“John Bonham said rock and blues wasn’t a good place for girls. He wanted me to be a vet or a lawyer… for a while I went down the opera route”: Despite her brother’s misgivings, Genesis helped shape Deborah Bonham’s career

Deborah Bonham, John Bonham, Peter Gabriel
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 2022 rock and blues singer Deborah Bonham told Prog how a schooldays encounter with two Genesis albums changed the direction of her life – and her brother, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, couldn’t overcome the impression Peter Gabriel’s band had left on her.

“When I was 15, I was at the convent school in Kidderminster and my friend Neville Farmer was at the boys’ school around the corner. We’d meet up at lunchtime, go for coffee, talk about music and swap albums.

I was listening to a lot of Gong – I thought I was Shakti Yoni for years – and I had Camembert Electrique and Flying Teapot in my bag. Neville gave me Selling England By The Pound and Foxtrot. I went home, put on Selling England, and from the first track I was blown away.

I loved all of Genesis as writers but particularly Peter Gabriel. On albums like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway he created this fantasy world, but there was always some sort of message or reality about it too, and it could get quite political.

I loved his voice and years later, when a documentary came out about the making of So, he talked about how much he loved Otis Redding. I knew it! I loved Otis too.

As a teenager I’d been thinking about going into performance but John said that rock and blues wasn’t a good place for girls. He wanted me to be a vet or a lawyer! For a while I went down the opera route. I think Genesis influenced that.

It’s not just the lyrics that drew me in – Carpet Crawlers always gets me, following the character as he’s trying to get down this corridor, and what’s behind that door – the music itself was so adventurous.

They had beautiful melodies that they stretched out, and their chord sequences went all over the shop. Sometimes our band, Bonham-Bullick, will go off on a tangent. That’s us channelling Genesis; exploring, going somewhere different.

I never got to see them play, nor Peter solo, yet. But I hoped he’d be at Real World when we mixed our album there. I was like, ‘I might meet him!’ as I’ve been such a fan, right up to now. He wasn’t, but our paths might yet cross.

Selling England By The Pound is one of my desert island discs. It still gets played on a Friday night, with a glass of wine in hand and the band sat around.”

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.