John Bonham: The Story of a Legendary Musician
John Bonham is an amazingly talented musician, a man who has taken a fresh look at classic rock and roll. Contemporaries noted in him an unsurpassed original power during the game and an innate sense of rhythm, a sense of the energy of each track. In a relatively short life (Bonham died at the age of thirty-two), he managed to make a dizzying career in the music industry, becoming one of the most influential drummers in the history of rock. Always ready for bold and non-standard experiments, he became the idol of a whole generation during his lifetime.
Music connoisseurs know Bonham from performances as a drummer for Led Zeppelin. The most eloquent thing about his contribution to the development and formation of a cult rock band is the fact that after an unexpected departure from life, colleagues announced the breakup of the team. It was pointless to continue creative activity in the Led Zeppelin format without John.
We have selected five of the most striking and interesting stories from the biography of an unsurpassed drummer. They will help you better understand Bonham's philosophy, his views on life and music in particular.
Childhood and the first acquaintance with music ...
John Henry Bonham was born on May 31, 1948 in Redditch, Worcestershire, England.
Many musicians make their first attempt at playing an instrument as a child, but Bonham's case is amazing! He began to famously knock on everything that came to hand when he was barely five years old. The first drum set was a complex structure of tin cans, pots and pans.
On the boy's tenth birthday, his mother gave him the best gift - a real musical drum. John acquired a full-fledged installation only at the age of fifteen.
Quite an interesting fact, but absolutely the whole family of John is somehow connected with music! For example, his younger sister Deborah is a songwriter, and his brother Mick (now a well-known journalist and photographer) was once a disc jockey! Bonham's daughter, Zoe, who confidently followed in her father's footsteps, did not change the family tradition: today she is known as an author and performer of songs. By the way: Zoey regularly appears at meetings dedicated to Led Zeppelin. But about this cult group a little later ...
As for studies, Bonham made an ambiguous impression on teachers. It was difficult to call him a slob or a lazy person who would score on homework and skip classes. But at the same time, he did not have enough stars from the sky - study was hard. Not a single subject of the school curriculum could captivate him like carpentry or construction. At some point, John's report card even made an entry: "He will become either a janitor or a rich man!"
After graduating from school, Bonham worked for some time as an apprentice in his father's carpentry shop. In parallel, he gave concerts with a local rock band, tried to write songs.
Was John Bonham self-taught? Drummer training and musical influences…
Amazingly, Bonham never had professional teachers or mentors who would guide him on the true path, help with the right advice or a good hint. The artist acquired all the knowledge thanks to diligent efforts and incessant musical experiments. Of course, he did not miss the opportunity to attend some kind of concert, where he could talk with people from the rock industry, consult on any issue. However, this did not change the fact that Bonham was self-taught, a real nugget.
A huge influence on John's musical tastes was the popular drummer Garry Ellock, who participated in various orchestral and symphony concerts. He later recalled:
“To be honest, I never gave him lessons. In general, I tried not to take part in his development as an artist. However, sometimes we sat in the living room at the practice pad, armed with drumsticks, I shared with him some developments, showed certain things. It was something like: “Can you do this?”. I remember him pounding on the snare drums and I was begging, "For God's sake, John, calm down!" Then it seemed to me that he would easily punch a hole in the parquet!
Curiously, while still a child, improvising on his "home-made" kit, Bonham diligently imitated Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich - virtuoso jazz musicians ...
At the time, aspiring musicians from Birmingham were recording at Zella Studios. John was no exception. His debut demo appeared thanks to the efforts of local sound engineer - Johnny Haynes.
It is worth noting that Bonham's performance really upset and disappointed Haynes. According to the recollections of the sound engineer, the drummer played unnecessarily loudly and aggressively, and it was not possible to achieve high-quality sound. As a result, the future star of Led Zeppelin was forced to leave the studio with a diagnosis of "unrecordable".
It was rumored that a couple of years later, Bonham sent Haynes a copy of the Led Zeppelin gold record, accompanied by a note. It contained only a short phrase: “Thank you for the advice!”.
Participation in groups and acquaintance with Plant ...
John's first serious band was Terry Webb and the Spiders, of which he joined in 1964. By the way: at one of the performances of the band, the drummer met Pat Phillips, his future wife…
Later, Bonzo also played with The Senators, with whom he even managed to record the successful song "She's a Mod".
It is worth noting that fate brought John to Robert Plant even before Led Zeppelin! In 1966, Bonham joined the Crawling King Snakes, where Plant sang! Despite the fact that a year later Bonzo returned to A Way of Life (the team temporarily ceased to exist in 1966), he no longer lost contact with Plant ...
Career with Led Zeppelin
John got into the cult rock band by invitation. Jimmy Page and Peter Grant were so impressed and amazed by the young musician's performance that they immediately wanted him to join their band. However, Bonham was in no hurry to accept invitations and join Led Zeppelin. The fact is that the other members of the group were not happy with such a decision, and did not really want to see a newcomer in their ranks.
Before Bonham joined Led Zeppelin, Grant and Page had to send him dozens of telegrams. Well, you already know what came out of this creative association.
Yes, and John himself, initially, was skeptical about the new project. For him, Led Zeppelin seemed to be something like the Yardbirds, whose work he considered “a distant relic of the past ...” But the choice was not rich: either to play with Zeppelin or with Joe Cocker ... Bonzo preferred the first option.
During the band's first tour, John Bonham acquired a new, rather useful comrade in the person of Carmine Appice, the drummer for Vanilla Fudge. It was he who recommended the Ludwig drum kit to John, which, subsequently, constantly accompanied Led Zeppelin both on stage and in the studio. Curiously, Bonham himself chose only the longest and heaviest sticks.
Bonham's art later took on overtones of funk and Latin percussion. John was also the first drummer in history to use a drum synthesizer (the song "Kashmir" performed by Dallas in 1977).
Fun fact, Bonham was an avid collector of vintage sports cars and motorcycles. The musician carefully kept all his “exhibits” on the family farm. Later, he bought his own pub in the village of Shenstone, which he personally converted in such a way that he could drive up to the bar by car!
John Bonham was an amazing person. In addition to Led Zeppelin, he managed to collaborate with other musicians. Unfortunately, his career was short-lived...
At the end of the 70s, Bonham's problems with alcohol addiction worsened ... She pursued the musician for about ten years, starting in the late 60s.
The health of the once energetic drummer of the cult Zeppelins was noticeably shaken: now John could pass out at any moment. More than once this happened right during the concert ...
The idol of a generation was found dead on September 25, 1980, at Jimmy Page's The Old Mill House in Cluer, Windsor. The report will later say:
“Death was the result of an overdose of alcohol…”
Unfortunately, one of the most influential rock musicians of the last century could not stand the test of fame.
Bonham's death, as previously mentioned, marked the end of Led Zeppelin, forever separating the band members... All three remaining band members made a unanimous decision to end Led Zeppelin, commenting:
“The bitterness of loss, respect for the family of our comrade and the feeling of a split in the harmony that has always united us, led to the decision that it would not be the same as before. We are forced to cease the existence of Led Zeppelin…” (statement dated December 4, 1981).