John Bonham found fame as the drummer for Led Zeppelin, which makes sense. His precision, power and impressive playing were so crucial to the band that they broke up in 1980 rather than attempt to continue after his death. Bonham had a vision for his drumming years before he joined Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Page was the perfect guitarist to make it happen.
Bonham seemed destined to be a breakthrough drummer from a young age. Before he had a proper kit to play with, he built drum sets out of pots and pans. Music was rampant in the Bonham house, and he grew up idolizing jazz drummers like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Still, he was fascinated by an early rock ‘n’ roll song that defined the style he brought to Led Zeppelin.
Zep brought his adept timing to the crowds, but Bonham formed his drumming philosophy years earlier. As CM Kushins writes animalthe idea of the up-and-coming drummer from Birmingham, England was to put the drums on an equal footing with the lead guitar:
Bonham’s hard-hitting style made him stand out for his game. Led Zeppelin founder Page was the perfect guitarist to bring Bonham’s vision to life.
Page and Bonham only met when Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant recommended Bonzo for the empty drum chair. Timekeeper already had a vision of making drums more of a lead instrument, and Page was the perfect guitarist to make it happen.
He was a guitar virtuoso – first as a session player and then with the Yardbirds – but Page wanted to share the spotlight with Led Zeppelin. He said it was the key to the first album. Led Zeppelin I should demonstrate his guitar skills, but not at the expense of the other members.
Bonham could not have asked for a more perfect guitarist to bring his drumming vision to life.
Bonham and Page share the spotlight for the first few seconds Led Zeppelin I. Bonzo bangs his snare drum while Page plays the downstrokes on his guitar in the intro of “Good Times Bad Times”; he plays along with the lead guitar rather than behind or below it. Bonham’s revolutionary rapid-fire bass drum work is evident a moment later. Page’s plan for Led Zeppelin I should grab the listener’s attention immediately. He made it possible because he shared Bonham’s vision of making drums a secondary lead instrument.
Bonham matches Page’s strumming cadence while the guitarist plays Spanish-style on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” Bonham nearly steals the limelight with his drumming on “Dazed and Confused” and “You Shook Me,” two of Page’s best guitar solos from his Led Zeppelin era.
His goal was to make his drums a secondary lead instrument alongside the guitar. In Page, Bonham found the perfect guitarist to make that vision a reality.
Equating drums with guitar was Bonham’s vision. He did it with Page’s help, but that wasn’t the first or only way he changed drums.
While still on the rise, Bonham revolutionized drum kits when he used a bicycle chain to fire his kick drum pedal. He later used acrylic sets and the largest possible bass drum to maximize his powerful sound.
In Jimmy Page, John Bonham found the perfect guitarist to help him make his drumming vision a reality. Led Zeppelin’s hard-hitting music, which remains one of the most popular, was the perfect vehicle to bring them to the masses.
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