Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bonham "Impersonators"

If you couldn't tell by now, I am a HUGE Zep fan!  And being a drummer I can't help but be very, very critical of how drummers on the web and indeed live, approach JHB's general vibe.  I haven't seen one person who actually comes even close to understanding what that guy was all about, and I am not being opinionated I am merely being assertive.

Drummer are so caught up in having some sort of bead on what they think is happening and it's sad because the real genius of JHB (John Henry Bonham by the way)  is being missed more and more.

I've actually seen some drummers whose approach is to muscle their way through Zep tunes and when they walk away they have a sort of confidence that they've done their part justice, but they have missed the mark utterly with regards to feel and the spectrum of emotion needed.  Don't get me wrong I am not being cynical I am merely posting my observations.

What made JHB's tunes and approach great was his level of energy, not good not bad just his, and the fact that he knew those songs inside and out. If you listen to some out takes HERE you can hear John moaning and singing his part while trying to up the ante with regards to the energy of what the rest of the band is giving.

I just get a bit miffed at the drummers of today who think they could step in and fill those shoes, as Gary Burton said during my first day of attending Berklee .."Welcome to Berklee, check your ego at the door"
and if anyone knows a drummer at all you will know all about the ego....HA!!

It comes down to this.... It's not WHAT he played, rather more HOW he played it!!

If you listen to all the recordings you have of LZ both live and in studio you will hear in them some major differences being performed live versus being in the studio. Which is natural because no song should ever be played the same way twice unless your working with some mega pop star.  That whole band intrinsically knew that theory...

Jimmy Page knew the difference in what was needed to record tracks but he also knew a live audience would know that it was being "mailed in" if they stuck to the same formula, and I think they knew they wouldn't have been able to "sell" a live show based on that premise.

Some bands do go out on the road and play exactly what was recorded due to some sense of "giving the people what they want" and you know what you're going to get from their shows when you purchase the ticket.

To illustrate further I'll give you an example of what I mean, if I were to play say the Sonny Rollins tune St. Thomas which has a 4 bar drum intro, it would all depend upon how I felt at the gig... did I feel like playing a samba, baion, calypso or would I play it like the original?  But there's no way I'm going to play it the same way all the time, because it would grow stale and the audience would see my frustration immediately.
But if I am engaged in the FEEL of the song regardless of the "style" then it becomes something fresh and full of life.
I guess it would all depend on the audience, the room and how I was feeling!

Music is a living, breathing thing and cannot be constrained in what today's music business can understand which is units sold and marketing gimmicks.  Led Zeppelin innately understood what was at stake from the beginning and followed it through to the end!

I see all these drummer sites on the web and most of the time I sit back with an open jaw...saying to myself "what the _ _ _ _??? Everything is so packaged and sanitized with a sort of overview, show me a guy who's not the greatest drummer in the world but who's got feel by the truckload and then I might pay attention.
All I see is guys with headphones on and metronomes ticking away in the background which is not a bad thing if you're rockin' your own grooves BASED on the John's style which is where I live when it comes to all of this.  I might go to a blues jam and sit in with the band and they'll call a slow blues tune and wouldn't you know it I'm playing I Can't Quit You Babe or using some of John's trademark grooves in a way which fits but isn't immediately noticeable.  And to my way of thinking THAT is the art of what John was all about using your abilities in a way which enhance the people you are performing with.

At any rate I just had to get that off my chest, it's a "vibe" thing and if you're gonna pay your respects, do the man justice and do your homework.  Bonham was a natural player with his own natural touch and inspiration, and let's face it as my instructor at Berklee used to say "... You can't teach natural"
So long for now , peace!

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