Of my 16 year stint in full time politics as an elected member of the London Assembly, holding first Ken Livingstone then Boris Johnson to account, most of it was never particularly glamorous. But occasionally I did get to meet the odd rock star or two in my line of work: Bob Geldof, Brian May, Dexy’s Kevin Rowlands and, yes, Jimmy Page.
It was the evening before the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics and there was a reception at the Mansion House in the City of London. I arrived at exactly the same time as Jimmy Page (who had performed at the Closing ceremony of the Bejing Olympics you will recall but didn’t have any formal role in the London Games). Of course, I recognised him, introduced myself to him, got him to autograph the back of my invitation and got chatting to him. As I’d been to loads of these things before as we walked up the stairs I helpfully explained the set-up and all the archaic rituals you went through. I didn’t want to monopolise his company all evening and assumed that he’d have plenty of people he wanted to chat to, so once we’d got past all the flunkies and the formal introductions and the rituals I shook his hand and let him get on with the rest of his evening.
Two minutes later, he’s back: “Well Darren,” Jimmy whispered, “I don’t really know anyone here, do you mind if I hang out with you for the rest of the evening?”
What a lovely, unassuming man and what a relaxed, fun, brilliant evening we had. I said I’d introduce him to some of the other people there but first we had a long chat about the making of Led Zep IV, about the state of the modern music industry, about his old cottage by Loch Ness, about bands and musicians we both admired and about many, many other things. I asked him what he was currently working on: “Don’t say anything to anyone yet but we’re putting out a DVD and CD of the reunion concert we did at the O2. It’s coming out in a couple of months. That’s been my main project at the moment but keep it to yourself.”
Other people joined up with us at various points during the evening (including Boris Johnson’s Environment Deputy, Matthew, another big Zep fan). But I kept my promise about the Celebration Day release and never said a word to anyone until the official announcement. We stayed until the end and as one of the waiters was clearing up after us, he quickly pulled a Led Zep CD out of his pocket and asked Jimmy to sign it, which of course he did.
I will always have fond memories of the night I let Jimmy Page hang out with me. And the surreal nature of that memorable request will probably stay with me for a good while yet.