When John Bonham Kicked Off a Classic ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ Track With a Little Richard Beat

by Jeremy Spirogis
Jimmy Page and John Bonham on stage

After the May 9 passing of Little Richard (1932-2020), you heard an outpouring of affection and appreciation from musicians and followers world wide. That was nothing new, in fact. Paul McCartney has been talking about Richard’s affect on The Beatles because the ’60s.

But whilst you’d anticipate Richard to affect bands that began within the late ’50s (as The Beatles did), the rock pioneer’s soulful music and general power continued exhibiting up in teams of the late ’60s and past. Led Zeppelin, the titanic pressure of ’70s exhausting rock, counted themselves amongst Richard’s followers.

That got here out clearer than ever on Led Zeppelin IV (1971), the band’s masterpiece. During the recording periods, the band hit one thing of a wall whereas engaged on “Four Sticks,” the intricate observe from facet 2.

After a break, drummer John Bonham warmed up by bashing the drum half from “Keep A-Knockin,’” the 1957 Little Richard hit that featured Charles Connor on drums. Once Jimmy Page began cranking out a riff, that they had the begin to “Rock and Roll.”

John Bonham’s explosive ‘Rock and Roll’ opening got here from ‘Keep A-Knockin”

Jimmy Page and John Bonham on stage
Led Zeppelin: Jimmy Page and John Bonham carry out reside onstage. | George De Sota/Redferns

RELATED: John Lennon Said It Was Little Richard’s ‘Howling’ That Grabbed Him Most

In Light and Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page, Brad Tolinski took readers contained in the January ’71 periods for Led Zeppelin IV with Page as his information. Page recalled Bonham smashing his manner by means of “Keep A-Knockin’” earlier than he picked up his guitar.

While Page instantly began taking part in his “Rock and Roll” riff, John Paul Jones adopted him into the jam on his bass. Meanwhile, “sixth Rolling Stone” Ian Stewart (aka “Stu”) began hammering on the piano. And Robert Plant started attempting out some vocals.

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It turned clear what to do subsequent. “Stop, let’s work on this,” Page recalled in Light and Shade. “That’s how it was going back then. If something felt right, we didn’t question it.” Given the power Zep generated on that observe, nobody might doubt the band’s strategies in these days.

Of course, a lot of the observe’s explosiveness comes straight from the drum package, the place Bonham took his trademark energy to a different stage along with his hi-hat cymbal work. And, on the shut, listeners bought a solo from the king of rock drummers.

‘Rock and Roll’ unleashed Led Zeppelin at reside reveals

Led Zeppelin on stageLed Zeppelin on stage
‘Led Zeppelin’ performs onstage on the Forum on June 3, 1973. | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

While Plant could not rank amongst rock’s nice lyricists, he took a fantastically direct strategy on “Rock and Roll.” With the throwback drums and Stewart’s boogie-woogie piano behind him, Plant sang the way it’s “Been a long time since a rock ‘n’ roll.” And it’s “Been a long time since I took a stroll.”

When he arrived on the refrain, you possibly can think about doing an Elvis impression within the mirror as an adolescent. “Been a long, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.” In 1971, you merely couldn’t include the peaking Led Zeppelin, they usually regularly exploded when taking part in this track in live performance.

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Bonham, by no means one to draw back from the highlight, would take the solo on the finish of “Rock and Roll” so far as he wished on stage. But the kinetic power of the observe made it a scorcher from begin to end.

On one event within the late ’70s, Zep had Keith Moon be a part of them on stage in Los Angeles for an particularly thunderous model of “Rock and Roll.” For followers of the music — from Little Richard by means of The Who and Led Zeppelin — it’s about pretty much as good because it will get.

RELATED: ‘When the Levee Breaks’: How Jimmy Page Recorded John Bonham’s Epic Drum Part

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