When you think of Led Zeppelin, the mind meanders to the evangelical and spiritual sounds they omitted. ‘Joke’ is one word that you’d never used to describe such a fearsome band, but that’s precisely what one of their songs was born from — and it ended up going a step too far.
Led Zeppelin were an ethereal rock powerhouse who didn’t become the most important group on the planet by chance or without taking themselves seriously. The beautiful blend of Jimmy Page on guitar alongside the expertly delivered bass from John Paul Jones, Robert Plant’s world-class searing vocals and underpinned by the masterful drumming of John Bonham is a recipe for the ages that took them to the top.
Due to the majestic technical talent between the four of them, Led Zep could turn their hand to any genre and turn it into something (usually) magical, but not always. On one occasion, they stepped too far outside of their wheelhouse when they pivoted into reggae. Not only is the title for the song could easily have come from a joke inside of a cheap Christmas cracker, but the track itself will send you into a cringe-induced coma.
The title of ‘D’yer Maker’ is pronounced ‘Jamaica’ in an ode to the island which inspired the track and is written in the way that locals of the Caribbean country would pronounce their native land’s name. However, this was lost to many at the time. Some even thought it was some kind of reference to the occult that Page had hidden in the track when in truth, it was just a lame joke.
John Bonham loathed it, and the rest of the band seemingly agreed with the drummer as they never performed it live even once. “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,” he added.
“He wouldn’t play anything but the same shuffle beat all the way through it,” Jones continued. The former Led Zeppelin 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.
Most of Led Zeppelin’s history is glittering, yet, ‘D’yer Maker’ is proof that even the best bands are capable of misfiring, albeit their hits far outweighed their misses. On a positive note, at least the track shows their low bar is for humour which is perplexingly admirable and explains why music, not comedy was their chosen path.