John Bonham had a masterful eye for precision and he seldom missed the mark, even marginally. Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant is among the late drummer’s most devoted celebrators, yet, even he once recalled a time when ‘Bonzo’ was still finding his sound and was often guilty of “overplaying”.
The relationship between Plant and Bonham pre-dated their days with Zeppelin. While the marauding singer was fronting The Crawling Kingsnakes at a show at Birmingham’s The Old Hill Plaza in 1965, he spotted the drummer in the crowd and took exception to the look of discontent on his face.
Plant later remembered, “So I was playing at the Plaza and saw this guy in the crowd looking up, sort of scowling, he said to me ‘you’re alright, but you’d be a lot better if you had the best drummer in the world behind you'”. Remarkably, Plant took him up on the offer and proposed an audition. The only issue was that Bonham lived in Redditch, which was 25-miles away, but, as long as he could make his way to Kidderminster, then the position in the band could be his.
That chance meeting at the Plaza would begin a legendary creative partnership. However, it took a while for the wheels to get in motion. Although Bonham did join The Kingsnakes, the group didn’t pull up any trees and soon split.
Shortly after, the duo briefly parted ways, with Plant joining the Walsall-based group, Listen, who released a few singles before calling it a day. He then moved on to The Band of Joy, and when they needed a drummer in 1966, he called upon Bonham.
Even by Plant’s admission, he and Bonham were yet to refine their talents. Reflecting on the group during an episode of his podcast, Digging Deep, the singer referred to their sound as “very muscular” and discussed why it didn’t work out for them. “I was really over-singing nonstop,” he said. “And ‘Bonzo’ was overplaying like crazy, trying to get a gig with anybody else. [He was] trying to escape from me if he could, to go anywhere, at anytime.”
Although The Band of Joy were another short-lived project, it would lead to the creation of Led Zeppelin. Word had spread to Jimmy Page about Plant’s celestial abilities, and after The Yardbirds fell apart, he recruited the singer for his next venture.
Despite Plant saying that Bonham “overplayed” while they were in The Band Of Joy, he left a strong enough impression on his bandmate to recommend him to Page, and along with John Paul Jones, they would leave a shuddering mark on rock music that is still visible today.