At one point in the mid-70s, the story goes that both Sabbath and Zeppelin were in the same studio complex working on albums, when members of Zeppelin wandered into the Sabbath sessions, thus creating the legend of the “Black Zeppelin” jam.
The myth has been confirmed as fact by Sabbath drummer Bill Ward, who spoke about it recently with Backpage Magazine.
“It only happened on one occasion that Zeppelin and Sabbath were in the studio at one time, and I think it was in the mid-’70s,” said Ward from his home in Seal Beach, CA. “We were in sessions — I don’t remember what album we were working on — but it all started when Bonzo [John Bonham] comes into the studio and sits down at my drum kit and starts playing 'Supernaut.' That was one of our songs that he really liked.”
“It escalated to a pretty crazy situation within about 30 minutes, because not only was Bonzo there, but Robert Plant and John Paul Jones were there as well. Jimmy (Page) wasn’t there, but I wish he had been. And Bonzo was kickin’ the crap out of my drum kit!” Ward laughed. “I can still hear him playing that intro on the hat, over and over.”
With his thunderous, pounding style, Bonham led the roughly 45-minute session with the other original Sabs — Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler.
“Bonham’s bass drum work, of course, was incredible,” recalled Ward, who is currently in the midst of finishing some solo projects. “I played two bass drums, and they only let him play one in Led Zeppelin, so there he was playing two bass drums. ‘Supernaut,’ I tell you, sounded like something from the hardcore bands of today, where they play two bass drums with such incredible speed. And you know, Bonzo was doing that easily. He was having a good time, playing two bass drums, and he was playing all the down beats and some quiet treble with all the high hats. So, he was playing ‘Supernaut’ with a whole different feel, all the while yelling, ‘Supernaut!’ for pretty much the whole time. It was crazy, man.”
The first time Ward ever saw Bonham perform was in a club in England, when both drummers were just 15 years old. Ward clearly remembers that young Bonzo had chops beyond his years. Simply put: “He kicked ass.”
Ward and Bonham were friends from that day forward, and would remain so even when their respective bands skyrocketed to international fame and were rumored to be fierce rivals. Any such rivalry between the two bands, particularly the two drummers, Ward insists, was merely an invention of the rock and roll gossip press.
“(Bonham) is a historical figure in drumming because he was so outstanding, and all of us listen to Bonham to understand pace, timing and feel,” said Ward.