Jason Bonham has discussed in a new podcast interview finding unmarked reel-to-reel tapes in his father John Bonham’s belongings and recalled how Led Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion came about.
Speaking to The Vinyl Guide podcast, Bonham said he hasn’t yet played any of the unmarked tapes which be unreleased studio mixes of Led Zeppelin songs.
Jason Bonham found unmarked tapes owned by his father
“Believe it or not, Dad didn’t like to play at all at home,” Bonham told podcast host Nate Goyer. “He had no recording equipment. We’ve got his old Revox two track and that was literally just to be able to play mixes when he came back from the studio.”
“I found a box of tapes, reel to reels, at home last time I was there,” Bonham said. “But I need to get the machine up and running and hook it up, which … I will save that for an episode for YouTube, like ‘Let’s get this thing up and running. Let’s find out if we’ve got anything that hasn’t even been released yet.’ Because they’re all unmarked, that’s the best of it. Or they just deteriorated.”
“They might just … you put them in the machine and it just erases them the moment you press start. I think they had to do that when they were doing the Knebworth mixing. They had to bake the … they only had the U-matic tapes and they had to bake the tapes to preserve what was on there. Imagine all the multitracks they’ve got, from the one-inch to the two-inch, sitting in Jimmy’s facility or whatever.”
Led Zeppelin’s 1990 wedding reunion was definitely unplanned
Elsewhere in the podcast interview, Goyer asked Bonham about Led Zeppelin’s unplanned reunion at his wedding on April 28, 1990.
“It definitely wasn’t planned because one, if we would have planned it, I definitely would have made sure that my drums were on stage and not somebody else’s,” Bonham said. “The house band that were playing were really good friends of mine but the drummer had a very different sounding kit than anything that I would have played ever. We definitely weren’t prepared for it. And I probably would have stayed a lot more sober if I’d have known that was going to go on at the end of the night.”
“I think it was more they wanted to have a little play and they saw it as … ‘Should we have, you know, do you want to jam?’ It was an impromptu ‘We’re here, aren’t we?’ Jonesy, the guy had a Jazz bass so it was like ‘Yeah, OK, fine.’ And all of a sudden Jimmy does the little wave and the guy brings his Les Paul, he brought the guitar with him. He goes ‘You never know.’ It definitely was impromptu because I hadn’t done any of those songs ever in my life. We did ‘Sick Again’, we did ‘Bring It On Home’. There was a whole … four. Somebody bootlegged it and it’s out there.”
The inside story of the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion
Bonham also talked through how Led Zeppelin’s December 10, 2007 reunion show in London held in honour of Ahmet Ertegun was planned.
“I had a phone call from my manager at the time who was dear friends with Robert and used to be one of the heads of Atlantic in Europe. He said ‘Robert is going to call you, he wants to go out for dinner with you, he wants to ask you something.’”
“Up until that moment, we’d had a little bump in the road, Robert and I, and it was probably through my… At one point when they did the Page and Plant reunion and I was probably at my worst drinking, that took a lot of swallowing because everywhere I went and everywhere I played, all the people asked me ‘Aren’t you good enough to play with them? Why didn’t they ask you?’ So there was always this huge… It’s not like it’s my god-given…,” Bonham said.
“We went out for dinner and then we had a really, really, really good chat that I won’t … it was a very special chat. Basically it was a gloves off chat. He was brutally honest and I was brutally honest.”
“And then the next thing I know, in March, an email comes in and says ‘Alright, we’re going to get together on June 10 and have a little play and see what we think.’ And I’m like ‘Who is this?’ They went ‘Here’s a list of songs, pick five songs from this list.’ So everybody chose something and I joined in.”
“I was playing, I was on tour. So literally I had to get another drummer to stand in for me for a few gigs. I was in Foreigner and we were opening for Def Leppard and so I flew back to England and landed in the morning, got to the room, set my drums up and then had about an hour and a half just shut my eyes on the floor behind the drum kit and then they arrived.”
“It was great seeing everybody and saying ‘What do you want to play then?’ and Jimmy went ‘Let’s start off with something easy, how about Houses Of The Holy?’ And I went ‘That wasn’t on the list!’ And he went ‘Oh, shut up!’ And that was it, the first thing [we played]. It wasn’t on the list, we went into it. It was just like ‘Yeah, there you go.’ I should have known, don’t trust the list.”
“And then we did a couple more and we did ‘Kashmir’. At the end of that, Jimmy turned and went ‘Well, that’s as good as it ever sounded, Jason.’ And Robert said ‘Phenomenal, OK guys. Jimmy, I’ll speak to you in a week. Jason, stay, Jimmy wants to talk to you about something. I’ve got to run.’ I gave him a hug and then John Paul Jones said ‘Alright, I’ll see you later, bye, great playing with you.’ And Jimmy went ‘Alright, how do you want to … I want to do this concert, would you like to play drums with Led Zeppelin?’”
“Oh my god. And there was a little bit more to it. We were actually considering doing some other things…We had six weeks of rehearsals.”
“I went out with the three of them, one night. We went to this Indian restaurant. We love Indian food and Robert was keen, he said ‘Oh, I know this place.’ It was a really authentic Indian restaurant because we had to share a table with another family. I kept going ‘Oh my god, this is so … those guys have no clue that we’re talking about reforming Led Zeppelin and they’re asking can you pass the poppadoms please? Thank you very much.’ I just kept having this like ‘Oh my god, nobody has a clue what we’re planning at this table.’”
“I always said if we played like that on the first night, everyone said imagine what night four would have been like or imagine what halfway through the tour we would have been doing.”
“We had rehearsed ‘You Shook Me’ and I think we dropped it at the last minute. I remember saying to them ‘Maybe you do your acoustic bit because then it’s just you guys. It really is just the three guys at the front playing acoustically.’ And they went ‘Why would we want to do that?’”
“They go ‘What do you want to hear?’ I went ‘I’d love to hear Going To California’. So, I was there, in a rehearsal room, no one else around, we were just about to leave and they got the acoustic instruments, sat on the couch and sang ‘Going To California’ for me. Just them in the room and then ‘Tangerine’ just on their own.”
For more Led Zeppelin-related content from The Vinyl Guide podcast, check out our 2021 article on Goyer’s interview with photographer and author Ross Halfin who discussed Led Zeppelin’s archive of live shows. You can also listen to that podcast episode in the player embedded below: