I wrote the riff to Black Dog on the back of a train ticket, which unfortunately I don’t have.”
Nando Machado: The show starts with Good Times, Bad Times, the first track of the first Led Zeppelin album. This song was almost never played live. Could you talk a little about this and the reasons this was the opening song of the show?
Jimmy Page: We may not have played it at all, live. We might have done it, but I don’t have recollections of actually having it on the set, curiously enough. It certainly was the first one to go on that album, because it was like “we’ll take this”, cause in the days of vinils and albums you just sort of played the first track. I just really wanted to blow people’s socks off with the first track that they had.
Robert Plant: I don’t think that the form of the band, even in it’s early days was based on a 3 minute song. And as much as it was a very effective song, and it was concise, had a beginning and an end, but it was a song, it was a tune, in fact. But it wasn’t part of the inherited weave of what a Led Zeppelin show should have been. I think there was much more of an idea of musical extensions and the dynamics of Zeppelin’s show were much more intense than that song will allow.
Jimmy Page: So, yeah, it was a good call to do that as the first number, and plus you gotta understand that the pacing of this set, we wanted to really make sure that people new “hey, they’re taking this really seriously”. And we better watch out and see what’s coming next.
Dick Carruthers: It is all about the band, I mean, of course, I got to direct it , it was a huge honor and privilege, but it’s their performance, it’s their film, and what makes that film amazing is what they did that night, and the fact that they got together and did it. So it was my job to capture it and then capture what went on, and represent that, and obviously I like to think: “mission accomplished”.
LZ (RP): I mean, I never even expected to see a movie, I even cracked up on it two years later and peaked and ran off, because it was such a daunting responsibility, to try and compete with such an amazing past.
Daniel Dystyler: One of the songs chosen for the set list of the show was Black Dog, which many people say was created to discourage people from dancing. John Paul Jones, you wrote this song, is that true?
John Paul Jones: Yeah, that’s a myth. Basically, its kind of the way I think sometimes, these riffs, I wrote it coming back from rehearsal, from Jimmy’s house, on the train. My dad was a musician and he showed me a way of writing down notation on anything, so I wrote the riff to Black Dog on the back of a train ticket, which unfortunately I don’t have.
WM (NM):: Also chosen to be part of the show was the epic Stairway to Heaven. This song was recorded by people like Dolly Parton and Rolf Harris. What do you think of those versions?
LZ (JP): I’ve heard the Rolf Harris version, but it just so happen, rather Plant and I, the night we were working on the Page-Plant Tour, we came to Australia and we did Andrew Denton’s show. He said to the guests “you can come and you can do whatever you want, providing it’s Stairway to Heaven” and then I eventually got to hear all the different versions and I thought it was absolutely brilliant.
Rafael Masini: How did you come up with Stairway to Heaven?
LZ (RP): Who knows what we were thinking then? I mean, I have no idea what we were thinking then, except for it was a major breakthrough on the constructible side, musically. It was fastidious work on Jimmy and I. I think he’d already got an idea on the way and it was an achievement by our standards. But, you know, Zeppelin I, II and III before that were all showing that there was a flexibility between us. In those days, to be able to move through the spheres… I guess we thought that it wasn’t the case of even blustering and blabbering “take a look at this because this is amazing”, it was just “this is kind of an unusual moment for us”. And you never know what you’re doing and who knows; you could be writing a small book and put it out and it could turn into Paulo Coelho, you never know what’s gonna happen. You just go “oh, this is good, let’s do that now, we ain’t got nothing to lose”. So, we lost nothing.
WM (DD):: Jason Bonham had a big responsibility. How was playing with him?
LZ (JP): Jason had the hardest job of anybody, because he had the biggest boots to fill, with the reputation of his father. And so it was so important that he knew that he had our confidence as well.
You wouldn’t find a band able to do that in this day and age. Just be able to put something there for their own amusement”
LZ (JPJ):: That’s some drum chair to step into. All the ones before, not to mention the rest of the world’s drummers, who were all thinking “it could have been me”. But again, he was invaluable throughout the whole process, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of everything we had ever done. He grew up listening to, analyzing and loving his dad’s and Zeppelin’s music and so he knew everything about it, lyrics, you name it. And when we were rehearsing we were thinking… cause ending rule is different, cause they change it depending on the set list and you play a song and “how did this end, can you remember how this ended?” and Jason would go “yeah, in 1971 it went into this, in 73 you did something different and it went..”. So, he’s got all this knowledge, he was like the Google of the band. You just Jason something.
WM (NM):: No band in history has ever had the musical as performance level that Zeppelin achieved. Back then, was this planned or did it just happen naturally?
LZ (RP): Yeah, I guess it was a natural and very interesting and surprising character that developed unwittingly. But in from the get go, Jimmy’s portrayal of drama and his use of musical interludes, there was always some fantastic juxtaposition away from straight Rock n’ Roll.
WM (RM):: People often say that the best Led Zeppelin album was “Physical Graffiti”. Why do you think that is?
LZ (JP): “Physical Graffiti”, what it illustrated was a band at work. If you listen to all of that’s going on there, there’s some really intense work like Kas”hmir for example, and then there’s something like “Boogie with” Stu, which is just a light hearted moment when this fellow Stuart comes in and starts playing this piano that was impossible to play and it’s just a magic moment, just play along with Stu and do this thing. You wouldn’t find a band would be able to do that in this day and age, just be able to put something there for their own amusement and what’s really happening, cause everything appears to be so regimented the way that you hear. So we were having fun, you can hear that on “Physical Graffiti”.
WM (DD):: Could you talk about how you and Jimmy Page were influenced by African music, both in Led Zeppelin and your independent careers?
LZ (RP): Jimmy and I traveled extensively through the Sahara and the Atlas mountains in Morocco, through India – we recorded in India. We actually pushed it a little bit and as we pushed social life in between tours, we pushed the ability to find new influences to affect the music generally. As far as our creativity ordered, musical and record compete to it in Kashmir.
WM (NM):: It becomes clear on “Whole Lotta ”Love that you revolutionized all studio recording technics. How did you do that?
LZ (JP): That point of time with what was still analog things weren’t into a digital form at at this point. It was still referred to as analog. And what could be done with tapes and phasing and flanging, it was definitely on the forefront of this six parameter stuff with recording technics.
WM (DD):: We could feel the energy and joy you felt on stage, specially in Whole Lotta Love. How was that?
LZ (JP): That’s just the honesty of how it was. I always really enjoy playing music, I always have, but that was really something quite special. By the time it gets to Whole Lotta Love we got quite a lot under our belts at this point, we’ve done Stairway and we got to Kashmir. Yeah, it was good, it was fun and it’s infectious.
WM (RM):: Led Zeppelin existed for 12 years and made 9 records, one movie as 26 tours. That’s a lot, isn’t it?
LZ (JPJ):: Yes, and a DVD we can add to that now. But it was an extremely important 12 years, I have to say. And 12 years I’m hugely proud of.
A principle that was inherited with Led Zeppelin and neverfaulted was that there was nobody to compete with. It was nothing to do, but do your best”
WM (DD):: A lot of bands from the same time as Led Zeppelin’s were victims of their own success. Why do you think you escaped that?
LZ (RP): I think that Led Zeppelin escaped that really cause we expired when we did. And there was always so much conjecture about whether or not groups from that era had any right to continue further on through. It was quite natural to thing that we had zenith and then that was over and gone. What we didn’t expect was that it would continue in some way or another. And change color and shape and become something beyond it’s time and that is something to be amazed by. And I think that’s a principle that was inherited with Led Zeppelin and never ever faulted was there was nobody to compete with, it was nothing to do, but do your best.
WM (NM):: How did you feel about this show, being the end of a cycle?
LZ (RP): Well, I think what it was for me, as a lyricist of some order and also as kind of a family member, bonds as family if you like, almost. And I wanted to see something done, I wanted Pat Bonham to feel great about her boy, we all loved Ahmet and Ahmet had been wounded at a music show, he fell over at a Rolling Stones gig and never regained consciousness. There were things going on there at that time and that O2 gig was supposed… there was talks of the Stones coming in and doing it one night and Clapton come in, maybe even Cream doing it one night. It all changed and we were left. We had agreed to do it , we agreed that we might do it, and we rehearsed and tried it out and said “maybe we can still just about revisit our music with some power and dignity” and what ever it is, because we are not the same guys that we were. It was just a case of, we actually finally did what we tried to do at Live 8, what we tried to do at the Atlantic 40th. We’ve actually done something where we’d gone beyond what we thought we could do. Being a part of Led Zeppelin isn’t a one night thing, you had to be in it so deep, you had to return to it often so you didn’t lose it – cause you don’t just put it on like a jacket. The whole importance of that music is not something you can just invest in, as in a weekend treat. That was amazing, really.
WM (RM):: Did you agree that the show should end with Rock & Roll?
LZ (JP): Yes. Absolutely, because it’s been a long time since we rock n’ rolled and that’s the one who most people would have thought “I bet they open with that”. No, we closed with it, because that summed up the whole event. I thought it was fun. The whole thing had to be fun, they had to go through lots of moods and emotions, but had to end on something really joyous.