Today in 1980, after a long drinking bout, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was found dead in his room at Jimmy Page’s Windsor home.
The story: On September 24, band assistant Rex King picked Bonham up from his home to take him to Bray Studios for the first day of rehearsals for the band’s upcoming U.S. tour. En route, Bonham made a pit stop at a pub where he consumed four quadruple vodkas. The tipsy drummer then continued to down more vodka throughout the day’s work. Afterwards the band retired to Jimmy Page’s house in Windsor to rehearse. Around midnight, Bonham fell asleep and was put to bed, propped-up on his side with pillows. The following morning he was discovered dead by tour manager Benji LeFevre.
The subsequent inquest found the 32-year-old drummer had died from inhaling his own vomit, a result of imbibing around 40 measures (a little over 2 liters) of vodka. It’s rumored that because Bonham was reported to have been taking the anti-anxiety drug Motival, this had somehow contributed to his death. Debbie Bonham, John’s sister, insists this wasn’t the case: “It’s not on the death certificate. There was no drug found in his body whatsoever. He died of vomiting in his sleep after the bottle of vodka and three pizzas and a curry and a few other things. He’d eaten an awful lot that day. He’d fallen asleep. It’s not anybody’s fault; it happened, but it certainly wasn’t drugs.”
In the fallout of Bonham’s passing, fans gathered to hold a silent vigil outside Jimmy Page’s home. Meanwhile, the press indulged themselves. The London Evening News trumped the competition with the booming headline “Zeppelin ‘Black Magic’ Mystery”, accompanying a story stating that the other members were convinced that Page’s dabblings with occultism had prompted the twin tragedies of both the drummer’s death and that of Plant’s son Karac three years earlier. Pure rubbish, of course.
At about the same time Bonham died, over 1000 fans in Chicago were lining up for early copies of the Sept 25 Chicago Tribune, which was carrying an ad and mail-order ticket form for Led Zeppelin’s four planned concerts at Chicago Stadium in November. As the concerts were subsequently cancelled, those full-page ads are quite collectible now.