The clip has since passed into broadcasting legend. In 2006 the archive service ITN Source selected it as one of the 10 most notorious rock interviews of all time, car crash television at its best. And, for the most part, Connolly has been blamed for the so-called fiasco, as if his line of questioning was responsible for Bonham’s reluctance to play along.
It turns out things were a little more complicated than that. In 2002, Connolly’s wife, the writer and performer Pamela Stephenson, published a biography of her husband entitled Billy, and wrote that the interview had gone exactly as planned. And 20 years later Connolly confirmed it in an interview with Mojo, revealing that Bonham showed up for the recording rather worse for wear, and that the two had conspired to keep the drummer’s input to a minimum to spare his blushes.
“I said to him, look, why don’t I just ask you really lengthy, confusing questions and you can just shrug as if you don’t know the answer, or just say yes?” Connolly explained. “That way we still do the interview but you don’t actually have to do it. He said, ‘Would you do that?’ and I said, ‘Of course, it’ll just seem like you’re mercilessly taking the piss.’ I didn’t give a fuck so we did it – and it was funny.
Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s TV interview with comedian Billy Connolly is one of rock’s most notorious