Many people consider John “Bonzo” Bonham the greatest rock drummer ever – who am I to argue – and any discussion of his almighty skills would start with the booming, echoey, thunderous sound he constantly generated (cue the opening of ‘When The Levee Breaks’). This song, however, is different. On this one, Bonham plays the Purdie Shuffle. The what, you ask? The Purdie Shuffle is so named for being created by Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, a renowned funk and jazz session player who developed a drumbeat so distinct it became his namesake trademark. You’ll hear it on Steely Dan’s ‘Babylon Sisters’ and ‘Home At Last’, for instance, as played by Purdie himself, as well as on ‘Rosanna’ by Jeff Porcaro of Toto. Here, from the massive cymbal crash on which the song opens, you know Bonham’s up to something unusual, and that swinging groove uniquely carries all the way through one of Led Zep’s last late-period hits – in fact their final single before breaking up in 1980 – well, all the way to 2:25 when the parade leader’s whistle, also played by Bonham (can one actually ‘play’ a whistle?), interrupts the song and introduces the even more peculiar samba-style piano and marimba breakdown that runs a little over a minute, before his shuffling duly resumes again at 3:43. Yes, as another fairly well known Zeppelin tune once said, there are two paths you can go by, and for this trip Bonzo chose to shuffle on.
Bernard “Pretty” Purdie
Isolated drum track