Given that every one of its members—English rockers Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones—were geniuses in their own right, the group is perhaps the most fortunate band in music history.
It should come as no surprise that the group quickly rose to prominence and ousted The Beatles, whose dominance had been uncontested for the better part of a decade. The band was a true collaborative powerhouse that drew together four of the most brilliant musical talents of their time.
While Led Zeppelin has many admirable traits, the late John Bonham is one of the greatest. The drum solo “Bonzo’s Montreux,” in what can only be called a masterclass, is debatably his best performance. Drumming genius Bonham, who is still important today as when he was at the height of his career, combined the jazz of seasoned musicians like Gene Krupa with a modern hard rock fire to create a distinctive sound that gave rise to many memorable songs like “Moby Dick” and “Black Dog.”
Although Bonham was unsurpassed, even by musicians like Neil Peart, he was not without technical flaws. Notably, there was one tune when he faltered. This was “Four Sticks” from Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971.
Although the piece is known for its odd time signature changes from the 5/4 beat to the 6/8 cadence, Bonham had a lot of trouble recording his part, which is reasonable given how dissimilar the rhythms of 5/4 and 6/8 are.
In his recollection of Bonham’s difficulties on “Four Sticks,” John Paul Jones went so far as to describe his one issue with the drummer’s playing. He stated:
“It took him ages to get ‘Four Sticks.’ I seemed to be the only one who could actually count things in. Page would play something and [John would] say, ‘That’s great. Where’s the first beat? You know it, but you gotta tell us…’ He couldn’t actually count what he was playing. It would be a great phrase, but you couldn’t relate it to a count. If you think of ‘one’ being in the wrong place, you are completely screwed.”
It’s worth noting that because he performed with two drumsticks in each hand, the piece came to be known as “Four Sticks.” Only two studio takes were possible since he was wielding four sticks, but Bonham did lay down the track in one of them, demonstrating his genius. Led Zeppelin played it live very sometimes because it was so difficult to execute. Even great people make mistakes.