Sabbath drummer Ward remembers moment Led Zep jammed with his band in studio – but says the tape never rolled
Fans of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin who have spent years anticipating the uncovering of tapes the bands recorded together are waiting in vain – because they never existed, says Bill Ward.
But the two giants of British heavy rock did jam in a studio, just once; and the Sabbath drummer says watching his Led Zep counterpart John Bonham play with two bass drums was unforgettable.
The pair were close friends; and Ward admits he felt Bonham’s death in 1980 as a result of heavy drinking was a wake-up call.
He tells Back Page Magazine: “Zeppelin and Sabbath were in the studio at one time, and it only happened on one occasion. I don’t remember what album we were working on, but we were in sessions and it all started when Bonzo came into the studio and sat down at my kit.
“He starts playing Supernaut, one of our songs that he really liked. His bass drum work was incredible. I played two bass drums and they only let him play one in Zeppelin. Supernaut sounded like something from the hardcore bands of today, and Bonzo was doing that easily.
“He was having a good time, playing it with a whole different feel, all the while yelling ‘Supernaut!’ the whole time. It was crazy.”
Things became more crazy when Bonham’s colleagues Robert Plant and John Paul Jones joined them in the studio.
Ward remembers: “Jimmy Page wasn’t there, but I wish he had been. And all the time Bonzo was kicking the crap out of my drum kit.
“There was a moment during that jam where we all kind of got this crazy notion and said, ‘Let’s put something down on tape.’ But nothing transpired and no tape rolled. Nothing was recorded – we were just pissing about.
“I believe at one point Geezer Butler and Robert did a bit of writing together – but that was their own personal thing, between them. The Black Zeppelin recordings didn’t ever exist.”
The Sabbath sticksman says he was at home doing a drugs deal when he was told of Bonham’s death: “I got the news when I was reaching some of the lowest places in my alcoholic depression. It was about 8.30 in the morning and I was waiting for a dealer to drop off some dope.
“When she arrived she announced he’d died. The very first thing I thought, quite selfishly, was, ‘Yeah, and I’ll be the next one.’
“After that I was incredibly sad. I have so many good memories of him, though. I’ve always tried to speak about him in the most respectful way, but there was a side of him that loved to party. When we were raucous, drunk and wild we were both prone to verbal attacks against people – including each other.
“But he was very quiet, observant and thoughtful. We actually didn’t talk a lot about drums, or about Zeppelin or Sabbath. We just talked about our families, and those were some of the nicest times I had with him.
“In part, I’ve always thought of his death as a signal for me: if you don’t shape up, Bill, you’ll be the next one drowning in beer or overdosing.”