Sunday, May 31st, would have been Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s 67th birthday. To mark the occasion, here are what Dave Grohl believes are the 10 quintessential Bonham recordings:
“John Bonham is the greatest rock drummer of all time. Bonham played directly from the herat. His drumming was by no means perfect, but when he hit a groove it was so deep it was like a heartbeat. He had this manic sense of cacophany, but he also had the ultimate feel. he could swing, he could get on top, or he could pull back.
“Led Zeppelin, and John Bonham’s drumming especially, opnened up my ears. I didn’t truly discover Led Zeppelin until I was 16. I was into hardcore punk rock; reckless, powerful drumming, a beat that sounded like a shotgun firing in a cement cellar. But when CDs first came out in the 80s the first one I listened to was Houses Of The Holy. It changed everything. I played that CD thousands of times. I listened so hard I could hear the kick drum pedal squeaking!
“I learned to play by ear. I wasn’t trained and I can’t read music. What I play comes straight from the soul – and that’s what I hear in John Bonham’s drumming. I’ve watched Bonzo on the Led Zeppelin DVD and it looks like the film has been sped up because he’s playing so fast. I don’t know anyone who thinks there’s a better rock drummer than John Bonham: it’s undeniable!”
1) “Achillies Last Stand” – Presence: “This song has some fireworks, and it’s a good example of Bonham’s reckless side. You can tell he’s taking chances as the tape rolls. There’s an amazing kick-drum pattern that propels the track. And there’s one fill right after the first verse that just doesn’t sound humanly possible.”
2) “Kashmir” – Physical Graffiti: “Bonham knew when to step up and shine. I love the way he lays the snare in there. It’s a straight backbeat throughout the song until he pulls off a signature kick-drum triplet. He’s signing the check right there: ‘Love, John Bonham.'”
3) “When the Levee Breaks” – Led Zeppelin IV: “That is a straight groove. It’s incredible to have a rock drummer that powerful, that crazy, that bad-ass, but with a groove so smooth. It’s so purely human, so [damn] smooth, man! It’s pure chocolate sex. I could loop that track in my iPod for hours. This is the best groove of all time, better than any James Brown track.”
4) “Immigrant Song” – How the West Was Won: “This live version just comes right out of the gate. You know that people’s jaws would have dropped. Bonham is really pushing it. He’s either drunk as hell or he’s just having the time of his life.”
5) “Poor Tom” – Coda: “It makes me want to throw on a pair of cowboy boots and do a jig on a sawdust floor. It’s got a nice country swing. Bonham could play pounding rock but he was just as good playing weird Meters honky-tonk [crap].”
6) “Trampled Underfoot” – Physical Graffiti: “For a big white man from England, he was pretty funky. It’s a fast-forward funk beat with another machine-gun roll, so quick across the drums. His sense of funk and feel was so natural. Bonham and John Paul Jones, they had funk up their ass!”
7) “No Quarter” – Houses of the Holy: “Bonham’s sense of dynamic is such an esential part of Zeppelin’s songwriting. He’s like one big volume knob, he takes it up and down, and that is something that few drummers understand. Every producer and drummer in the world has tried to recapture the John Bonham sound, but it’s impossible. Drums are an acoustic instrument, and how they sound depends on how you touch them.”
8) “Since I’ve Been Loving You” – Led Zeppelin III: “The swing in that song, it’s just so sad and beautiful. The drumming, it breaks my heart. It’s such pasionate, feel playing. The way he plays on this song, it sounds like John Bonham’s got the blues.”
9) “The Wanton Song” – Physical Graffiti: “There are not many riffs better than that. It sounds like all three guys –Bonzo, Jimmy and John Paul are trying to be John Bonham in the way they play this song. It’s a wicked beat something to fight or shake your ass to.”
10) “Moby Dick” – Led Zeppelin II: “What can I say? You’ll never find another drummer willing to play a solo with his bare hands. I’ve tried and it hurts. You’d have to drink a bottle of vodka just to think about doing that. Drum solos are usually just wank, crap, but the one in this song is the greatest drum solo of all time.”