Saturday, January 31, 2009

Led Zeppelin members were fans of Vanilla Fudge, singer/keyboardist Mark Stein recalls

To say that the members of Led Zeppelin were inspired by the blues is accurate, but the statement is not by any stretch of the imagination, an all-encompassing observation of the band's vast array of influences.

That's why I didn't know exactly what to make of this article when I ran across it online earlier today, especially given where I was just coming from.

I spent this afternoon in the company of Vanilla Fudge keyboardist and singer Mark Stein. He was gracious enough to talk for over two hours about the formation of his band and his various meetings with Led Zeppelin members over the years. It was in some of those initial encounters that he learned Jimmy Page and John Bonham were fans of Vanilla Fudge's music.

The psychedelic and electric soul that group was producing in the United States had caught the ears of the Yardbirds, of which Page was a member when Stein first ran into him at an airport. A year later, when Zeppelin was playing its first shows in the United States in support of the Fudge, Stein heard the same from Bonham, this young drummer from England who'd been spinning their records.

He has a great story about a chance run-in with John Paul Jones around 1975, and I won't spoil it by leaking it here. You'll be hearing it on "Get the Led Out" sometime next month, the syndicated radio program hosted by Carol Miller. If your local classic rock radio station isn't carrying this weekly, hour-long show that debuted just this month in honor of the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin's first album release, tell them to get with the program!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Guitar documentary starring Jimmy Page to compete at Berlin Film Festival

A new guitar documentary starring Jimmy Page is now among films set to compete in the Berlin Film Festival next month. "It Might Get Loud" has been selected for the competition at the festival, which begins Feb. 5 and spans 11 days. Variety's Ed Meza reports:
"The main section will unspool 26 films. Among those, 18 will contend for the Golden and Silver Bears, while eight will screen out of competition."
Tickets to the film's only two screenings at the Berlin Festival, scheduled for Feb. 10 and 11, are to become available Feb. 2. There will also be two screenings in Berlin affiliated with the European Film Market, on Feb. 7 and 11.

As previously reported by, "It Might Get Loud" documents the first meeting of three generations of guitarists, including Page with Jack White and The Edge.

Following the film's screening at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this month, Blake Wood writes for the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph that "It Might Get Loud" was his "personal favorite" among the documentaries:
"Though Sundance is known for its politically, socially and environmentally conscious work, my personal favorite was 'It Might Get Loud,' by Davis Guggenheim ('An Inconvenient Truth'). The creative spirits of three master electric guitarists, Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes) radiate, as they wax eloquent about inspirations and jamming together in this elegant film."
It was previously announced that the film would be slated for international distribution in theaters beginning around August, through Sony Pictures Classic. The Nashua Telegraph article inaccurately mentions a DVD release of the film around that time, while a press agent for the film confirms that a theatrical release is planned for August instead.

In the movie, the three guitarists jam at an arranged "summit," performing U2's "I Will Follow," White's "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," the Band's "The Weight" and Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying." The sight of the three of them playing that Zeppelin song left an impression on Guggenheim, who says in a Q&A:
"What I love about this movie, and what makes it so unique, is how the scale will change from Edge alone in his studio late night - to the three of them jamming on a Led Zeppelin track together with the volume full blast and the cameras capturing every angle."

The film also contains the first new music from Page aired publicly since 1999: a pair of instrumentals called "Embryo No. 1" and "Embryo No. 2." Viewers also watch as Page turns tour guide at Headley Grange and recounts what it was like to record Zep's fourth album there, and how they mic'ed up John Bonham's drums.

The movie made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, with a screening attended by all three guitarists. White attended the film's U.S. debut at Sundance.

In interview, Robert Plant explains motivation guiding current studio work, and his acceptance of awards

When Robert Plant shared in the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Led Zeppelin in 2005, he ignored the honor.

But it backfired on him, and the award came to him. In a case of "you can run but you can't hide," Recording Academy President Neil Portnow tracked down Plant at the South by Southwest Festival and presented him with the award in person at a very public affair.

This elicited a curt acceptance speech from Plant, who said he could barely remember being in Led Zeppelin because so much time had passed since those days.

Plant has been nominated or awarded in at least one Grammy category in six of the past 15 years. Each time, win or lose, he has consistently snubbed the glitz of Los Angeles and the trappings of celebrity.

But not so this year. In a remarkable turnaround, he is guaranteed to show up at the ceremony two weeks from now.

That's not because he and Alison Krauss stand to rack up as many as five more awards, added to the one they shared for last year's Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

The reason Plant is guaranteed to show up is because he and Krauss have been booked to perform.

Pollstar relays a quote from Plant about his break from precedent this year:
"I'm looking forward to being in Los Angeles, but musically -- and spiritually -- I expect we'll be somewhere halfway between the Mississippi Delta and the Clinch Mountains."
Official word of the Plant-Krauss booking was released Thursday, one day after the airing of an interview the two gave from Nashville, where they say they are currently in pre-production for a possible follow-up album to Raising Sand.

Their interview, recorded Tuesday and broadcast the following day on Absolute Radio's "Wednesday Night Live," touches on a number of far-reaching topics, probably none more easily understandable than Plant's mindset in collecting awards.

On the night before they recorded this interview, Plant attended a Grammy party in Nashville and smiled in snapshots with current Lifetime Achievement honoree Brenda Lee, T Bone Burnett and executives of the Recording Academy's Nashville chapter. By now, Plant must be pretty used to hobnobbing at such events. After all, he and Krauss didn't spend last year doing concerts only; they were also going heavy on the award acceptance circuit. After snubbing the Grammys last February despite capturing a win in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category, the duo hit up:
At the same time, Plant was still being honored for his work signing for the single Led Zeppelin reunion concert in December 2007. He was busy touring with Krauss in the United States last June, when Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones turned up in London to accept Mojo magazine's award for Led Zeppelin as the best live act of 2007. Plant did pose in pictures alongside them, however, when the members of Led Zeppelin were named GQ's Men of the Year.

But Plant's most prestigious and noble honor of late is being named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Ben Jones asked if Plant had, for any reason, considered rejecting the honorary title assigned him by the queen of England. Plant answered that, after thinking "long and hard about it," he "reckoned that 42 years of making records" made him worthy of the honor. He has mellowed and has set aside any inclinations toward being anti-establishment or doing the "cool" thing, and just accept it.

Plant's fully elucidated response recalls a quip he made last September, when accepting GQ's top award in London. At that time, Plant said, "The thing is, when the temples get gray, the gongs start coming in thick and fast." Now, he says of his rank in the British Empire:
"It's this time of life that gongs start coming in. They're usually called lifetime achievement awards [laughing]. But, basically, somebody helps you across the street if there's a lot of traffic. ... I said to somebody, 'Well, maybe I should say, "No, I'll wait for the knighthood," for a laugh.'"
Krauss says she and Plant are in "pre-production" for a possible second album together. Plant says that for now, they're at an early stage:
"We got a whole bunch of songs and we're just going, 'Does that work?' and 'Does that work?' So, yeah, we're trying it out again."
They say they're approaching this new project with great caution, just as they had upon their first studio meeting in late 2006, to ensure that everything works to their mutual satisfaction before proceeding. Says Krauss:
"Our attitude when we were recording was, let's go in and see what it's like, and after three days, if something doesn't turn into something, then we'll say it was a nice try. I mean, I think that's what makes it surprising and interesting for Robert and myself, is that we didn't know what it was going to be like either."
Plant adds that he's "incredibly challenged by this." Elsewhere in the interview, he reveals himself as "frightened" of his own "limitations":
"She said to me about an hour ago -- we were sitting, and she said, 'What's the matter with you?' I said, 'I'm frightened by the limitations I've got in this environment.' It's quite spectacular, really."
Plant is also weary of expectations as they can only add pressure. Given the acclaim of Raising Sand by both the media and the public, along with all the awards, Plant admits he is that much more fearful of the sequel's success, saying:
"What are we gonna do? We're not going to have time to do any new stuff before it's too late! ...

"The critical -- the stuff that we've had, the acclaim and, ah -- it really doesn't bode very well for the next record, if we get that far because, I mean, people really took to it.

"But you know what? It was so genuine -- the choice of songs, the production techniques, the engineering, you know, T Bone Burnett's input -- the whole thing was just a dream and done in the shortest space of time, and it was just great, you know. It was really good.

"Of course you don't expect anything because the material isn't kind of mainstream pop, particularly ..."
Plant says he has enjoyed the freedom of employing such a trial period whenever approaching any musical project. He says it's been that way ever since his work that followed Led Zeppelin:
"I think when Led Zeppelin -- when we lost John [Bonham] in 1980, I was desperate to -- not reinstate, but do something for myself, free from the kind of shackles of people's expectations. And from that moment on, along the line ... it's not something that I think about."
He's free to pull that parachute if it's not going well. And when this came up again in the context of an answer to the inevitable Led Zeppelin reunion question, it became clear that Plant would feel this same way if approaching a reformation of his former band.

Ben Jones gave Plant a chance to address his take on why the public appetite for a Led Zeppelin reunion persists even when it is clear there will be no reunion. Plant, in his response, ignored the public perception and gave his own reasoning for not wanting to revive Led Zeppelin again. He said:
"Well, you know, the thing is -- look at it like this. The reason that it stopped was because we were incomplete, and we've been incomplete now for 28 years, and no matter what you do, you have to really guard the discretion of what you've done in the past and make sure you have all the reasons in the right place to be able to do something with absolute and total conviction.

"I mean, if my great award is to do this [sing with Alison Krauss], then I don't want to do anything that -- where I'm -- where we challenge anything we did in the first place by just going back and visiting it without having a new, fresh, make-over start.

"I mean, you only get one shot at these things, and if they're spectacular on day one, if on day 10 they aren't so good, as Alison said when we cut our -- started to make Raising Sand, we gave ourselves a deal about, if we don't get anything going in three days, let's just go out for lunch and say, 'See you later.'

"And I think the thing about it is, really, is that to visit old ground -- it's a very incredibly delicate thing to do, and the disappointment that could be there once you commit to that, and the comparisons to something that was basically fired by youth and a different kind of exuberance to now -- it's very hard to go back and meet that head on and do it justice."
This makes me wonder if Plant joined up with Page and Jones anytime last year to hear the new material Jason Bonham said they were working on and went home dissatisfied. Otherwise, I can't help but think that he didn't give them a chance to see if any further collaboration with them would prove fresh, exuberant, and enacted with "absolute and total conviction."

At any rate, Plant says working with Krauss is the award he's most proud of because:
"It's about being happy, you know. You can have a lot of gold stuff and silver stuff and whatever it is, but you end up putting them out of the way, but the achievement is really to do something I never imagined and to be schooled into getting it right. And we've both taught each other enough about swagger and precision and all that stuff, so this is a great one, really."
And as for what binds everything together that Plant has done professionally? Don't call it a career:
"For me, well, I don't have a career. I just have a bunch of great events in my life and a few dips and troughs, but this is -- I don't think I've ever had a career."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Singer-guitarist John Martyn dies at 60; John Paul Jones sat in with him a year ago

It did go unnoticed at a year ago when John Paul Jones paid tribute to John Martyn upon the occasion of the singer-songwriter and guitarist's Lifetime Achievement award, presented at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards on Feb. 4, 2008.

But it is mentioned now, upon the occasion of John's Martyn's passing earlier today. He was 60.

From what I can glean, the man's music defied categorization, which is something I have always admired about Led Zeppelin's music as well. I wasn't familiar with John Martyn's work, but leave it to John Paul Jones to select a good muse.

Jones showed up at the event to present the Musician of the Year award to melodeon player Andy Cutting, but the Led Zeppelin multi-instrumentalist stuck around to sit in with John Martyn's band and lend his mandolin for two songs, "Over the Hill" and "May You Never."

Phil Collins presented Martyn that night with the annual Lifetime Achievement award. Collins had assisted Martyn by producing two of his solo albums, Grace and Danger in 1980 and Glorious Fool in 1981.

As the Folk Awards evening went on, Martyn appeared to be in a jovial mood, resting his award on top of his head while an interviewer and film crew tried to maintain a serious composure, surveying him about his thoughts on the evening's festivities. At the mention of John Paul Jones's name, Martyn lost balance and the award slipped off his head.

Jones, meanwhile, said he was glad to be at the awards and have the opportunity to follow Martyn's footsteps and become immersed in the contemporary folk music scene.

Below is a classic performance of "May You Never" from 1973, with Martyn performing it on The Old Grey Whistle Test, in support of his album Solid Air.

Eric Clapton covered "May You Never" on his 1978 album, Slowhand. Clapton later appeared on Martyn's aforementioned Glorious Fool album.

Below is a photo of Martyn's onstage performance with John Paul Jones at the Folk Awards on Feb. 4, 2008. Both of the songs Martyn and Jones performed at the Folk Awards were from that album.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

'Surreal' intoned second time in a week to describe Zeppelin close encounters

Is it a common word where some people are from? Some people, two this week in fact, have described their recent meetings with Led Zeppelin rock stars by using the word "surreal."

The first, we saw Tuesday when a member of rock band Alter Bridge confirmed reports that he had been under consideration to sing for Led Zeppelin or some offshoot band. He described his opportunity to play with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (plus Jason Bonham, has anybody confirmed?) as "a good experience" and -- this part's important -- "surreal."

Keep that word in mind. It's been used again. A blogger has just labeled "surreal" his change bumping into Robert Plant in public the other day.

The second time in a week! Dare I say that coincidence is ... surreal?

Well, it's true. The second mention is in a blog describing an encounter with Robert Plant in Nashville as "surreal."

As a reminder, Plant's been spotted in Nashville a few times this month, as he's in a studio with Alison Krauss and singing under the tutelage of producer T Bone Burnett, an artist with a creative and directive vision. One woman ran into him in a mall, and he consented to a quick snapshot.

Wonder which mall they were at. I spent some time last summer playing expensive mandolins inside the Gibson guitar showcase/factory at the Opry Mills mall. Same place I had beers with a bartender from Ohio before my afternoon showing of The Dark Knight in IMAX.

Now that was surreal.

I digress. I was talking about why Plant was in Nashville.

He's just gotten a mysterious song list from Burnett, back around the holidays, announcing the songs that will glitter his next album with Alison Krauss. She got the list too. Both singers were allowed to pitch in some songs too, but no more than three each. The album, this one the follow-up to a critically acclaimed collaboration of 2007, is really the brainchild of T Bone.

Plant's probably playing CDs of these recordings in his car. And he's heading out every day, just being a normal person. Rock star? No way. This is Robert. Just some guy named R. A. Plant. And tries not to answer to the name "Percy" when strangers recognize him.

But folks do encounter him. Is it "surreal" though?

Someone thinks so.

Anybody heard of Daniel Tashian? Member of the Silver Seas. If you don't know it, I don't either.

Well, anyway, this guy runs into Plant. Plant doesn't know him either. Guy recognizes him. Plant says hello.

They're at the Mirror. Tapas menu. Good wine selection. Not exceedingly pricey.

Plant's sitting there by himself. Dude goes over. Conjuring their connection in T Bone Burnett, the dude starts to announce he'd done a record with T Bone.

Plant nods. Sure. Hell, half the country has.

No reason for the conversation to continue. That's it, by all rights. No more. You had your chance to talk to Plant. You bombed, Tashian. Now go home.

Dude speaks up again though. He's coming back for more. How's Robert gonna react?

Dude's lucky. He's got an ace up his sleeve. He knows how to connect with Robert. What makes him unique? Or if not unique, at least a rare commodity. Connect to Plant on a familial level.

"My dad was in the Remains."

Good thinking. He actually recalled that Plant was a fan of the Remains, his dad's old band. And given Plant's mental jukebox, you know his record collection is not only a collection but a cherished possession. He plays his vinyl often still. The same format that gave Plant his initial connection with Jimmy Page a hair over 40 years ago, vinyl is still within Plant's reach at all times.

At the mention of that name, Plant instantly recalls the Remains, and he samples some of their 1966 single "Don't Look Back." Sure, from the Nuggets collection!

Holy hell. Does anybody remember ... vinyl? Well, maybe the guy knew Plant had released his own cover of "Don't Look Back" on a maxi-single in 1990, which was re-released on Plant's Nine Lives box set in November 2006 and then as a Manic Nirvana bonus track on pressings released from March 2007 on.

Point is, the dude has succeeded in connecting with Plant. And in the process he deems this brush with stardom "surreal."

Maybe it is surreal. I sometimes look back on my arranged interview of John Paul Jones as something some other person must have done. I look back on the portions of my transcript that made it onto the Internet courtesy of a newsletter I used to write, and I reread them as if I had just reread the Trouser Press interview, which was conducted two years before my birth. But I know I did it because stumbling upon a certain word, phrase or sentence will transport me back to the Grand Hyatt at Penn's Landing, when John Paul Jones last stayed in Philadelphia on tour opening for King Crimson in December 2001.

I remember Jonesy being under the impression that his show at the Tower Theater was that night. But I had to correct him and tell him he had the day off between the previous night's New Haven show and the show in Upper Darby. I knew his itinerary better than he did! And when I informed him that his calendar was open for the rest of the day, he slunk back on a couch and allowed me to question him for four hours straight.

Now that's surreal.

That was me, asking the questions. Asking things I had come up with on my own -- a ton of them, believe me -- and also questions I had gleaned from readers of my newsletter, and some people who were on an online forum who were probably somewhat familiar with my newsletter at the time. It's the newsletter that lent me, a college student at the time, the credibility to sit for any length of time with Led Zeppelin's unsung hero on bass and, like me, keyboards.

I guess the point where I connected with Jones was that. We both play keys. And I wanted to learn how to play pedal steel like he does. We talked briefly about his track called "Chilli Sauce," included on the Scream for Help soundtrack. A rare memory. He remembered.

Once I complimented his handling of the melody on that synth-heavy track, he smiled and said, "Yeah, that was good, wasn't it?" It would have been against my best journalistic ethics to have acquired his autograph on that CD insert I brought.

It was obvious he hadn't thought of this album in a long time. He hesitated and studied the packaging, saying he was unaware of it having been released on CD. I said yeah, it was, and I had to import it from Japan. I had the OBI strip at home.

The disc is red and green, with the same Atlantic logo that comes on my remastered Yes CDs. And, come to think of it, Jon Anderson adds guest vocals to two of the tracks and is listed on the front cover.

Yes gave us some fodder in our four-hour conversation/interview, some of which was taped and half of which was not. Which led him to speak totally off the record on some occasions. Since he was on a support tour and was trying to save money, he had no roadies and as such carried his own instruments, in their cases, into the hotel so he could check himself in under his own legally adopted pseudonym, John Paul Jones (not birth name John Baldwin, which he confirmed does not have a middle name). With these instruments at his disposal, he played anything I wanted.

He busted out a mandolin and played his part in "Going to California." Which I soon wrongly attributed to Jimmy Page in a newsletter, causing him to e-mail me his own objection and correction. I took it more as a compliment that now he was reading and monitoring and reacting and participating.

Interacting with John Paul Jones! Surreal!

That's like playing Peter Frampton's talk box!

I did play the bass lap steel on Jonesy's counter while he wasn't looking. He had stepped away for a minute, leaving me unaccompanied in the presence of his entire touring rig. Of course I went straight for the tone bar and placed it gently on his bass lap steel -- an invention of his own! -- and ran it across the strings. Sounded cool.

I put it away. Still, that crap was just plain damn surreal.

My first-ever interaction with Jones was in downtown Philadelphia, two years and two months earlier, when Jones was on his Zooma tour and headlined at a small venue. The type of venue I could play with my band! But haven't.

And here's John Paul Jones up on stage with two other people in his band. One guy on the "stick," an electronic stringed instrument with synthesizer capabilities as versatile as a Major League utility player. This guy was Nick Beggs from Kajagoogoo. And the other's on drums. Can't remember today if it was Terl Bryant or Pete Thomas. Both drummers were on that album though. (Update: It was Terl Bryant.)

Since I was reading show reviews of this Zooma concert series from Jones online at TBL/Web, I knew it had already become a nightly custom for some informed fan at each show to invoke the line from children's literature John Paul Jones happened to be reading to his children in a scene in The Song Remains the Same.

"Fe fi fo fum."

So I said it. I was that guy. And I turned myself in, guilty as charged, the next day, upon submitting my roundup of the evening's happenings to TBL/Web for publication before the world.

"Fe fi fo fum!" I shouted to Jonesy between numbers.

In the 1976 movie, the next line -- also Jones's -- is "I smell the blood of an Englishman."

So Jonesy plays on that line. "Do you smell blood?"

Oh, he's got a stand-up act and everything! Surreal!

But we were talking about Yes. It came up during our interview that Jimmy Page was once rumored to have had rehearsal sessions with Alan White and Chris Squire, both designated at the time as ex-members of Yes. It was 1981, and Page had likewise been newly christened in some circles as an ex-member of Zeppelin, only because of the de facto dissolution of that band following John Bonham's unexpected and untimely drinking-binge death.

So did these so-called XYZ sessions, long rumored in the lore of both Yes and Zeppelin fans, really take place or not? Jonesy told me no.

But I think he's uninformed. How would he know? He wasn't there!

I have, through a colleague, a supposedly "exclusive" recording of bassist Chris Squire explaining in plain English that he and drummer Alan White had gotten together with Page, and played a few songs of Squire's. Stuff he hadn't used yet. But stuff he was ultimately gonna use with Yes. All except for one track, which he said Jimmy misappropriated half a decade later as the first track on The Firm's second album. Squire says he never sued Jimmy over it, though, because why bother? He would have been owed such an insignificant pittance since Mean Business album sales left something to be desired. Not even worth it to him to think about going after Jimmy.

I asked Jonesy about the whole plagiarism thing in the context of Led Zeppelin. The band is often criticized for similarities between its recordings and ones that preceded it. Jonesy said sometimes the accusers were familiar to them and other times they were not. But most of the time, the band would just settle out-of-court for convenience's sake, whether or not the claim held any credence. They worked off of the assumption of guilt and dished away crazy amounts of payoff money, leaving most claims unverified by anyone.

So as for specifics, like Jake Holmes having performed "Dazed and Confused" as a song of his in a setting that would have been seen by Jimmy Page as a Yardbirds member in 1967, Jonesy doesn't know. All he knows is Jimmy brought the song into Zeppelin and managed to list himself legally as the song's sole composer. More recent reissues have also credited Plant for lyrics. But never credited was Jake Holmes.

Just heard Holmes on the radio the other week. He spoke on a New York show that's being syndicated soon, called Get the Led Out XL. The pilot episode included a pretty good portion of his "Dazed and Confused" from his 1967 solo album The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes. He said Jimmy got away with nicking the title and the descending bass line but that was all. No complaint from Holmes.

That, too, is surreal!

Come to think of it, another close encounter is going to happen this summer. Page will be in a movie showing off the inside of Headley Grange, where Zeppelin recorded parts of some albums. To read about the microphone setup for the drums on "When the Levee Breaks" is one thing. But to see and hear Jimmy Page reflecting on that firsthand experience 37 years later? Surreal.

So I guess there's a lot of it going around. People are running into these guys every day and having surreal encounters with them. Just so glad to be lucky enough to remember some from my own experience.

Thanks, Jonesy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Myles Kennedy admits he jammed with Led Zeppelin members last year; singer-guitarist says there are no plans to continue

Myles Kennedy has finally admitted he sang in rehearsal with Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham last year.

But the chance of continuing with them in some capacity is now gone, he says.

"I'm not singing in Led Zeppelin or any offshoot of Led Zeppelin, but I did have a great opportunity and it was something that [I'm] very grateful for," Kennedy says in his first interview confirming his involvement last year with members of Led Zeppelin.

The singer-guitarist has previously sidestepped the issue and deflected direct questions, also refusing to address it as recently as two weeks ago.

His first confirmation came in an interview conducted at the National Association of Music Merchants' 2009 NAMM Show. Speaking to Eric Blair for an edition of the online series called "The Blairing Out Show" posted to YouTube Jan. 19, Kennedy broke the silence.

Asked how it felt being in the rehearsal room with Led Zeppelin members, Kennedy said, "Surreal. It was great." He would not comment on whether they were rehearsing new material.

His admission comes within two weeks of the disclosure by Jimmy Page manager Peter Mensch that some singer auditions took place last year for a Led Zeppelin offshoot band involving Page, Jones and Bonham.

Last August, Bonham became the first of them to admit to the press that jam sessions had occasionally taken place earlier in 2008 with him drumming for Page and Jones.

"I've been working with Jimmy and John Paul and trying to do just do some new material and some writing," he said at the time. "I don't know what it will be, but it will be something."

Kennedy, when asked to name the songs he sang with them, avoided the question. "I don't know," he said. "I'll tell that story someday, but for now it was a good experience, and I'm still pinching myself. Let's just put it that way."

Bonham's comments last August did not specify whether any singer was involved, but a disclosure to the press from an unidentified source soon said a singer was involved, at least in the placeholder capacity should Robert Plant decide to take part once his touring commitments with Alison Krauss expired. Kennedy was named shortly thereafter, and by the year's end, other names were speculated on, such as Steven Tyler's.

Kennedy is the first of those singers to admit publicly that he was involved in rehearsals.

Jones spoke last October of a project under consideration at that time that would have Page, Bonham and himself in a band fronted by a singer yet to be determined. He said he anticipated the project would include an album and a tour. He seemed to be under the impression that an announcement would be forthcoming.

Plant, meanwhile, has extended his professional relationship with Krauss beyond last year's tour, and they are said to be currently working on their second album together. Their first album, Raising Sand, is on track to pick up as many as five more Grammy awards at next month's ceremony after yielding them one Grammy last year.

Plant also issued a statement last September that said he would not be taking part in any Led Zeppelin activity.

While it was widely speculated in the press last year that Led Zeppelin was planning to tour and record under that name without Robert Plant, both Page and his management intoned that the band under consideration would never call itself Led Zeppelin. Plant, speaking in November at a time when the Page-Jones-Bonham project may have still been under consideration, also commented that his former bandmates would not be using the name Led Zeppelin in their endeavors.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jeff Beck's second Rock Hall induction could spur reunion of Yardbirds guitarists

Not entirely Led Zeppelin news-related, but close enough -- especially considering Jeff Beck will soon be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist, having been previously inducted alongside Jimmy Page as members of the Yardbirds.

April 4 is when this year's crop of inductees pop up in Cleveland to be honored. It could very well be a memorable and historic occasion if Jimmy Page turns out to honor his former Yardbirds bandmate, and if Eric Clapton shows up as well. It would be great to listen to the three of them jam on any old song.

The last time all three guitarists played together was on the ARMS tour in 1983. On several nights, they jammed on "Stairway to Heaven" and "Layla," to name a couple. Pairings of these guitarists existed on only a handful of occasions, the longest-running of which was between Beck and Page.

Those two were bandmates briefly in 1966 when they were both in the Yardbirds. Page initially joined the group on bass before switching to dual lead guitar with Beck. That lineup lasted under three months but did see the two guitarists playing side-by-side in the movie Blow-Up. They can also be heard on the songs "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" and "Psycho Daisies," the latter with Page on bass.

After Beck stopped showing up to some Yardbirds gigs, he got himself fired by the band -- as he joked at his 1992 induction with the Yardbirds. But that didn't end Page's friendship with Beck. In 1967, Page guested on a Jeff Beck B-side called "Beck's Bolero." In 1969, Page and Beck shared some stages together in Miami and New York. Once Led Zeppelin had retired, Page's first onstage appearance was at a Jeff Beck concert.

Pictured alongside Page and Beck are, at left, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and, at right, Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler. Photo taken Nov. 5, 2007, by Ross Halfin, at the 2007 Classic Rock Awards.

In July 2007, Beck and Page were rumored to be in talks of rejoining the Yardbirds, whose only surviving participants from every era of the group between 1962 and 1968 had been using the band name since around the time of the 1992 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Beck and Page had even attended a Yardbirds show in 1996, reportedly playing air guitar from their seats. But they didn't end up rejoining the Yardbirds in 2007, and that September's announcement that Led Zeppelin was to reunite for a single concert at the end of the year made pretty much everybody forget about the earlier rumor.

Back to 2009: Beck and Clapton have announced their solo shows in Japan this coming March will converge with two one-off shows seeing them play together. They first jammed onstage together at the Secret Policeman's Ball for Amnesty International in 1981. Aside from the ARMS shows in 1983, the only other times they did this were at Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festivals in 2004 and 2007, and at a London gig of Beck's in November 2007.

As for Page and Clapton, they jammed on some demo-quality recordings in the early 1960s that have been released hundreds of times over, often with other musicians added to the recordings as an afterthought to make them sound more finished.

Clapton did not attend the Yardbirds' 1992 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had better things to do, namely record a set of acoustic songs for a one-off TV appearance and an album he thought would never sell a single copy. That supposedly undesirable album of his was called Unplugged, and it sold 10 million copies over the next four years.

So we can go ahead and legitimately question Eric's taste in music based off of that little incident.

Which makes it fine to say Eric ought to reconsider not playing any Yardbirds material when he and Beck play their shows together in Japan. Beck tells Rolling Stone he doesn't think they'll be doing anything that old because of Clapton's tastes.

But Beck also says that he doesn't like reunions for the sake of making money. He says:
"Reformation of bands is never my idea of a good idea. Leave well enough alone, especially 35 years after it happened. It usually indicates there isn’t anything else happening in someone else’s career, otherwise you wouldn’t entertain it."
Beck recently said he didn't like the idea of a Led Zeppelin reunion without Robert Plant, even though that really wasn't ever up for consideration.

Metallica's also being inducted this year, and we know guitarist Kirk Hammett's a Jimmy Page fan. So that's all the more reason for Page to show up in April! He can jam with one of his many admirers in Cleveland. Hammett was quoted in the October 2007 "Guitar Heroes" special issue of Q magazine on his appreciation for the live version of "Dazed and Confused" from The Song Remains the Same:
"I used to listen to it every day when I was learning how to play guitar. That's a total guitar wankathon. Jimmy Page cycles through so many moods and levels of intensity, then he breaks out the violin bow."

'It Might Get Loud' makes U.S. premiere at Sundance Film Festival

Was anybody there at the first U.S. showing of "It Might Get Loud," the guitar documentary starring Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge? Like to comment?

I do know that in the film, Jimmy Page performs the following songs alone in the movie: "Embryo No. 1," "Ramble On," "The Battle of Evermore," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Embryo No. 2."

Don't recognize the first and last of these titles? That's because they're new original music by Page. Director Davis Guggenheim (shown at right, with Page) says, "Jimmy played us previews of two new tracks he was writing -- both of which actually ended up in the movie."

Page himself mentioned his new musical pieces when he was interviewed last March by David Cavanagh. "They're the sort of vehicles and frameworks that could be applied [or] used in various situations," Page said, as quoted in the May 2008 issue of Uncut magazine. "I might have one thing that could be just as easily recorded with an ethnic drum orchestra as with a rock 'n' roll band. Do you see what I mean? Or you could play it acoustic. It's the application of it. But I'm ready. I'm ready, now, to present the stuff that I've got."

Also in the movie, Page, Edge and White jam on the following songs at an arranged "summit": U2's "I Will Follow," White's "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," the Band's "The Weight" and Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying."

The movie interpolates recordings of Led Zeppelin playing "How Many More Times," "When the Levee Breaks," "The Battle of Evermore," "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Whole Lotta Love," "White Summer," "Going to California," "The Rain Song," "Stairway to Heaven" and "Ten Years Gone."

So, there are tons of Zeppelin moments in this movie, probably none greater than the scene in which Page turns tour guide at Headley Grange and recounts what it was like to record Zep's fourth album there, and how they mic'ed up John Bonham's drums. That's one story I've read a number of times, but to hear Page tell it in his own words while seeing him there has to be on a totally different level. I can't wait to see this film.

It will be distributed this summer, but first it will be shown four more times at Sundance. Hopefully, somebody who has seen the movie will chime in here with a review!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

VH1 to air Foo Fighters show with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones

"The Foo Fighters' Live At Wembley Stadium DVD, which included the band's team up with half of Led Zeppelin, will air on VH1 this Saturday, January 17 at 10 p.m. ET."

Wow, they'll have to do some editing! I have the DVD, and Dave Grohl says quite a few things that VH1 won't air!

But good show in all. Well worth watching the whole thing and waiting for the good stuff toward the end. And by that, I of course mean Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones surprising the London audience by showing up and running through two Zeppelin numbers with half of the band.

The Foos sure had a lot of good, catchy songs of five minutes or less. The first half of the show is all that sort of stuff. Then, they air some of their longer numbers, and in the middle of it all are band introductions including a very laudable triangle solo.

It's a good watch, so set those DVRs now, or better yet -- get your own copy of it on DVD or Blu-Ray today!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Robert Plant gears up for second wave of activity with Alison Krauss

A song by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss is to be the sixth of 20 tracks on the new CD compilation of this year's Grammy nominees to be released Jan. 27. It is the first time in the 15-year series of Grammy Nominees discs that any member of Led Zeppelin is featured.

Plant and Krauss, who are up for five Grammy awards next month, have contributed their Record of the Year-nominated track, "Please Read the Letter," to the CD. Its release on the Rhino label is to benefit the Recording Academy's two charities, the MusiCares Foundation and the Grammy Foundation.

"Please Read the Letter" was written by Plant with Jimmy Page and their two bandmates in the late 1990s, and they released it on the Page-Plant album Walking into Clarksdale in 1998. Plant's second attempt at it, released nine years later on the 2007 album Raising Sand with Krauss, lowers the tempo and replaces the sound of Page's electric guitar with the bluegrass star's fiddle.

Plant and Krauss are reportedly slated to perform during the televised Grammy awards ceremony to be held Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. As the winners are announced, they will learn whether or not Raising Sand has earned the status of Album of the Year -- and whether or not they have repeated last year's victory in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.

By then, the two will supposedly have begun on their second album together. They are said to be gearing up for recording sessions taking place next week at a Nashville studio. (Update: This was confirmed in a Jan. 13 report at that is no longer available but whose contents are archived at the Plant fan site Manic Nirvana.)

It was in that city that their collaboration was born, under the tutelage and guidance of T Bone Burnett. Their producer is also said to be resuming that role in this month's sessions. Plant, when he gave the first official confirmation of an intended return to the studio with Krauss this month, said Burnett would be involved.

An early revelation of dates booked for the Plant-Krauss recording -- and of plans for possible summer tour dates -- came last month on the Internet discussion group Royal Orleans, when a user named "Zepp-4-Life" posted the following:
Just got home from dinner with the owner of Rounder records. For those that don't know , that's the Plant / Krauss label. So, the scoop is they are beginning recording sessions on January 12/13. The first sessions feature most of the same musicians from Raising Sand. T-Bone once again is the driving force and has apparently chosen most of the tracks. The songs being considered were sent to Rob and Allison only weeks ago. Rob and Allison will choose a song or two each for the production. Nashville is the meeting ground for the first studio sessions. Not sure which studio , but it was cool to hear how it all goes down. Rounder records basically pays for all costs on whatever they produce. My " friend " just sent the cheque last week for all expenses. Following the new CD , a small tour is planned. A 15 to 20 city tour is all they are expected to do. Summer dates are being negotiated. In addition , it is confirmed that Rob and Allison will perform at this year's Grammy's. That's all I can say for now. It's valid and real.
"Zepp-4-Life" added in a follow-up post post that the source of his information is Ken Irwin, cofounder of Rounder Records.

Tour dates in 2009 would negate a statement issued on Plant's official Web site in September that "Robert has no intention whatsoever of touring with anyone for at least the next two years."

All I'm going to say about that is, hmmmmm.

Also in Plant news:
  • Buddy Miller, who played guitar and pedal steel on the Plant-Krauss tour last year, has a new album with his wife, Julie Miller, due March 3. Titled Written in Chalk, it is to include Plant guest-singing on the track "What You Gonna Do, Leroy," written by Mel Tillis and originally performed by Lefty Frizzell.
  • Plant will likewise feature on the album Elsewhere by Scott Matthews, also to be released in March (Update -- It is now pushed back to May 18). Matthews, a self-proclaimed Led Zeppelin III enthusiast, wrote the song "12 Harps," which will include Plant on vocals. Matthews told the Galway Advertiser in Ireland last month, "I got to know [Plant] before recording the second album and I had a song in mind for him called '12 Harps.' It has leanings towards acoustic Led Zeppelin with mandolins."

Myles Kennedy announces his plans; fronting Jimmy Page's band not among them

Myles Kennedy has been working on solo material over the past month, he says in a new interview posted on his official Web site. The only other project on the Alter Bridge singer's slate, he says, is eventually developing a new album with his band.

Absent from his announced plans is any mention of the obvious. Both Kennedy and his interviewer manage to sidestep any mention of the rumors that he was under consideration for a new band featuring two of Led Zeppelin's original members -- Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones -- and Jason Bonham, the son of original Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.

Kennedy says he has been crafting music that would not suit his band Alter Bridge because it "isn't aggressive" enough for that outlet. His solo work, he says, is more of the "singer/songwriter" vein, and he's been spending a lot of time on it since Alter Bridge completed its tour in December.

"I basically got home from the European tour and then the next day I was in the studio," Kennedy says in the interview. He indicates he has been working on this new material alone, an approach he says is "a great way of challenging myself to learn to trust by instincts," although he "still had rather have a band."

Sources last year indicated that Kennedy had been rehearsing with Page, Jones and Bonham last year and was prepared to sing on a tour and album with them. Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider revealed in October he'd heard Kennedy would be tapped for activity in 2009 as long as a Led Zeppelin tour with Robert Plant wouldn't trump their plans.

Further, a confidential source in November told that Page and Jones got a close-up look at Kennedy's band in action when they attended an Alter Bridge concert in London that was to be filmed for a DVD. Kennedy implies in his interview that the band postponed filming until toward the end of the tour because the London show was too early in on the tour for all of the band to be "firing on all cylinders." If that's the case, then perhaps Page and Jones were underwhelmed with Kennedy and just didn't have the patience.

That assumption jibes with the statement on Wednesday, by Page manager Peter Mensch, that Page, Jones and Bonham "tried out a few singers, but no one worked out."

Some fans will undoubtedly see this week as the official passing of the Gary Cherone era in Led Zeppelin's history. They breathe a sigh of relief today.

Even more sadly, since today is Page's 65th birthday -- the age currently viewed in countries including United States as the retirement age -- is the completion of that quote from Page's manager on any possibility of Page, Jones and Bonham continuing to work together in any capacity:
"That was it. The whole thing is completely over now. There are absolutely no plans for them to continue. Zero. Frankly, I wish everybody would stop talking about it."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Source of dismal assessment of Led Zeppelin reunion status offers murky clarification

So, more on those two seemingly conflicting quotes from Jimmy Page's manager that showed up on the Internet yesterday.

MusicRadar now offers an explanation pointing out that the BBC article providing the earlier quote from Mensch is actually dated Jan. 7, 2008 -- a year ago.

And therefore, MusicRadar surmises, the interview we were all reading yesterday must have been a year old and carry only information that has become obsolete through a year's passage of time.

So, MusicRadar argues, the correct explanation is that Mensch now says the possibility of future collaboration among Led Zeppelin's members is off the table. That's what he told them on the phone yesterday, so they consider the chance of this collaboration non-existent now, although it could have been at the time of Mensch's earlier interview for the BBC, whenever it was truly conducted.

But that argument doesn't exactly hold water with me, and here's why.

MusicRadar is right that the BBC article is dated Jan. 7, 2008, not Jan. 7, 2009. Good catch.

However, explain why the Peter Mensch interview clips were used in the most recent "Music Week" podcast on the BBC site. I downloaded and played it yesterday where this new podcast was displayed ever so obviously. It wasn't hidden in some year-old archive where I had to dig it up. It was right there.

If the BBC interview were really a year old, in theory, somebody would have recognized it. I would like to think I would have remembered coming across it only 12 months ago. I would like to think somebody at the BBC would have intercepted it before it were released for a second time.

There's no way the BBC would have purposely hoarded the interview for a full year before using it! What would the purpose of that be?

OK, now let's consider the content of the interview. BBC interviewer Matt Everitt refers to rumors that Steven Tyler was jamming with Page and Jones -- rumors that didn't exist before late October 2008. Peter Mensch also discusses the auditioning of singers, which wouldn't have happened by this time a year ago.

The BBC interview was probably conducted in November, or late October at the absolute earliest, circumstances mentioned in the interview suggest.

So I would think the 2008 inscription on the article's dateline was the result of a typographical error. As of yet, this has not been corrected. (Update: It was a typographical error, and it eventually was corrected. It now reads 2009.)

But as to why Peter Mensch would deny to MusicRadar having given an interview to the BBC, I don't know.

Maybe he gave the interview a month or more ago and didn't know what interview MusicRadar was referring to when it came up in yesterday's brief phone conversation.

We do have further reason to believe, however, that when MusicRadar's Joe Bosso called Peter Mensch yesterday for comment on the BBC article, the interviewer asked (pitifully) about a "Led Zeppelin" tour. Look, even MusicRadar admits the conversation went something like this:

JB: "Hey Pete, nice interview with the BBC, who's replacing Robert Plant, then?"
PM: "What interview? I haven't spoke to those guys for like four months or something."
JB: "So Led Zeppelin are not going to tour and record?"
PM: "No chance."

So, I guess that's what Peter Mensch was saying wasn't going to happen: a Led Zeppelin tour. Feh. Like we really needed clarification on that point.

But is it possible Mensch also means, by extension, there's no chance of any project involving collaboration between Page and Jones?

Because if that's what he means, then, well, that sucks!

As far as the comment that Mensch has no clue what Page will be up to in the event that this band with Jones and Bonham has already fallen through, that's saddest of all.

Somebody on the discussion group For Badgeholders Only has suggested that this signals the end of Jimmy Page's career once and for all. What a sad assessment if this is true.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jimmy Page's manager claims singer auditions failed, 'no plans' for tour

OK, so the only thing that stands in the way of a new album and tour with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham is identifying a singer. Right?

That's what one would be led to believe after being exposed to the words of Page's manager, QPrime's Peter Mensch, who just said as much when he spoke with BBC Radio, as reported today.

But now Mensch is quoted, also today, by another news site saying something a little different. According to Joe Bosso's report on MusicRadar, the manager has told that site:
"They tried out a few singers, but no one worked out. That was it. The whole thing is completely over now. There are absolutely no plans for them to continue. Zero. Frankly, I wish everybody would stop talking about it."
Confused? Parse these words from Mensch carefully:
"Led Zeppelin are over! If you didn't see them in 2007, you missed them. It's done. I can't be any clearer than that."
Right. We already knew that, considering past disclosures to that effect from Page himself and an unnamed QPrime representative speaking on his behalf. This is almost exactly what Page told reporters last September:
"Playing at the 02, that was our reunion and it was one day and it was at the 02 in London. ... And basically that was it because if you're going to do a reunion, you need four members. John Paul Jones, myself and Jason would sort jam afterwards but it was nothing as monumental as people are speculating."
It almost sounds like MusicRadar's reporter was asking Mensch about a Led Zeppelin reunion, rather than a new collaboration between a singer and the established trio of Page, Jones and Bonham. It was precisely this line of questioning that went out of fashion last year after it became clear Robert Plant wanted no part of a Led Zeppelin reunion.

But it's interesting to see Mensch commenting on the fruits of the rehearsals, particularly that of the "few singers" they "tried out," "no one worked out."

While it has been reported that Page, Jones and Bonham were auditioning or rehearsing or jamming with singers Myles Kennedy and Steven Tyler last year, there have been no previous comments on how fruitful any singer rehearsals or auditions were.

And so, if you believe MusicRadar's quote from Mensch, then that's it: The project is called off. It won't happen.

The MusicRadar report concludes with one final quote from Mensch on the topic. It asks him what Page's plans are for the new year, and the manager replies:
"F--- if I know. I'm waiting to hear."
We all are, Jimmy. In fact, we have been for a while.

The guitarist turns 65 this Friday, Jan. 9. Jones just celebrated his 63rd birthday last Saturday, Jan. 3.

Jimmy Page still undecided on new singer for group with John Paul Jones, Jason Bonham

No particular singer has yet been confirmed as teaming up with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham for an album and tour, Page's manager disclosed to BBC Radio's "6 Music."

In an interview, Peter Mensch of QPrime told Matt Everitt that all his client, Page, needs to complete his planned group with Jones and Bonham is a singer who would "fit their bill" for the musicians to "make a record and go on tour."

Once Mensch mentioned that he manages Page, Everitt asked about the possibility of collaboration among the pair of original Led Zeppelin members with Bonham and a new singer. (Everitt worded the question very laudably, without resorting to asking about a Led Zeppelin reunion, which was the reason interviewers last year failed to get any useful information about the project!)

To the question, Mensch replied:
"Listen. They did the show with Robert Plant. They had a really goodtime rehearsing -- the three of them, before Robert showed up -- and they decided if they could find a singer that they thought was, you know, fit their bill, they would make a record and go on tour.

"And I support that because -- why not? That's his job. It's like my job. I'm gonna manage acts until either every one of my acts tells me I'm too old to manage them or I die on a tour bus. This is what I do! You know.

"John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page enjoy playing with each other. You know, Jason Bonham's a really good drummer. So, we just have to find a singer."
Everitt asked if last year's rumor of Steven Tyler sitting in to rehearse was true, and Mensch answered:
"I can't comment on any rumors right now. And we're not soliciting people, so don't call me!"
A report by XFM summarizing Mensch's comments incorrectly calls him Led Zeppelin's manager. In truth, Mensch manages Page only, while Jones and Bonham retain their own individual managers.

When Page collaborated with Robert Plant in the 1990s, Page switched his management over to Trinifold, which Plant was using at the time and still does today.

Plant says he is not interested in reuniting Led Zeppelin at least for some time.

This interview provides the most current official insight on the possibility of a future collaboration among Led Zeppelin members since November, when Rolling Stone reported a quote from a QPrime representative who said of the forming lineup:
"Whatever this is, it is not Led Zeppelin. Not without the involvement of Robert Plant."