SALT LAKE CITY ” In addition to being one of the most influential and most skilled drummers in rock history, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham also had a reputation for heavy drinking and disassembling hotel rooms when he wasn’t racing motorcycles down hotel hallways.
So it only seems natural that when asked what his memories are of Utah, Bonham’s son, Jason Bonham, points to the time his father took him to see…the Osmonds.
“Yes Dad did take me to see the Osmonds and I saw Marie Osmond with her hair in curlers which ruined the illusion at the time,” he recalled of getting to go backstage. “I remember seeing the Osmonds and it was pretty cool. They started with ‘Crazy Horses.’ They were on these wires and they came out across the audience back then, so Bon Jovi wasnt the first guy to do it.”
This time around, Bonham will be the one on the stage, and it’s bound to be a little bit bluesy, not so much country and a lot of rock-n-roll. Bonham will play at The Depot on Saturday when he brings his acclaimed Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience to town.
Obviously playing Led Zep songs is nothing new for Bonham. But this show, he said, was “totally different” from any other Zeppelin-esque project he’s done.
“This is actually better than I imagined it could be,” he said.
The Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience is 3/4 music and 1/4 talking. Bonham talks about his father and shares rare video and photographs with the audience. Recording video in the ’70s wasn’t at commonplace as is in today’s digital media era, making the clips all that more special. Bonham said his grandmother gave him footage of his father that she dug out for him to use at his show.
“This is a man that would grow up to be the Beast, the guy–Bonzo, the legendary guy that was one of the first to throw a TV set through a window. But realistically he was my dad and just an everyday guy really. So within the context of the show I talk a little about him as a personal person, you know, as a guy that I knew not so much as the guy that you know as Bonzo, but as my father. I show some of the moments we shared together which were and are, you know, very cherished now.”
Even the set list was picked with purpose for the show. Jason Bonham knows that fans want to hear the Zeppelin “hits.” But Bonham also picked songs that hold deeper meaning to him, such as the songs that represent his earliest memories of Led Zeppelin, such as “Babe I’m Going Leave You” and “You’re Time Is Going to Come.”
Whether he’s doing his Led Zeppelin Experience, playing in a cover band or playing with the actual surviving members of the band, Bonham has been associated with the iconic band his entire life. And to him, that’s perfectly fine because it connects him to his father.
“As a kid who’s 45 now, who has worshipped the ground his dad has walked on all his life, I always felt closer to dad when I get to play in his band,” Bonham said.
Bonham has played with several of classic rock’s biggest names over the years. He was playing with the revised Foreigner lineup when he got a call from his dad’s old bandmates, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
Bonham had played before with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin in special one-off shows, including a show at London’s O2 Arena in December of 2007, the first full length Zeppelin set since John Bonham’s death. The sessions with Jason Bonham, Page and Jones started soon after and rumors went wild that Robert Plant would also join and the group will go on the road for a Led Zeppelin reunion concert.
The Led Zeppelin reunion didn’t happen. But Bonham said he never really expected it would.
“I don’t ever remember it being discussed as a full blown Zeppelin reunion,” he said. “It was more of a project (Page and Jones) were working on. It was not for a Led Zeppelin tour.”
Jones and Page were working on writing new music and auditioning singers in the process, such as Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. But ultimately, they decided not to go forward, something that was very disappointing to Bonham.
“I was smiling like a Chesire Cat. I was pretty happy,” he said of the project. “It really took the wind out of me when they decided to scrap the project. I enjoyed it. I feel very close to dad when I’m with them. I think he’ll walk through the door, because whenever I’m with them that’s who I associate my dad with.”
After that project ended, it was Bonham’s mother who convinced him to carry on the music of his father.
“I always felt closer to dad when I play in his band. Now, if I can’t play in his band, I feel closer to him when I play to his fans.”
After his current run of Led Zeppelin shows is over, Bonham will be back at The Depot less than a month later, on June 11, with his new supergroup, Black Country Communion, featuring Bonham, Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa and Derek Sherinian.
“It’s really explosive. It’s fun. It’s diversity. It’s classic rock. I’m really really pleased the way it came out.”
One of the tracks off Black Country Communion’s debut album that is getting a lot of attention is “Save Me,” a song that Bonham introduced to Page and Jones as a riff while working on that project. Bonham said it was actually kind of humorous how the song has taken on a life of it’s own now and is being referred to as the “unfinished Zeppelin track.”
“It started with hands of Page and Jones. I took the jam to (Black Country Communion) and we just sat together and pieced it all together,” he said. “It’s a real talking point on the album.”