Tag Archives: Jimmy Page

“We were never about making the same album twice” – Led Zeppelin III: 50th anniversary interviews

October 2020 marks fifty years since the release of the Led Zeppelin III album. Greater Manchester Rock Radio’s Stewart Taylor recently devoted one of his ‘Classic Albums’ shows to celebrating the album’s anniversary. The show included exclusive interviews with all three surviving members of the band. GMRR have kindly shared those recollections from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones for this piece.

Led Zeppelin III showed a marked progression in style from the previous two albums where the hard rock and blues influences were accompanied by folk influences and acoustic-based tunes. To begin preparing for the band’s third album Page and Plant had decamped to the isolated Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in Wales:

Jimmy Page: “The creative process for Led Zeppelin III changed because the first album had been – I wouldn’t say in a hurry because it was done efficiently and from the period before that we had already started doing a few dates in Scandinavia – and we didn’t stop! We didn’t stop working, all the way through 1969. And we’d managed to do the second album and we were also doing dates and tours in America. And we got our first – what you would call a break. And it was nice because it was fabulous all the energy of being on the road. But it was nice to breathe a sigh of relief and take in the general scent of the countryside… There was still writing going on but it wasn’t the frantic pace of having to do a show that night. The cottage in Wales was one of Robert’s ideas… It was good because it was acoustic guitars and whatever. There was literally no electricity. It was log fire, gas lights and little tape recorders. So the electricity that was in that place was the electricity we were producing with the music if you like.”

Robert Plant: “It had been a real fast quite a rollercoaster to get to that point. From what I remember we really needed to take stock and we were very aware or wished to make a departure of some kind and to calm it all down a bit….We wanted to try and break off, break away and we had an affinity he and I. And even if it wasn’t absolutely the most fruitful moment of the time, it at least allowed us the space to have space. And that meant that when we went on to write further on down the line we had developed the ability to create more space in the music.”

The pair were then later joined by John Bonham and John Paul Jones at another location, Headley Grange:

John Paul Jones: “I suppose it was the first time we’d ever we just sat down together and just tried things, you know, tried lots of different things. We had acoustic instruments as well hanging around. And it was just really nice to sit around a stretch out a little bit I suppose and just experiment. The band was never about making the same album twice.”

On the decision to plant themselves firmly in the ‘albums band’ camp:

Jimmy Page: “It was really apparent what was going on in America. There’d been a number of FM stations that had been established. And these FM stations were playing what we’d now call alternative music – to the singles. And you’d even get to hear them playing a whole side of an album. And I thought – oh boy! This is wonderful. This is the area to go in. Not the singles market because the problem with the singles market, you’d have a single that everyone has worked on… and you’d find bands who did that, the rest of the album material wasn’t very good.  Because they were a singles market band. Not only that you’d find when they did the next album… they have to do something that sounded very much like the single off the first album so everyone knew who they were. We didn’t do that.”

Led Zeppelin III saw the band exploring more acoustic material:

Robert Plant: “The thing opened up much more then. Although it was there – I mean on the second album there was ‘Ramble On’ and on the first album there was ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’. There was the kind of acoustic element. The variety was there. My performance I wasn’t that pleased with on the first and second but by the third… ‘Gallows Pole is one of my favourite tracks and ‘Immigrant Song’ is, too. They were just so far between the two. And that to me was the beginning of me actually saying yep, boy, you can do something. Rather than it all being in the one idiom if you like. So yeah, I started getting a bit of pride then”

At the end of the hour-long show each of three are asked for their final thoughts on the album, listening back on it now:

John Paul Jones: “Well it reminded me how good a band it was. Also, it reminded me how much I miss John Bonham.”

Robert Plant: “All we wanted to do was keep stretching. This is the whole thing about Led Zeppelin.”

Jimmy Page: “If the band was going to stay together then you could really start going on this road where these initial ideas are expanded…right over the horizon in every direction.”

Thanks to Greater Manchester Rock Radio. You can listen to the full hour-long programme on Soundcloud here:

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The night Jimmy Page asked if he could hang out with me

Photo Credit: cottage via Andy c/o Wiki

The night Jimmy Page asked if he could hang out with me

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.

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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.