Listen to John Bonham's incredible isolated drum part on Led Zeppelin's Fool In The Rain

John Bonham onstage circa 1976
(Image credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

The drums on Led Zeppelin's When The Levee Breaks have famously been sampled somewhere north of 200 times. Amongst those to have benefitted from John Bonham's thundering Levee beats are The Beastie Boys, Beyonce, Bjork and Breaking Benjamin. And that's just the 'B's. 

And yet no one, it would appear, has sampled Fool In The Rain

It's possible, of course, that In Through The Out Door's funkiest number has been sampled, but that the borrower has twisted and stretched Bonham's original patterns beyond recognition and not considered it necessary to contact the legal department. And we'd be amazed if it hadn't been used for something, somewhere along the line, because Fool In The Rain is ripe for borrowing, 

What's more, John Bonham's isolated drum parts are on YouTube. Just sitting there, all pristine and unofficial, where they've racked up over four million views, which isn't far off the total attracted by the official, full-band original.  

Recorded in late 1978 at Polar Studios in Stockholm, Fool In The Rain starts with a NSFW moment, as Bonham barks an almighty "FAAAAAARKING HELL" before commencing business. And then we're off, with the drummer playing a variant of the Purdie Shuffle. 

For the uninitiated, the rhythm was developed American session drummer Bernard Purdie, who's played on songs by everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Michael Bolton, and was Aretha Franklin's musical director for several years. Purdie constructed the shuffle in his youth, trying to imitate the cadence of a train, describing the sound as “the way a locomotive kind of pushes and pulls." You can hear variants of the beat on Steely Dan's Home At Last (played by Purdie himself) and on Toto's hit Rosanna.

Bonham is metronomic. It's a mind-boggling combination of graceful precision and brute force, and while the bass drum pattern might be reasonably simple, the ghosted snare notes (notes played softly between the 'main' notes) and the tricky hi-hat work bring it all together. Mix all that with Bonham's signature sound, and you're left with something that's unmistakably Bonham and undeniably brilliant.   

It doesn't end there, of course. Just past the three minute mark, Bonham picks up a rattling Brazilian samba beat, sounding for all the world like a battalion of marching drummers descending on Rio's Cinelândia Square at the hight of carnival. It's really something. 

"The idea emerged to layer on their own samba halfway through the hop-skip riff arrangement, wrote Classic Rock's Dave Lewis in his 2012 book Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream – Complete Guide to Their Music. "Crazed as it sounds, it works beautifully, right through JP's street whistles to Bonzo's delightfully constructed timpani crashes."

The band would never perform Fool In The Rain live. The In Through The Out Door album didn't come out until after Led Zeppelin's final UK shows at Knebworth in 1979, and the song wasn't included in the set for the Tour Over Europe in June and July the following year. And by September, John Bonham was gone. He was just 32.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.