Page Promo Interview
it was that we were really seasoned musicians. We had serious
roots that spanned different cultures, obviously the blues. I
was seduced by R&R as a teenager and that's what made me want
to play. From then I discovered the blues and country blues, folk
musicians, then folk with Arabic and on and on. I was gobbling
it all up, then it just came up as the music that you heard."
as the blues, it just captured them hearing Chicago blues. When
the Stones first started they were doing really good interpretations
of Muddy Waters songs and all that Chess catalog. They weren't
the only ones of course. Down in the south (London), that's what
was going on. Then you had the Beatles in Liverpool with "Please
Mr. Postman", and it really wasn't the same deal as what
was going on down South, but it got very popular and changed what
was going on. It wasn't so much, for me, their music, but the
fact that they wrote their own songs and all of a sudden they
opened the door for any band that could write songs. I started
doing studio work. That's the big change they made on the music
honesty of the music and the delivery and the passion of it. We
went in and recorded exactly where we were at that point in time.
I think because of the quality of musicianship of the band has
given it the longevity. I thought the music would endure, I didn't
think I would.. I always thought I'd be dead by 30 then dead by
40 and on and on. Now I'm 55 so I didn't even die at 50."
believed in the music we did and that's why it was uncompromising.
The first album then the second album had Whole Lotta Love. When
the record company heard the third album they said 'where's the
WLL?' And of course there wasn't one. There wasn't a Stairway
to Heaven on the fifth because we went in and recorded exactly
where we were at that time."
think the critics could understand what we were doing. It's a
good example to go back to the WLL syndrome. The second album
was recorded on the road, we started before we came to the (US)
touring. We did some cuts here at Atlantic (Bring it on Home).
It had all the energy of being on the road, that urgency. We'd
been touring for two years solid. Once you see the door open,
you kick it open and go right in. We took full advantage of touring
to get our name and mission across. We had a break after that
period and Robert and I went away and were in a cottage with no
electricity. We had battery recorders and were writing in a more
mellow way so when the third album came out as mellow music, they
couldn't understand what it was all about. So, you see it was
a product of where we were at that point in time. And so I guess
reviewers put on an album once and unless they caught something
they could relate to from a previous album... of course they couldn't
understand it - you just got successively worse reviews as the
albums went on because they went totally over people's heads.
It seems funny now that Stairway had a one-line review in one
I remember. It got to be amusing after a while because they just
couldn't understand what we were doing, which is always good isn't
the whole light and shade of the band. When you say "heavy
metal" it the intensity of the riffs, really. There's some
majestic music like Kashmir - some music that can really caress,
like Ten Years Gone."
a really good thing to do that Puff Daddy thing and gave me such
a focus. We were touring at the time (with Page/Plant) and it
was a really good thing to do and he was great to work with as
Is this Early
Days/Latter Days a Greatest Hits Compilation?
way, yes. There was the original vinyl, then it was remastered
into CD - we put out a four-CD box set. That's so long, years
ago. It just seemed to be good timing to put out what is almost
like a greatest hits. But to put out a greatest hits on one CD
was totally impossible, I just couldn't do it. The best compromise
was to put out two CDs - Early Days - which is what it is - and
Latter Days. It chronological; the first goes up to the fourth
album. The second one will come out in early 2000 and will have
the rest of the albums. I didn't pick them out of a hat... (laughs).
I thought it was a fair summing up of those albums."
Breakdown Video on Early Days CD (from Sweden TV '69):
is us actually miming to it (from Sweden TV). Everything around
from that time is live, like in Denmark or somewhere (referring
to the Danish TV performance). It looks like they're stoned but
they're not they're absolutely flabbergasted by what's going on
because they've never seen anything like it. So this one is a
time that we lip-synched it, so we're having a whale of a time
and being silly and having a lot of fun. It's in context to put
it on here because it's lip-synched, so it's a little bonus."
it comes out to 36 hours - I know that because I had to pay the
bills. It wasn't like we went into there for 36 hours non-stop,
but we paid for 36 hours of studio time. We had a chance to air
the songs onstage in a small tour of Scandinavia. It gave us a
change to know the number before going in the studio. JPJ and
I were veterans in the studio so we had all the discipline. John
Bonham and Robert had been in the studio before for a couple of
things. It wasn't like anyone was going in there for the first
time. Everyone got swept away by the energy of it."
take so long to record:
me a bit because the album Presence was done in three weeks -
fully recorded and mixed. In Through the Out Door was done in
three weeks, so I can't see why people have to take so long to
do an album. Presence is quite a technical album. I don't know
why people take two years to do an album. I wouldn't have the
patience for it - I'd get fed up. That's why you hear about people
doing an album and taking two years to record it - and it's stale."
Page on John
the moment he died, they put him in Playboy as one of the greatest
drummers, which he was - there's no doubt about it. There's never
been anybody since. He's one of the greatest drummers that ever
lived. You only have to hear a live performance to see the way
he could approach things and his imagination was far beyond any
other drummer that I've ever played with."
Live in Zep:
funniest thing is I listen on some of those bootleg albums, and
I remember on two tours I wasn't playing with one finger at all
because I'd done damage to it. One time I'd ripped it on a fence
or something, another time I got it crushed. So when I hear a
wrong note, I think wait a minute... But, I wouldn't have the
nerve to do it now."
else had a support band. As we went on it was difficult, just
like what we were talking about with the running order (of Early
Days). It was so difficult to take numbers out when we had a new
album, so we just kept adding new material. The set got longer
and longer and longer to the point where we we doing three hour
Role as producer
try to have a democratic thing, but I think it's an accepted thing
that Jimmy was a producer then. For instance, the the BBC Sessions
I did all the editing, so it goes without saying."
ever remix Zep catalog?
the albums I'd hear something and say - that's too loud, or not
loud enough. But people get immersed in them and they hear them
as they are and they don't need to be messed with. I'll give you
a strange example of this: when I was learning from the records
as a kid, like on Ricky Nelson numbers - you'd hear half the solo
then they'd apply the echo. I'd listen back to them and they weren't
nearly as pronounced as I thought they were and it came as a shock.
That's how much I'd gotten into the records. Even though it was
only a mono record, it opened up and was massive - I could hear
every little nuance. I think people who are really into Zeppelin
records feel the same way and it's not a good thing to do."
When the Levee Breaks
curious thing about Levee, I had the riff and sequence of it and
that's about all. Robert had a guide vocal to it. We tried it
in two studios and it didn't sound good. If a number didn't work,
we'd just move on and try the song the next day. We were working
in Headley Grange with a mobile truck. Bonzo had one drum kit
in the room we were recording, and a second kit - I think a new
drum kit - was set up. He started playing there and I went "hold
it!" because there was this massive sound. I said let's mike
up the kit and let's start and we started with When the Levee
Breaks, as far as I remember. Around this big massive drum sound,
the whole thing just settled into what it was, then of course
all the overdubs came on, backwards echo and all this sort of
Did You Write
Material before going in the Studio?
felt if we were going in to do an album, there should already
be a lot of structure already made up so we could get on with
that and see what else happened. I always had a lot of material
- it speaks for itself for the first album, but all the way through.
I thought it was also important to see what would happen organically
as well. For instance, on Rock and Roll... Is that on there? (asks
interviewer)... good, it should be (laughs), we were recording
something else - I can't remember what it was at the time and
John Bonham just started playing the opening bars of Keep A Knockin',
by Little Richard - the drum intro. I heard that and just started
playing what you know as the riff of Rock and Roll. We got through
the first twelve bars and said "let's stop and listen to
this". The other song just got totally forgotten about &
we did Rock and Rock, all in a matter of minutes."
of releasing live Zep material?
we've got live material from 1970 going right through to Knebworth,
which was the last concert in England. The 1970 show is the Albert
Hall so we're doing the first album stuff and some of the second
album. That's pretty good and we've got live tapes to go with
those as well. It's the sort of project that would be interesting
to do. There's always been talk of doing something at one point.
I thought it would be a good idea to put out a live chronological
deal, something like this (Early Days) but in line with the footage.
But at another point in time it'll be "let's just do the
Albert Hall" and that would be good. It's a really good concert,
before some of the songs got too long."
the Black Crowes:
proposed that there was going to be a concert in London at a place
called the Cafe du Paris to raise money for these projects and
safehouses in Brazil, for the street children (June '99). I'd
been involved with the charity, but I didn't have a band. I played
there the year before, with Robert for another charity so I couldn't
ask them to do it again. Also, they wanted to get other bands.
There was a suggestion, I think it was Ross Halfin who said it
would be great if you did that with the Crowes - The Crowes! That
would be absolutely fantastic. I contacted them because it was
the same time they were doing Wembley and they said they'd love
to do it."
they said they'd do it, we now had 'Jimmy Page with the Black
Crowes' instead of Jimmy Page with nobody, other bands came onboard
- Stereophonics, Roger Taylor from Queen. Steve and Joe from Aerosmith
came down and we did some numbers. It was a really good. I did
Dazed & Confused as an instrumental. It was such a fun evening.
It was really as a result of them coming onboard that this whole
charity thing managed to manifest. So, an idea was then proposed
to me: We've got the Roseland Ballroom and Greek Theatre, would
you like to do something with the Crowes? So I jumped at it. We
had a big party ever since. I'm really gonna miss it when we stop.
They're such lovely guys and so committed to rock and good music.
Plus, they can really play Zeppelin, which isn't easy to play."
is and what should never be
Led Zeppelin made its first trip to the BBC Studios in London
during March of 1969, it was a young band with one album done,
a second on the way and a buzz based on guitarist Jimmy Page's
(pictured) tenure with the Yardbirds and bassist John Paul Jones'
lengthy session credits.
sound was primal and raw and not completely formed. It's first
selections were sledgehammer cover versions of the blues great
Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me" and "I Can't Quite
But even the
casual ear could pick up a special, distinctive chemistry that
was bubbling under the standard 12-bar changes.
two years, the group was wending its way through the shifting
dynamics of its opus, "Stairway to Heaven", as well
as intricate acoustic pieces such as "Going to California"
and "That's the Way."
growth is traced on "BBC Sessions", a new release of
frequently bootlegged material from the Led Zep archives and a
more complete chronicle of the legendary quartet's performance
prowess than the soundtrack album from the 1976 film "The
Song Remains the Same."
is a natural process, obviously, of just playing a lot together;
you get closer and closer, you get to anticipate each other's
moves," says Jones, explaining that while he and guitarist
Jimmy Page were seasoned professionals when the group performed,
singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham -- whose death in
1980 led to the band's dissolution -- didn't have much big-time
what you're hearing is the maturation of the other two more than
us," he says.
that performing on BBC programs such as "Top Gear,"
"Chris Grant's Tasty Pop Sundae," "One Night Stand"
and "In Concert" were major gigs for rock bands.
Rolling Stones and other groups made several significant appearances
on the BBC, often as a way of getting around the national network's
sticky "needle time" rules, which permitted disc jockeys
only so much time each day to play records -- thereby limiting
exposure for rock
But in Led
Zeppelin's case, the BBC dates also provided the group with an
opportunity to give the listening audience a taste of how its
songs evolved after they were recorded.
allowed to expand and play five-, six-, seven-minute songs,"
says Jones, 51, who was born John Baldwin and became a professional
musician at age 16. "The albums were always the starting
point of the music, and then we'd take it out and expand it on
then we'd come straight off the road and into those studios. So
the fire in the playing was particularly noticeable, and the cockiness
The BBC outings
also allowed the band to play some of its blues and rocks favorites
by other artists. The Beatles' "Live at the BBC" album
was filled with covers, and besides the Dixon cuts, "BBC
Sessions" finds Zep working its way through Eddie Cochran's
"Something Else" and Sleepy John Estes' "The Girl
these were songs done mostly "for fun," but that in
the early days of the band they also served a more pragmatic purpose.
putting them in in the early days, when the act wasn't that long,"
he remembers. "It all kind of started in Boston, I think,
at the Tea Party, when we had a very short act, and we played
for an awfully long time. Anybody that knew more than four bars
of anything would start it, and we
would all just join in.
it was fun, mainly. You're not trying to be like, 'Hey, this is
a new angle' or a different interpretation.' We weren't that pretentious."
the idea for "BBC Sessions" was hatched during the meetings
he, Page and Plant regularly have to sort through Led Zeppelin
culled the song list from four broadcasts during 1969 and 1971,
deciding to duplicate some songs -- such as "Dazed and Confused"
and the Dixon tunes -- to further illustrate the group's musical
The 1971 "In
Concert" broadcast from London's Paris Theatre was particularly
noteworthy, since it features a preview of "Stairway to Heaven"
and other songs from Zep's then-forthcoming fourth album. But
Jones says he remembers nothing particularly momentous about that
recognized as a good song and a good track, but it didn't go down
half as well as the stuff the audience knew," he says. "That's
the way of live shows, anyway."
of "BBC Sessions" raises the question of whether more
concert material from the Zep archives is on the horizon. Page
and "BBC Sessions" engineer Jon Astley have both alluded
to other available recordings, but Jones says there are no firm
plans for additional releases.
live tapes pop up rather than come from a great big store we're
going to release bit by bit," says Jones, who's planning
a solo album for 1998 while Page and Plant are working on another
come across this stuff. This one kind of appeared while we were
doing other Zeppelin business."
that he meets "too often" with Page and Plant on residual
Zep business matters. His relationship with the two has been strained
since the singer and guitarist reunited in 1994 without inviting
Jones or telling him about it. Feelings soured further when they
named their album "No Quarter," after one of Jones'
not stupid, but ... why? Why doesn't somebody just say something.
Just say, 'We don't want you,' or whatever," he says. "I
really don't mind. It just seems so spineless to sort of crawl
even at Zep's 1995 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,
when he thanked his former bandmates for "remembering my
(phone) number." The zinger remains a highlight of Hall of
Fame lore, and Jones remembers Neil Young, who jammed with Zep
that night, poking Page and Plant in the ribs and admonishing
them, "don't you forget his phone number ever again."
acknowledges, the episode has put a chill in their relationship.
it hard to talk about, and they certainly don't want to talk about
it," says the married father of three grown daughters. "I
know Page certainly looks at me a bit funny sometimes. I think
Robert's in another world; I don't know what he thinks anymore.
And we were close. It seems just odd."
Page and Plant
each declined to respond to Jones' comments. That said, there's
still a chance that the three might reunite for Atlantic Records'
50th anniversary bash last year, as they did for the company's
40th anniversary celebration. But Jones makes no promises.
know; it'll be funny doing anything with them again," he
says. "I kind of hope I don't have to. I don't know what
more I can tell you about that. I would rather not, to be honest."
is a US journalist who covers the music scene from Detroit. He
also is the supervising editor of the award-winning MusicHound
album guide series. He has been published in a broad range of
papers and magazines. This interview first appeared on Reuters).