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Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin

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The first full-length narrative biography of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest drummers in rock history, and a genuine wild man of epic (and sadly fatal) proportions.   Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin is the first-ever biography of the iconic John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest The first full-length narrative biography of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest drummers in rock history, and a genuine wild man of epic (and sadly fatal) proportions.   Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin is the first-ever biography of the iconic John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) rock drummer of all time. Bonham first learned to play the drums at the age of five, and despite never taking formal lessons, began drumming for local bands immediately upon graduating from secondary school. By the late 1960s, Bonham was looking for a more solid gig in order to provide his growing family with a more regular income. Meanwhile, following the dissolution of the popular blues rock band The Yardbirds, lead guitarist Jimmy Page sought the company of new bandmates to help him record an album and tour Scandinavia as the New Yardbirds. A few months later, Bonham was recruited to join the band who would eventually become known as Led Zeppelin-and before the year was out, Bonham and his three bandmates would become the richest rock band in the world.   In their first year, Led Zeppelin released two albums and completed four US and four UK concert tours. As their popularity exploded, they moved from ballrooms and smaller clubs to larger auditoriums, and eventually started selling out full arenas. Throughout the 1970s, Led Zeppelin reached new heights of commercial and critical success, making them one of the most influential groups of the era, both in musical style and in their approach towards the workings of the entertainment industry. They added extravagant lasers, light shows, and mirror balls to their performances; wore flamboyant and often glittering outfits; traveled in a private jet airliner and rented out entire sections of hotels; and soon become the subject of frequently repeated stories of debauchery and destruction while on tour. In 1977, the group performed what would be their final live appearance in the US, following months of rising fervor and rioting from their fandom. And in September of 1980, Bonham-plagued by alcoholism, anxiety, and the after-effects of years of excess-was found dead by his bandmates.   To this day, Bonham is posthumously described as one of the most important, well-known, and influential drummers in rock, topping best of lists describing him as an inimitable, all-time great. As Adam Budofsky, managing editor of Modern Drummer, explained, "If the king of rock 'n' roll was Elvis Presley, then the king of rock drumming was certainly John Bonham."


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The first full-length narrative biography of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest drummers in rock history, and a genuine wild man of epic (and sadly fatal) proportions.   Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin is the first-ever biography of the iconic John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest The first full-length narrative biography of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest drummers in rock history, and a genuine wild man of epic (and sadly fatal) proportions.   Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin is the first-ever biography of the iconic John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) rock drummer of all time. Bonham first learned to play the drums at the age of five, and despite never taking formal lessons, began drumming for local bands immediately upon graduating from secondary school. By the late 1960s, Bonham was looking for a more solid gig in order to provide his growing family with a more regular income. Meanwhile, following the dissolution of the popular blues rock band The Yardbirds, lead guitarist Jimmy Page sought the company of new bandmates to help him record an album and tour Scandinavia as the New Yardbirds. A few months later, Bonham was recruited to join the band who would eventually become known as Led Zeppelin-and before the year was out, Bonham and his three bandmates would become the richest rock band in the world.   In their first year, Led Zeppelin released two albums and completed four US and four UK concert tours. As their popularity exploded, they moved from ballrooms and smaller clubs to larger auditoriums, and eventually started selling out full arenas. Throughout the 1970s, Led Zeppelin reached new heights of commercial and critical success, making them one of the most influential groups of the era, both in musical style and in their approach towards the workings of the entertainment industry. They added extravagant lasers, light shows, and mirror balls to their performances; wore flamboyant and often glittering outfits; traveled in a private jet airliner and rented out entire sections of hotels; and soon become the subject of frequently repeated stories of debauchery and destruction while on tour. In 1977, the group performed what would be their final live appearance in the US, following months of rising fervor and rioting from their fandom. And in September of 1980, Bonham-plagued by alcoholism, anxiety, and the after-effects of years of excess-was found dead by his bandmates.   To this day, Bonham is posthumously described as one of the most important, well-known, and influential drummers in rock, topping best of lists describing him as an inimitable, all-time great. As Adam Budofsky, managing editor of Modern Drummer, explained, "If the king of rock 'n' roll was Elvis Presley, then the king of rock drumming was certainly John Bonham."

30 review for Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin

  1. 4 out of 5

    *TUDOR^QUEEN* (on hiatus)

    Four Stars I remember after The Beatles had just broken up in 1970 my older brother bringing home a Led Zeppelin album and saying that this band was going to be the next big thing. I never was much enamoured of them, but enjoyed listening to my brother's band belt out Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", white strobe lights pulsating, in a local club in the early eighties. Then I purchased a Led Zeppelin boxed set in the 90's for my husband, which I lightly borrowed- but it wasn't a huge favorite. I admi Four Stars I remember after The Beatles had just broken up in 1970 my older brother bringing home a Led Zeppelin album and saying that this band was going to be the next big thing. I never was much enamoured of them, but enjoyed listening to my brother's band belt out Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", white strobe lights pulsating, in a local club in the early eighties. Then I purchased a Led Zeppelin boxed set in the 90's for my husband, which I lightly borrowed- but it wasn't a huge favorite. I admit I am mesmerized watching old concert footage of a beautiful, young Jimmy Page making guitar god moves in black velvet embroidered stage outfits. But when all is said and done, I am more mystified and intrigued by the tragedies that befell this group, along with Jimmy Page's interest in the occult, and how the band ceased to be after the untimely early death of its drummer, John Bonham. After watching a recent Dan Rather interview with Robert Plant, it sparked my interest in them again and I've been purchasing kindle books on Led Zeppelin and its individual band members to delve into their history further. So when I saw this offering I jumped at the chance to read it. I came to this book only knowing that John Bonham died from alcohol intoxication / choking on his own vomit in his sleep. After reading this biography, his early death seems inevitable. He grew up in Birmingham, England, and had a very strong sense of home. He hated to leave it. He met his wife Pat when they were teenagers, and she was soon pregnant and they married quickly. He loved her intensely and never strayed from her. They first had a son Jason, and years later, a daughter named Zoe. John Bonham's father "Jacko" owned a construction company, and John and his brother Mick both worked there. John would be doing carpentry work for his father's business during the day, and play drums late into the night with various bands. He had his wife and son to support, so he had to make sure he had a regular job for security. Although he was a great and inventive drummer, sometimes his drumming was so loud and powerful he would get kicked out of bands. Robert Plant lived in the same area known as "Black Country" and they were friends before they were ever famous. Jimmy Page was in The Yardbirds and was also a hard working session guitarist. When The Yardbirds were reaching its demise, Page was looking to create his own band. When bassist John Paul Jones heard that Page was creating this band, he asked if he could join. Jones was also a well known session musician, but much more than that. His biggest, time-consuming job was creating arrangements for studio recordings of the musical outfits that hired him. It was an overwhelming job, and he just wanted to get out and play with a band. Bonham was already touring with a band and making a regular guaranteed income, which wife Pat much approved of. So it was a leap of faith and a blessing when she agreed for John to join this newly created band which would at first tour as "The New Yardbirds", because The Yardbirds contractually still had a tour booked to fulfill. At the end of these remaining gigs, they changed their name officially to Led Zeppelin. This name came about when rumors spread about Page scouring the music scene for promising young musicians. Drummer for The Who Keith Moon predicted that Page's ambition to expand the scope of hard rock would "go down like a lead balloon", while bassist John Entwistle corrected his band colleague: it would "go down like a lead Zeppelin". John Bonham became famous for his 15-30 minute drum solos which were never boring. He originally named them "Pat's Delight" after his wife, but was later renamed "Moby Dick". He even used just his bare hands at times during these solos, as well as incorporated sonic accents. He preferred Ludwig drum kits, and a new one was delivered to Headley Grange, a small Hampshire manor (purportedly haunted) where Zeppelin recorded some of their albums. Not wanting to transport this large drum kit upstairs to other floors, the kit was assembled in the massive entrance hallway in front of the spiral staircase. This turned out to be a fortuitous accident as it created an incredible drum sound on "When the Levee Breaks". When Led Zeppelin started making huge money, they had to stay out of England a certain amount of days for tax shelter reasons. This turned out to be a huge problem for Bonham. He was a homebody, and missed his wife and kids desperately. He drank heavily and got into loads of trouble trashing hotel rooms and getting into fights with people. Reading about these incidents was very disturbing for all the senseless destruction that took place in various hotels. Bonham also became famous for attending other band's concerts and insisting on taking over the drums. In some cases, it really ruined a special evening for the band involved, especially if Bonham was in a drunken and dangerous state. There was another horrible story about how Bonham walked up to an older gentleman on a plane and ripped off and smashed his glasses for no reason at all. However, when Robert Plant's 5-year old son Karac suddenly died from a stomach ailment, Bonham was there to comfort him. Likewise, when Bonham died, Robert was tasked with breaking the tragic news to his long time friend's wife and family. This is the first book I've ever read about Led Zeppelin, and learned a lot. It focused mainly on John Bonham, but also touched on the individual band members and the detailed creation of each of their albums. It was a long and lush read of a very iconic rock band and its amazingly talented drummer. Thank you to the publisher Hachette Books for providing an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    John Bonham rightly so was one of the most controversial figures of Rock and Roll. This biography is for the most part a biography of Led Zeppelin, but with Bonzo as the focus. Bonham's early years in the Birmingham area begin the book, including his early fascination with drumming and the family business of construction. As a teenager, Bonham played with every band in town. At 17, he became a husband and a father rather quickly, beginning a lifelong devotion to his family, the separation from w John Bonham rightly so was one of the most controversial figures of Rock and Roll. This biography is for the most part a biography of Led Zeppelin, but with Bonzo as the focus. Bonham's early years in the Birmingham area begin the book, including his early fascination with drumming and the family business of construction. As a teenager, Bonham played with every band in town. At 17, he became a husband and a father rather quickly, beginning a lifelong devotion to his family, the separation from which during the massive world tours, left him with nothing but frustration and an appetite for inebriated destruction unparalleled by anyone in rock history. This painstakingly researched book spends its time tracing the originality of Bonham's drumming and the production of each album and the solos in concert. Nevertheless, there is no candycoating the out of control beast that Bonham became on the road, leaving wrecked hotel rooms, bloody walls, and never ending fights. His appetite for booze surpassed that of many rugby teams. A picture is painted here of a tormented maestro with undeniable talent, but who drowned in the excesses of stardom. Get your accompanying playlist ready. It will come in useful as the author discusses various songs and you need to hear what is being described.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristie Kelty

    4 1/2 stars. I spent countless hours as a teenager listening to Led Zeppelin (and I still do) so this book was a good one for me. Led Zeppelin is one of the bands I wish I could go back in time to see live I was still too young for concerts when John Bonham died and without him, Led Zeppelin could never be the same since each member brought their own special magic to the band to make them who they were. Sadly, Bonham is one of way too many talented artists taken far too soon.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gary Regan

    2.5 STARS: Led Zeppelin is to my mind the best band of all time and John Bonham is the best drummer by a slight margin over Keith Moon of the Who. This book is a fairly accurate of a rendition of the band and Bonham's roll in it. Just that I've read all of it somewhere else with less heavy handness in other books.  John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin is the first-ever biography of the iconic John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) rock drummer of all 2.5 STARS: Led Zeppelin is to my mind the best band of all time and John Bonham is the best drummer by a slight margin over Keith Moon of the Who. This book is a fairly accurate of a rendition of the band and Bonham's roll in it. Just that I've read all of it somewhere else with less heavy handness in other books.  John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin is the first-ever biography of the iconic John Bonham, considered by many to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) rock drummer of all time. , Bonham and his three band mates would become the richest rock band in the world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    C.G. Twiles

    This is an exhaustively and meticulously researched biography of John Bonham, the talented and legendary drummer for Led Zeppelin. Zep Heads, especially those in awe of Bonham in particular, should find this book quite satisfactory. For the first quarter of the book, I found Bonham's continual striving to become a professional drummer, and his inexhaustible efforts to find a band that would become successful, quite admirable. He came from a working class family in a small northern British town, This is an exhaustively and meticulously researched biography of John Bonham, the talented and legendary drummer for Led Zeppelin. Zep Heads, especially those in awe of Bonham in particular, should find this book quite satisfactory. For the first quarter of the book, I found Bonham's continual striving to become a professional drummer, and his inexhaustible efforts to find a band that would become successful, quite admirable. He came from a working class family in a small northern British town, and this wasn't exactly an easy task. He suffered many many many years of failure and rejection before managing to meet Robert Plant on the club scene in Birmingham, and once he became the singer for Jimmy Page's new project - which would become Zep - Page himself, and then become drummer for the new band, which was almost instantly successful. The problem is that as Bonham becomes more and more successful, he also becomes more and more of an egregious human being. There is no doubt the man was a raving alcoholic, and I'm sure that did not help matters. Bonham does not seem happy unless he is making others miserable. He assaults both men and women. He screams at people. He destroys hotel rooms. He charges the stages of other bands. He very often drives drunk and "plays chicken" with other cars - driving in the wrong lane and only veering out of the lane at the last second. And I can't stop thinking about the poor female reporter that he apparently tried to rape before the gargantuan Peter Grant (the band's tough as nails manager) pulled him off her. The woman had been sent by Life magazine to cover the band, and that was her "reward" for it. The book devolves into tales of this kind of behavior, it becomes monotonous, and unfortunately, it made me thoroughly dislike Bonham. (And don't get me started on Jimmy Page, who has a sexual affair with a 14 year old when he's in his late 20s) The author offers no judgment on this behavior - and I'm not saying that is a biographer's job, it's not - however, the word choices in describing this behavior make it very clear that this is all considered just rock n roll. "Antics," "pranks," "games," etc is used to describe behavior that would land most of us in prison. By the time Bonham drinks himself to death at 32 years old, I breathed a sigh of relief that he passed on without killing someone else.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, but after reading Beast and learning how they developed as musicians, and how creative they were, made me go back and listen to many of their songs again. To be honest, I never read about bands, I just enjoyed the music. So other than hearing how some bands destroyed the hotel rooms, smashed instruments on stage, I never paid attention to those things. I paid attention to the music. John Bonham was a total surprise. He spent his early years working at the fami I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, but after reading Beast and learning how they developed as musicians, and how creative they were, made me go back and listen to many of their songs again. To be honest, I never read about bands, I just enjoyed the music. So other than hearing how some bands destroyed the hotel rooms, smashed instruments on stage, I never paid attention to those things. I paid attention to the music. John Bonham was a total surprise. He spent his early years working at the family construction company while playing locally with any band he could, from swing bands to blues to rock. He married his sweetheart at age 17 when she became pregnant and they were the center of his universe. From the beginning he seemed a little wild, but always focused on his music and his family. Once Led Zeppelin formed, they quickly became successful, and just kept getting better. At the same time, the stress increased, they were upset with their coverage by the press, and John resented the lack of understanding when it came to his prowess on the drums. And for a homebody like John, the extensive touring just about tore him apart, leading to excessive drinking and outbursts of violence, thus earning the nickname the Beast for his darkest periods. Sober, he was a gentle, generous man; drunk he was violent. I liked the anecdotes that showed the different sides of John, how he could charm people with his personality, but also how destructive he could be. His fear of flying, his anxiety before going on stage, and his love of building things and raising show bulls. This book just gave me so much insight into his prowess as a drummer, his devotion to his family, and his insecurities. I received an advanced reader copy from Hatchette Books and NetGallery;this is my honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Trenton Remme

    John Henry Bonham, the thunder behind one of the most prolific rock groups, Led Zeppelin. One of the first bands to be classified as Heavy Metal, who took the 70s' by storm with their wailing guitars and mythical themes, but what really set Zeppelin apart from their peers was the powerhouse seated behind the throne, Bonzo. A true master of the craft with his solid pocket, incredible footwork, and infectious grooves, it's no surprise why his influence continues to inspire future generations to pi John Henry Bonham, the thunder behind one of the most prolific rock groups, Led Zeppelin. One of the first bands to be classified as Heavy Metal, who took the 70s' by storm with their wailing guitars and mythical themes, but what really set Zeppelin apart from their peers was the powerhouse seated behind the throne, Bonzo. A true master of the craft with his solid pocket, incredible footwork, and infectious grooves, it's no surprise why his influence continues to inspire future generations to pick up the sticks. However, outside of Bonzo's drumming accolades, the countless memoirs published throughout the years seem to only capture his drunken escapades and untimely demise, until now. Finally, we get the tell-all tale of the larger-than-life persona. Beginning with his miracle birth, and teenage escapades throughout his hometown Birmingham. As well as Bonzo's numerous projects, with personal stories, shared with prior bandmates and friends who had the opportunity to befriend the gentle giant. In addition, the author also touches on John's more intimate details, such as his marriage to Pat, and his life as a father while being a rock legend. As well as Bonzo's darker side, which was brought out through excessive drinking and isolation while touring, and led to his eventual downfall. The author shares all the details and gives us a closer glimpse into the legend behind Led Zeppelin, with an unbiased viewpoint but a definite appreciation for uncovering just who was John Bonham.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Paolucci

    A perfectly written story of John's life. My only gripe is that the photos are quite underwhelming. There's not a lot and the ones there are kind of random. Would've liked to see more of John's youth, more photos of his family, but just more in general would've been nice. A perfectly written story of John's life. My only gripe is that the photos are quite underwhelming. There's not a lot and the ones there are kind of random. Would've liked to see more of John's youth, more photos of his family, but just more in general would've been nice.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Musher

    This book looked very promising but unfortunately it borrows heavily from other sources. Even more unfortunate is that one of those sources is Richard Cole. Content from previously published books was lifted and inserted liberally here. At times I truly felt as though I was re-reading Mick Bonham’s “John Bonham, the Powerhouse Behind Led Zeppelin,” or “John Bonham, A Thunder of Drums” by Chris Welch (both far superior books). Overall this was a disappointing read, especially as I had pre-ordered This book looked very promising but unfortunately it borrows heavily from other sources. Even more unfortunate is that one of those sources is Richard Cole. Content from previously published books was lifted and inserted liberally here. At times I truly felt as though I was re-reading Mick Bonham’s “John Bonham, the Powerhouse Behind Led Zeppelin,” or “John Bonham, A Thunder of Drums” by Chris Welch (both far superior books). Overall this was a disappointing read, especially as I had pre-ordered and anticipated something new, not regurgitated Zeppelin myths.

  10. 5 out of 5

    LAWRENCE STAYTON

    BONZO BONZO ! Not a "note -by-note" drum book, but a look into the life of a man , with all the same 'good times bad times' we all experience , despite the money and fame he achieved. BONZO BONZO ! Not a "note -by-note" drum book, but a look into the life of a man , with all the same 'good times bad times' we all experience , despite the money and fame he achieved.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason Dikes

    Pretty good, but the excuses for Bonzo's behavior get old after a while. He did things on tour because he missed his family. Well, walking up to someone who isn't even talking to you, taking off their glasses and breaking them isn't something you do because you miss your family. It's something you do because you're an ass. Pretty good, but the excuses for Bonzo's behavior get old after a while. He did things on tour because he missed his family. Well, walking up to someone who isn't even talking to you, taking off their glasses and breaking them isn't something you do because you miss your family. It's something you do because you're an ass.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin by C.M. Kushins is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early September. Chaptered and sectioned by date ranges, this biography goes far into Bonham's life, who I'd otherwise seen slightly featured within bios about groupies or bands on tour. He seems to have good heart, a great desire to wow and please people by way of schooling himself in the ways of jazz and rock drumming, figuring out bass with a speed pedal, using his hands and sticks, nabbing Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin by C.M. Kushins is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early September. Chaptered and sectioned by date ranges, this biography goes far into Bonham's life, who I'd otherwise seen slightly featured within bios about groupies or bands on tour. He seems to have good heart, a great desire to wow and please people by way of schooling himself in the ways of jazz and rock drumming, figuring out bass with a speed pedal, using his hands and sticks, nabbing skills from other drummers that he’s seen, but, being too keyed at the end of a show to come down to a human level AND being terrified of flying (I feel ya, buddy), he drinks heavily. All told, it's more of a travelogue between venues and albums than a true biography.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    Four and a half stars, rounding up to five. I love Led Zeppelin's music and have for as long as I can remember, but I'm not really knowledgeable about the musicians who made that music so I was really excited to learn about the birth of the band and its early years. Bonham’s drive and talent were a key part of their success, but as B. P. Fallon is quoted in the book, while “Bonzo was a very warmhearted man... he wasn’t necessarily at all times best equipped for being regarded as a deity.” In his Four and a half stars, rounding up to five. I love Led Zeppelin's music and have for as long as I can remember, but I'm not really knowledgeable about the musicians who made that music so I was really excited to learn about the birth of the band and its early years. Bonham’s drive and talent were a key part of their success, but as B. P. Fallon is quoted in the book, while “Bonzo was a very warmhearted man... he wasn’t necessarily at all times best equipped for being regarded as a deity.” In his younger years, and in his private life, he seemed like a very charming person. However, adding drugs, alcohol, and fame to the mix made him, as well as his bandmates, at times, very disturbing. The nearly-endless tales of destruction, physical and sexual assault, and darkness were at times overwhelming, even when interspersed with stories of his peaceful and loving family life. Still, I found Beast to be fascinating and well done, though as a non-musician, I did feel bogged down at times with details about the recording sessions. Definitely a good read if you too are interested in the making of your favorite music and the people who made it. I’m so grateful to NetGalley and Hachette for the opportunity to read and review Beast.

  14. 5 out of 5

    KaraBeta

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Rodrigue

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Hartley

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Wright

  20. 5 out of 5

    Krusty770

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  22. 4 out of 5

    John

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan Johnson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter Haugen

  25. 4 out of 5

    Herman

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Simon

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Pope

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike Boettcher

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura Dawson

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