One of the greatest rock and roll drummers ever, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham left us too soon, with only 32 years old.
On 24 September 1980, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studios for a tour of North America, to begin 17 October in Montreal, Canada – the band’s first since 1977.
During the journey, Bonham asked to stop for breakfast, where he drank four quadruple vodka screwdrivers (16 shots between 400 and 560 ml, also equivalent to 9–13 American standard drinks). He then continued to drink heavily after arriving at rehearsals. The band stopped rehearsing late in the evening and then went to Page’s house, the Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor.
After midnight on Thursday, 25 September, Bonham fell asleep; someone took him to bed and placed him on his side. Led Zeppelin tour manager Benji LeFevre and John Paul Jones found him unresponsive the next afternoon. Bonham was later pronounced dead at 32 years old.
The inquest on 27 October 1980 showed that in 24 hours, Bonham had consumed around 40 shots (1–1.4 litres) of 40% ABV vodka, after which he vomited and choked (a condition known as pulmonary aspiration). The finding was accidental death.
An autopsy found no other recreational drugs in Bonham’s body. According to Rolling Stone, he was on a medication for anxiety and depression at this time. Bonham’s remains were cremated and his ashes interred on 12 October 1980, at Rushock parish church, Worcestershire.
Rather than replace Bonham, Led Zeppelin decided to stop playing together as a band. They said in a press release on 4 December 1980:
“We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” It was signed “Led Zeppelin”.
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