Like many flippant schoolkids, we spent far too much time here in the Far Out offices proposing unlikely and unholy musical competitions. For example, who would win in a Sex Pistols gobbing battle royale? Or, would GWAR and KISS ever go on a comic book adventure of hi-jinx? But we never debate who the most powerful drummer in rock and roll is. That’s because the answer is always, always, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
There is simply no better way to witness this power than by listening to the isolated drum track for one of Led Zeppelin’s most famous songs, ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The song is a bastion of what made Zeppelin such a monstrous band. In each corner of the ring they can boast one of the best players in their field. John Paul Jones is a devastating bass player, Jimmy Page is naturally one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Robert Plant is the archetypal rock singer and John Bonham is simply a beast. Put it all together and you have a monster of rock.
The legendary Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham, may have left this earth too soon but he sure did make an impression when he was here. As part of the four horsemen of heavy rock, Bonham carved out a very special place in history for himself, the most powerful drummer in rock music. It’s a title he defended with every new release or new performance and can be heard most definitely in the clip below.
From the band’s earliest beginnings Bonham helped to define their sound. While previous iconic drummers had always relied on precision and technique, Bonham was a powerhouse. In comparison to some of his drumming compatriots, acts like Cream and The Beatles, Bonham offered a different approach to the art. Ringo Starr promoted a more idiosyncratic way of performing, Ginger Baker was a madman behind the kit and Bonham took Led Zep down his own path.
On the band’s standout song, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, we find the intelligence that propels Bonham’s engine. One of the band’s best tracks simply because of the synergy they possess. The song is equal parts brilliant as Robert Plant’s vocal soars, Page’s guitar rears its head like a snorting stallion and John Paul Jones provides a chugging rhythm. All as Bonham adds his unique power to the song.
While it may not be written up as one of John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham’s best songs for the band, it does see him perform his role with aplomb, laying down the rhythm like a pneumatic groove machine. He will go down in the rock and roll history books as easily one of the best. The world may never have got to witness the sheer power and precision of his percussion, a perfect example of which is on this clip.
Before his untimely death in 1980, Bonham 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. Here, you can listen to that crashing construction through John Bonham’s isolated drum track.
Arriving around the 40-second mark, Bonham delivers a seemingly simple fill before toying with his audience. He dangles the dreams of a heavy-hitting finish and boy does he not disappoint. Listen below and bow down to John Bonham’s power on ‘Whole Lotta Love’.