Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jimmy Page says new music to emerge in documentary

The most pressing revelation in the May 2008 issue of Uncut magazine, which contains interviews with the three surviving original members of Led Zeppelin, is Jimmy Page's claim that new music of his would appear in a film documentary.

The magazine says Page "has recently been filming a documentary with Jack White and The Edge." It quotes the Led Zeppelin guitarist as saying the film features "three generations of guitar players."

If Page has indeed written original material, it would be the first to be issued in 10 years. Addressing that point in an interview for Uncut conducted March 10 with David Cavanagh in London, the guitarist says, "That doesn't matter! No! What does that matter?"

After suffering a back injury in the middle of an aborted U.S. tour with the Black Crowes in the summer of 2000, Page's onstage appearances were rare. While the past 10 years have seen Page overseeing releases of a long-awaited DVD set of live Led Zeppelin and a newly remade version of the 1976 film The Song Remains the Same, Page's scant, one-off in-studio collaborations of the same period have all been of cover tunes.

Only during a live performance for the massive charity event Net Aid in 1999 could Page be seen debuting unreleased material in a live setting. An instrumental, titled "Domino," was introduced to a listening public in a set broadcast globally on television and via satellite.

Cavanagh reflects in the interview on 1998, the last time Page worked with Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant on any permanent basis. That year, they released an album of all-new material and went on tour in North America and Europe, playing mainly tunes from the first five albums of Led Zeppelin's catalog with a few of the newer numbers thrown in for good measure. Scheduled tour dates for Pacific nations and South America were suddenly canceled at the end of that year.

In subsequent interviews, Plant has held that he had been longing to do something different. Page, on the other hand, rarely fields questions on why his four-year collaboration with Plant came to an end. Probed by Cavanagh in this interview, Page admits "there could have been a follow-up" disc. "I had some new material written for another album," he details. "I had about a dozen numbers, and some of them were really good, but Robert heard them and he wanted to go in another direction. He wanted to do another solo album. Fair enough."

Plant, interviewed Jan. 18 by Allan Jones for Uncut, also addresses the work he and Page did with each other between 1994 and 1998, before he played anonymously in a band called Priory of Brion and thereafter returned to his solo career backed by a new lineup called the Strange Sensation, which backed him on the 2002 solo album, Dreamland. In this interview, Plant speaks at great length about his long relationship with Page. "He was my buddy, he will always be my buddy," says Plant, who was 19 years old when they first met in 1968.

Plant addresses how he felt about Page right from that very first encounter, in which Page submitted an idea that the young singer from the British Midlands might make a good fit in the band being assembled with John Paul Jones and a drummer yet to be named. "I felt immediately this was a different kind of guy to anybody I'd met before," Plant tells Allan Jones. "So I was welcomed into Jimmy's home, and immediately I realized that his interests and the whole landscape of his music and his life was very broad and pretty esoteric."

Plant speaks eloquently of his time together with Page in studios and in the quaint, somber settings where they worked together to write some of Led Zeppelin's most beautiful acoustic songs. "As a couple of guys, we really, we sat by the fire at night, and I've still cassettes somewhere of the old grandfather clock ticking," he says. "There was no electricity, outside toilets, the smell of woodsmoke and alcohol."

But it was at a certain point, Plant reveals, that Led Zeppelin became unworkable for him. This he attributes partly to family obligations; he says he found it less possible to do justice to being a globetrotter as well as a homebody. "I wasn't upset with Jimmy," Plant says. "I didn't become remote. He didn't become remote. We'd both just moved to another place."

He also recognizes Page's suffering health played a factor: "Later, when Jimmy's health wasn't too good, it wasn't the same ... it was a different time." The interviewer asks Plant whether Page's heroin use was having an effect on Led Zeppelin. "I think that with most users," Plant replies, "the denial is part of the condition, and because most everybody around was in one way or another denying something, there was no central point of solidarity. ... I still think that by that time Jimmy and I had become quite adept politically at keeping it going, even though I felt very compromised. I also felt for him, you know."

Asked about that time they played together between 1994 and 1998, Plant implied Page may not have been in the best of health at that time either. He was comparing Page's health in 1994 with his impeccable health at the time of the one-off Led Zeppelin concert on Dec. 10, 2007. "If Jimmy had was as healthy then -- and when we came to do Walking into Clarksdale -- if he'd been as open and as healthy, and he'd had the resolve then that he has now, we'd probably have gone somewhere else again."

Plant, who has been readying for a tour with Alison Krauss that will begin in two weeks, appeared glad to spend much of his Jan. 18 interview for Uncut discussing Page. Many of the questions Cavanagh hurled at John Paul Jones in their session 10 days later also focused on Page.

Says Jones, in an interview that took up only one page compared to the three devoted to either of his counterparts', "I know it sounds obvious, but [Jimmy] was always one of my favorite guitarists, and as soon as we started rehearsing [in May 2007 for a planned reunion concert], I was amazed to hear go he'd actually improved. He seemed to have grown since I saw him last."

The last time Jones and Page were known to have played music together was also with Plant, during a jam session following Led Zeppelin's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in January 1995. At the time, Page and Plant were off on a Zeppelin-heavy tour that famously did not involve Jones. "Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number," was the overlooked bass player's short jab at his former bandmates during a brief acceptance speech, given just before the three awkwardly strapped on instruments together for the first time in about five years. An abridged set, also involving Neil Young and Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, followed.

At that time, Jones was upset at not having been asked to take part in the Page-Plant reunion and, worse, not being informed of it in advance. "I wasn't particularly glad for anybody at that point," he tells Cavanagh in the Uncut interview, dismissing those feelings as a thing of the past. "It was quite a hard time for me. But we're past it, if you know what I mean."

Now, Jones is uncertain whether Plant would be available to work with him or Page once again. "I'm not sure. I'm not too certain about anything, right at the moment," he says. "I've got no idea what's going to happen. But I'd certainly like to play with Jimmy again."

Jones says he was happy to perform the two-hour set with Page, Plant and Jason Bonham in London this December. "That we did a full Zeppelin show ... albeit a short one, at two hours ... [Jimmy] was very happy. [He] probably [felt] similar to what it meant to all of us, which is: It's nice to be able to do it, to prove to yourself that you can do it."

He again addresses the concert: "It was great to do the show. [Jimmy and I] spoke afterwards, and we both thought the same -- it felt like the first night of a tour. You think, 'Oh, I could do that a bit better, or change something in that song.' And we didn't get a chance to do any more."

Jones, in the Jan. 28 interview, seems unable to comment definitively about the future; asked if he believed the reunion was over, he said, "It's possible. It is possible." Page, grilled on March 10, was unwiling to speculate on whether or not Plant would be willing and able to continue the Led Zeppelin reunion. Evidently annoyed by repeated questioning, Page interrupts Cavanagh to say, "That's as fair an answer as I can give you."

Page was interviewed one week after a report in the Sunday Mirror on March 2 said Plant had turned down a lucrative offer for a Led Zeppelin tour. When Cavanagh brings this up and asks about the chances for any further reunion activity, Page deflects the question, saying the band members never intended to do more than just that one-off concert, which was a tribute to their late mentor and friend, Ahmet Erteg√ľn of the Atlantic Records label. "The focus," Page says, "was the O2 show. That's what I had my focus on. As for Robert, he had a parallel project [with Alison Krauss], and it's been successful, which I suppose means he doesn't have time for Zeppelin at this point. What I do know -- what I do know -- is that the rehearsals, and the O2 gig, were really inspiring. OK? That's all I'll say."

Upon further questioning, Page adds, "Everybody had such a great commitment to it. Now, if you're talking about a tour -- other dates, maybe recording together -- there's only one thing that's going to be the common denominator with that. And that's commitment. That's how we did the O2."

Getting back to the future that is more certain, Page says he is ready to unleash some of his new material on a public that hasn't heard any original songs of his in the new millennium. "I know what is really challenging, and that is the sort of direction that I personally -- personally -- intend to go," he says. Of the music he has been writing, he says, "They're the sort of vehicles and frameworks that could be applied [or] used in various situations. I might have one thing that could be just as easily recorded with an ethnic drum orchestra as with a rock 'n' roll band. Do you see what I mean? Or you could play it acoustic. It's the application of it. But I'm ready. I'm ready, now, to present the stuff that I've got."

3 comments:

  1. We are ready to listen, Jimmy. I can't wait.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for a nice description of my interviews with Page and Jones. The reason the questions to JPJ were so Page-centred, as you correctly observed, is because Uncut has long been planning a story about Page's career (1962 onwards), which will now probably run later this year. It will include, among other things, further observations from the Jones and Plant interviews that were not used in this particular Zep article. All best

    ReplyDelete
  3. David, thank you for the info, and I'm honored you stopped by to read this and comment on it. I also enjoyed your review of Mothership for Uncut, the point of which can be summed up in your excellent closing line: "Mothership may take the road most travelled, but the scenery is colossal."

    For anyone who hasn't seen it, his review is at http://www.uncut.co.uk/music/led_zeppelin/reviews/10594

    ReplyDelete

Comments are moderated prior to publication. Comments will not be published if they are deemed vulgar, defamatory or otherwise objectionable.