Travel back through the Mists of Chronus to a time we called 1980. Your not-yet crusty chronicler was not yet an L.A. Examiner but was in Abington, PA working his way up the editorial chain at Penn State’s second largest news publication, The Ogontz Campus News. Meanwhile, the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin was preparing for an upcoming concert tour stop in Philadelphia, PA. it was (music) business as usual . . . but all too soon that would change.
John “Bonzo” Henry Bonham, born on May 31, 1948, was, of course, the iconoclastic, thunder-bringing drummer for the hard-rock group Led Zeppelin. (The band had ruled the previous decade and any and every teenager who thought he or she was cool would praise the band whether he/she knew them or not. Led Zeppelin was the ultimate in cool and by extension so too was their drummer Bonham.)
Oddly enough, the band had orirginally formed after Jimmy Page’s previous band, the Yardbirds, had gone through a rapid, rockin’ break-up. Page suddenly and surprisingly discovered that he was still contractually-obligated to play ten concerts even if he no longer had a band. Page quickly grabbed the phone and called a few friends to save the day(s): drummer Bonham, bass player/keyboardist John Paul Jones and lead singer Robert Plant.
The ten gigs were all hits. Page and pals decided to stay together and form a new group, Led Zeppelin. Several smash-hit albums and some hit singles later–(including the well-known rock anthem “Stairway To Heaven”, of course)–Zeppelin was the biggest band anywhere. Unfortunately, some all too typical rock star behavior would all too soon change all that.
Bonham, almost as renowned a drinker as he was a drummer, was headed for his own personal coda. During an evening of especially heavy partying at Page’s place in Wndsor, England, Bonham sucked down supposedly forty shots of vodka and passed out. Bonham, in an especially inebriated state, Bonham never came to even when his stomach ejected its contents. Quite simply, on September 25th, 1980, Bonham choked to death on his own vomit.
Your not-yet crusty critic would never get to review the band’s performance in Philadelphia. Bonham, only 32, was buried at the pastoral Saint Michael’s Church Cemetary in Rushock, England. those interested in viewing his grave will find the cemetery approximately 120 miles northwest of the city of London, England. While the music and legend of Led Zeppelin would live on here in Los Angeles and, indeed, the world over, Bonham’s boisterous backbeat had reached the end.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.