The faults to be found in Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue are few and far between. Yet, despite that, there was one song that drummer John Bonham held a disdain for, desperately wishing that the band never released as it. In truth, the track didn’t suit anyone in the group, and it proved to be a moment to forget.
An asset that made Led Zeppelin such a powerhouse was their daring nature. They were brazen and unafraid to test themselves in areas that made other groups cower. More often than not, they would swim rather than sink at every new juncture that they experimented with. However, it was not always the case, and on one occasion, Bonham’s heart was never invested from the very beginning of the creative process.
Houses Of The Holy’s quasi-reggae track, ‘D’yer Maker’ contains a title that doubles up as a cringe-inducing pun on the word ‘Jamaica’, which sets the tone for the effort. In truth, it completely misses the mark, and Bonham knew from the start that this wasn’t their area of expertise.
Of course, Bonham wasn’t alone in this school of thought, and the majority of fans have long thought the same. Interestingly, it didn’t emerge until after his death that he had problems with the song after his bandmate John Paul-Jones recollected the drummer’s complaints. “John was interested in everything except jazz and reggae,” Jones explained in Chris Welch’s biography, John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums. “He didn’t hate jazz but he hated playing reggae – he thought it was really boring.
“He wouldn’t play anything but the same shuffle beat all the way through it,” Jones told the biographer. The Led Zeppelin founding member even went as far as to add that Bonham “hated” the song. Jones continued: “It would have been all right if he had worked at the part, [but] he wouldn’t, so it sounded dreadful.”
Perhaps, Jones has a point, and Bonham’s off-kilter drumming is what toxified the song, but it was hardly a glimmering performance from any of the members truthfully. Meanwhile, in 1977, Jimmy Page addressed the controversy surrounding the song following the cold reception it received from fans and critics alike. “I didn’t expect people not to get it,” Page explained. “I thought it was pretty obvious. The song itself was a cross between reggae and a ’50s number, ‘Poor Little Fool’, Ben E. King’s things, stuff like that. I’ll tell you one thing, ‘The Song Remains The Same’ was going to be an instrumental at first. We used to call it ‘The Overture’.”
He then explained why they never performed it live, adding: “We couldn’t. There were too many guitar parts to perform with.”
What made Led Zeppelin such an elegant force of nature was that all four members of the group were arguably the most gifted in the world in their specific roles. However, when one person didn’t bring their A-game, like Bonham in this case, that dynamism dissipated, and Led Zeppelin were bereft of that special sparkle that usually illuminated their work.