Checking the All-Time stats for my blog I find to my surprise that articles about Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin is not as far up in the total number of views that one would expect. It may be that the Zeppelin fans are so fanatic that they have read it all before, but I expected these articles to be better ranked. I will try again with this article.
Most people visit my blog straight onto my main page, but there are some people clicking directly onto the article, probably because it has been shared by someone. I like that. I like as many readers as possible as I`m doing this for all you music-lovers out there.
So… to give you all more motivation to share my articles I will promise you this: The five bands or artists with the most views on my blog at any given time will be given special attention. Sometimes I skip certain articles, meaning that I don`transcribe them. The five in the lead at any given time will from here on out NOT be skipped, but transcribed for your pleasure EVERY TIME I see them in an issue.
Right now those five are the following bands/artists: Rainbow, Deep Purple, Lemmy, Steve Howe (Yes) and Beck, Bogert & Appice.
Let the sharing games begin! 😉
An interview with Jimmy Page
By Jonh Ingham
Here I am, trying to think of a snappy opening and all I think about is Paul McCartney: What`s that man movin` cross the stage? It looks a lot like the one used by Jimmy Page` (mental association of Page at Abbey Road, plugged into a tiny, antiquated looking Vox, except that across the top at the back were a row of knobs jutting from a decidedly new-fangled looking box), and what kind of snappy opening is that?
So, maestro, if you will keep the fanfare low key, we`ll dissolve the visual into the comfortable-rather-than-plush offices of Swan Song Records.
Jimmy Page has been up all night, first meeting with Peter Grant and then viewing videos of Led Zep`s Earls Court performances. (Ah, to have a VCR and friends in high places.) He shrugs off condolences. “Two nights is the norm.”
If some of his dialogue sounds fractured and impressionistic, there are the reasons. Dressed in black pinstripe suit, black shirt buttoned at collar, black boots, he looks incredibly fragile and painfully shy. Shades shield his eyes.
But he is energetic and at the least, loqacious. When he gets fired on a subject, there`s no stopping, talking so precisely and at length that half one`s questions never get asked.
He speaks very quietly in a hypnotic monotone, the words pouring out quickly, fleshing out his dialogue with his hands, or playing with a ring made of a snake wrapped around a thin slice of rich brown agate. On his right hand is a complex gold signet ring with a tiny ruby at the top. Occasionally, his fingers shake.
He doesn`t waste much conversational space, though this isn`t apparent until you check the tape and find a lot said in very little time. The lack of volume causes such concentration that the speed with which he thinks isn`t apparent until played back. It`s very fast.
The reason we are meeting is, of course, the continuing career of Led Zeppelin, rock band. Having decided to work they have maintained a schedule with a vengeance. When Robert Plant`s accident prevented them from performing a world tour the band concentrated on finishing the now legendary film and recording an album.
As Plant continues to recuperate – he`s beginning to run, sports fans – and the band begin to plan a touring schedule they no longer have to worry about those items known in the Biz as `product`, which Mr. Page calls “a pretty strong footing”.
Having written and rehearsed in Malibu, the group recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, the first time they have recorded in a studio since the fourth album, completing an album in three weeks.
“The novelty of that knocks me out. Although we rehearsed there were still two tracks written in the studio. But the overdubs, Robert`s lyrics, the spontenaiety… There`s still the excitement of the basic tracks. It was all finished before Christmas, and then the artwork…”
Ah yes, the artwork. Zeppelin have had a penchant for complicated covers ever since the kaleidoscope adorning the third album. The fourth album went through some five or six different covers. `Houses Of The Holy` was held up for months while the colour was got just right.
And now `Presence`, as the new platter has been entitled, has been held up by what was intended to be a simple cover so nothing could hold it up.
“It always takes so long. It`s amazing, they`ll have the artwork as a yardstick and send back two alternatives, neither of which are like the original. You know that once it becomes a matrix number, God help you. All you can hope for is to hold onto the quality through the initial pressing, because you know that in two or three years someone will give you a copy to sign and all the colours will be off, the centrepieces will be too short…”
As to what the album sounds like, reports vary. Some say it has a heads down dedication to rock and roll, while others reckon that the diversity shown on `Physical Graffiti` is explored even further. Jimmy poetically confuses the matter even more.
“It was recorded while the group was on the move, technological gypsies. No base, no home. All you could relate to was a new horizon and a suitcase. So there`s a lot of movement and aggression. A lot of bad feeling towards being put in that situation.
Also, we`re playing more as a band than any LP before. Everybody`s playing in such a way as to bring out everybody else. I`m really happy with it, and I`m not usually that optimistic about them because I`ve lived every mistake over and over.
“There`s so many things that have come out from those conditions of having to finish it in a certain time. I was amazed at the inventiveness, the fact that no overdubs were wasted. …Just totally taking chances, experimentation, and they seemed to work. Everything seemed to be on our side, to flow out.
“There`s a blues that`s so held back. Seven minutes long and at no point does anyone blow out. That`s one of the solos I thought I`d never get out. Everyone`s been doing blues since 1964. `It`s going to fall into clichès or it`s going to be too jazzy,` but everything worked okay. So things like that really encourage me.”
The group originally moved their recording environment to country houses in an attempt to extend the environment that had surrounded them writing at Bron-Y-Aur cottage in Wales, so that you could record sitting around the fire, and if the logs crackle, what does it matter? “No-one`s going to hear – probably think it`s the needle or something.”
Also, on early records you could hear the acoustic qualities of the rooms it had been recorded in, but starting in the mid Sixties there began to be an illusion of the room`s acoustics, the sound being very dry with lots of overdubs, echo added afterwards to give perspective.
“I wanted to get away from all that and try and create the sound of the room, and space. The only clear example I can give is `When The Levee Breaks`, where it sounds on the surface as though it`s very simple until you start to listen to what`s happening.”
But the crucial factor, regardless of the environment, is to get a good `live` drum sound, with harmonics aplenty.
“There can`t be anything worse for a drummer than going into the control room knowing he`s got a great sound in the studio and hearing cardboard boxes. Keeping the front of the bass drums on, that sort of thing – not many people do that, it`s the mike inside and lots of blankets.
“It`s a pretty unorthodox way of recording, actually. Sticking the mike up three flights of stairs to get the drums… The depth.” he laughs. “That`s one of the secrets.”
Most of the group`s songwriting is handled by Plant and Page, though there is no set method.
“Of late the music`s been coming first – little bits that I`ve orchestrated, an instrumental that gets a vocal. Or we sit down together, tinkling around. And then there`s 1-2-3-4 and we`ve gotten through two verses before we realise it. That`s the rock and roll. Counting it in and suddenly… whew.
“So there are those with a lot of personal thought and those that just jump out, so there`s a lot of different aspects. I`ve heard that Elton just writes music to lyrics he`s been given.”
He shakes his head. The phone on the coffee table rings. He looks at it, irritated.
“When things develop as a group they start off instrumental, Robert`s there, singing anything that`s coming to mind, the same way you`re playing anything that`s coming to mind. I guess at that point he`s another instrument, and then he moulds the feeling that he finds is relating, and crystalises it. He kicks them over as well. He`s very conscientious about that.”
The phone rings again before he can get a word in edgewise. In one quick movement he grabs the receiver and flings it against the wall, clattering to the floor. The other telephone next to it rings a second time. Jimmy laughs, beaten by technology.
“I contributed lyrics on the first three LPs. After `Stairway` I realised he`d come such a long way on his level, and everyone else was improving on their level, I thought I`d just concentrate on what I was doing. I`ve had lyric books and lost them, so it`s like the writing on the wall. And why not? Robert writes damn good lyrics.”
Page started producing via his fascination with technology. Sound interested him, the changing of an instrument from what it should sound like via effects like echo and phasing, at a time long before it was the norm.
“It`s the challenge of it, being able to come up with all these sounds.”
I mentioned that Led Zep and technology seem synonymous with 50,000 watts and a cord plugged into the wall.
“Well that surprises me.”
Yeah? I was surprised he was surprised. `Kashmir`, which is not Led Zep in the way that `Trampled Underfoot` is sonic attack Led Zep, still comes over as an awesome explosion propelled at majestic earblast volume. Only I didn`t get that far, because I used that classic definitive phrase `heavy metal`.
Jimmy interjected immediately.
“Well what do you class as heavy metal then?”
I reeled off a few titles that owed their livelihood to Alexander Graham Bell.
“Yeah, it depends what your classification is. We`re using dynamics – we can be really loud at one point and drop to a whisper at another. I can`t relate that to other groups I`ve heard who get to a solo and just ride, the same thing right through. Perhaps it`s our dramatics which is coming out.
“We`ve got volume for effect, plus when we play in America in really giant places and you just have to have that power to reach those people in the back, because they`ve taken the trouble to – well, the stories you hear about just getting tickets, let alone anything else. They`ve taken the trouble to go and they may be at the very back but they`ve made the same effort as the people down front, so you have to present them with as much as you can, which means being able to hear it.”
It didn`t occur to me at the time to ask, since he obviously didn`t consider Zeppelin heavy metal, how he felt being classified as the progenitor of the genre.
“We hadn`t toured America in over a year, and those stadium dates were the first two: Atlanta (52,000) and Tampa (59,000). They all came down – “You`ve broken this record and that record` – we`d virtually stepped off a plane. My God, what`s happening? Especially Tampa, Florida. I get really nervy before I go on anyway. A bag of nerves until
I`m into about two numbers.”
Zep seems one of the few super bands that seem to enjoy working live as well as recording, though Jimmy sees them as completely separate aspects.
“We try and change – no, that`s not right. It changes every night. A lot of it is done on signals; if we`re building up to a crescendo and stop and it`s just one instrument, slow cascading passage, a lot of that is just on signals, and spontenaiety. You might hit some really magic bits and everyone is really working together, and it`s not on record. You`re not frozen in time. Captured.
“Whereas when you`re recording it doesn`t have the vibrancy, because you haven`t built up this magnetic feedback between you and the audience. But you`ve still got the spontenaiety, if you manage to hit it, and sometimes it`s hard work, but when you`re out there and really enjoying yourself, then it`s really rewarding. Both aspects are as exciting and unpredictable.”
What maintains Page`s interest as a musician now is the mathematics of music, studying harmonies and melodies and within them chord structures and patterns and how they`re built and interlock and can be linked.
“I got into it knowing there was this gigantic devotion to the study of ragas, because it`s seven years before you even play one. Just doing scales and so on, practising 12 hours a day every day. Knowing that, I wanted to get into what they were actually having to commit to memory, what the problems were to overcome. There were things like splitting half-notes, not into quarter notes but into so many degrees. All this started to really fascinate me, knowing that in these ragas they use one scale ascending and another descending, and that instilled in your memory, you don`t even have to think about it. And time signatures…
“I started to pay attention to tablature and really get involved with the technical aspect of everything. It`s interesting… I wish I`d thought that when I started!”
What was it then, trying to string a couple of licks together? But the vision of 11 year old Jimmy Page playing a cardboard guitar in front of the mirror was not to be corroborated.
“Yeah, well, you know… Until suddenly you realise the scope of the thing and what you`ve got to do to pull it off.”
He also professes to be “dabbling” with synthesisers, having completed a soundtrack for Kenneth Anger`s film `Lucifer Rising`.
Anger, a noted American experimental film maker who gained noteriety 12 years ago with a bike film called `Scorpio Rising`, and more recently with `Invocation Of My Demon Brother`, a short, intense, ritualistic film with a jagged, rough, almost naive synthesiser soundtrack by Mick Jagger that had a quite disturbing effect, began `Lucifer Rising` ten years ago. But friend and confidant Bobby Beauseloil (later a friend of Charlie Manson) stole large portions of the footage. (What was left eventually became `Invocation`.) Now he is shooting it again, a feature length film. With the first 20 minutes finished, he asked Page for his services.
“With a synthesiser every instrument is different from what it`s meant to sound like, which is especially interesting when you get a collage of instruments together not sounding the way they should and you think, (excited) `What`s that?` That`s the effect I wanted to get, so you didn`t immediately realise it was five instruments playing together. Because Anger`s visuals have a timeless aspect.
“The important thing with `Invocation` was that the visuals and music were like that-“. He interlocks his hands tightly. “And the music couldn`t really exist on its own. That`s how I wanted this music to be, but I wanted to hold up and keep the attention without people actually listening to it.
“The film`s pacing is absolutely superb. It starts so slow, and after say four minutes it gets a little faster and the whole thing starts to suck you in. The thing was, I only saw clips, and 20 minutes is a long time, and he put the music onto the visual – I know he didn`t do any edits because I saw the piece with different music – and things just worked out in synch. Like certain bits match certain actions. It`s so well crafted, and this undercurrent of everything working independently.
“It`s just so arresting. I had a copy and while I was in the States I hooked it up to a big stereo and frightened the daylights out of everyone.” He laughs softly.
“I was on the sixth floor and there were complaints from the twelfth. There`s a real atmosphere and intensity. It`s disturbing because you know something`s coming. I can`t wait for it to come out.”
Which conveniently brings us to the long overdue Zeppelin film, based around a 1974 Madison Square Garden concert, fantasy and documentary sequences lifting it out of the arena. It is now in the credits stage, and will be released sometime this summer. Although it may be considered a documentary it is more a musical.
“It`s so time consuming. It`s a horrible medium to work in. It`s so boring! So slow! Just shooting the fantasy sequence. `Can you do it again so we can get a different angle? Can you do it again?` I`m not used to that. It`s a silly attitude, okay, but nevertheless… The Anger things is completely different. Working with him is a unique experience.”
We`re interrupted by a phone call for Jimmy. When he returns we start talking about his love for travel.
“The complete shock of change of environment. The whole… what`s the word? I refuse to say vibe… The total experience and the impression it has upon you. The smell of a place, the linguistics, the general atmosphere. The difference of the music there – but I`ve put a lot of work into those sort of things anyway before getting there. It`s like an excuse to see how things apply, musically anyway.
“The attitude of people, too. When you get to a place where there haven`t been too many white people… Suspicion, overcoming that, and the hospitality. Arabs will open up their house to you; lay on these huge meals and you`re just blown away by the spectacle of it. Robert finds it especially stimulating for lyrics. And musically for me it`s ideal.
“If I had only got to a certain stage in playing and not gotten into that situation where you keep progressing with things I`d have definitely gone into field recordings.
“I`m obsessed – not just interested, obsessed – with folk music, street music, the parallels between a country`s street music and its so-called classical and intellectual music, the way certain scales have travelled right across the globe. All this ethnological and musical interraction fascinates me. Have you heard any trance music? That`s the thing.”
As it happens, someone wanting to record the Pan Festival at Joujouka in Morocco had played me a tape, a wildly hypnotic, timeless music accompanied by bright images of dancing and village life. Brian Jones recorded there, though it was merely a recreated festival.
“I don`t know how much they put into it. He got what he wanted. But I don`t know if he saw certain spectacles. Like they`ll be dancing in total trance state, one will smash a bottle over his head, and you know, skull, blood everywhere,and the next day, not a trace.”
Have you seen these things yourself?
“Well, I`ve witnessed one particular night that was very odd. But it`s not distressing, it`s refreshing, because it makes you re-evaluate everything. You know that you`re seeing a facade. What`s underneath it? What`s really going on? I`ve heard just so many stories of what people have seen. They`re not lying.
“For instance, there`s a man towards the south (of Morocco), in fact a holy man, but he`ll invite you to mint tea, and while he`s standing there mint grows up around his toes and feet and he picks it, makes tea and a small animal eats the stalks and it`s gone.”
As he tells you this his face lights up like a small boy with a big secret.
“I haven`t seen that, no, but the person who had and told me had no reason to lie. I`ve witnessed other things which I don`t care to discuss. I think if a person`s into it they`re the kind of things he`ll experience himself rather than having it related to him.”
When did you first get into altered states of consciousness and so forth?
“What, in relation to music? When I heard `Jerusalem` when I was about five years old and I wondered what the feeling was that was going on.”
Suddenly, he makes a connection.
“Yeah, yes, that`s what it`s all about! That`s just a mundane sort of thing you relate to and you start taking that on and on and on, you start relating that to particular themes, vibrations in music, things like mantras, and keep going, further and further… There`s a lot to learn.
“I don`t want to get too dippy about all this. If you take the view of the scientist and everything is in a state of vibration, then every note is a vibration, which has a certain frequency, and you know that if you put 40 beats into a frequency it`s going to be the same note every time.
“You take that into infrasound and people can be made to be sick, actually killed; taking it the other way, not to be too depressing, what about euphoria, etc., and what about consciousness being totally… No, I won`t go into that one. Time warps.”
We discuss various ethnic musics.
“What I`ve heard recently is festival music from the Himalayas.”
Have you been there?
Longingly: “No… It must be frustrating to look into Tibet. See the prayer flags and not be able to step over.” He laughs.
He mentions that during their aborted world tour they had planned to record in places like India, Bangkok, to try and infiltrate the hustle and bustle, the general noise… Playing also with local musicians.
“Obviously, you get interesting results, from anything, and anything new always gives me a charge.”
As he says, only George Harrison has tried the idea, with `Wonderwall`; he also mentions his trip with Robert to Bombay, recording some of their numbers with a local orchestra, and how it threw such a new perspective on their work.
We return to the subject of control through sound. The United States is developing an anti-riot weapon that hits you with a strong jolt of exactly 60 cycles, a frequency (as Eno discovered empirically) that makes mincemeat out of your bowel muscles.
“The euphoric state is taking it the other way – there has to be all these aspects. Not only things that create misery but things that create – Ah! That is the powerful weapon to use, not a weapon that makes you shit yourself but something that creates euphoria, and when they get that you`re fucked. They give you a dose of that and you won`t even know you`ve got it. I`ve obviously been listening to some Dick Barton films.”
He became interested in parapsychology and altered states at about 11.
“Reading about different things that people were supposed to have experienced, and seeing whether you could do it yourself. And sometimes, yeah, but I didn`t understand a lot until I grew up.”
It was at this time, too, that he discovered Aleister Crowley.
“But I couldn`t understand what he was getting at until years afterwards. It kept nagging me, I couldn`t fully grasp what he was getting at.
“I feel he`s a misunderstood genius of the twentieth century. Because his whole thing was liberation of the person, of the entity, and that restriction would foul you up, lead to frustration which leads to violence, crime, mental breakdown, depending on what sort of makeup you have underneath. The further this age we`re in now gets into technology and alienation, a lot of the points he made seem to manifest themselves all down the line.
“His thing was total liberation and really getting down to what part you played. What you want to do, do it. Anyway, that`s a minor part, just one of the things they couldn`t come to terms with. Saying there would be equality of the sexes. In an Edwardian age that`s just not on. He wasn`t necessarily waving a banner, but he knew it was going to happen. He was a visionary and he didn`t break them in gently.
“I`m not saying it`s a system for anybody to follow. I don`t agree with everything, but I find a lot of it relevant and it`s those things that people attacked him on, so he was misunderstood.”
Finally, there is the question of why a three hour live saga instead of a cataclysmic 90 minutes?
“The intention was to cut back in the January-February tour of America. `What are we doing? We`re mad, three hours.` So we attempted to cut it back to two hours, and I don`t know, it just went to three hours again.” He chuckles.
“Not having a set pattern is what does it. That way it`s such an invigorating catalyst at times, because everybody feels that way and somebody starts doing something and everybody smiles and away it goes off into another thing altogether. And you`ve got to keep thinking fast – when it`s working well it`s really great, four people building something, changing gear without crunching them.”
Oh by the way, have you found your angel with a broken wing?
He stumbles on the reply, reckons the question was below the belt, and settles on the simplest reply.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Evelyn Thomas & Ian Levine, Shaun Cassidy, Alan White, Cate Brothers, Julie Tippetts, Adam Faith, Pat Travers, Deep Purple, Jesse Winchester, Phil Collins.
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