100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

John Bonham
100
Zuma1/100

1. John Bonham

On the very first cut of the very first Led Zeppelin LP, John Bonham changed rock drumming forever. Years later, Jimmy Page was still amused by the disorienting impact that "Good Times Bad Times," with its jaw-dropping bass-drum hiccups, had on listeners: "Everyone was laying bets that Bonzo was using two bass drums, but he only had one." Heavy, lively, virtuosic and deliberate, that performance laid out the terrain Bonham's artful clobbering would conquer before his untimely death in 1980. At his most brutally paleolithic he never bludgeoned dully, at his most rhythmically dumbfounding he never stooped to unnecessary wankery, and every night on tour he dodged both pitfalls with his glorious stampede through "Moby Dick." "I spent years in my bedroom – literally fucking years – listening to Bonham's drums and trying to emulate his swing or his behind-the-beat swagger or his speed or power," Dave Grohl once wrote in Rolling Stone, "not just memorizing what he did on those albums but getting myself into a place where I would have the same instinctual direction as he had." This was a course that nearly every post-Bonham rock drummer would follow at one time or another, a quest that allowed the greatest to eventually find their own grooves.

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