Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s bizarre final TV appearance recorded just weeks before his death
Led Zeppelin’s late and great drummer, John Bonham, was an unstoppable force like no other, the definition of a powerhouse percussionist. Having sadly passed away in 1980 in tragic circumstances, the void he left was too much for the band to replace and with it brought an end to Zeppelin. Just weeks before he passed away, Bonham made a television appearance on children’s TV show Alright Now — which was bizarre and awkward in equal measure.
The interview would mark Bonham’s last ever appearance on television before his untimely passing and it was a very strangely conducted interview, one which was too short to really get started and stopped Bonham from ever getting into full flow. The footage later became a somewhat notorious clip due to its disastrous nature and, despite the bittersweet tone of proceedings, it’s worth watching once more.
The episode was hosted by the comedian Billy Connolly with other guest hosts in the series including the likes of Suzi Quatro, Bob Geldof, Phil Lynott and Bill Oddie, which was quite the rock ‘n’ roll line-up. The short-lived show, which only survived two series, welcomed up and coming acts coupled up with established acts but the formula of the programme was a work-in-progress which meant that there were hits and misses with the Bonham interview falling into the latter.
Billy Connolly didn’t treat Bonham with the kind of respect one of the greatest drummer’s of all time deserved, instead he attempted to make himself the star of the segment rather than his acclaimed guest who had travelled up to Newcastle to be part of proceedings. Connolly introduces the segment by saying: “We’ve pulled an absolute coup on this show, because we’re probably gonna do the only interview John Bonham’s ever done, mind you, when you see it you’ll probably realise why it’s the only one ever done”. It’s a fair assessment of the calamitous television that’s about to unfold.
Bonham is in a painfully shy mood and looks uncomfortable with the audience full of teens behind him, Connolly opens the interview by asking the drummer whether he thinks he is the greatest drummer on earth to which he humbly states: “Not at all”.
The Led Zep drummer didn’t really cooperate too much with the expectations of live television and refrained from giving full sentence answers that just make viewing the footage an extra painful experience. Bonham seems incredibly anxious in the surroundings and it’s more of a comedy sketch at the drummer’s expense rather than any kind of solid interview.
Despite it being such a tortuous interview to watch, it is a fascinating insight into Bonham at that time so soon before his tragic death. Although he did seem nervous, Bonham definitely also seemed sober and it’s remarkable to think it would be only a matter of weeks before we would lose arguably the greatest drummer of all time.