Led Zeppelin are one of the most iconic bands of all time and they have given us some of rock’s most unforgettable moments. Although they’re not exactly known for their unwavering originality. Like every great artist, they cherrypicked from all over the artistic sphere to inform and develop their unique, esoteric sound.
Musically influenced by the blues as much as they were world music, lyrically, the group took as much from the works of Tolkein as they did Icelandic mythology — an unreserved crucible of creativity. Together this diverse array of influences culminated in the otherworldly sound of Led Zeppelin. A sound that endeared them to millions of fans. Because of this, many have tried and failed over the years to replicate their sound, Greta Van Fleet anyone?
It should come as no surprise to you that Led Zeppelin were a dab hand at pinching ideas from far and wide. In fact, you’d struggled to find any great artist who hasn’t been guilty of it in some form or another. The Beatles, Beach Boys, New Order, Elvis — you name an iconic act, and we’ll be able to pick out several influential acts they learned from. This sentiment wasn’t just a modus operandi of days gone by either; one only has to mention the name Olivia Rodrigo to heed what we’re talking about.
Coming back to Led Zeppelin though, and you’ll find that quite a few of their songs contain flecks of other people’s work. One would even go as far as to say that, out of all of the “classic” rock bands, they were the group who took to the loaning of ideas more than anybody else, and that it is most noticeable in their work, more than any of their contemporaries.
In fact, if this blueprint was concerned merely with album tracks, fewer people would have noticed, and it is safe to wager that fewer would be bothered about their reappropriations. However, the blase way in which Led Zeppelin went about it has led to revisionists chipping away at their stature as songwriters. Furthermore, the fact that Zeppelin had a knack for not crediting the original artists has also culminated in audiences raising their eyebrows.
However, it wasn’t all just plain stealing. According to some elements, the band were inspired to try techniques first utilised by other musicians, and for this, they can’t be blamed. It is an intrinsic part of musical development. Taking one person’s idea and developing it is how music progresses and evolves. In 2006, drummer Carmine Appice, of the 1960s heroes Vanilla Fudge, claimed that Zeppelin’s late drumming maestro, John Bonham even took a little inspiration from his own style.
In the interview with Classic Rock Revisited, not only did Appice recount the instance where Bonham admitted to being inspired by his sound, he even went as far as to mention other instances where the band had taken things from other musicians.
The drummer said: “Jimi Hendrix personally told me that he didn’t like Zeppelin because they were like excess baggage and that they stole from everybody. ‘You Shook Me‘ was on Jeff Beck’s record. ‘Dazed & Confused‘ has a bit of Vanilla Fudge on it and it has parts of ‘Beck’s Bolero‘ in it.”
Appice then revealed that he was enthralled the first time he saw and heard Bonham play, but was met with a big surprise. Appice remembered: “When I first heard John Bonham do that triplet thing on the bass drum, I went up to him and said, ‘John, that is amazing. I have to admit that I took that from you.'”
Appice continued: “He looked at me and said, ‘What are you talking about? I took that from you!’ I replied, ‘I don’t do that. You couldn’t have taken it from me.’ He proceeded to tell me where I did actually do that on the first Vanilla Fudge record, and he was right.” Ironically, in Appice conceding that he himself was prone to stealing techniques, he proves our point that this is an endemic part of music.
Given that the musician in question was John Bonham, a true virtuoso, it is not surprising his hard-hitting technique took from an array of influences. Inspired by a minute portion of Appice’s work, he expertly took the basic idea and nurtured it into something else entirely, making the bass drum triplet just one weapon in his vast rhythmic arsenal. Appice acknowledges this fact as well: “I only did it for a moment on that album and he took it and made something bigger and better out of it.”
As we noted previously, Led Zeppelin was undoubtedly prone to pinching ideas, embodying somewhat of rock’s resident Magpies. However, they also utilised techniques and developed them, which can be heard throughout their music. Whether that be Bonham’s triplets, Page’s augmentation of blues guitar techniques, or Robert Plant‘s lyrical themes, this is clear and added to the band’s eclectic style, they wouldn’t have been the same without it.
Watch Bonham groove, below.