Taken from this great book which I recommend: "When the Levee Breaks: The Making of Led Zeppelin IV by Andy Fyfe: "When the Levee Breaks" is a rewrite from 1928 blues song by Memphis Minnie 1897-1973. Minnie was born in Memphis, Tennessee and one of the few women blue artists of any era. "When the Levee Breaks" was conducive in bringing a new era of music, and Bonham's true legacy to the world. It was used at the earliest rap block parties when they wanted more power. The Beastie Boys used it in the opening track of Licensed to Ill "Rhymin' & Stealin'". The drum track and "Funky Drummer" by James Brown are two of the most sampled drum tracks. Jimmy Page said, "Nobody other than John Bonham could have created that sex groove".
How the legendary drum sound was recorded: According to producer Andy Johns, he and John Bonham set up a new drumset in the "Grange's Hallway, which double as the house's central stairwell, climbing three stories above their heads. Hanging two stereo mics above the kit, one about 10 feet from it, the other 20, John then ran the drums into two channels on the desk outside through an old echo unit." Apparently the bass drum was not mic'd. Johns compressed the sound even more and was so moved by the result that he ran in to the house shouting for Bonham to come listen quickly.
However, Paige did not remember it that way and that he rightly figured that if the microphones were pulled away from the drums, or amps, this would create a much fuller ambience capturing the true live sound of the drums. Basically the sound you hear is not just Bonham's drumming but the way the drums reacted to the acoustics of the room. Albeit a slight echo was put on the recording, what you hear is pretty much what was played.
Dan playing "When the Levee Breaks" drum intro at Cape Breton International Drum Fest in "Name that Beat" to Have Fun with The Drumming Audience. Just watch how QUICKLY the audience yells it out - "Bonham!", "When the Levee Breaks!":
Learn The Beat Step-by-Step (Note: John Bonham may have only played one note on beat 1 but with the echo it sounds like two!)
Here is a drum transcription for "When The Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin
The Beastie Boys incorporating "When the Levee Breaks" in their song "Rhymin & Stealin":