The Story Of How John Bonham Almost Got To Be On Black Sabbath
John Bonham - Bent Christiansen / Youtube
The early 1970s marked the rise of hard rock, with bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin leading the charge. While both bands had their roots in blues, their musical directions differed—Zeppelin’s eclectic approach versus Sabbath’s terrifying rock sound. However, a little-known story reveals that these two iconic bands almost crossed paths, thanks to Led Zeppelin’s legendary drummer, John Bonham.
A Shared Passion for Heavy Rock
During this pivotal era, critics initially panned both Zeppelin and Sabbath, but the public rallied behind them as pioneers of heavier rock music. As Sabbath worked on their album Vol 4, John Bonham took notice of the song ‘Supernaut,’ a groovy track that captivated him. Original Sabbath drummer Bill Ward recalled:
“Bonham really loved ‘Supernaut.’ He had that song down. We were in the studio one day, and he came by. He saw I was playing the double bass drum. And he said: ‘I’ll do it on one.'”
Missed Opportunities and Musical Inspiration
Despite Bonham’s willingness to contribute, scheduling conflicts and jam sessions prevented the collaboration from materializing. Tony Iommi, Sabbath’s guitarist, lamented that the song devolved into a lengthy jam, ultimately affecting the recording session. He expressed hope that the recorded tape of this momentous encounter could still be found, showcasing the missed opportunity for a legendary musical partnership.
While the collaboration never came to fruition, the encounter left a lasting impact on both bands. Listening to the finished version of ‘Supernaut,’ one cannot help but speculate that it inspired Bonham when working on Led Zeppelin’s next album. The song’s off-kilter groove and powerful chugging sound could have served as a foundation for what Bonzo later accomplished in ‘The Ocean’ from the album ‘Houses of the Holy.’
Fond Memories of a Legendary Drummer
Although the meeting of backbeats never fully materialized, Bill Ward cherishes the memory of working with John Bonham at the session. The image of Bonham playing the intro on the hi-hat repeatedly remains etched in Ward’s mind. The late Zeppelin drummer’s bass drum work left an indelible impression, with ‘Supernaut’ becoming a precursor to the speedy and powerful bass drumming employed by hardcore bands today.