The Enduring Legacy Of John Bonham

john bonham

Glen Sobel

Alice Cooper

First Impression: “Bonham is one of the reasons I started playing drums. When I was a kid, long before I ever picked up a pair of drum sticks, I got into Rush because my friend’s older brother was into that, and then real soon after I got into Zeppelin. And those were the reasons I wanted to start playing drums. What was it about his playing? It was just so big, and lumbering, and somehow as a kid I recognized that he had this big, laidback feel, and it all just sounded so perfectly imperfect, which is the opposite of what everyone’s going for today with the computer, digital age of recording. Somehow, as an 11-year-old, I recognized something about his playing that just was bigger than life. And I wanted to do that.

“And I go through rediscovering Zeppelin and Bonham all the time, like now, this is another rediscovery period, so I’m just going to go back and listen to everything. You hear it differently as the years go by. You pick up other things, you interpret it differently. And then getting to play the songs with a great band like we’ve got, it just makes you appreciate it all the more.”

Most Important Bonham Influence: “The pattern of ‘Four Sticks.’ He’s doing eighth notes on his left foot, the whole song, and the whole song his right foot is on the upbeats, the e’s and the ah’s — that is quintessential Bonham, because from there it leads to so many of his other licks and patterns. Like the triplet [demonstrates on his thighs with feet playing opposite sixteenths], it just makes sense that that’s what that part is, and it leads to all the other Bonhamisms that are out there, like he did on the ‘Moby Dick’ solo and on so many of the songs that we love.”

Tribute Song: “Four Sticks” from Led Zeppelin IV

“It’s played with four sticks, hence the name. And this actually makes the drums sound different. If you haven’t tried this, go to your practice room, two pairs of sticks, two in each hand, see what the drums sound like, and learn the part. I mean, you will get it all of a sudden. I didn’t even do this or try this until I had to do this event. They said, ‘Well, are you going to do it with four sticks’

“I said, ‘I guess I have to.’ And it does make the drums sound more massive. It is a big difference. And you know what I did to prepare for this? In addition to knowing the structure of the song, which is unconventional and weird, I practiced with six sticks. And you know, I could see doing this in the future, if I’m with some rock artist and we’re putting a song together, maybe I’ll suggest that.”

"Four Sticks"
This song is a great showcase for Bonham's inventive grooving. He played the song with a pair of sticks in each hand — hence the song title, much like studio star Steve Gadd did a decade later on Paul Simon's great drum song "Late In The Evening." This song shifts between 5/8 and 6/8 and the drum patterns for this song employ an ostinato pattern where the hi-hat and floor tom play unisons on the numbers, and the bass drum plays on all the &'s. The mounted tom is used to outline the guitar accents with his left hand and I always thought Bonham played on all the guitar acccents (1 (2) & 4 5) but after I transcribed it I didn't hear him accenting the & of 2, it seems the guitar just stressed that count.

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