Bill Harvey Interview
Information On Interview:
Interview with Bill Harvey - Drummer, and old friend of Bonham's.
Source: Thunder Of Drums
John was a bit younger than me. I was over 20 and not supposed to be at the youth club anymore, but I went because it was a place to play. They used to have a different band on every Wednesday night, and quite often Roy Wood and Bev Bevan [later of 'The Move'] would play there. It was one of their early bands. They were always laughing and joking on stage.
I was also managing a band in Redditch that practiced in a club called The Cellar, in Queen Street. John appeared there one night. He was a tiny lad, although he blossomed out later. I guess we were sort of wary of each other, but we struck up a relationship. I had been playing for some years, and John was very pushy, even then. But we did hang out together and later we both worked in shops in Redditch. When John was 16 he worked in a clothes shop; Wednesday afternoon used to be half-day closing and so I used to go up to John's house. His dad had a caravan parked in the garden and he kept his drums in there a Ludwig green sparkle kit. We used to practice and his dad used to go mad. He'd say:
"Oh, it's you two at it again. Clear off - get out!"
[One day Bill got into an argument with his band members (Blue Star Trio) and John Bonham sat in for him one night.]
They were a bit lazy about helping to load the equipment and I said, "Sod it, if that's your attitude"... and that's how John sat in for me. I had the van and I had to load and unload the gear every night. I just got fed up and blew my top. When I went along to the club I was sick in my stomach to see John playing my gig. But he said, "Come on, let's do a solo together I'm only sitting in for you." So we both got up on the same kit. I played the two tom toms and John played the snare drum. Afterwards John said, "How the 'ell did you know what I was going to do?" I pointed out that every night he tended to play the same tricks. "Oh, I see..."
[John suggested to Bill that they make a regular feature of their double act. Bill liked the idea]
So we used to rehearse our solo every Wednesday afternoon in the caravan. At the gig he would pull me up out of the audience, or the other way around, and we'd do this great drum routine together. Everybody used to say, "How did they do that?" They didn't realise we had rehearsed it for hours. And it seemed like we were rivals, playing against each other.
Even though John was a far better rock drummer than me, I had been brought up as a big-band fan and could play some things he couldn't do. People would come up to me and say, "I saw John Bonham play last night. He was better than you." Or it was vice versa, because we both had our fans and they never realised we were the best of mates."
We thought we were kings of the road, this was before he was married, although I think he was seeing a girl.
He used to leave his drum stool outside the front door of his house - there was a concrete plinth above the door of his house with ivy growing up the side, and he hid the stool behind the ivy so he could climb out the window, down the drainpipe and on to the the stool to sneak out at night. And then he'd go back the same way. He told me that in confidence one night and said, "For God's sake, don't tell my dad." He was a bit of a Jack the Lad but I got on well with him. Some people didn't and found him a bit overbearing. Me being a drummer as well, I took no notice.
I went wild about Joe Morello, I bought all the records and went to see all his concerts and clinics. Joe did this finger-tapping thing where he wet his thumb and rubbed it on the snare drum to produce a lion's roar. He'd imitate a bow and arrow, and also did this African rhythm by finger-tapping that was absolutely fabulous.
I spent hours copying him and eventually got somewhere near good. I thought I'd put it into my 150 minute drum solo with the Blue Star Trio. So John came along one night and heard me playing with my fingers. He said, "Bloody hell, how'd you do that? You've gotta show me."
Two days later I saw him with Elastoplast bandages all over his fingers. I said "John, what have you done?" He'd cut his hands by hitting the edge of the cymbals. I told him not to hit them so hard. But he used that technique on 'Moby Dick', which was one of the first drum solos he did on record with LEd Zeppelin.
I never showed him how to play paradiddle's and drum exercises. He was just naturally gifted. He was also very heavy. I tried to get him to use brushes once and he wasn't really keen. I said, "You should try and use your brushes for a bit of finesse, John."
He just said, "Nah. Hit 'em as hard as yer can."
"How did you do that bass drum triplet, John?" I once asked. "Ah," said Bonzo airily "you've gotta have the technique," and just laughed. I wasn't too bothered, because I was more into jazz playing than rock. If I had pressed him he would have told me how he did it. I just think he was very clever with his timing and his footwork. He could play things I'd never even think about. He also had so much drive and energy. He wouldn't sit down and work something out. He'd just go for it, with a kind of inner sixth sense to help him. His feel for rock music was unbelievable.
He did sit in for me at a wedding once, when I broke my finger. He could do all those waltzes and quicksteps but he really wasn't into playing that style. His father Jack always used to say to me, "I wish our John would play drums like you do." He'd see me play jazz at the local Conservative Club after hours and he'd but me a drink. But when he went to see John play with Led Zeppelin, he changed his mind. He was proud of him.
I went out with him a couple of nights to see a band and the first thing he'd say to me was, "That drummer is crap." When they came off for a break, he'd go straight up to the bandleader and say, "Your drummer's not much good, is he? Let me have a go and I'll show you."
He'd get on the drums and everyone would be amazed. So the poor chap would get the sack and John would take his job. He was pushy and he got in wherever he wanted - but he had a heart of gold.