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Bonham’s Sister Recalls Her Last Led Zeppelin Show

Deborah Bonham was just 17 when she disobeyed her parents and snuck out with her friends in a transit van to go see her big brother John rock out on drums at Knebworth with Led Zeppelin in 1979. Something told her she needed to go that show, she tells Noisecreep.

“The first time I saw them I was very young (six), but then I saw them at Earl’s Court, Bath and Knebworth,” says Bonham, who was 14 years younger than John. “The last time was Knebworth, which John didn’t want me to go to at all. He was really annoyed about me going.

“It was a big festival and since I’ve been doing it myself, if only I could see him and just say, ‘Oh my god John, I’m so sorry.’ The last thing he really needed was his kid sister running around,” understands Bonham, who has just released her third album, ‘Duchess,’ and has been playing festivals herself.

“I was 17, so I was so into it and wanting to be there and he said to me, ‘Look, I just need to get on and do the show. I’m going to be doing a load of indoor shows afterwards, come to those. It will be a lot better.’ Very rarely did I go against him or argue with him, because he was my big brother, but I had an overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t get there, I wouldn’t see him again.”

She says her mother had spoken to John earlier in a day, panicked that Deborah had headed there on her own. “I was in a lot of trouble,” Bonham laughs. John and her other brother, Mick, were at the side of the stage with binoculars, scoping the sea of 100,000 people, she says, looking for her.

“I’d got myself to the front of the stage,” she recalls. “I saw him afterwards. I went and said who I was. First, they wouldn’t let me in, and then somebody recognized me and he came running down from the back and just picked me up in his arms — then I got a real telling off. That was August ’79, and September ’80 he died, so I didn’t get to ever see him play again. So to me, I just had to go. I had to be there.”

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