Why Ginger Baker was John Bonham’s ultimate influence

John Bonham

Similar to goalkeepers, drummers typically play from the back, generate the most noise, and get the least recognition. Their responsibility is to maintain time while letting the singers and guitarists swing around in vibrant bursts of performance. While there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, this stereotype applies to many bands. You need a lot of charisma, virtuosity, and a creative approach to be recognised as a drummer. These qualities were abundant in the late greats Ginger Baker and John Bonham.

It’s not as important to be creative in the rhythm section as it is in other parts of a rock band. The genre’s music typically plods along in a 4/4 time signature with a few fills and breaks for impact. All well and good, but what if you were John Entwistle’s melodic bass player or Ginger Baker’s dynamic jazz sensibility?

In Baker’s opinion, Cream’s sound design featured his drumming as a key component. He did much more than just provide the band’s songs a rhythmic framework; with his notable solos and unheard-of signature transitions, he challenged Eric Clapton’s guitar mastery. Baker detested people who thought of him as a rock drummer because he was so unhappy with the 4/4 rule. He saw himself as the jazz drummer in a psychedelic rock group.

According to his peers, Baker was an exceptionally confident musician, sometimes to the detriment of harsh arrogance. Baker was a towering figure in the recent London psychedelic scene. When Bonham rose to fame with Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s, he looked up to him. Even though Bonham refrained from taking on some of Baker’s notorious character traits, he found something endearing in the drummer’s arrogant quirks.

Baker established his own guidelines and made sure to always showcase his assertive personality. “I like to be able to exclaim, ‘Oh!’ when I listen to drummers. I’ve never heard that before. In the biography of Mick Bonham, Bonham pondered. It’s far better to be authentic than to sound like someone else. The thing about Ginger Baker is that he is authentic. Therefore, attempting to emulate him is pointless.

As a drummer, Bonham drew influence from more than just Baker. The drummer Bev Bevan, best known for his work with ELO, recalled the Led Zeppelin drummer’s interest in musicians from other countries. Though he must have been influenced by Tony Meehan, Brian Bennett, and Clem Cattini’s session work, Bevan said he wasn’t sure John was a fan of British drummers. “In general, John and I had similar taste in music—all American. John and I once agreed that Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine were the two greatest rock and roll drummers.

In spite of Bevan’s assertions, Bonham held Bakr in high regard as a British competitor and a pioneer in his artistic field. Baker wrote a humble memoir titled Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Drummer, in which he recalled that Bonham consistently claimed they were at the top of the British drumming hierarchy together. According to Baker, “John Bonham once said that there were only two drummers in British rock ‘n’ roll. Himself and Ginger Baker.” This made me think, ‘You cheeky little bastard!'”

By putting himself on Baker’s level, Bonham pushed the limits of what was thought possible for rock drumming. He helped establish Led Zeppelin as a dominant force in the prog-rock and heavy metal genres alongside Jimmy Page’s inventive guitar work. Associations with the former developed through intricate compositions such as “Four Sticks,” which is the most complex because of its irregular time signatures.

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