It is an undeniable fact that John Bonham is one of, if not the, best drummer of all time and if there was still any doubt over this question then this isolated version of ‘All My Love’ by Led Zeppelin of just Bonham’s drums is all the proof you need. If you ask any drummer in the world who is worth their salt to name the five of the greatest, then the thundering talent of one John Bonham is almost guaranteed to feature somewhere on that list. If you’re playing the game by averages, we’d say that makes Bonzo the number one spot.
Bonzo tore up the rule book, he did things entirely on his own terms which were sometimes unhinged but always brilliant. He reimagined what the art of drumming looked and gave that extra dimension to the sound of Led Zeppelin. Bonham’s furious, powerful technique was the pounding heartbeat of Led Zeppelin. Following the drummer’s death, the band were never quite the same live act again. On the rare occasions that the remaining members have reunited since his passing in 1980, the performances have always been somewhat disappointing. The group’s final album as a quartet, In Through the Out Door, offered confirmation of Bonham’s greatness and this version of ‘All My Love’ featuring just his isolated drums leaves the listener with nowhere to hide.
The drummer was the powerhouse juggernaut of the band, driving it forward and adding a heavy dose of meat and bones to the Page and Plant’s expertly gilded dinner service whenever he could. In Mick Bonham’s book on his late brother, titled John Bonham: The Powerhouse Behind Led Zeppelin, even Robert Plant conceded that “Bonzo was the main part of the band. He was the man who made whatever Page and I wrote basically work, by what he held back, by what he didn’t do to the tempos. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who could replace him.”
In that very same book contained conversations that Mick had with his brother before his death, a time when John spoke in a relaxed, candid fashion. “I don’t consider that I’m particularly influenced by anyone or anything,” the drummer said before adding. “But when I started playing, I was influenced by early soul. It was just that feel, that sound. I’ve always liked drums to be bright and powerful,” he said to his brother. “I’ve never used cymbals much. I use them to crash into a solo and out of it, but basically I prefer the actual drum sound,” he then noted.
That bright and powerful drumming that Bonham touches on is abundantly clear in ‘All My Love’, a track which his texturised technique which helps purvey across the message of the song which meant everything to Robert Plant.
‘All My Love’ is the one song that means the most to Plant on a personal level due to the tragic event which the track spurned from. It was written after the loss of his five-year-old son Karac in 1977 following a stomach virus. He revealed in 2018: “It was just paying tribute to the joy that [Karac] gave us as a family and, in a crazy way, still does occasionally.”
A touching moment forever remembered in the song, Plant’s vocals are tender and caring, it’s a mark of the band’s delicacy that is often overlooked which Bonham plays more than his part in delivering. Take a few minutes to listen to the absolute behemoth that is John Bonham showing the full breadth of his insane drumming skillset.