Thursday, August 28, 2008

Press plays 'whisper down the lane' with Jason Bonham interview

It is so funny to track stories like Jason Bonham's interview and see how his statements are taken further and further out of context as each new media outlet gets a hold of it.
  • True: Jason said nothing about Robert Plant. Wrong interpretation: Jason said Robert wasn't involved in the rehearsals. Further wrong interpretation: Jason said Robert turned down offers to reunite Led Zeppelin.
  • True: Jason said Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and he were jamming on new material for an unknown project. Wrong interpretation: Jason said the three were writing for a new Led Zeppelin album. Further wrong interpretation: Jason said the three were rehearsing for a Led Zeppelin world tour. Even further wrong interpretation: Jimmy Plant says he's rehearsing a new version of "Smoke on the Water" for a Deep Purple tour of China with Leona Lewis.
But seriously, folks, here's what the popular press said in the last few days ever since Jason Bonham broke the news of his jam sessions with Page and Jones:
  • NME was altogether too eager to pounce on Bonham's words and insert some reference to an album -- I guess to push interest. NME's Aug. 26 story about Led Zeppelin bears the subheadline "A new album could be on the way." It quotes heavily from Bonham's radio interview but interjects its own words in brackets to support the imaginary storyline of a forthcoming Led Zeppelin album. Look at all the words in brackets in the following excerpt from the NME story:
"When I get there [in the studio] I never ask any questions. If I get a phone call to go and play, I enjoy every moment of it. Whatever it ends up as, to ever get a chance to jam with two people like that, it is a phenomenal thing for me. It's my life. It's what I've dreamed about doing.
"[The] possibility of doing something [like an album] is on the cards. I really felt it was on the cards from the moment we walked offstage at the O2 [Arena].
"Lots of politics [would need to] get ironed out [before an album could be made]."
Drummer Bonham told a radio station in Detroit that the songs could be destined for a new Led Zeppelin album.
But lead singer Robert Plant has not been involved in any of the sessions, he added.
Really, Jason Bonham never mentioned Robert Plant's name, just as he never mentioned an album.

If you hear either mentioned by him when you listen to the actual radio interview, it's time to get your head examined.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jimmy Page in film listed for first public screening on Sept. 5

The documentary "It Might Get Loud" -- which stars Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page alongside newer-generation guitarists The Edge and Jack White -- is now listed to premiere on Friday, Sept. 5, as part of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the movie is scheduled to have three public screenings at the festival. All four of the big names connected with the film -- its director and three guitar-toting co-stars -- are expected to attend, according to a press release.

Details newly gleaned from the festival's official Web page on the film reveal that the cameras roll as "Page visits the stone halls of Headley Grange where 'Stairway to Heaven' was composed." In separate segments, Edge and White also take viewers to locations connected to the musical creativity of their respective pasts, namely Dublin and Nashville.

A previously unseen shot, believed to be a still from the movie reel, shows the three performers jamming together. The movie has been said to capture footage of the first-ever meeting of this trio of guitarists.

Page said in an interview earlier this year that new music of his would appear in the documentary. Word is that the film contains original material from the U2 guitarist and the White Stripes/Raconteurs axeman as well, highlighting the creative processes and technical prowess of all three individually.

Showing times and locations during the festival may be obtained here.

Jimmy Page 'not famous enough to be recognized' in China?

Some Chinese newspapers have voiced their complaints over the closing Olympic festivities in Beijing, and Jimmy Page's name is caught up in it all.

Not that his name actually means anything to millions of people, apparently.

One of several quips printed by the state-owned media in the People's Republic of China is one that blasts the selection of Page to perform Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" at the Aug. 24 closing.

The Titan Sports Daily, China's top sports newspaper, said both singer Leona Lewis and Page "are absolutely not famous enough to be known or recognised by millions of the Chinese audiences."

I guess it is possible that in a remnant of Communism, even Led Zeppelin goes unheard of among many of the 1.3 billion citizens, of whom 111 million are users of a heavily censored Internet due to a restrictive government.

Come on, China. Do you want to know who's really not famous? Try Cameron Crowe. There's "almost famous" for you! (Is this thing on? Please, people, cultural refrences! Keep up with me here.)

In another Chinese piece, columnist Hi Yang for the Daily First newspaper criticized the combination of Lewis and Page, writing that they "were so incompatible, considering the singer is from our time while Jimmy Page is from the 70s."

Admittedly, Page did look a bit weary from having been cryogenically frozen for 28 years and then carted off immediately from London to Beijing. (I'll be here all week, folks. Try the moo shoo veal.)

See the Chinese comments for yourself, as reprinted by the British media.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jason Bonham, leaving Foreigner, confirms U.K. rehearsals with Page, Jones of Led Zeppelin

The son of late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham has confirmed he has been called to England upon occasion to rehearse new material with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

Jason Bonham, who filled his father's shoes onstage at Led Zeppelin's one-off reunion concert in London last December, says rehearsals have taken place with them in England "a couple of times" since that show. Bonham describes these most recent sessions with Jones and Page as "magical."

Notably absent from the newly-disclosed rehearsals by these Led Zeppelin members was singer Robert Plant, who has spent much of this year touring North America and Europe, including several shows in the United Kingdom, in support of last year's collaborative album with Alison Krauss.

Bonham has likewise been on tour this year, with the group Foreigner. He has spent several years drumming for the group, which he said was one of his favorites growing up in England. In a telephone interview broadcast live in Detroit last week, Bonham said his time with that band is shortly coming to an end.

The shift coincides with a flurry of activity from the otherwise relatively dormant Led Zeppelin camp. Page, who has not played onstage regularly since touring with the Black Crowes in 2000, bounced back from a minor injury to one of his fingers last year to make three very high-profile onstage appearances over the past nine months. Led Zeppelin has managed to keep its name in the news consistently over the past year, when a new career-spanning compilation called Mothership was released, as was a significant upgrade to the band's vintage concert film from 1976.

Over the weekend, Page appeared with guitar in hand at the Olympics' closing ceremonies in Beijing to perform Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" with singer Leona Lewis.

The guitarist's only other onstage moment so far this year came in June, when both he and Jones turned up at a Foo Fighters concert at London's Wembley Stadium to sit in on live renditions of "Ramble On" and "Rock and Roll" with Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins, who traded off drums and vocals with one another.

Both of Page's live appearances in 2008 have been preceded by posts on the Led Zeppelin discussion group For Badgeholders Only by a New York-based fan calling himself Nech, who posts subtle hints to fellow Zeppelin fans of possible activity to come. When asked if he has an inside source, he insists he is fed information by a source he playfully describes with such terms as "my dentist's lesbian receptionist's boyfriend." Nech was able to tip off the group to the exact timing of the press conference announcing last year's reunion concert.

Bonham's spoken words about rehearsing in England with Page and Jones, which came in a radio interview on Friday, constitute the first public comment from any of the three musicians involved. This may also mark the first official confirmation of a statement Nech made online on Friday, April 11: "Jimmy, Jason and JPJ have been in a rehearsal studio in London last week...making new music."

Bonham's comments came early on Friday, Aug. 22, in the same radio interview during which he broke the news of his impending departure from Foreigner at the end of this month.

The younger Bonham now says ever since he left the stage of the O2 Arena in London having played for two hours with Led Zeppelin's Plant, Page and Jones, he began believing it was possible for the group to do something further. He has kept his obligations to Foreigner throughout 2008, touring in support of the band's latest compilation, No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner.

The reason he is leaving Foreigner now, Bonham told radio hosts J.J. and Lynne on Detroit's WCSX 94.7 FM, is because he has been away from home for long and misses spending time his family. Bonham said that in case something happens with Led Zeppelin, he would have had time off from constant touring before that happens, whatever it is.

"I've been over a couple of times," Bonham said of his Zep-related rehearsals in England this year. "I've been working with Jimmy and John Paul and trying to do just do some new material and some writing. I don't know what it will be, but it will be something. ...

"I have to say this is something that I've always wanted to do. But asked to say as to what this project will be? At the moment, all I know is I've had the greatest pleasure to go and jam with the two guys and try to work out and try material, and so it's been fantastic from that aspect. When I get there, I never ask any questions. I just -- if I get a phone call to go and play, I enjoy every moment of it. Whatever it ends up as, to ever get a chance to jam with two people like that, it is a phenomenal thing for me. All my life, that's what I've dreamed of doing."

Bonham is full of hope with regard to a possible future making new music with Page and Jones, and he knows he is aware Led Zeppelin has many fans with similar hopes.

Foreigner has four remaining tour dates in the United States this month, and the band is scheduled for a short break before resuming the tour midway through September, assumedly with a new drummer. Their tour dates can be found here.

An MP3 of WCSX's interview with Bonham is available here.

Foo Fighters release concert DVD with Page-Jones appearance

The Foo Fighters' Live at Wembley Stadium DVD, which was recorded over two nights and includes Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones sitting in on an encore to play two Led Zeppelin tunes, has been released in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The U.K. release was today, and the release in Ireland was on Friday, Aug. 22.

Other international releases of the DVD scheduled at the moment are for Australia on Aug. 30, New Zealand on Sept. 1, and Germany, Austria and Switzerland all on Sept. 5.

There has been no word on releasing the set in the United States.

As always, consumers should be cognizant of the region for which a DVD has been encoded when making a purchase.

The Foo Fighters resume their tour of the United States and Canada this Friday. For more information on their tour dates, visit here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

'Whole Lotta Love' brought before world stage

The version of "Whole Lotta Love" performed by Jimmy Page with singer Leona Lewis at the closing ceremony of the Olympics, now having taken place in Beijing and aired on television in some parts of the world, was part of a spectacle that will presumably have drawn several hundred million viewers -- undoubtedly one of the biggest gigs a musician can possibly ever obtain.

Atop a red double-decker tour bus as found all throughout London, Page appeared with his long silver hair tied back in a pony tail, but only after a one-minute intro during which Lewis was elevated. Playing on a Les Paul, Page took command of the 39-year-old signature riff. An unseen rhythm section, seemingly prerecorded, laid down a faithful rendition of the song. Each chorus had some orchestral sounds that recreated the sound of Page's divebomber effect from the 1969 studio recording. The second verse gave way to a fiery guitar solo that was vintage Page.

After the song concluded, the performers strutted around to a continuing orchestral arrangement that was reminiscent of Faith No More's "Epic." As expected, David Beckham kicked a soccer ball into the crowd. It ended up as the souvenir of a Japanese woman in a parade.

What I want to know is who played drums!

Good luck finding clips on the Internet. It does appear that videos of the broadcasts are being removed from YouTube due to copyright claims.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tribute band to replicate Led Zeppelin's first show on 40th anniversary

The first onstage outing of Led Zeppelin is to be recreated on its 40th anniversary with a live run-through of the group's material at the same school gymnasium in Copenhagen, Denmark, that took on a major role in that first day of live music back in 1968.

The Sept. 7 performance by the Danish tribute band called Led Zeppelin Jam is to take place over two days of timely remembrances about the earliest shows.

Led Zeppelin's onstage debut, albeit while the group still bore the name of the Yardbirds, took place Sept. 7, 1968. That day consisted of two performances: the first at the Egegaard Primary School for the Gladsaxe Teen Club and later at the Norresgardshall for the Brondby Pop Club.

Although the Gladsaxe Teen Club disbanded 39 years ago, some of its members today sit on the committee sponsoring next month's repeat performance. One of the people present at that first show, house photographer Jørgen Angel, is scheduled to be on hand at the event for an exhibition of the unique photographs he captured of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham during the very first time they shared a stage.

Celebrations are to continue through the following day, when Angel's photo collection moves to the Gladsaxe Hovedbibliotek. The Danish photographer is slated to speak (in his native tongue) about many of the rock celebrities and bands he has encountered and photographed throughout his lifetime. These include Eric Clapton, AC/DC, Jethro Tull, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Robert Palmer, Stephen Stills, Carlos Santana, Robin Trower and the Who.

See here for more information about these 40th anniversary events. Those who are unable to attend the events may find Led Zeppelin fanzine Proximity's 2000 interview with Angel of great interest.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Page's Olympics closer to be 'Whole Lotta Love,' says bassist Pratt

A bassist who has formerly worked with Jimmy Page has claimed he will be performing with the Led Zeppelin guitarist this Sunday, Aug. 24, during the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics, held in Beijing.

Pratt, who played bass for Pink Floyd in the post-Roger Waters era, wrote in his blog on Aug. 19 that he will be on bass for a version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" performed with Page and sung by U.K. talent show champion Leona Lewis.

His remarks came in a paragraph at the end of a blog posting dated Aug. 19 and were still available early on Aug. 21. However, the paragraph in question was removed at some point on Aug. 21, perhaps because it was intended for the song's identity to have been kept a secret.

Pratt's typed paragraph, including its original typos, read in full:
"You may also be interested to know when Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis perform 'Whole Lotta Love' at the end of the Olpmpics, that's me playing bass on it…"
Pratt has performed onstage with Page before, including at Net Aid on Oct. 9, 1999, when they and drummer Michael Lee performed an instrumental version of "Dazed and Confused" and also debuted a new instrumental that turned out to be called "Domino."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Robert Plant turns 60; what's he up to?

One story that is often repeated about the formation of Led Zeppelin 40 years ago this month deals with the occasion of Robert Plant's birthday. During the same month that saw him and his friend John Bonham rehearsing with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones for the first of many times, Robert turned 20 years old. This was much more than a symbolic milestone for him. Robert is said to have promised his concerned parents that if he did not have a successful singing career in place by his 20th birthday, he would take the professional path they wished for him: accounting.

Obviously, forming Led Zeppelin sufficed.

The group's youngest member went on very quickly to record an album that forged a new genre of music. That eponymous Led Zeppelin LP opens with words that perhaps resound even more with the more mature Robert Plant who today turns 60 years old:

"In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man/ Now I've reached that age I try to do all those things the best I can ..."

It's easy to reflect on the many lyrics Plant has written, sung, quoted and stole during his brilliant and ever-twisting career that stretches from '66 far beyond Timbuktu. Tight But Loose author Dave Lewis has already done quite a fine job of that, so I won't dare to repeat his efforts here.

What I would like to do is take a moment to think about where he might be headed next. Not that I would dare predict it. As current touring partner Alison Krauss was recently quoted in her hometown newspaper in Nashville, The Tennessean, "He's constantly on the move to find inspiration." What's he up to next? I'd answer that with about five very different guesses, and I might not even nail it.

That's the brilliance of Robert Plant. You never know where he'll go next. He'll surprise you. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was when he fronted a reunited Led Zeppelin fourpiece for a charity gig in Ahmet Ertegün's honor last year. I wouldn't be the first to suggest that the recent death of Jerry Wexler, Ertegün's partner at Atlantic Records, would be sufficient cause for a similar effort. But that would almost be expected now, wouldn't it?

Plant has long been his own spokesperson in interviews, press conferences, concerts and other events. It was during an award acceptance speech last year that he delivered a memorable bit of insight as to how his musical influences had shifted through his life. When he and Alison Krauss were presented with a CMT award for their cover of an Everly Brothers tune that dated back to 1964, Robert said:

"I'd like to thank Don and Phil Everly for getting me through my teenage years, and I'd like to thank Alison for helping me get through my late 50s."

But an even more revealing snippet was something Robert wrote five years ago this month, which turned up in the liner notes of the first album to chronicle the music of his solo career. He writes for Sixty Six to Timbuktu:

"And today, after the Top 40 twists, the retro ballads, and even a couple of fascinating duets I am so charged. With abundant new material developing rapidly and connections in Morocco and West Africa moving at a pace unimagined back in '71, the future is ahead -- bright ahead."

No matter what your next year brings, Robert, your fans hope the future is still bright ahead. Go get 'em, and happy 60th birthday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jimmy Page gets Olympic fever for star-studded close

The Mirror reports that Jimmy Page is to take part in an eight-minute spectacle produced by the United Kingdom for the Olympics' closing ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 24. Details about the event are limited, but the article says the guitarist is to play a duet with singer Leona Lewis.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Robert Plant plays tribute to Sandy Denny at Cropredy Festival

An onstage guest performance by Robert Plant at the Cropredy Festival on Saturday, Aug. 9, paid tribute to Sandy Denny, whose death at age 31 occurred in 1978.

To pay tribute to Denny, Plant joined Kristina Donahue onstage to share vocals with a run-through of "The Battle of Evermore." Denny sang on the original recording of this song released on Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album in 1971.

The onstage arrangement Donahue and Plant performed is almost identical to the one Plant and his touring band with Alison Krauss are currently using on the road.

The Cropredy Festival is an annual outdoor folk concert series held each August in England since 1979. It is organized by the group Fairport Convention, of which Denny was a member off and on between the years 1968 and 1976.

The 30th anniversary of her death was marked at this year's festival by a video montage shown on the giant screen in her honor.

Plant has made several onstage appearances at the festival through the years, first in 1986 (see video of this appearance here) and with the band Priory of Brion in 2000, when he opted not to be mentioned by name. That year, the Cropredy Festival's Web site went along with the band's running gag of anonymity, describing the Priory of Brion as a "new band that features a very special vocalist who has made several surprise appearances with Fairport and is a man who we consider to have a very 'blossoming' talent."

But Plant has also been known to attend the festival even without performing. A fan of this Web site, Helen Cox in England, attests to this point. First, her thoughts on his performance of "The Battle of Evermore" this year:
"It was absolutely brilliant and made all the rain, mud and infected insect bites suddenly worthwhile!! He is often at Cropredy even if he's not playing...a friend of mine spotted him one year buying a vegan bean burger at the wholefood stand!! He's entitled [as of his 60th birthday later this month] to the [free] bus pass so he might as well go for it I guess...don't think they're means tested so that means even multi millionaires get one!!"
Update, Jan. 30, 2009: As the lineup for the 2009 Cropredy Festival is currently being announced, Fairport member and Cropredy organizer Simon Nicol was just quoted in the North Devon Journal on why hugely popular artists including Robert Plant are attracted to perform at their festival. He says it's the casual interaction among musicians and fans:
"Everyone who plays there and wants a drink has to go out to the bar and stand there with everyone else. That is a tradition now and everyone respects it. Even huge stars like Robert Plant can come to the festival and people won't pester him for autographs. It's a unique experience for him and he really enjoys it. If he goes anywhere else he's got to have blacked out windows on the limo. It's crazy."