"Singers tend to be sensitive, but drummers are troubled too, just in a different way": why I ❤️ John Bonham, by Matt Sorum

John Bonham onstage in 1975 with (inset) Matt Sorum
(Image credit: John Bonham: Michael Putland | Matt Sorum: Jonas Akerlund)

In July 2005 we asked Velvet Revolver to be guest editors of Classic Rock, and sticksman Matt Sorum asked us to produce a feature on the best 50 drummers in rock. 

So we polled the staff and students of the UK’s leading drum schools: the Academy Of Contemporary Music in Guildford, the Brighton Institute Of Modern Music, and London’s Drumtech. We consulted our sister magazines Metal Hammer, Total Guitar and Rhythm. And we picked the brains of our own writers, some top-notch drum technicians, and a whole host of professional drummers. 

After all the number-crunching was completed, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham was proclaimed as the greatest of them all... and Matt Sorum explored his own
relationship with the much-missed Bonzo.  


“The weird thing is, I was never into Led Zep at the time. At high school I was more interested in smoking pot and listening to prog rock, Genesis and stuff. Everyone else loved Led Zep, but not me. It was only later that I appreciated them.

“John Bonham took these simple R&B influences and he added all this complexity, odd meters and stuff. I love all that. You know, writing a song in 5/4 or 7/4 time. I’ve always tried to do that in the bands I’ve been in but no-one can ever count past four!

“I actually went on the road with Jason Bonham once and I got to see all the old family videos of John. It was fascinating. He’s a hero of mine. I wanted to emulate his attitude, his hot- rod cars, his drinking. I wanted to be that person. And I did become a heavy drinker – I managed that part! But I’ll never be as good as him.

“I have a theory that all good drummers are crazy. You can’t be a regular quiet guy and be a great drummer. It’s amazing how many great drummers have troubled upbringings. Drummers come from hard stock, I think. They often have twisted childhoods. My parents split up when I was a child and that’s when I started playing drums. I was unhappy, angry, aggressive. 

"A lot of drummers have similar stories. Singers tend to be sensitive, but drummers are troubled too, just in a different way. They’re more aggressive with it. The drummer is the one who stands up to the singer and tells him to fuck off. John Bonham never took any shit. And I was always going after Axl. Drummers always play that role.”

This interview originally appeared in Classic Rock 80, published in June 2005.

Matt Sorum

Matt Sorum is is best known as the former drummer with Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver, The Cult and Hollywood Vampires. He currently plays with Billy F Gibbons, and his Kings of Chaos side project features members of Guns N' Roses, Deep Purple, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick and Slipknot. An autobiography, Double Talkin’ Jive: True Rock ‘n’ Roll Stories, was published in 2021. 

With contributions from