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(Credit: Alamy)

Music

Listen to John Bonham's isolated drums on 'Good Times Bad Times'

@TylerGolsen

Musicians rarely ever get it right the first time around. For many artists, it can take years of searching, multiple albums, and constant dedication to change just to find their singular sound. Not so for Led Zeppelin: on the very first song from their very first album, Led Zeppelin is fully formed and completely locked in. This should come as no surprise to the two studio aces who make up the string section, but the band also had two 20-year-olds who had never seen the inside of a real studio before.

One of those figures was John Bonham, the burly and brusque drummer who had been recruited into the band by his fellow 20-year-old Robert Plant. Although he had been playing in clubs for a few years and even got professional offers from the likes of Joe Cocker and Chris Farlowe, Bonham was still green when he entered Olympic Studios in the fall of 1968. Engineer Glyn Johns had never heard a drummer so loud and devised a simple mic set-up that would capture his thunderous performances without complicating the mix.

From the very first hits of ‘Good Times Bad Times’, Bonham establishes himself as a drummer to be reckoned with. Most drummers hearing Bonham for the first time assumed he was using a double bass pedal, considering how the rapid triplets from the bass drum were nearly impossible to do on just one foot. But Bonham only used a single bass drum, beating out the powerful bass pattern with his right foot while his left keeps near-constant time on the hi-hat.

From his bass drum triplets to his rapid fills to his barbaric bashing of the cymbal during the song’s chorus, Bonham laid down an instantly iconic drum pattern on ‘Good Times Bad Times’ that immediately made him one of the top drummers in the British rock scene. Through the magic of modern technology, we can now enjoy the drum track in all of its isolated glory.

Isolating classic songs like ‘Good Times Bad Times’ is tricky business: it involves honing in on specific frequencies and eliminating others so that the guitars, bass, and vocals don’t come through. ‘Good Times Bad Times’ was recorded live, with plenty of bleed coming through on the final mix. That means that there’s no natural isolated drum track of Bonham’s legendary performance, and reverse engineering an isolated track is hardly a perfect recreation.

Still, to be able to hear Bonham’s fills and hits with only some minor interruptions from the rest of the instruments is still a mesmerising listening experience. Even more so when you remember how young and how inexperienced Bonham was. This was his big shot to get on a record and maybe actually make a decent living as a musician. Bonham plays every note like it could be the last one he ever puts to tape, and the results are some of the most mind-bending rhythms ever recorded in rock and roll.

Check out the isolated drums for ‘Good Times Bad Times’ down below.