Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Hulett and Prochnicky's photo book, Led Zeppelin history compacted into vignettes

In a series of three black-and-white shots taken by James Fortune in 1973 straight-on in front of center stage, we see Robert Plant in full performance mode onstage at the Los Angeles Forum. With his legs positioned in pyramid formation, his face bobs from side to side, his hair bouncing a beat behind. The microphone in his left hand points outward, not to himself or to anything in particular. His opposite hand bears a tight grip of the microphone cord, allowing him to give the cord a good stretch. Behind him, a barely visible Jones plays his bass while standing next to the symbol-adorned drum set of a shadowy Bonham keeping time. The body that shifts the most in this series of shots is that of Jimmy Page, who starts off by bending impossibly backward from the knees up, his guitar extended courtesy of an outstretched strap from his shoulders. Page's face changes in each photo to demonstrate three separate looks of anguish as he cuts his chops high on the fretboard.

Any one of these three images could suffice as the quintessential image of Led Zeppelin at its peak. In fact, precisely this thought has crossed a lot of minds, inspiring quite a few imitators. "Many heavy metal groups, such as Heart, Van Halen, Guns n' Roses, and Metallica, to name but a few, borrowed from Zeppelin. But, as seen in these images taken at the Los Angeles Forum, no one could rock harder than the original," acknowledges a photo caption accompanying these photos as printed in "Good Times Bad Times: A Visual Biography of the Ultimate Band," a new book by Jerry Prochnicky and Ralph Hulett published by Abrams Press.

These are only three of the 200 photographs on 216 pages in this hardcover coffee table book, and "Good Times Bad Times" presents so much more than the usual photos of Led Zeppelin onstage. In fact, some of the book's highlights take place far from the road. Rare glimpses of Jimmy Page inside his fancifully decorated yet modestly lit Pangbourne boathouse depict the guitarist lounging at home, always looking away from the camera, even in close-ups. Elsewhere, John Paul Jones, in bell bottom trousers and sandals, embodies the posture of a serenading Dave Matthews as he plays a mandolin outside his Hertfordshire estate with two of his daughters and his wife dancing and clapping along. In others, Robert Plant enjoys the company of a horse and a goat at his farm in Kidderminster, England. In some backstage shots scattered throughout the book, the text notes that Bonham looks particularly bored to be away from his home and family, whether it's conveyed by his body language or the words on his shirt -- one such shirt has an image of the dog Snoopy on the front and, on the opposite side, the words "I wish I could bite somebody ... I need a release from my inner tensions!"

The California-based writing team of Prochnicky and Hulett, who previously turned out the paperback "Whole Lotta Led: Our Flight with Led Zeppelin," provide a general overview of the band's history in the first few pages of the book. This text definitely takes on the theme of the "Good Times Bad Times" title, as any written history of the band's 12 years should, but the authors dedicate an inordinate amount of column inches to the ups and downs of the 1977 tour, whereas the 1973 tour that the authors posit was the "peak" warrants a single paragraph. The real point of the book is to showcase the band pictorially, and that is achieved. The group is often serious, often silly, and the text provided alongside the photos reflects that always in an appropriate manner. Their appropriateness is no better exemplified than on page 179, which shows all four band members squeezed into a choreographed shot via a rather goofy pose during a Manticore Studios rehearsal in January 1977, above a separate image of a nervous Page at the Swan Song office in London, biting his thumbnail and retaining a near-worthless cigarette butt in his two fingers as he dares explain to members of the press on Oct. 28, 1977, that Led Zeppelin was not going to split up and not responsible for "bad karma."

From the band's tragic end in 1980, the story completes itself with a tidy four-photo recap of events that have followed. Jason and Zoe Bonham join Led Zeppelin's surviving members in a photo taken at Led Zeppelin's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. A slimmer and distinguished version of manager Peter Grant stares at Martyn Goodacre's camera in a rare shot taken in the early '90s, prior to his death in 1995. The book closes with two shots of Led Zeppelin in action again, with Jason Bonham on drums, at the O2 arena on Dec. 10, 2007. Of the future, the authors say, "There may be a few more reunions or perhaps a limited tour, but the remaining members wisely decided that it was best to leave the legacy intact by not launching any huge world tours." And with that, one supposes, the story seems fittingly ended.

There are so many striking images in this book, some of which were never published before or have rarely been seen. Instead of concentrating on the usual suspects of Led Zeppelin photography, the book draws from a number of sources who either had access to the group in its formative days or just happened to catch up along the way. Some of the photographers earned their own rightful mention inside the book, such as the bespectacled and mustachioed Chuck Boyd, who catches John Paul Jones rehearsing on an electric bass while seated on a folding chair in a daylighted lounge on Sept. 4, 1970, hours ahead of the now-legendary "Blueberry Hill" concert. Back in December 1968, this photographer is said to have "lobbied intensely" for the L.A.-based company Sunn Amplifiers to start an endorsement deal with a band based solely on the strength of a test pressing of that group's first album. The company's promotions person said Boyd was "certain they would sell more amps than any [other] artist on [Sunn's] roster" but declined.

With each flip of the page, a new surprise lies ahead. In all probability, the reader looks just like a kid on Christmas -- or the bright-eyed Robert Plant smiling on page 111. In a black-and-white photo credited to Koh Hasebe / Shinko Music Archives, we see Plant's left hand cradling the first few frets of the six-string portion of Jimmy Page's double-neck guitar. Out of sorts with the equipment, he sits on a crate and supports the guitar's heavy body on his right leg. Behind Plant's back, only a few onlookers all facing the stage wander this empty indoor arena in Japan, where Led Zeppelin is sure to pack in thousands of screaming fans a few hours later, while the band is on its first tour of the country, in September 1971. What speaks volumes in this photo is that Led Zeppelin had even the power to bring that joy even to themselves.

Following are three images from the book used with the permission of the publisher, Abrams Books, along with the photo captions and credits as they appear in "Good Times Bad Times: A Visual Biography of the Ultimate Band."

Led Zeppelin explored Japan's culture with great enthusiasm. All the members bought cameras and had a field day with them. Here, Page and Plant are totally engrossed in the task at hand. "Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times"; Abrams, 2009; photo credit Koh Hasebe / Shinko Music Archives

May 12, 1969. When he heard Led Zeppelin play for the first time in California, photographer Robert Knight was blown away and quickly helped them secure a gig in Hawaii. When the band got off the plane in Honolulu, Knight took pictures of them clutching reel-to-reel boxes that no doubt contained the works-in-progress that would become Led Zeppelin II. Knight recalled, "I met the band at the airport, with a VW and camera bag. I got some terrific shots of them at the house they rented at Diamond Head -- learning to surf, strolling the beach, and other very mad behavior." "Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times"; Abrams, 2009; photo credit Robert M. Knight

Photographer Ron Raffaelli worked with Led Zeppelin mostly in 1969, accompanying the band on several European and U.S. tours and documenting sessions for Led Zeppelin II at Quantum Recording Studios in Los Angeles. Primarily, though, he's known for his striking images of Zeppelin taken at his Hollywood studio. Here, he was able to bring out the spontaneous individuality of the band members while also illustrating the group's unity. "Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times"; Abrams, 2009; photo credit Ron Raffaelli /

Friday, September 25, 2009

Want your chance to watch Them Crooked Vultures tape 'Austin City Limits'?

Before the North American tour by Them Crooked Vultures starts in October, the band is to take the stage next Wednesday, Sept. 30, for a taping of the TV program "Austin City Limits." Click here for your chance to attend the taping in person and enjoy the new tunes from John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme.

In other news, a new Foo Fighters track called "Wheels" is now getting some radio airplay. It is going to appear on the band's Greatest Hits, scheduled for a Nov. 3 release.

Also, Grohl was spotted earlier this week playing drums for a new song by Slash, who's been busy making a solo album. The former Guns N' Roses/Velvet Revolver guitarist was also joined on the track by Duff McKagan, who was bassist in both of those bands. Slash wrote on Twitter after their Tuesday night recording session:
"Great jamming w/Duff & Grohl tonight, the track is a killer intrumental [sic], very heavy."
Slash's solo album is also said to include some work by drummer Jason Bonham, who accompanied him on a festival date this June and now is scheduled to appear with him again next Friday, Oct. 2.

Former Quiet Riot drummer honors John Bonham on 29th anniversary of his death

When Frankie Banali, former drummer of Quiet Riot, was booking his gig at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, Calif., he must have had John Bonham on the brain. The promotional material for tonight's gig says:
"I am particularly excited about performing a set of Led Zeppelin music with a group of musicians that know how to deliver this music. Joining me for the set will be Chas West (The Jason Bonham Band) on vocals, Mitch Perry (Edgar Winter Group) on guitar, Sean McNabb (Great White) on bass and Edward Harris Roth (Glenn Hughes) on keyboards.

"September 25, 2009 will be the 29th Anniversary of the passing of Led Zeppelin's mighty John Henry Bonham (31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980) and the Led Zep Set will be performed in his memory and dedicated in his honor."
Another site of mine, "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History," today marks Bonham's passing.

Also tonight is an act that has been touring for some time. I caught a show in South Florida last December. Randy Jackson, who was singer of the rock group Zebra, along with a rock band and arranger-conductor Brent Havens, join the Virginia Symphony at the Harbor Center in Portsmouth, Va., tonight at 8 to perform Windborne's Music of Led Zeppelin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame releases massive DVD set including all-star jams

In December 2007, Jimmy Page played on the stage of the O2 arena in London, leading a Led Zeppelin reunion. Almost two years later, Jeff Beck said Page was "too chicken" to join him onstage at the O2's smaller venue, the IndigO2.

Of course, Beck was kidding.

And he also called out Ron Wood. Both Page and Wood were attending Beck's IndigO2 gig, but they were up in the balcony. (Thanks to reporter Simon Hays for the above details.)

Page and Wood weren't too chicken this April when they jammed with Beck and others in Cleveland on the occasion of his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their onstage collaboration on "Train Kept A-Rollin'," also with Joe Perry and members of Metallica, is a fine example of the caliber of jamming the Rock Hall draws year in and year out.

And now, finally, as if it's never been a good idea before, there's now a giant box set release courtesy of Time Life that compiles many of those induction ceremony jams. One edition of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame LIVE includes nine DVDs, and another includes 14 DVDs plus a booklet.

In either set, a disc called "Feelin' Alright" includes Beck and Page jamming on "Beck's Bolero" with an "Immigrant Song" interlude from this April, and a disc called "Whole Lotta Shakin'" includes the "Train Kept A-Rollin'" electric guitar blitz!

Beck's also included on another disc called "Come Together," where he jammed with Jonny Lang on Gene Vincen't "Be-Bop-a-Lula" in 1999, and also played the Curtis Mayfield track "People Get Ready" in 1994 as a tribute to Rod Stewart.

See, this archive really does go back a while! It also includes the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which took place in September 1995, upon the Cleveland museum's opening.

Alas, the DVD set does not include any of Led Zeppelin's reunited performances on the night of the induction in 1995, but that may be a matter of the performance being vetoed for release. That's why the Page-Plant-Jones performance at Live Aid in 1985 wasn't included on the official DVD release of those concerts either.

But what this new set does include is pretty amazing!

Robert Plant-affiliated record label wins award

Congratulations to Kevyn Gammond and the record label he founded, Mighty Atom Smasher, on receiving an award last night in London. The Kidderminster College-based M.A.S. Records, of which Robert Plant is a patron, has brought home the Access to Music award as presented by Rockschool. The record label was set up to support young acts in the local area.

Gammond was often known under the name Carlisle Egypt during his career as a guitarist, particularly during the days he and Plant were bandmates, first as members of the Band of Joy, which also featured John Bonham, prior to the formation of Led Zeppelin. Prior to his founding of the record label, the Kidderminster College lecturer again teamed up with Plant in 1999 and 2000 for a covers act that played a limited run of low-key concerts under the name Priory of Brion.

Reminder: John Paul Jones on Rod Stewart box set released today

Rod Stewart's 4-CD box set of previously unreleased material was released today.

It includes a previously unreleased studio track with guest musicians John Paul Jones on organ and David Gilmour on guitar.

The track is a remake of the song "In a Broken Dream" recorded in the summer of 1992. For more information on the circumstances of that studio recording, click here.

Warner and Rhino released the 4-CD box set The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 today in the United States.

Click here to listen to this very Pink Floyd-sounding track now from Spinner!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures add German shows in December, N.Y. show in October

John Paul Jones's new supergroup with Dave Grohl and Josh Homme announced four additional concert dates today: one in New York and three in Germany.

With the additional date, the first North American tour of Them Crooked Vultures is now scheduled to close Oct. 15 at Roseland Ballroom in New York. The tickets will be available to the public beginning Sept. 26 by clicking here. An edition of the band's official newsletter distributed today included presale information for the New York show.

Shows in Munich, Berlin and Cologne are to take place in early December, in the days leading up to the U.K. tour launch scheduled for Dec. 10. Information to purchase tickets to the three German shows can be found here.

On sale now are tickets to the band's six shows in Australia and New Zealand:

Jason Bonham sets U.S. tour dates with Bonham; Slash also to welcome drummer at Las Vegas gig

Earlier this year, Jason Bonham reunited his first band, Airrace, and went on a U.K. tour with them.

So why not reunite his most successful solo band, Bonham, and go on a U.S. tour? The magic 8 ball says that's in his future.

Over a short time between 1989 and 1990, the band took its Zeppelin-influenced sound and released a hit single called "Wait for You" as well as a Gold-certified album The Disregard of Timekeeping.

Now, Bonham has just announced five shows in Florida and California next month. Here is the complete list of announced tour dates thus far:
The band, Bonham, is said to be performing its own music along with that of some of the drummer's other recent projects: UFO, Foreigner and, definitely, Led Zeppelin.

Tickets to the above shows are on sale now through Ticketmaster and can be purchased here.

In addition, Jason Bonham is to be in Las Vegas before those dates take place. He is scheduled to perform with Slash in an all-star show at the Mirage hotel and casino on Oct. 2. (Update: Jason did not perform this date as he evidently dropped out of the lineup in advance.)

It is shaping up to be similar in spirit to the June 30 gig in Norway that saw Bonham playing drums for Slash's 90-minute set that saw guest vocal appearances from Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie and Franky Perez. During that show, Perez sang "Immigrant Song" and "Whole Lotta Love," and Fergie sang "Black Dog."

For the Oct. 2 show, Slash's announced onstage guests are to include:
  • singer Courtney Love of Hole
  • guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith
  • drummer Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe
  • singer Rob Zombie of White Zombie
  • drummer Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver
  • guitarist Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick
  • guitarist and singer Rocco DeLuca of Rocco DeLuca and the Burden
  • singer Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls
Plus, there are supposed to be other "surprise" celebrity appearances! Click here to reserve your spot at the event.

Slash was said to have been putting the finishing touches on a solo album in recent weeks. Drums on that album are said to be played by Josh Freese, who previously worked with Nine Inch Nails.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Knebworth, Bath festivals remembered in new box set

The promoter of the Knebworth Festival, Freddy Bannister, is offering a new limited-edition box set to honor the 30th anniversary of Knebworth and also the 40th anniversary of the first Bath Festival. This commemorative set includes:
  • ticket, program and flyer reprints from the Bath festivals in 1969 and 1970 and the Knebworth Festival in 1979
  • a set of 20 glossy 6x8" photographs taken at the Bath and Knebworth festivals
  • three T-shirts (select three from among three Knebworth designs and two designs displaying the poster art from the Bath festivals)
  • two poster reprints (select two from among the 1969 and 1970 Bath festivals as well as the 1979 Knebworth Festival)
  • a copy of Freddy Bannister's 2003 book, "There Must Be a Better Way: The Story of the Bath and Knebworth Rock Festivals 1969-1979"
  • a DVD containing 100 photographs of Led Zeppelin at Knebworth, plus an interview of Robert Plant and John Paul Jones conducted by J.J. Jackson
  • a 60-minute DVD called "The Spirit of Knebworth" that overviews the seven Knebworth festivals held between 1974 and 1979
  • a signature of the promoter, Freddy Bannister
The boxed set is limited to 200 and is reasonably priced at £64.95 plus shipping costs. Visit for ordering information.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Buddy Miller, John Fogerty honored at Americana Music Awards

A CD that Robert Plant appears on was named Album of the Year at the 2009 Americana Music Awards ceremony last night.

Multi-instrumentalist and singer Buddy Miller won the Artist of the Year category, while he and his wife Julie Miller picked up Duo/Group of the Year, the category Plant and Alison Krauss claimed a year ago.

Meanwhile, the Buddy and Julie Miller album Written in Chalk received last night's top honor in the Americana Music Association's annual awards ceremony held last night at the Sommet Center in Nashville.

Plant duets with Buddy Miller on one track on that album, "What You Gonna Do Leroy." Also playing lap steel on the track is Gurf Morlix, who was awarded Instrumentalist of the Year.

It was the first time since 2006 that somebody other than Buddy Miller won in that category.

It was another one of Miller's duets on Written in Chalk, with Patty Griffin on the song called "Chalk," that took home Song of the Year. The song was written by Julie Miller.

The Americana Music Association also presented a lifetime achievement award to American rocker John Fogerty. The former Creedence Clearwater Revival singer was on hand to receive the award, one day after performing a surprise set at Nashville's Mercy Lounge.

Miller is among the musicians on Fogerty's latest solo offering, The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again. It is the follow-up to a disc of his in 1972.

Plant was not known to be in attendance last night, although it is possible he will rear his head in Nashville again next month as his current record label, Rounder, prepares an evening celebration in honor of the label's 40th anniversary.

Krauss is scheduled to perform with her band, Union Station, at an Oct. 12 event, to be held at the Grand Ole Opry House. The show is to be filmed for an upcoming PBS television special.

As for a second album with Plant and Krauss, it has previously been reported that progress in pre-production this January was sidetracked prior to their Grammy sweep in February.

While Plant was spotted in Nashville midway through the year, a source familiar with behind-the-scenes operations indicated to midway through the year that, on one hand, Krauss had "declared a moratorium on all work for 12-18 months with Robert because she wants to do an album and extended tour with Union Station." On the other hand, the source said, Plant was left "frustrated" as he "wants to finish the thing off and be done with it."

The last time Krauss is known to have publicly addressed any further collaboration with Plant came this July, when she commented to the U.K. Telegraph that their second album would "be different, as if we hadn't made the first." The writer of that article said Plant and Krauss had only "listening meetings about potential material" pertaining to their next musical project together.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Robert Plant's O2 Rockwell set consists of two reworked Led Zeppelin numbers

No "unique collaborations" of note by Robert Plant onstage at the O2 arena in London tonight, but his solo set at the Rockwell charity gig was comprised of a pair of Led Zeppelin songs.

Twitter users said Plant's awesome set brought the house down with African-style renditions of the classics "Black Dog" and "Whole Lotta Love."

Between the two was another song, a similarly reworked version of the blues tune "Funny in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' to Die)" Plant included on his 2002 album Dreamland. For this version, the singer pulled out a harmonica and took a solo between verses.

Onstage with Plant for his set was Justin Adams, a member of the Strange Sensation lineup that contributed to Dreamland and its 2005 followup, Mighty ReArranger.

Among the musicians with them onstage was Juldeh Camara, a Gambian instrumentalist and vocalist who released an album called Soul Science with Adams this May.

Camara and Adams have been touring far reaches of the world this year in support of their disc, and in April their headlining set at the WOMAD music festival in Abu Dhabi was boosted by a special guest appearance from Plant.

Singer Beverley Knight wrote on Twitter during the O2 Rockwell show, "Robert Plant is a total legend! My GOD, awesome. Xxxxxx." Afterward, she had her photo taken backstage with Plant, as seen at right. This prompted her to comment, "OMG! Me and the (wolves) legend Robert Plant!!!!"

Among entries from the LedZeppelinNews Twitter feed during the concert:

  • RT @MikeSouthon Robert Plant doing a folk/african version of 'Black Dog'
  • RT @MikeSouthon Robert Plant doing 'Whole Lotta Love, with his cracking folk/african band. bliss!
  • RT @RyanQuadri Robert Plant's on!!! F***ing cool!!! Two Led Zeppelin classics including 'Whole Lotta Love' playing now!
  • RT @andylopata Sanity restored thanks to Mr Plant and a whole lotta love!
  • RT @paul_hide What a whole lotta love, Robert Plant brings the house down. Rockwell O2
Update: And now the first YouTube videos arrive!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trying to predict the unpredictable

After one of my pen pals asked me what songs I thought Robert Plant would perform at the O2 arena charity gig on Friday, I gave it some thought and came up with some guesses.

For one thing, I bet there is tremendous pressure for Robert Plant to perform Led Zeppelin songs. I can imagine the other performers wanting to sing them as duets with him, particularly with this recent trend of talent show sex symbols Leona Lewis and Adam Lambert remaking "Whole Lotta Love." It's time for Plant to reclaim the song -- and perhaps lend a little of it to elder sex symbol Tom Jones.

Plant has a history of granting people's wishes when it comes to dueting on Zeppelin material. The precedent was set on Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album when he shared vocal duties with Sandy Denny. While they didn't know it at the time, the song was tailor-made for Plant's future vocal collaboration with Alison Krauss, and Plant's also kept the song in the Fairport Convention family by performing it at last year's Cropredy Festival with another young talent, Kristina Donahue.

We could look also to Plant's studio remake of "Down by the Seaside" with Tori Amos, or his onstage run-through of "Fool in the Rain" with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, or those live versions of songs like "Hey Hey What Can I Do," "Black Country Woman" and "When the Levee Breaks" also with Krauss. Perhaps an arrangement of "Fool in the Rain" with Plant sharing the vocal duties with Joss Stone wouldn't be entirely out of question.

There are plenty of examples of Plant sharing the spotlight with the likes of vocalists Ian Hunter, Kevin Scott MacMichael, Buddy Miller, Juldeh Camara and Scott Matthews. But with all of those cases, it wasn't on Zeppelin material. We shouldn't overlook the possibility of Plant dipping into his own catalog of solo material -- like "In the Mood," "29 Palms" and "Win My Train Fare Home," all solo tunes he attempted on the road as duets in recent months. But substantial evidence suggests Plant would try out some cover songs; he's certainly done that once or twice before.

So, instead of "Whole Lotta Love," Plant's sharing of the stage with Tom Jones could well result in a duet version of "Kiss" by Prince, for instance. I could also see him helping Lulu tackle "Morning Dew," a Bonnie Dobson song both singers have released as a single.

Consider that Plant is one who has often nodded to his lyrical influences by reverting to the original in concert. With Led Zeppelin, he sang "How Many More Times," whereas with the Honeydrippers he sang "How Many More Years" by Howlin' Wolf; with Led Zeppelin, he sang "Communication Breakdown," whereas last year saw Plant crooning Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown."

So, Plant's about due to acknowledge "Never," the bluesy number by Moby Grape with some lyrical sentiments he ended up echoing in "Since I've Been Loving You" on Led Zeppelin III. He has long expressed his reverence for Moby Grape's music, and he's covered a lot of their songs live and in the studio, but never "Never." Will he someday? Never say never! Watch for Plant and Joss Stone might to settle in on a soulful rendition of it tomorrow.

But, that all being said, these "Leducated" guesses are based on what's characteristic about Plant. As we know, he's also often an unpredictable guy. This is, after all, the dude who turned up on harmonica on Primal Scream's studio take of "The Lord is My Shotgun" only because he offhandedly told one band member, while they were out having a drink, that he would show up and do it the next day. Not to be disingenuous, but who would have taken Plant at his word?

So, my final answer is Plant will sing "Let's Have a Party" with the Hot Rats and "Stairway to Heaven" with Razorlight.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures to headline in Australia this January

Check it out: Them Crooked Vultures will be touring Australia and New Zealand early next year.

Dates are set up for Perth on Jan. 19, Melbourne on Jan. 22, Brisbane on Jan. 25, Sydney on Jan. 26, Wellington on Jan. 29 and Auckland on Jan. 30.

This, of course, follows previously announced dates in the United Kingdom and North America and extends existing tour dates beyond December and into 2010.

Zep members benefit charity front

News today from Led Zeppelin headquarters as all three surviving members have donated an assortment of band memorabilia to a charity auction benefiting Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.

Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant have joined other people close to the band in donating an array of books, photographs, and even two autographed Electric Magic fanzines, to be auctioned off for the hospital's benefit.

Of the items related to Led Zeppelin, the highest valued one is a concert program from the Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert, held in December 2007 at the O2 arena. (The event, of course, became more famous for its headlining act, the reunited Led Zeppelin with Jason Bonham on drums in place of his father.) Now bearing autographs by Page, Plant and Jones, this hardcover concert program, shown at right, carries an estimated value determined to be approximately $500.

The auction also includes:
In addition:
Bidding for the Led Zeppelin-related items closes on Oct. 8 at 10 p.m. Eastern.

The announcement of these auction items comes 48 hours before Plant, who recently turned 61, is to take the stage at the O2 arena for the first time since the Led Zeppelin reunion. He's billed to appear at the star-studded Rockwell fundraiser.

The Rockwell lineup -- which also includes Tom Jones, Lulu, David Gray, Razorlight and Joss Stone, among others -- promises "unique collaborations." However, from an announcement of the full line-up, it does not appear Plant will be pairing up with any other acts on the bill. That doesn't mean he won't surprise us!

Proceeds from this concert on Friday are to benefit Nordoff-Robbins, a U.K. charity that uses music therapy techniques as a means to improve the quality of life for people living with various illnesses and conditions.

Beatlemania hits U.S. on feast of the nines

Beatles fans will be shelling out upwards of $250 to obtain the new box sets that present the first remasters of that group's catalog since the 1980s. Just as the Led Zeppelin catalog was remastered for re-release in the early 1990s, and selected tracks remastered yet again for the Mothership collection in 2007, the sound of all the Beatles albums has been updated for modern listeners.

The Washington Post yesterday included two opposing articles, one in support of the Beatles tracks in mono and the other in support of them in stereo.

Also because 09.09.09 is here, a Beatles edition of the video game "Rock Band" has also arrived, ushering a new use of licensing of the band's catalog. Contributing some thoughts on this, not surprisingly, is music-industry commenter Bob Lefsetz. He says the Beatles are behind the curve in reaching out to this format, one he says "is on death watch." Lefsetz doubts this move to the "Rock Band" enterprise will create fans out of today's youth: "If you want to teach the younger generation how great the boys from Liverpool were you'll reach more of them via advertising than you will via this half-baked game."

Jimmy Page, too, was recently critical of the "Rock Band"/"Guitar Hero" format, expressing his displeasure at the thought of dads trying to be John Bonham when they're not. Page said this to the press this June while promoting his film "It Might Get Loud" along with co-star Jack White in Los Angeles. White, too, expressed his ambivalence about that style of video game, offering that he noticed "a loss of romance" when those controllers get between the music and the listener.

In one October 2008 edition of the influential Lefsetz Letter, the author railed against the band for licensing a line of footwear. It was little over a month later that I similarly criticized the Led Zeppelin activity of 2007 -- not the reunion concert but the further distillation of Zep's material via Mothership, the moves to iTunes and YouTube, the launch of the official Web site, and even the new version of The Song Remains the Same -- as the popularization of Led Zeppelin to the everyman, the gasping last breaths of any mystery once associated with Led Zeppelin.

You know, the kind of mystery we're now seeing with the arrival of Them Crooked Vultures!

But the Lefsetz Letter also featured the lengthy and reasoned reaction by Jeff Jampol, the acting manager today of the Doors, explaining his actions. It wasn't an attack, and it wasn't a defense. It was just an explanation, a history of decisions. And the more I reflect on Jampol's words in response to Lefsetz, the more I budge from that hard-lined position and realize why the footwear line and other judgment-call decisions by the Doors management were appropriate at the time -- and, by extension, why these moves undertaken every once in a while by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin are appropriate for them at those points in time.

That all being said, Lefsetz may be right about "Rock Band" as a dying art form, and Page has the right to believe it was never that great in the first place. Lefsetz often says the CD format is dead. He's even argued physical media are dead, and selling digital files is on its way out too, soon to be replaced by the format he's now championing: streaming on-demand media. Of the Beatles, Lefsetz says:

"We know that the Beatles blazed trails. Opened doors that were not even seen. Created music that you could not only sing along with, but inspired you to take up musical instruments to play. The Beatles Rock Band will inspire no one to become a musician, will turn few on to the music, because it's at least two years too late. The Beatles led, we followed. Now Apple Corps. is so tentative that it can't help but follow. Imagine the remasters on Blu-Ray. Sure, few would be able to play them, but they'd inspire the public to get Blu-Ray players just to hear them. Could have been done. Would have blown our minds. We'd have gone to friends' houses just like we did in '64, to be exposed to this magic music. But that wouldn't be expedient business. Expect the Beatles to sell MP3s when streaming is the norm. It's a bit sad. But the music, even listened to at 128kbps on cheap white earbuds, is still revelatory. It will never fade away. Unlike Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the White Album, all of the Beatles records, are not a fad. They still get our adrenaline pumping and put a smile on our face. No matter when and where we hear them. You can build edifices atop the music, but the tunes still shine, will continue to shine. Thank God."

Maybe it's just because I'm a bigger fan of Led Zeppelin than I am the Beatles, but I think whatever new medium hasn't yet arrived could be new territory for Led Zeppelin. The embalming liquid of the future that will preserve Led Zeppelin's music for eternity -- or at least until the next medium makes it obsolete. The new format that will be employed whenever Them Crooked Vultures have new music they want heard -- and, preferably, sold for profit. Because it's a business.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do musicians really ever retire?

There's an unconfirmed report that Charlie Watts is quitting the Rolling Stones. The veteran drummer apparently isn't interested in touring or recording with the group anymore.

So, in effect, would Charlie be retiring? I mean, he's not forfeiting his license to play Stones songs. But if he's not playing them with Mick and Keith anymore, then who's he gonna play 'em with?

Is Charlie going to go the Ringo Starr route and start up his own cavalcade of stars, rock musicians who go around and play yawn-inducing versions of their songs to aging folks in lawn chairs?

Drummers aren't afforded the same luxuries given to singers. If Robert Plant doesn't want to tour with Led Zeppelin, he can still record an album with Alison Krauss and sing "Black Dog" in concert -- and he does, and then people vilify him for doing the same thing others praise him for doing.

Or is Charlie just going to sit at home and relax now that he is in advanced age and enjoy the fortunes he has earned playing his limited role in the creation of songs like "Street Fighting Man" and "Start Me Up"? And if that's what he's doing, doesn't the word "retirement" come to mind? How many times do you hear that word in this discussion?

Jimmy Page hasn't been on a major tour since 2000, and he didn't even finish it for reasons that were explained at the time as medical. There was probably a time last year that he genuinely thought he would be on the road this very day, playing Led Zeppelin songs with John Paul Jones, Jason Bonham and the singer of their choosing. It fell through for reasons not exactly explained, and Jimmy must be disappointed about that, if not absolutely heartbroken.

He says he wants to be seen again, and thank goodness for that -- because if things continue to carry on the way they have for the past decade, Jimmy will soon find himself in declining health and moping that he missed out on being seen, and enjoyed, when he certainly was capable. People want to see Jimmy and enjoy him.

Les Paul never retired. To the very end, he made himself available to his fans. Those who met him found a man who was very proud of his accomplishments and who was very friendly with those who admired him. Les was a great role model for any artist, not just guitarists but singers, drummers, everybody.

There's still a market for Jimmy Page, no doubt. There's still a market for Charlie Watts too. But is it the Rolling Stones crowd? Is that the only vehicle for his career today?

Does Charlie still have any unrealized aspirations? His technical abilities aside, could Charlie be the mastermind drummer in a spontaneously arranged supergroup not unlike the one John Paul Jones is in, and go out and write new music that has nothing to do with "Street Fighting Man" and more to do with, say, "The Day that Never Comes"? Might Charlie have some skills he's been shielding from the spotlight, like a decent singing voice?

As I watched "It Might Get Loud," it struck me when Jimmy Page declined to sing along with The Edge and Jack White when the three attempted "The Weight," the classic by The Band. Jimmy used the word "can't" when asked to sing. Aren't we taught as children to aspire higher than that? "Can't" was a naughty word in my household. Jimmy does end up singing a third harmony on the "and" at the end of each chorus, so kudos to him for overcoming one of his anxieties.

Jimmy also sang backup a few times during Led Zeppelin's career, and don't forget his pre-Yardbirds solo single "She Just Satisfies"; he was all over that one vocally. But why a man at his age would be debating whether or not to sing in the company of The Edge and Jack White is beyond me. Just go out there and do it, Jimmy. I encourage you!

Don't retire, Jimmy, and don't make us think you retired either. There's a market for you. There's a band for you. You're not washed up, and you never will be. Go out there and be seen. We promise your fans will be there.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures solidify tour plans in third newsletter edition

Tour plans announced earlier today are correct, with concert tickets for the North American shows in October going on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. In addition, an official newsletter sent minutes ago by Them Crooked Vultures provides details for special presales set to begin Thursday at 10 a.m.

For those hunting for concert tickets to any of the U.K. shows taking place in December, the presale starts in only a few hours, at 10 a.m.
"Tour dates! [pause] This is tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow ..."
The newsletter contained passwords for the presales. (I won't repeat them here. You were warned to subscribe.)

Also in the newsletter is a new Them Crooked Vultures T-shirt design. This shirt sells for only $25 instead of $30 as with previous shirts. Shipping is only $6 compared to $10 on previous shirts.

Finally, the newsletter also contains one more of those lovely animated videos we all crave, with a sampling of audio from Them Crooked Vultures in the studio. The music is an instrumental portion of their track "Scumbag Blues." Here it is, followed by an assortment of other good stuff.


Vultures tour plans include North American club tour in October

And just like that (snap!), Them Crooked Vultures drops a load of North American and U.K. tour dates on us all at once. This came through the band's official forum. (Update: I've added links to the applicable venue, box office or ticket information for each date.)

North America Fall Tour 2009

View TCV North America Fall Tour 2009 in a larger map
U.K. Winter Tour 2009

View TCV U.K. Winter Tour 2009 in a larger map
Presale information is still expected to come today via the band's official newsletter, "The Crooked Times."

Update: Blabbermouth also shows Them Crooked Vultures as recording a set for the TV show "Austin City Limits" on Sept. 30.

Tour blitz unravels throughout morning; Vultures sitting on summary of concert plans

Let there be no doubt that an orchestrated campaign has been in place to announce a wave of Them Crooked Vultures concert plans all on one day.

After earlier revelations today of a six-date jaunt through the United Kingdom for which tickets go on sale this Friday, it has now been confirmed the supergroup with John Paul Jones will play an Oct. 2 set at the Austin City Limits festival.

All tickets and passes for the event are already sold out.

This marks a return to U.S. soil, which two out of three band members -- drummer Dave Grohl and singer/guitarist Josh Homme -- call home although the majority of their band's live work was conducted in Europe. Only their debut concert, set at a Lollapalooza afterparty in the Chicago club Metro, was in America.

Almost certainly, more tour dates can be expected to trickle out today as we await official word through the band's own e-mail newsletter, "The Crooked Times."

Six-show U.K. Vultures tour spans mid December has posted an "exclusive" report of six shows on a December U.K. tour by Them Crooked Vultures. This would confirm the three dates already observed at this ticket site and also add three other dates around the same time frame.

Still no word from Them Crooked Vultures directly today, but here are the six year-end tour dates as reported first at by

  • Plymouth Pavilions (Dec. 10)
  • Portsmouth Guildhall (Dec. 11)
  • Blackpool Empress Ballroom (Dec. 13)
  • Birmingham O2 Academy (Dec. 14)
  • Edinburgh O2 Academy (Dec. 15)
  • London HMV Hammersmith Apollo (Dec. 17)

You can also follow my Twitter updates at

Year-end U .K. tour evidently planned for Them Crooked Vultures

Tickets go on sale this Friday for at least three concerts that will make up the first U.K. headlining tour for Them Crooked Vultures.

This morning, music media have already announced a London show scheduled to take place Dec. 17. But a page on this ticket site indicates the Hammersmith Apollo date will be preceded by shows in Blackpool and Birmingham on Dec. 13 and 14, respectively.

An official announcement from Them Crooked Vultures is forthcoming today. More on this as it develops.

Music media outlets reporting good news for Vultures fans in London: Large headlining show scheduled for Dec. 17

Reports of a London show this December headlined by Them Crooked Vultures are appearing on trusted news sites.

No official announcement from the band received yet in my inbox, but multiple reports contain ticket onsale date of this Friday for Dec. 17 show at Hammersmith Apollo.

From Blabbermouth:

THEM CROOKED VULTURES — the new supergroup consisting of FOO FIGHTERS frontman Dave Grohl, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE singer/guitarist Josh Homme and LED ZEPPELIN bassist John Paul Jones — will play a headlining concert at London, England's HMV Hammersmith Apollo on December 17.

Tickets will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. on September 4 and will be limited to four per applicant.

From Metal Hammer:

Them Crooked Vultures will play Hammersmith Apollo on December 17th. Tickets will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. on September 4 and will be limited to four per applicant.

Tickets currently listed here:

More on this as I get it!

Important announcement from Them Crooked Vultures coming today

Anyone who's been closely following developments related to the band project involving John Paul Jones knows that the group has now performed a slew of club and festival dates. Eight shows in all so far, with the Leeds and Reading festivals in England capping the London club debut last week, and Sunday's Rock en Seine appearance to close out the weekend.

One inevitable result of touring the festival circuit in Europe over the past several weeks was the spread of music by Them Crooked Vultures via the Internet. As unstoppable as this was, it was ultimately something the secretive lot behind the new band now embrace. Them Crooked Vultures videos were all over YouTube, so the band smartly assembled the best of those videos and made them all accessible on its official channel.

Yet there is so much that the videos cannot tell us, even as fans clamor to ensure that the song titles are all properly named. There is no question the band has succeeded in its quest to be its own gatekeeper.

And that's what makes today so special, it would seem.

All eyes will be on our e-mail accounts today as an official notification is expected that the band assures us "will include very important news." The quotation, for those who weren't plugged into the Internet last evening, came from the group's Twitter feed. It begs us all, one more time, to "deserve the future" by registering to receive their e-mail updates at using the form marked "consort."

(It also encourages users to tell a friend. I just hope somebody reads this so I can say I did my part.)

What is this nebulous future that is ours to deserve? Will it be an album release date? Will it be a broad announcement of tour dates? While that's what conventional wisdom suggests, there's also a sense that this band may unleash yet another elaborate and unprecedented scheme akin to its secret bookings last month under a coded name and a foreign-language pseudonym.

For all we know, Them Crooked Vultures may forego an in-store physical album release altogether. Too passé!

Why not drop the entire album free of charge over the course of a month, hiding uncompressed digital files on different Web sites. We'd have to follow the social networking accounts of a couple dozen different henchmen affiliated with the marketing scheme and click incessantly on suspect links to various indistinguishable URLs. Most would reveal comical images of crooked vultures, while only a handful would be those proverbial needles in the haystack, unleashing track by track the powerful music created for fans of loud rock.

Truly, then, only the most patient and ardent fans would deserve the future.

Sure. That's all well and good.

I'm really just hoping for an old-school CD release date -- as well as my old-school promo copy to review online for all you crooked vultures out there to be jealous of.

It worked in the days of The Thunderthief!

Bring on the next edition of The Crooked Times. We await your word.

Zeptember digital downloads giveaway

Throughout the month of Zeptember, the radio show "Get the Led Out" is giving away digital downloads of Led Zeppelin albums. The sweepstakes also includes a chance to win the grand prize: a vinyl copy of the Mothership best-of package and the Led Zeppelin DVD set.

Here's how it works:
  • On each of the 22 working days in Zeptember, listen to "Get the Led Out" for instructions on how you can enter to win the daily prize: a digital download of a specific Led Zeppelin album.
  • Five times during the month of Zeptember, those who won the album downloads automatically qualify to win the weekly prize: a digital download of all 11 Led Zeppelin albums. These weekly drawings take place at the end of each work week and also on the final day of Zeptember.
  • Both daily and weekly prize winners automatically qualify in the month's final drawing for the physical grand prize package at the end of Zeptember: a Mothership 4-LP 180-gram vinyl box set and a Led Zeppelin DVD double set.
Just be sure to listen to "Get the Led Out" for your chance to win these Led Zeppelin digital downloads on these giveaway dates:
  1. Led Zeppelin (debut album): Sept. 1-2
  2. Led Zeppelin II: Sept. 3-4
  3. Led Zeppelin III: Sept. 7-8
  4. (Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album): Sept. 9-10
  5. Houses of the Holy: Sept. 11 & 14
  6. Physical Graffiti: Sept. 15-16
  7. Presence: Sept. 17-18
  8. Soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same: Sept. 21-22
  9. In Through the Out Door: Sept. 23-24
  10. How the West Was Won: Sept. 25 & 28
  11. Mothership: Sept. 29-30
Winners will be notified with instructions on how to redeem their downloads.

Click here to visit Led Zeppelin on iTunes.