Saturday, September 25, 2010

Led Time For Bonzo - Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of John Bonham's Death with My 10 Favorite Led Zeppelin Songs

I can still recall seeing the full-page ad at left in the Chicago Tribune on September 25, 1980, advertising four Led Zeppelin concerts at the Chicago Stadium, with tickets--amazingly topping out at just $15 for the biggest band in the world--available only by mail order.

A few weeks shy of turning 12, I was already a big Zeppelin fan, but not quite a concertgoer. It wouldn't have mattered anyhow, for that same day, 30 years ago today, the band's powerhouse drummer, John Bonham, died at the age of 32. After ingesting 40 shots of vodka in the previous 24 hours, he wound up choking on his own vomit. Not exactly a lovely way to go.

Devastated by the death of 'Bonzo,' who knew Robert Plant and Jimmy Page before the band was formed, Led Zeppelin canceled their Fall 1980 tour and, except for a handful of special events, would never again play together .

You can read a bit more about the circumstances at, where I found the ad at left and which sells unused tickets from the Chicago Stadium concert.

As Led Zeppelin has always remained one of my favorite bands, with remastered recordings, newly released live albums and their phenomenal DVD set serving only to remind me of not only how great they were, but to illustrate their astonishing power as a concert act. They are the one band I wish I had seen live in their prime, even more than the Beatles, but I am content that despite sounding great at a reunion gig with John Bonham's son Jason taking his dad's place on drums (as demonstrated by this Stairway to Heaven clip), the band has not toured as sixtysomethings. Though if they do, I'll be there. (And I did see Page & Plant twice and Plant solo several times.)

But in remembering the sad significance of this date, I give you:

My 10 Favorite Led Zeppelin Songs
Most of these are live clips, not just because they're more readily found on YouTube, but because they showcase the Zep's mammoth live power. A "Playlist" clip, with all 10 videos playing sequentially, is below my countdown.

10. The Ocean

9. What Is and What Should Never Be

8. Houses of the Holy - a slim choice over Trampled Underfoot

7. Stairway to Heaven - Almost too ubiquitous in my youth, and the lyrics are silly, but I can't deny its power

6. Kashmir

5. Black Dog

4.Over the Hills and Far Away

3. The Song Remains The Same

2. Immigrant Song

1. Rock and Roll

Playlist video including all 10 above:

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