Ah, the drum solo. The moment when the other band members retreat backstage to hoover the sherbets, gargle the fizz, change instruments and discuss the merits of the audience. Depending on the drummer’s talent and stamina, this can be a short interlude, or a half-time intermission.
The late, great John Bonham’s “Moby Dick” is one hell of drum solo, and his performances of the track ranged from two minutes to twenty. Like the book - epic. Bonham may have died thirty-one years ago, but he is still considered the greatest drummer who ever lived. An incredible accolade for a self-taught musician, who started banging out rhythm at the age of five, on tin boxes, coffee cans and whatever came to hand. His mother bought him a snare drum and 10, and he received his first drum kit for his 15th birthday. Bonham favored heavy sticks, or “trees” as he called them, which delivered the best and heaviest sound possible. As Roger Taylor of Queen once said
The greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer of all time was John Bonham who did things that nobody had ever even thought possible before with the drum kit. And also the greatest sound out of his drums - they sounded enormous, and just one bass drum. So fast on it that he did more with one bass drum than most people could do with three, if they could manage them. And he had technique to burn and fantastic power and tremendous feel for rock`n`roll.
Artist Alex Itin has used Bonham’s epic track, to great effect in his brilliant stream-of-consciousness, short animation Orson Whales. Itin has pulled together Welles reading of Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick (with some added champagne), over Bonham’s genius drumming and his own wonderful and distinctive illustrations, drawn on pages from Melville’s book. Itin is artist-in-residence at the Institute for the Future of the Book, you can check out more of his excellent work here.