John Bonham, shooting a bird, and a bloody nose
Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham, died Sept. 25, 1980.
On that day I was leaving my friend Dean’s house. While walking down his sidewalk, Pat, who lived directly across the street from Dean, came across from his house and told me John Bonham died.
I called BS on him but he said it was true, and I eventually believed him.
The great thing about Dean living straight across the street from Pat was that we could do phone pranks on Pat and watch his reaction through Dean’s front window. This was before call display. Even doing something as simple as calling his house and watching him answer the phone, hanging up on him, and then, just as he sat down, calling him again, was fun. Do that to anybody ten times in a row and they’ll be absolutely furious. The stupid things kids do.
Anyway, Pat was more country than he was rock and roll. It was that way with a couple of my friends. They grew up listening to the country music their parents listened to, old school stuff like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Hank Snow and even Box Car Willie.
Country music never resonated with me and I could never figure out what attracted people to it. I think it’s the storytelling aspect of country music that draws people in but, when I was young, I never paid any attention to the words in music. I was always interested in the electric guitar.
Pat and Mike were two of my closest friends growing up and they both listened to country music.
We lived on the same street in Ogden, and one day when we were about 12-years-old we were out in the field at the end of our street with a pellet gun.
It was Mike’s gun and he was the weapons expert among us. I don’t even think I fired a gun before. On this particular day we were trying to shoot a Robin that was up in a tree. Pat and me missed, but Mike hit it.
After he shot the bird we walked over and could see it was still breathing.
I’m not a bleeding heart liberal but my heart bled for that Robin. I convinced Mike and Pat that we could take the bird home and nurse it back to health.
We put it on an old, wooden table behind Pat’s house and worked to get the pellet out. Mike was the least convinced that our efforts would do any good and said we should put the Robin out of its misery.
I kept telling him that I wasn’t ready to give up just yet, that we could make the bird better.
Anyway, after about a half hour of administering to the Robin, Dean and Dean, who, like me, both loved Rock and Roll, walked over from across the street to see what we were doing. They convinced us that our struggles were hopeless. We put the Robin in a bucket and somebody, not me, started pumping pellets into the bird.
I still feel kind of bad about killing that Robin because it was a pointless death. The Robin wasn’t harming anybody. If it was an eagle going after the two cats me and my girlfriend have today in Springhill, Mrs. McCuddles and Gusto, then I could probably blast it out of existence with a double barrelled shotgun, but Robin’s don’t bother anybody. They just hop around and eat worms.
Dean and Dean could both play electric guitar and one of them could play drums really well.
Dean’s neighbour, Norm, could play acoustic guitar really well. He was much older than us, a father with two kids, and sometimes we would go over to his house and we’d talk him into playing a few songs for us.
There were a few kids on our block that I would sometimes baby sit, two of them were Norm’s kids, a four-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy.
One time when I was babysitting his kids, the boy told me he was allowed to drink the non-alcoholic beer in the fridge. I told him it wasn’t happening on my watch, and he came after me in a rage swinging a hockey stick at my head. I took the hockey stick away from him and for the rest of the night I had to listen to him whine about how he was allowed to drink beer. In the end he was right and I was wrong. He was allowed to drink beer. I learned this when his parents got home, but they both understood why I wouldn’t let him drink it. He was a super-smart kid but he could act like a spoiled brat.
The funny thing about Dean and Dean, and Mike and Pat was that they all had pets, while I didn’t, except for one.
One of my mom’s friends gave us a cat. We called him Morris because he looked like the cat in the old cat food commercial.
I think Morris was mentally unsound. The second he woke up he would meow, and he didn’t stop until he fell asleep. He meowed and meowed and meowed, and wouldn’t stop no matter how much I pleaded.
After we had Morris for a few months a strange coincidence happened.
One of my friends on the next street over, Wayne, told me that if a cat’s nose starts to bleed that it will die because cats can’t breathe through their mouths.
I don’t know where he came up with this silly notion but I believed it.
Anyway, a little while after he told me this I was looking out my back window and saw Morris fighting another cat. I ran out to the back alley to stop the fight and saw that Morris had a bleeding nose.
I figured he was as good as dead.
I started crying, picked him up, and frantically ran home with him cradled in my arms. When I got home I wiped off his nose with a wet cloth and, thankfully, he didn’t die.
We only had Morris for about six months and I never did know what happened to him. He was a Tom Cat and spent most of his time outside. I hardly got to know him. Maybe a coyote gobbled him up.
Anyway, here is Led Zeppelin playing my favourite Led Zeppelin song, ‘Whole Lotta Love.’
Like many Led Zeppelin songs, the song is driven by Bonham’s propulsive, percussive, concussive force.
If I were to make a list of my ‘Top 5 Favourite Songs of All Time,’ Whole Lotta Love would be on the list.
The song also reminds me of a night in 1997 when I was working out of a town in Alberta called Hinton, which is just outside of Jasper National Park.
We were working, doing seismic, in the foothills outside of Hinton.
The road back and forth to Hinton was long, steep, and winding. It was about 9 p.m., and on this particular night, on our way back to Hinton, my coworker, Lester, was driving the truck and I was the passenger.
It was the middle of winter, the night sky was incredibly clear, and the Hale-Bopp comet was streaking brightly across the sky.
Lester had Whole Lotta Love cranked up on the stereo and he was flying down the winter road at breakneck speed. I remember staring out the passenger window at the bright Hale-Bopp comet and thinking, “what a perfect way to end a hard day’s work.”
Post Script: One of the Dean’s I grew up with, the drummer who lived directly across the street from Pat, died last year after an incredibly short battle with brain cancer, and Pat died from a heart attack about a month ago. Both died way too young and they will both missed.
One more Led Zeppelin song for the road:
Going to California:
Maybe I’ll make it two for the road.
Stairway to Heaven: