As the years went by with Led Zeppelin, and the artist tastes of all four members started spreading in different directions, it became difficult for the group to please everyone. Although it’s normal for any rock and roll outfit to disagree on occasion, Led Zeppelin’s differences of opinion had taken a stranglehold on the group and, one song in particular, John Bonham couldn’t hold back his disapproval.
Frequently, the group had to go ahead with songs that not all of the band members were necessarily on board with, especially as they began to spread their wings and step outside of their comfort zone. While their expansive sound was a key part of Led Zep’s charm, Bonham wasn’t happy to experiment if it meant he had to tone down his style and shy away from being the powerhouse fans had grown to love.
Few Led Zeppelin tracks from their spectacular repertoire split opinion in the same way as Houses Of The Holy number ‘D’yer Maker’. The semi-reggae effort’s title is a cringeworthy pun on Jamaica, and the song isn’t much better. You’d like to think Led Zeppelin were better than that title, but alas, they found it too irresistible. While some people will find a way to defend the track because, after all, it’s still Led Zeppelin, but unlike almost everything else in their canon — it completely misses the mark.
It’s not just a lot of Led Zeppelin fans who share that view about ‘D’yer Maker’, but John Bonham thought it too. “John was interested in everything except jazz and reggae,” explained bassist John Paul-Jones in Chris Welch’s biography on the drummer, John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums. “He didn’t hate jazz but he hated playing reggae – he thought it was really boring,” the bassist added.
“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.”
Bonham wasn’t alone in having reservations about the track, and Jones shared his perspective on the slower number. “The whole point of reggae is that the drums and bass really have to be very strict about what they play,” he scathingly remarked.
Led Zeppelin never once played the song live, which provides an inclination that even Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who both evidently were the driving forces behind ‘D’Yer Maker’, with their bandmates reluctantly carrying out their demands.
‘D’Yer Maker’ lacks the special ingredient that made Led Zeppelin such an irresistible force. John Bonham’s devastating capabilities at the drum kit are knee-capped on the track due to the slower pace, and without him as Led Zep’s driving force — they are missing that sting that made them so endearing.