Friday, July 26, 2002

Interview with Tony Franklin, bass player with Jimmy Page and Roy Harper, later The Firm

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

Fretless bass player Tony Franklin speaks with Lemon Squeezings about his involvement with Roy Harper and Jimmy Page in 1984.

SS: What can you tell us about Roy Harper and Jimmy Page?

TF: I can quite easily say that Roy Harper and Jimmy Page were, and are, two of my biggest musical influences. I had a good grounding in music before playing with those guys, but they showed me "the cracks between the musical pavestones". They are two of the best at what they do.

Lyrically, Roy is a masterful poet, going from the romantic, to the poignant, the political and the comical, seamlessly. His music supported his lyrics and melody perfectly. His music would twist and turn with little regard for what is "right" or "proper". He generally played the acoustic guitar, so his style acquired the "folk" label. But I think this is somewhat limiting. Roy is really something all of his own, in my opinion.

Jimmy Page did the same thing musically. But he worked mostly on the electric guitar, so it came out in more of a "rock" way. But once again, it's too limiting to say that Led Zeppelin was just a rock band, and that Jimmy Page just a rock guitarist. Their "folk" influence is quite evident, as well as numerous other styles.

SS: When did you first start playing with Roy Harper?

TF: Through "chance" connections and meetings, I did a recording session with Roy in 1982. This finally led to the recording of the Work of Heart album and tour. I've since done six(?) more albums with Roy.

SS: Did you ever expect that Jimmy Page would pop up in the studio to record a whole album with Roy?

TF: It's not something I really thought about. But when it came about I thought it was great. It was nice to see the two of them together. Their influence upon each other and respect was quite apparent. They've actually done a lot of music together. I'm sure you know that Jimmy used to appear on Roy's albums under a pseudonym? Jimmy didn't want to draw too much attention to himself. He wanted the focus to be Roy and his music.

SS: What was it like playing with Roy and Jimmy in the studio? Did you take part in or witness any of the songwriting process?

TF: It was very relaxed, fun and quite casual. We got a lot done. It didn't really feel like we were making an album. We took breaks and went down the "Promenade" at Blackpool. I have a fond memory of me, Pagey, Roy and Nik Green (the engineer and keyboard player) going on a roller coaster. I think we were all a little "happy" at the time. I remember all the loose change falling out of our pockets when we went upside down, and laughing a lot! (Nik Green actually has some comprehensive, insightful and humourous documentation of those days. You can see him at He's a talented writer, as well as a great keyboard player and person!).

I wasn't involved in the writing process. All of that was done before I got there. I did have some ideas during the recording process though.

SS: What did you like best about the album? worst?

TF: It's a great album. It's a very special moment in time for me, like an excerpt from my diary. I cannot really be objective about it. Each song has its own memories and feelings attached to it.

SS: What was the folk festival scene like? Were you ready to rock???

TF: It was all pretty trippy. Here were these two rock legends, amidst a bunch of far-out happy people, who were basically there to get stoned, enjoy the sunshine and listen to some cool music. It was laid-back, kind of loose, and everyone just went with the flow of it all. And there was me, in the middle of this whole thing, having a great time.

It was, and still is about the music for me. I'm blessed and thankful to have played with some amazing people in a wide variety of situations. And I still continue to be enchanted by the whole musical process. I want it to always be that way.

We were probably the heaviest act there, but we weren't specifically wanting to rock out or blow people away. We just wanted to do our thing, do a good job and have fun with it, which I think we did.

SS: Finally, you must have gotten along well with Jimmy Page; you were the only person from that lineup he took with him onto his next project. What was it like being selected?

TF: Yes, Jimmy and myself clicked well. It just felt very comfortable and natural. And that truly was the foundation that lead me to The Firm. From the outside, it probably seems like the whole process happened very quickly. Actually in the big picture, it did happen quickly. At the time, the whole process took a good few months of playing, working hard, having fun, bonding, and for me, playing with everything I had. And then suddenly, I was a member of The Firm! I think that life is a little bit like that. We seem to scramble around, plan, work, wait, focus, refocus, ride the ups and downs, adjust, work, plan, and on and on ... and then suddenly we "arrive", and it's all worth it. The key is to enjoy the process, the journey. Because most of it IS the journey! I'm still on my journey, and in many ways it feels like it's only just begun. I love music, I love to share my music. It's a privilege and a blessing.

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