In 1968, two bands that would transform music completely were formed in England. The first one, Led Zeppelin was formed by Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant in London. The second one, Black Sabbath, was formed not very far away, in Birmingham by Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward.
Zeppelin managed to release their two first albums already in the following year, which were crucial to take Hard Rock into another level. Those albums caused a huge revolution in Rock and Roll, inspiring Black Sabbath to be even heavier, consequently creating what would be called Heavy Metal.
Over the decades those bands became two of the most influential groups that ever existed and left their mark in the history of music. Most of the musicians behind those groups already knew each other even before the bands were formed and continued to be friends after success. They have talked a lot about each other’s work over the years and the Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi even said what was the main power behind Led Zeppelin, in his opinion.
The main power behind Led Zeppelin according to Tony Iommi
Although Black Sabbath was formed in 1968, the same year as Zeppelin, the band only managed to release their groundbreaking self-titled debut album in 1970, when Jimmy Page’s group already had two records out.
Their heaviness inspired Black Sabbath, showing them that they could take their music one step further. But of course, they added a little darkness into their songs, which made them be completely different from Zeppelin. Known as the “Riffmaster”, Tony Iommi is considered one of the most prolific guitarists of all time, having written countless incredible guitar riffs that inspired many generations of musicians during the past five decades.
It could be expected that in his opinion, the main power behind Led Zeppelin would be the guitarist Jimmy Page. However, in his opinion the main power behind the band were the drums, conducted by the late legendary John Bonham.
He said that in an interview for the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006, when he was asked to talk about Led Zeppelin, that was going to be inducted that year. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage): “In some bands, guitars are the thing. But in Led Zeppelin, the drums were the main power behind the band. (Their sound) was a sort of a mixture of all sorts of stuff in there, even Reggae. Let’s put it this way… Can you imagine music without Led Zeppelin? Because I can’t!” Tony Iommi said.
Bonham and Iommi knew each other and were good friends. The drummer was even was invited by Iommi to be his best man at his wedding in the 70s.
Bonham used to be fired from bands because he played too loud according to Iommi
As Iommi said, much of the heaviness of Led Zeppelin came from Bonham’s playing. He would hit the drum kit so hard that even made his friend Bill Ward stop letting him play his kit, because Ward still couldn’t afford one before fame. Curiously, Iommi said in an interview with Guitarist Magazine in 2020, that Bonham used to get fired from bands because he played loud.
“We knew Planty and Bonham. Bonham was the best man at my first wedding. I used to knock about with him a lot. We used to play the same gigs. We’d be playing at this club and he’d be with another band.”
“‘They fired me.’ ‘What happened?’ ‘I’m too loud.’ And then he’d go with another band and get fired from them because he was too loud. He was constantly in and out of bands,” Tony Iommi said.
John Bonham loved Black Sabbath and even had a favorite song of their discography
The friendship between the groups continued over the years and Led Zeppelin even tried to get Black Sabbath to sign with their record label Swan Song in the 70s, but the deal didn’t happen.
Iommi often recalls the story of when they were recording the classic album “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” (1973) and were visited by Bonham, Plant and Jones. The drummer’s favorite song from Sabbath was “Supernaut” from the Vol. 4 (1972) album. During that session he asked to perform the track with the group. Iommi recalled that story in an interview with Classic Rock in 2016.
“We were recording in Morgan Studios in London, and John came down to see us. He brought Planty and John Paul Jones. Jimmy Page was the only one who wasn’t there. They came in and John’s going, ‘Let’s play Supernaut!’, cos he loved that song.”
“So he sat behind the kit and we started to play it. Of course, he didn’t play it right. But we just carried on and went into a jam,” Tony Iommi said. Led Zeppelin came to an end in 1980 after John Bonham’s tragic death at the age of 32. The remaining band members decided that the band couldn’t continue with him. They only reunited on some special occasions over the decades.
I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG