Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Q magazine dedicates special edition to Led Zeppelin

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

The latest special edition of Q magazine is now on sale. It is 148 pages jam packed with Led Zeppelin!

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters provides comments on the band, and Nick Kent interviews Jimmy Page. Each album is discussed, along with stories from the road. Visually stunning are some previously unseen photographs of the band.

Finally, fans recently voted on their favorite Led Zeppelin songs, and the top 50 appear. (Guess which is at No. 1.)

If the magazine isn't at your local newsstand, you can order it online here [link no longer active].

Thanks to Karen from Cresco, Pa., for the info.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Buddy Guy on Led Zeppelin: 'They're great, aren't they?'

These comments originally appeared at the end of an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History" that mentioned Buddy Guy, who was a featured performer alongside Led Zeppelin on a film called "Supershow."

I got to watch Buddy Guy perform earlier this year at his Chicago blues club, Legends. It was the last of his January shows there. Onstage and even venturing forth amid the ravenous fans, his guitar and voice captivated the crowd with every note, despite his own displeasure with the set.

Even though he and his backing band played for hours, they really didn't play very many songs through to the end. After each piece had exceeded 10 minutes, Buddy would make the band stop, even mid-verse at times. He kept wanting to try different songs he thought the audience would enjoy better.

As a tribute to some of the legends represented on the walls, Buddy even attempted some versions of "Voodoo Chile" and some Texas-style blues guitar, referencing Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. To my surprise, he even gave us a rendition of Cream's "Strange Brew."

Throughout the set, Buddy kept complaining that his voice was giving out, but I don't think many people could tell. He sounded great to us! Buddy was playing Carnegie Hall next, so he had to save some for New York.

Inspired by his performance, I decided that I'd sign up to play keyboards two nights later during open mic night. Just about an hour before the evening's jam session began, I spotted Buddy Guy next to a phone booth in the back of the place, where he was discreetly sipping some booze.

Most club patrons were unaware of the man's presence. After one of his performances, you would have had to wait in a 30-minute line just to say hi. But on his off nights, one person can divert Buddy's attention for minutes.

So, I decided to approach him. I figured that since I seemed to be the only 23-year-old white guy in the place aside from a bouncer, I was sort of an anomaly to him, so I introduced myself and explained that I was a huge fan of the blues, having grown up on the Blues Brothers, whose music turned me onto the blues originators.

Then I told Buddy that I run a Led Zeppelin newsletter, and I reminded him that in 2000 he'd shared a stage with Robert Plant at a blues festival in 2000. I asked Buddy what he thought of the guys from Led Zeppelin. I think Buddy was hardly paying any attention to me because his response was, "Yeah, Led Zeppelin, they're great, aren't they?" Perhaps it was too open-ended of a question.

Nevertheless, he was happy to autograph two copies of his latest album, Sweet Tea, which was the recipient of W.C. Handy's Best Album of the Year award in 2002. And he wished me good luck with the jam session that night. Beginning about an hour later, I proceeded to play keyboard for just about every group up there all night long until closing time. (It's nice being a keyboard player; for some reason, there are fewer of us than guitarists, so there's not as much competition.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Two Led Zeppelin songs permitted for use in documentary 'Dogtown and Z-Boys'

This story originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

In 2001, two of Led Zeppelin's more obscure 1976 songs were presented in a film documentary of a 12-member team of teen-age skateboarders from California who influenced a generation of kids and revived the art from once being another passing fad like the hula hoop and the yo-yo. Their efforts are easily responsible for the existence of modern competitive skateboarding.

To convey what it felt like to be a member of the Zephyr Skate Team in the 1970s, Stacy Peralta directed and co-wrote the film Dogtown and Z-Boys. To capture what it might have sounded like, he teamed up with editor Paul Crowder, who had previously worked as a drummer, studio engineer and songwriter.

In supervising the selection of music to complement the film's narration, interviews and fast-paced videos and photographs, Peralta and Crowder chose more than 40 pieces of music. Among the songs they picked were some likely choices heard frequently on classic rock radio: ZZ Top's "La Grange" and Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady," to name a couple.

But some of the classic rock tracks Peralta and Crowder wanted were deep album cuts like "I'll Give You Money" by Peter Frampton, "Seasons of Wither" by Aerosmith and "Bad Boys" by the Pretenders. The Led Zeppelin songs they wanted were "Hots on for Nowhere" and "Achilles Last Stand," two lesser known tracks from the group's catalogue. Presence, said Peralta, "is a great album."

"We got Led Zeppelin on board," said Crowder, "because 'Hots on for Nowhere,' apparently, allegedly, is one of Jimmy Page's favorite tracks, and he dug the fact that we were like, 'Can we use this song?' and he's like, 'Sure!'"

Debra MacCulloch and Marc Reiter worked during the making of the film to secure the rights to use songs. "From what Marc Reiter said, Jimmy was stoked that we weren't going after what everybody else does, which is like 'Whole Lotta Love' and, you know, 'Stairway to Heaven' and stuff like that," said Peralta.

In one early scene, some original 8mm footage shot in the early to mid 1970s depicts surfers weaving through protruding planks of wood that had years before been the track of a roller coaster. As Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" plays in the background, some guys describe how they used to risk their lives surfing at their secret "Cove," in the midst of the wreckage of the Pacific Ocean Park pier. One of them said, "You knew that if you made a mistake, you were going to pay in flesh."

Led Zeppelin's rocking music kicks in soon thereafter, just as the screen shows a series of signs with the menacing words "Positively No Visitors" and "Invaders Must Die." The song gave the scene a "dangerous" feel, Peralta and Crowder agreed. An earlier take of that scene using "20th Century Boy" by T Rex, was scrapped when the narration was rewritten. "[In] the first cut of P. O. P., we never got the tone right. It didn't feel dangerous," Peralta said.

But in one way, the T Rex song was more fitting. Having been released as a single in 1973, "20th Century Boy" would have better represented the music of the era in which the underlying surfing footage was shot. The footage being shown was from the early to mid 1970s; therefore, it predated both "Godzilla" and "Achilles Last Stand" by at least two or three years.

Said Crowder, "I was a little worried about using 'Godzilla' because it's 1977. I wanted to try and stay close enough to the time ... but we gave ourselves a little three- or four-year window either side around."

Peralta said that one scene was sort of an exception: "That was the one area where we started talking, and I said, 'Look, I don't think we have to stay absolutely chronological to the time the music was,' although all the music that we've used here is a reflection of what we were listening to."

Much later in the film, "Hots on for Nowhere" provides the soundtrack for a biographical sketch on one-time skateboarding world champion Tony Alva. In the film, interviewees spoke about how Tony Alva revolutionized the sport of skateboarding: "His timing and balance and speed and agility were far beyond everybody else's." One interviewee said, "Tony was probably the first person who taught me what the word 'ego' meant."

According to Peralta, the music played when people talk about Tony Alva's personality could not have been any more fitting. "This to me is, when I hear this song, this was who Tony Alva was," he said. "Tony was Led Zeppelin." The scene had originally been cut to "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones because one comment said Tony was a front man like Mick Jagger.

In doing the editing, Crowder was able to replicate a nifty aspect of Led Zeppelin's "Hots on for Nowhere." In the original song, the music ends after four minutes but suddenly returns for an additional 40 seconds. In the film, Crowder played the song until its first ending, cut to 20 seconds of an interview and then made the song suddenly reprise. Another two minutes of "Hots on for Nowhere" complement more footage of Tony Alva.

Shortly thereafter, the raucous of Ted Nugent's "Motor City Madhouse" leads seamlessly into the somber ending of "Achilles Last Stand." "This music transition, to me, is just so beautiful," said Peralta. "It just brings it down beautifully." In the meantime, the documentary describes the events of the fall of 1977, when Tony Alva stylishly accomplished an aerial jump in a steep pool called the Dogbowl.

A DVD version of the film was released in 2002, and among its special features was a track of audio commentary from Peralta and Crowder, from which many of the comments here are taken.

Peralta was named best director at the Sundance Film Festival 2001, and the film was presented with the Audience Award. At the Denver International Film Festival that same year, the film was given the People's Choice Award for Best Documentary, and the following year, the Independent Feature Project named it Best Documentary.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Plant says Zep won't reunite: 'When Bonzo left, so did I'

These comments regarding the possibility, or impossibility, of a Led Zeppelin reunion in 2003 appear exactly as they were delivered, with the historical perspective, in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History" published March 13, 2003.

On this day in 1991 -- while it's been said that no news is good news, it was not so for those who were hoping that their wildest dreams of a Led Zeppelin reunion would come true any time soon.

The three former members of the rock band were mostly out of the public eye at the time, following a disturbing threat to the likelihood of any future reunion.

In 1990, Atlantic Records released two successful Led Zeppelin box sets, and the press reported as much as $170 million offered for a single reunion tour of North America. In the wake of these facts, the former bandmates picked up on the idea that people wanted -- or even expected -- a reunion.

As a result, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones met in January 1991 with their former manager, Peter Grant, to discuss and plan a tour, reunited as Led Zeppelin.

"It wouldn't be a bad thing to do. I'm not at all opposed to it," Jones was heard to comment. "I don't think I'd want to tour forever, but it's certainly good fun when you're out onstage together."

When asked to speak for Page, Jones responded, "I think Jimmy feels the same as I do about it."

The ever-indecisive Plant was much less in favor of a reunion, arguing that Led Zeppelin could never be the same. "Could we play 'Black Dog' for a further 10 years? I don't think so," he said.

Plant was reluctant but did briefly agree to a comeback reunion tour. However, he was said to change his mind once again within an hour of agreeing. Plant said he would not do it, and so Grant canceled all the plans he'd quickly laid down with stadiums and lighting and sound companies.

"I think it's pretty safe to assume that if it didn't happen then, it's pretty dim any chance of it happening in the future," reacted Page.

Page relayed to the press that Plant's stated reason was "that he thought it would harm his solo career." Page shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "That's what he said, which is rather peculiar, but that's his reason."

On the heels of a Zeppelin-heavy 1990 Manic Nirvana concert tour, Plant ended up taking most of 1991 and 1992 off. One would think that such a move could equally, if not more easily, hurt Plant's solo career.

Jones was asked to comment whether he thought a Led Zeppelin reunion would hinder Plant's ongoing solo career. Jones said, "I definitely don't think he's got anything to lose. I think it would be quite possible to do the two things -- continue his solo career and do a reunion tour. So you never know. It could be a possibility, but the chances are a bit slim."

The former members of Led Zeppelin had tried to reunite in January 1986, exactly five years before the January 1991 reunion that nearly came to be. Page and Jones discussed reuniting Led Zeppelin again in late 1993, but that reunion somehow ended up not including Jones. Whereas Jones had always been willing to take part in a Led Zeppelin reunion, he eloquently told Lemon Squeezings on Dec. 10, 2001, "The time has passed."

Did he feel the same way a year later when talks of a Led Zeppelin reunion were rumored to have occurred yet again?

Page, Plant and Jones were seen together at a London studio in October 2002 to work together on the Led Zeppelin DVD project, but proceeding on the DVD was all that was decided on, according to John Paul Jones. "I think that sightings of us meeting for this project have given rise to many rumours of reunions etc., but rumours they are," he wrote at his Web site.

Page has not publicly addressed this line of questioning, but Plant is faced with the question almost daily when he's doing publicity for his continuing solo career. This past weekend, he phoned into a British radio program to talk about football, but the presenters thought to ask him about a Led Zeppelin reunion instead.

"It's just not appropriate," he responded. "It's just not appropriate for me, anyway. Of course, the memories are great, the music is great, and the last 10 years or so with Jimmy have been great, but whatever showbiz you dress it up in, we don't have a drummer." Plant said that he and John Bonham had been playing in various bands since they were teen-agers. Plant finished, "When Bonzo left, so did I."

Thanks to Jools and to Billy's Zep Phreaks Club for Plant's quote from this weekend.

Saturday, March 8, 2003

Live Led Zeppelin DVDs, CDs to be released May 27: official announcement

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

A note from Steve "The Lemon" to the PR person responsible for writing the following official Led Zeppelin press release:

Please identify yourself so I can have what you're having.

Led Zeppelin Live At Last On DVD And CD: Legendary performances due May 27 with rare and unreleased material

Mar 07 2003

THE mother lode of Led Zeppelin live recordings has at long last arrived! Slated for a simultaneous May 27th release are LED ZEPPELIN DVD, a two-disc set, and HOW THE WEST WAS WON, a three-CD set. Long sought-after by Zeppelin devotees and collectors, this marks the first-ever official release of these rare and legendary performances, which span the group's entire career. Much-rumored and eagerly anticipated, the DVD and CD sets each contain entirely different material, so there is no overlap between the two releases. As a gesture to the band's millions of fans, both sets are specially priced - the 2-DVD set at 29.98 list, and the 3-CD set at 26.98 list.

Clocking in at nearly five and a half hours, 'LED ZEPPELIN DVD' has been culled from just a handful of performances which were ever filmed during the band's extraordinary lifetime. As guitarist Jimmy Page explains, 'We were never really part of the pop scene. It was never what Led Zeppelin was supposed to be about. Our thing was playing live. In that sense, Zeppelin was very much an underground band. The fact that it became as successful as it did was something that was almost out of our control. We actually shunned commercialism, which is why so little official footage of the band has ever been seen before.'

Featured are performances from: London's Royal Albert Hall in January 1970, just one year after the release of their debut album; their triumphant five-night run at London's Earl's Court in May 1975; and their record-breaking shows at England's Knebworth Festival in August 1979, just one year before the death of drummer John Bonham led to the band's dissolution. Also included are songs from New York's Madison Square Garden in July 1973 [that] were not included in 'THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME' concert film, the only previously released live Zeppelin footage. Other highlights of the DVD include: extremely rare television appearances, among them a performance for Danish television in March 1969; promotional clips; TV interviews; behind-the scenes material; and even a bit of fan-shot 'bootleg' footage.

Visually and sonically stunning, 'LED ZEPPELIN DVD' has been painstakingly restored, remixed, and remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS, and PCM Two-Channel Stereo - under the personal supervision of Jimmy Page and director Dick Carruthers.

Recorded in California, 'HOW THE WEST WAS WON' is a brilliant audio complement to the DVD. The material on the three CDs has been culled from two of the most legendary and incendiary live performances by Led Zeppelin, at the Los Angeles Forum and Long Beach Arena on June 25th and 27th, 1972. Melded together and sequenced to replicate a single concert from beginning to end, it captures the band at the height of their formidable powers. Among the highlights are a 25-plus minute version of 'Dazed And Confused' and a 23-minute medley based around 'Whole Lotta Love.' Alongside such classics as 'Stairway To Heaven' and 'Rock And Roll,' these shows find the band introducing songs from their forthcoming 'HOUSES OF THE HOLY' album, which would not be released for another nine months.

* * * * *

2003 marks the 35th anniversary of the first fateful rehearsal which brought together the talents of guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham in the summer of 1968. Universally recognized as one of the most innovative, powerful, and influential groups in rock history, Led Zeppelin has sold some 200 million albums worldwide. This is all the more impressive considering that the band only existed [sic] for a comparatively short 12-year period. In the decade between 1969 and 1979, the British quartet released eight studio albums and a live soundtrack ([A] posthumous set of previously unreleased studio material followed in '82).

While their work in the studio was brilliant, Led Zeppelin's work onstage was transforming. In concert, the band displayed a power and charisma unparalleled in modern music. Never content [in simply replaying] their recordings, Zeppelin used the stage as a creative platform in its own right - introducing material live before it was recorded, and always expanding, improvising, and pushing into uncharted territory. Their legendary, epic live sets - often lasting more than three hours - were shamanistic experiences [that] traversed exceptional musical territory, sonic journeys which were truly cathartic experiences for the band and audience alike.

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Led Zeppelin set to show 'How The West Was Won'

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

A Led Zeppelin live album has been tentatively scheduled for U.S. release on May 27. The rock band's new three-CD set, titled How The West Was Won, combines songs from two performances from June 1972.

These shows include a June 25 set at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., near Los Angeles, and a concert two nights later at the Long Beach Arena, also in California. The Forum concert included an extended rendition of the song "Dazed and Confused." While the band members jammed to the song, they ventured into two other pieces from the Led Zeppelin catalog: a then-unnamed instrumental piece now known as "Walter's Walk," and the soul/funk-influenced track "The Crunge."

How The West Was Won, which will retail for $26.98 in the United States, is part of a monstrous undertaking on behalf of guitarist Jimmy Page, who for more than 25 years has spoken about releasing a chronological live album of his former band. Page spent several months in a London studio in 2002 preparing this audio set as well as a two-disc DVD collection also expected to be released in the coming months. Led Zeppelin releases are also overseen and approved by Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and representatives on behalf of the estate of the group's late drummer John Bonham.

Led Zeppelin performed hundreds of shows between 1968 and 1980, but until this year the number of concerts available on commercial live albums could be counted on one hand. The only live releases in the past have been the soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same, released in 1976, and BBC Sessions, released in 1997. The soundtrack contained songs from three Led Zeppelin performances at New York's Madison Square Garden, July 27-29, 1973. The other culled various radio performances for the British Broadcasting Corporation, including two live shows in London on June 27, 1969, and April 1, 1971.

A report in 1998 said that a video and two-CD set from another London concert could be released by the end of the year. Neither was released, however, that concert -- a performance at the Royal Albert Hall on Jan. 9, 1970 -- is reported to be the centerpiece of the upcoming two-DVD set to be released this year. Additionally, two songs from that same 1970 show had been released in 1982 on the Led Zeppelin album Coda. That album, the first released after the breakup of the band two years earlier, combined the two live tracks with six previously unreleased studio outtakes.

Rumors circulate that additional Led Zeppelin CDs could follow in the coming years, including a new album of unreleased material.

Some fans of Led Zeppelin are familiar with live work by the band not available on commercial CDs but on bootlegs. According to various reports, Led Zeppelin has the distinction of being the most bootlegged band of all time.

The band is perhaps most famous for "Stairway to Heaven," a seven-minute track from its groundbreaking untitled fourth album. That 1971 album also included "Rock and Roll," which is now enjoying new life as a major part of a highly successful Cadillac advertising campaign.

Currently on the U.K. album charts is Early Days and Latter Days, a two-CD best-of compilation issued only in the United Kingdom on Feb. 24. It features these two songs, as well as the band's biggest hit, "Whole Lotta Love," as well as radio staples like "The Song Remains the Same" and "All My Love." Enhanced portions of the CDs include videos of the songs "Communication Breakdown" and "Kashmir."