Rock music history would have been altered somewhat if Zeppelin was breaking up in 1970. Luckily, they didn`t and continued as the most popular rock band in the world for many years to come. It all ended when Bonzo left this world – the more precious are these early articles with him.
Happier than ever – says Zep
s John Bonzo` Bonham annoyed by rumours of a break-up….
By Roy Carr
John Bonham is an incredibly happy person. But if there is one thing that`s apt to annoy Led Zeppelin`s powerhouse drummer and arch-raver, it`s the rumours currently doing the rounds of the group`s impending break-up.
“I want to say here and now, that it’s all utter rubbish,” he emphasised when we met the other day.
“We’re all happier now than we have ever been. And I want everyone to know it.
“At the moment, the four of us are enjoying making our third album, and taking it easy at home in between sessions.
“Just because we are doing it all very quietly, some idiot thinks that we have packed it in, and so all those false rumours start to circulate.”
“Bonzo,” as he is affectionately known in the trade was very quick to point out, “This can really turn out very nasty. For the kids read it in the music papers, and naturally they believe it. That’s bad.”
What was originally intended as a quiet informal chat, turned into close on five hours of continuous raving around London’s West-End.
As it was a hot sticky afternoon, and past closing time, it was decided that we should find comfort in a private hostelry. So it was all down to the Cottage, which as it turned out had already been invaded by others with the same thought.
Suitably equipped with flagons of ice cold lager, John and I decided to roam down Litchfield Street, for an uninterrupted chat. As Mike the Camera followed us, John spoke eagerly about the forthcoming Led Zeppelin III album.
“On this album people are going to listen to each one of us. We are all writing so much better than before, and there will be much more inventiveness from the group as a whole.
“This time we are also doing some acoustic tracks apart from the familiar heavier stuff. You know,” he continued, “we`re all much closer than before.
“At the moment, we’ve got ten good tracks laid down, and we have yet to do a couple more. If they turn out O.K. then we’ll stick ’em on the album. The way things are going it looks as though it’s going to be a long one.
“But, again it’s only going to be a single album. We are not going to do the expected double-album thing, simply because most of these are just padded out with studio left-overs. On the Zeppelin’s albums, we only include what we all consider to be our very best material.”
Unfortunately, Bonzo couldn’t give me any songs titles because there aren’t any. It seems they don’t get around to giving their songs their official titles until they are written, recorded, and ready for release. Apparently, this is the last formality.
At this precise moment Mike the Camera came up to us and asked John to stop speaking for a few minutes, apparently this altered the structure of the facial muscles and didn’t make for good photographs. With a look of amazement he obeyed.
After playing at Pop-Stars, I then asked him about Lord Sutch and his Heavy Friends album which had been called by many “An unofficial Led Zeppelin album.”
“You must be joking. Sutch is a great bloke, but he used our friendship to sell his album. I’ll give you the full story.
“It started in the middle of last year in Los Angeles,” he began.
“We were in this club enjoying ourselves and so was Dave Sutch. Well, he came over to the table and we started talking about old-times.
“During the course of the conversation, Sutch mentions how he’s been in the business for years but never had the chance to cut an album, and that he really wanted to try and get one out in the States.
“He then asked Jimmy and myself, if we would do a few backing tracks for him. But on the complete understanding that under no circumstances would he mention our names. As we had a couple of days to spare, we agreed.
“But it now seems as though he really took-us-in. He knew the position we were in, so we did it purely as backing musicians and old friends, NOT as Zeppelin. And this is what we did, we played as session-men and not as we would in our own group.
“When we arrived at the studio, he said he mainly wanted to do souped-up versions of old rock standards. So we said O.K. that sounds fine. What we didn’t know was that when Sutch came to dub on the vocals in our absence, he had re-written entirely different lyrics so that `Lucille` became `Thumpin’ Beat’ and Roy Head’s ‘Treat Her Right’ re-appeared as ‘Baby Come Back.’ You’ve only got to play the album to spot where the other songs originated from.
“We didn’t even notice that photographs were being taken during the sessions. Everyone did that album as a special favour to Sutch, and didn’t want any credit. But as it turns out he deliberately used all the people’s names to sell the album.
“So you can believe how amazed we all were when we saw our names in bold type all over the cover.”
With all the false rumours circulating you can certainly discredit any that reach your ears about Zeppelin planning to replace Robert Plant with the electioneering Lordship.
John is very proud of Led Zeppelin and it’s achievements and rightly so. As a matter of interest he told me exactly how they came into being.
“Jimmy Page originally asked me to join the Yardbirds. In fact, Jimmy, Robert, John Paul and myself actually played in Scandinavia as the New Yardbirds.
“The group proved to be so good that there and then we all decided to start afresh with a new name. On our return to London Keith Moon came up with the name Led Zeppelin, but nobody would give us a decent booking.
“We were getting offers of £25 a night. So we went to the States for our first tour and that was it.”
Suddenly, a cloudburst cooled the the heat of the day, so we retired to the Cottage. Once back inside, Bonzo started feeding a handful of tanners into a brightly lit ‘Bally De Luxe Gold Cup” machine.
To yells of delight, Three-Of-A-Kind appeared in the score frames and the grand sum of twelve bob was John’s. But alas, lady-luck did not smile on him because the machine refused to pay up.
After much arguing with the barmaid and a rather odd Lager-swilling woman who kept on shouting and poking her nose in, we left minus John’s winnings.
A Volkeswagen Beetle isn’t designed to accommodate six, but we managed it. With the windows rolled down we sped through Soho shouting words of admiration to all the many gorgeous young girls in their flimsy summer dresses.
Arriving at the Coach & Horses we were re-joined by publicist Bill Harry in company with the debonair Stan Webb of Chicken Shack fame and his manager Harry Simmonds.
Suddenly Bonzo spied a poster advertising the appearance of Eric Clapton. So with glasses held high we all posed in front of it as the moment was captured for posterity on film.
On the subject of film, John spoke about the forthcoming Led Zeppelin movie.
“It will probably be an hour long semi-documentary and will include footage from the Royal Albert Hall concert.
“One of the highlight’s of the film will be a sequence featuring my 4-year-old son Jason playing his drums.
“He’s got a completely scaled down replica of my kit, and believe me he can already play them.”
John is very proud of his offspring, and his biggest ambition is to have Jason play on stage with Zeppelin at the Royal Albert Hall. But before that there is their appearance at the Bath Festival.
“To put a complete end to all the break-up rumours. Anyone who goes to Bath will see and hear Led Zeppelin play as they’ve never heard us play before.
“We are really looking forward to that gig. In fact we are quite excited. It’s going to be a fantastic day, I can assure you.”