Book review: BEAST – JOHN BONHAM & THE RISE OF LED ZEPPELIN by CM Kuskins

 

BEAST – JOHN BONHAM & THE RISE OF LED ZEPPELIN by CM Kuskins

Hachette [Publication date 30.09.21]

John Bonham had drumming in his blood it seems, having first learned to play the drums at the age of five. Despite never taking formal lessons, he began drumming for local bands immediately after leaving secondary school. After a series of bands in the 60’s he joined the Yardbirds/New Yardbirds – at the behest of Jimmy Page, who owned the Yardbirds name – which became Led Zeppelin and the rest is rock n roll history as they say.

Kushkins has written a very thorough and informative biography on the life and musical career of John Bonham. Written in chronological order it does over often told rock n roll excesses of the band, whilst revealing some lesser known ones. One example was Bonham being best man at Tony Iommi’s wedding. Bonham had to be helped to bed the night before and Iommi feared his best man would not turn up the next day, however, he did and looked refreshed and ready. Possibly helped by frequent top ups of cocaine which the rock musicians at the wedding used a lot, unbeknownst to the brides’ family! Later on the wedding reception Iommi’s mother saved the day offering to take the rock musicians back to her house for a few drinks, as the wedding was running on apple juice only!

Reading this and other tales of rock ‘n’ roll excess throughout the book you do wonder if it all did take a massive toll on John Bonham. He was plagued by alcoholism and was never shy of a drug or two, yet he was immensely proud of his daughter Zoe and son Jason and being away on long tours can’t have been good for his state of mind. If there is one little quibble with this book it is that the music is covered very well, but a little bit more about what made John Bonham tick would have given the reader perhaps more insight into this drumming behemoth. Hard this long after this death perhaps as only his sister, Deborah, is still alive of his three siblings.

Dave Grohl states in his foreword “To me, the test of a great drummer comes from this short five second exercise. Close your eyes, hit play, and if you can name them in that time, then they have achieved their ‘sound’. A sonic signature.” Dave Grohl nails it right there. John Bonham had his own unique style and sound, still admired and copied to this day, some forty odd years since his death. He was only thirty two when he died.

A fitting tribute to the life and music of John Bonham, one of the rock ‘n’ roll’s finest drummers.

Review by Jason Ritchie




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