5:02 PM GMT 17/05/2013
Jason Bonham appeared, aged eight, jamming alongside his father John in Led Zeppelin's infamous concert movie The Song Remains The Same. In 1988 he played drums for Zeppelin at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert in New York's Madison Square Garden, and again, two years later, during an impromptu jam at his wedding reception in Kidderminster.
In 2007, though, Bonham received the call to participate in Zeppelin's keenly anticipated full-blown reunion performance at the O2. Since then, he's made three albums with hard-rock trio Black Country Communion, toured with his own Led Zeppelin Experience tribute show, and joined Page, Plant and Jones at the New York premiere for Celebration Day.
"In New York this week I hugged Jimmy and said, 'Thank you'," Bonham explains. "And Jimmy said, 'No, thank you, because we couldn't have done it with anyone else." So what happens now?
Jimmy, Robert and John Paul have all said you brought them closer together. How did you do that?
I'm not sure if I did. It felt to me that those three were the ones responsible for bringing me closer to them. I felt it every time I looked up that night at the O2 and caught a glance or a smile or a wink from one of them. I'd catch Jimmy's eye and it would be like, "That's it, you're doing OK." Since I saw the film, I've now re-lived every moment of it - every glance, smile and wink.
Where does the source of tension between them stem from?
Probably from me! I was like this over-enthusiastic Led Zeppelin poster child - except I was a 40-year-old poster child. I was the guy that turned up for rehearsals with, like, a million questions: "How did you do that thing you did on the '77 tour?... Did my dad really chop up his hotel room in Tokyo?" I drove them mad. After a while they said, "Look, you are limited to one question a day!" I think that made things easier for everybody.
How did you reinterpret the parts your father played?
When I played with Led Zeppelin in '88 (for the Atlantic Records anniversary concert), I was in a very different place. I thought the world owed me a living and that I deserved to be on that stage with them. I have come through that now. I knew I needed to prove myself. I had friends that sent me every bootleg, and I sat and listened and studied. I compared and I learned the differences between, say, the '75 and the '77 versions of songs. When I came to rehearse, the others couldn't believe it when I started asking questions - "OK, do you want me to do it like my dad did it then ...or like he did it then?" But I wanted to be totally prepared. But what I discovered was that if I held back, let it come naturally and didn't try too hard to be my dad, chop for chop, John Bonham came naturally.
On the night of the show what were you thinking as you were walking towards the stage?
Fear! I was unbelievably nervous, but I was also aware of how many people probably wanted us to fail. Led Zeppelin never cared about the press, so the press at the time didn't care about them. So I knew that not everyone in that audience was backing us, or backing me. But that just made me want to make sure that everything I did that night was on the money. I wanted to make sure that if this was going to be Led Zeppelin's... er, swansong [laughs] than it was going to be a fantastic one to have.
What was the moment when you thought it would be alright?
It was after the first three songs, after Black Dog. We'd got out of the starting gate, we'd connected, so we all took a breath, and I had a drink of water. Then Jimmy started In My Time of Dying. I just remember focusing on really trying to hold it back and make it dark and dirty, like it was on the record [Physical Graffiti]. I'd listened to all the bootlegs, and the tempo was always a bit up when they played it live. So I thought if I can bring anything of my own to this I'll try and bring it back to the studio version.
Were you disappointed when Zeppelin didn't carry on?
Yes. Much as I knew it was a one-time thing, my mother said to me before hand, "Are you sure you're going to be OK walking away from this?" I said, "Yeah, I'll be fine." And, to be honest, it was hard. When you sit in that seat, it's the greatest feeling. I had a real sense of accomplishment, but even when I was playing I half expected any minute now the doors are going to open and my dad will appear and go "Oi, hop it!"
So you formed your own tribute band, The Zeppelin Experience. Why?
I had the idea at the time of the O2, but I didn't want to do anything that tarnished the memory of that gig. Then I did an album with Joe Bonamassa and Glenn Hughes called Black Country Communion. That came out, and I decided to do a handful of Zeppelin Experience shows. But I did not want to just go out and play a bunch of Zeppelin songs. I had a bunch of home movies from my mum, which we have made part of the show. So the whole thing is an emotional journey. I talk about what it was like growing up with my dad, as my whole life was Zeppelin - not just playing with them at the O2, but travelling around with them as a kid, jamming with them on several occasions. I never had a chance to tell my dad how great he was when he was alive. Now I have. We're not trying to be Led Zeppelin. We don't dress up. The guitarist isn't wearing the dragon suit. It's meant to be more of a heartfelt thing - show the home movies, and play the songs we like and that mean something to me. We just do 10 or 12 shows a year, and it's great fun.
When you watch Celebration Day what do you feel?
Proud, amazed. I wasn't sent a cut beforehand. So I watched it for the first time at the premiere in New York, with the audience cheering on the screen and the audience cheering in the room. Jimmy would break into a solo and the whole place would go nuts. It was like re-living the gig all over again.
Would you like to play with Jimmy, Robert and John Paul again?
I'd be a fool if I said, no. At the New York press conference there were three questions in a row, asking "Are you gonna do something again?" Robert didn't get the hump exactly, but he gets the hard end of the stick. So he said, "Haven't you got another question about the film itself?" But I can see why they're asking. Because when you watch the film, we all look like we are having such a great time, it's no wonder people want to know if we're going to do it again
What is stopping that from happening?
I can't say. I don't know. Let's say, it's in the lap of the gods. Everybody is actually getting along great at the moment. I've learned in the last few years that the Internet is not your best mate, and there are a few doubters out there. So the film was a great thing to watch. I know I live in the shadow of the greatest drummer in the world, so it's nice to have a bit of sunshine now and again.
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 9:45 AM GMT 01/11/2012