills. The best example is at 6:47, right before the “ah ah AH” section. It’s an unbelievable performance from start to finish. Bonham’s untouchable, in my view, because not only did he have the explosiveness, but he had the groove. In spades.

    RIP, Bonzo, and God Bless your family.

  • ledhed58 said:

    I echo Kathy’s sentiments, very well put and I also wish Bonzo’s family, friends and former bandmates peace on this painful anniversary. Not only are we fans of this one of a kind band and it’s heart that no longer beats, I at least, because of the joy and memories that I still have of them, consider them to be an extended part of my family and though I will never meet any of them in person I wish them the very best and long may thier music live….will be seeing Jason in November and I expect it to be very emotional and enjoyable…. Peace from the U.S.A…..

  • Kathy Urich said:

    John’s influence on music is hard to calculate. My husband Lonnie is a self-taught drummer and has been playing for 30-plus years, he still refers to John as the “Ham-fisted caveman…” and I might add to that “… who changed everything about drumming.” I get a lump in my throat thinking about his untimely end. When you watch The Song Remains The Same, it has always touched me that his fantasy section in the film was about his life on the farm, his wife Pat, and his son Jason, his cows and his wheels. He is the yardstick by which all other drummers are measured. I’m looking forward to Jason’s tribute to his father in October. May peace find John’s family and friends on the anniversary of his death, and may the knowledge that John, was and is, loved by people across the globe, be of some comfort.

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