His playing was as loud as thunder and as fast as lightning. John Bonham of Led Zeppelin was arguably the greatest of rock-and-roll drummers. When Rolling Stone asked its readers in 2011 to name the greatest drummer of all time, Bonham won by a landslide. Drummerworld says of his playing:
Imitators are usually left frustrated, since Bonham made it look so easy–not only in his playing but also in the incredible drum sound he achieved. His legendary right foot (on his bass pedal) and lightning-fast triplets were his instant trademark. He later refined his style from the hard skin-bashing approach to a more delicate wrist-controlled one–which produced an even more powerful and louder sound with less effort.
Bonham’s later playing is on display in this isolated drum track (above) from “Fool in the Rain,” a single from the 1979 album In Through the Out Door, the last album released by Zeppelin before Bonham’s death in 1980. The recording above includes about one-third of the entire drum track, ending just before the samba-style breakdown in the middle.
Bonham is playing a variant of the half-time Purdie Shuffle, a pattern developed by the legendary session drummer Bernard Purdie, who began playing it when he was a youngster trying to imitate the dynamics of a train. “The way a locomotive kind of pushes and pulls,” Purdie said in a 2011 MusicRadar interview, “that’s what I was feeling.”
Variations of the Purdie Shuffle can be heard across popular music. Purdie himself played it on Steely Dan’s “Home at Last.” More recently, Death Cab for Cutie’s Jason McGerr played it on “Grapevine Fires.” Perhaps the most famous variation is the so-called “Rosanna Shuffle” played by the late Jeff Porcaro of Toto on the single “Rosanna,” which blended elements of Purdie’s original shuffle, Bonham’s “Fool in the Rain” pattern and the Bo Diddley Beat.
For more on Bernard Purdie and his trademark shuffle, see the 2009 video below from the New York Times. In the accompanying article, David Segal writes: “Created with six bass, high-hat and snare tones, the Purdie Shuffle is a groove that seems to spin in concentric circles as it lopes forward. The result is a Tilt-a-Whirl of sound, and if you can listen without shaking your hips, you should probably see a doctor.”
via That Eric Alper