The Who vs. Led Zeppelin

Classic Rock match up! Both bands had fantastic people at the same four spots. Position by position, who was better? This is obviously opinion, but let’s hear it. I’d be very interested to hear some reasons too, especially from musician Dopers.

Keith Moon vs. John Bonham

John Entwistle vs. John Paul Jones

Pete Townshend vs. Jimmy Page

Roger Daltrey vs. Robert Plant

John Bonham always struck me as a timekeeper,a thudder,versus someone who plays with and around the time,like Moon.Some of his fills are startling in their invention .He also had a better grasp of dynamics.
The other three comparisons are pretty even,though they’re very different players.Entwistle had a more appealing,trend setting style,but Paul Jones has the edge for technical prowess studiowise and keyboard ability.Yeah I know Entwistle played horn.

Moon vs. Bonham is a matter of style/taste. Bonham had more solid power, but Moon did some crazy inventive stuff. Draw.

Entwhistle vs. Jones is, I think, the toughest matchup. Both were absolutely brilliant in their own way. I think each of them were the best overall musicians in their respective groups. Draw.

Townshend vs. Page depends on what criteria. Page is a better guitar player, but Townshend is a better songwriter. Apples and oranges.

Daltrey vs. Plant, I give Daltrey the edge because his voice doesn’t sound like a grade school girl getting her pigtails yanked.

Keith Moon vs. John Bonham: I call this a draw, Bonham at his best had more memorable solos, but Moon was more consistently excellent.

John Entwistle vs. John Paul Jones: I think John Paul Jones brought more to the group than the excellent Entwistle. John was great on Base and good on horns, John Paul Jones was a good basist & keyboardist. He was also proficient to good on everything from steel guitars to sitars and even mandolin. He was a well- respected sessions musician pre-Zep and post-Zep. The more talented of the two I believe.

Pete Townshend vs. Jimmy Page: This one is easy; Page is the better guitarist, bassist and Pete’s equal as a songwriter. Pete is a better singer, but not a great singer or the lead singer of the Who.

Roger Daltrey vs. Robert Plant: As singers I think they are about equal. I believe Plant is the better writer. Plant actually shows more range despite the jokes made above.


No contest whatsoever: everything about the Who (at least until they lost Moony, and their way) was miles above anything to do with Zeppelin.

Moon. Bonham was good, but Moon’s drumming was unique and essential to the group’s sound.

Entwhistle. The best bassist ever. Jones is just OK.

Townsend vs. Page. Townsend the better songwriter by far (especially when you consider lyrics); Page the better guitarist by far. With Jones you need a great guitarist; with Entwistle, you do not. Ultimately, I like Townsend better.

Plant. Daltrey was good, but didn’t have Plant’s range.

Unfortunately, I can’t participate in stuff like this - I get too tangled up. I either feel like I dash off a superficial opinion that I regret, or probe too deeply and geek out.

I will say this: the two bands’ approaches couldn’t be more different in intent, even while they both ended up with huge, defining hard rock sounds. Zep was all about taking the listener outside- into a fantastic realm bigger than they were - like LOTR or a comic book. The Who was all about taking the listener inside - looking at themselves and their internal struggles and pain and giving it voice - like, say, Catcher in the Rye.

Given that difference, I would say each band has the roster best suited to their objectives.

  • Bonzo stomps like a dinosaur (but can dance like a fairy), JPJ anchors and fills the fantastic space with a variety of layers, Jimmy Page wields his sword (you saw that coming) and Percy Plant sings of Mordor, threshing oars, and Evermore.

  • Moon plays angry, punctuating tantrums on drums, Entwhistle’s heartbeat is an erratic, demanding fury, Townshend uses his guitar like a vandal or punk tough (his destruction of guitars was likened to rape by at least one person comparing him to Hendrix) and Daltrey can evoke brazen anger and vulnerability…

My $.02


Better than Tony Levin, Chris Squire & Geddy Lee?

ETA: **WordMan **, please geek out and elaborate, that was an truly awesome post. (says a huge fan of both bands, but also a hopeless Tolkien geek)

Seconded. (Well, I’m not a “Tolkien geek,” but I enjoyed your post and would like to see more details.)

Thanks guys - I am on a conference call right now (that pesky “job” thing) and will try to get on this…

Okay - I got a sec.

More meandering: Well, the constrast that jumps out at me most obviously is Entwhistle vs. John Paul Jones:

  • Entwhistle plays a lead instrument. He is a pitcher, expecting Townshend to play catcher - to lay the foundation layer of sound upon which Ox gallops (“ox gallops”? sigh…). I described his basslines as “a heartbeat…an erratic, demanding fury” - he tended to play with the anchor beat, getting ahead of it, including it within the context of a more complex melodic line, sorta hiding it. Time, in Who land, was defined by the interplay between two lead instruments: Moon and Entwhistle, counter-punching with Townshend. If the strict rhythm was compromised, but the give-and-take banter was locked in, so be it.

  • John Paul Jones plays a rhythm instrument. He is the catcher - the ultimate catcher, since he can create a space that can handle any musical pitch thrown to it with the thump of bass and the atmospherics of organ and mandolin. His basslines are low-end focused and entirely about defining the strict rhythm clearly - so that he can then work with Bonzo to play behind it in a classic blues pocket. Whereas Entwhistle played with time by messing with the pace of a standard 4/4 beat, JPJ was strictly beat-defined, but could break out off-time, syncopated stuff, like Black Dog or The Ocean - but playing that off-time stuff cleanly. Time, in Zep land, is defined by the metronome and the blues. Don’t get me wrong, there is massive interplay between the musicians - but it is more rhythmically fluid, reflecting the studio session training of Page and JPJ (talk about music boot camp - to succeed in sessions, you have to hold the beat).

Interesting that Entwhistle’s other instrument is French horn, another single line instrument, whereas JPJ’s other main instrument is organ (and, yes, mandolin) - a chording instrument where a strong rhythm hand and bass pedals deeply ingrain a precise time.

How’s that?


I suppose there might be some jazz musicians who are more accomplished, but as far as rock goes, definitely.

Geddy Lee? Don’t make me laugh.

Keith Moon vs. John Bonham Edge: Bonham. Although Moon was an elemental force of nature, I always thought Bonham had more versatilty to go along with his bombastic-ness. You can’t go wrong with either.

John Entwistle vs. John Paul Jones Edge: Entwistle. It kills me to say it, but Johnny was a better bassist than JPJ. Jones, who I modled a lot of my early playing after, brought a lot to the table with Zep, including his ability to play keys, but in a bass duel, I have to give it, slighty, to Entwistle.

Pete Townshend vs. Jimmy Page Edge: Page. Townshend was a better songwriter & singer, and he brought that swing your arm around and smack the strings rock-god thing. But if I want to inspire someone to dream of being a guitar player, Jimmy Page is a step above Townshend.

**Roger Daltrey vs. Robert Plant ** Edge: Daltrey. By a hair. He was also a better actor than Plant (Remember the Highlander series?) Plant, for all his greatness, might have been just a touch too new-agey and self indulgent. Daltrey was just molded from pure, uncut liqud kick ass rock.

The Who vs. Led Zep Edge: Zep takes it. I like their songs better on a whole, and Page just took axe-slinging to a different level.

There. That arguement’s been settled. Glad to help. :slight_smile:

Really, wanna step out back and discuss? :smiley:

Didn’t Moon come up with Zep’s name? I’ll have to dig about a little but I think he did.

If I were to look at both bands poetically and objectively I’d say Zep takes the overall win. They are to me the more memorable - this is not easy for me to say because I love both bands. But if I were to take the Pepsi Challenge and state who I liked more overall. It wouldbe Led Zeppelin easily.

Yes - Moonie and Ox had played with Beck and Page on Beck’s Bolero and were contemplating forming what ultimately became The New Yardbirds/Led Zeppelin. Moon and Ox backed out, but not before Moon heard Page’s demo’s and commented that he thought the music would go over like a…

Geddy Lee’s bass lines will still be mesmerizing musicians long after we have all faded to dust. Absalom, Absalom, Absalom.

Also, Tony Levin is better than all of them. If you don’t think so, you haven’t listened to Levin. That being said, it might not be fair to put Levin in the rock catagory, or even call him a scrict bassist considering how he also plays the quite a bit of Chapman stick.

Victor Lamont Wooten could teach a bass playing class and all these guys would be first year students taking notes.

I thought this was Top Trumps.

Keith Moon (dead) vs. John Bonham (dead) - draw

John Entwistle (13 letters) vs. John Paul Jones (13 letters + 3 name bonus) - Jones wins

Pete Townshend (nose like a broken thumb) vs. Jimmy Page (normal nose) - Townshend wins

Roger Daltrey (top C) vs. Robert Plant (B above top C) - Plant wins

The Who 2 - Led Zep 3

Led Zep wins.

I agree with this statement 100%. I saw The Who at MSG shortly after Entwistle died. I was amazed at the power and energy Daltrey still had in his voice.

I have already crossed the line on this thread about getting all rock-critic geeky about this, so I have to comment. There is so much more to each singer/frontman vs. what the above statement - while superficially true - would indicate.

Daltrey was a street tough cockney, who wanted to be successful in a band, but very unsure of himself. He started playing guitar until Townshend joined the band (were they the Detours at that point?) and got moved to vocals over time. In the early days up through Tommy, Townshend has said “John and Moon were geniuses, I was doing well and writing songs - and Roger was just a vocalist.” The point being that, up to a point, he wasn’t at the same level. That changed with Tommy, when Roger asked Pete for permission to embody and act out the role of Tommy. It unlocked his stage presence and his voice - jeez, just look at Can’t Explain all tight and small vocally vs. Won’t Get Fooled Again - and how the dynamics all came together with Behind Blue Eyes for Daltrey, flashing hard anger and open vulnerability. As Pete says, that’s when the Who became ascendant because Daltrey was finally good enough to balance out the other parts. So his “liquid kick ass rock” came from a very internal evolution, and his voice hard-earned.

Plant was Tom Brady - a cocky young guy with the raw talent and a ton of potential who couldn’t catch a break, then did and became a superstar overnight. Page wanted Terry Reid, “the best unsigned singer in London” - who had been signed a couple of weeks before Page approached him, and who didn’t want to risk getting pulled down in the remnants of the Yardbirds with a new sound that was getting uncertain buzz (but if you check out Season of the Witch or other cuts by Reid, you hear an *exact *blueprint for Plant - Page knew precisely what he wanted vocally). When Page knew he couldn’t get Reid, he found a kid from the borders who’d been in a couple of bands but was going nowhere (to my knowledge). Page heard him, decided he could use him, formed the New Yardbirds and within month or two they were touring Scandanavia and Peter Grant was hyping them in the U.K. as the biggest thing ever. Plant was given a stage and all the adulation he had been craving and free license to imagine himself a god. So for a 20-year-old kid from the sticks who is all of a sudden on a world stage with proven top musicians and his drinking buddy from Band of Joy (Bonzo), who can blame him for coming across as self-indulgent. If you were Tom Brady and got your chance and became the Hall of Fame QB he is, would you knock him for shtupping Bridget Moynahan and Gisele Bundchen (no, not together - dammit)…

The fact that Plant has outgrown his ego and matured is pretty amazing given that trial by fire. His approach to both the recent Plant/Allison Krauss CD and the reunion has been spot on - embracing the music, but not trying to reclaim youth inappropriately with flapping arms and young dude strutting…(yes, that sounds like Mick Jagger - and in some ways it is - but damn if he doesn’t still pull it off occasionally…)

Careful the Canadians are going to mount an assault on you if keep that up.

I don’t know Wooten at all, but I think Levin is the best I have ever heard. He can do almost anything that everyone else list can do and then plenty they cannot. He was incredible with Floyd, ABW&H & Yes, King Crimson, John Lennon, Bowie, Cooper, and so many others.

What makes Wooten better than Levin? (Seriously, I might need to check him out)


ETA: Again, Thanks for the great posts Wordman.