THE DISSOLUTION OF UK BLUES boom demigods The Yardbirds in July 1968 rocked their most recent recruit, Jimmy Page, but spurred him on to greater heights with the group he was about to put together: The New Yardbirds, aka Led Zeppelin. “They just didn’t want to be in The Yardbirds any more, which was hard to understand because I thought what we were doing was amazing. I told them I’d do whatever they wanted. They loved that song Happy Together, by The Turtles, and told me that was the direction they wanted to go in, and my jaw dropped.”
“You could tell [Robert Plant] could really sing and he was really interesting.”
Returning to the roots of the group in the month that remastered versions of their first three albums emerge augmented with fascinating, hitherto unreleased material, Page joins MOJO on a trip down memory lane, scouring London’s West End in search of the landmarks that play an important part in Led Zeppelin's story. Among them: the Oxford St address that once housed RAK Management & Records, where future Led Zep manager Peter Grant hustled on behalf of Page and his embryonic project.
Page also relives the recruitment of John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham, describing how his initial pursuit of blues belter Terry Reid – only 19 and then singing in Norwich group Peter Jay And The Jaywalkers – ran aground.
“I’d asked the [RAK] office to track him down and it was Peter who broke the news that Terry had signed a contract to do a solo album with Mickie [Most]... But Terry recommended this singer in Birmingham so I went up to see him at a teacher training college.”
The singer in question was West Bromwich-born Robert Plant, who’d had a short-lived deal with CBS, and was then fronting Hobbstweedle.
“You could tell he could really sing and he was really interesting. It wasn’t quite the voice I’d had in my head, but he could play harp, which was a big plus. He was also really well-versed in country blues, although he did have an image of West Coast music that wasn’t quite right.”
It was Plant who introduced Page to his friend John Bonham, with whom he’d played in The Band Of Joy and who was then on the road (and on a good wage) with American singer-songwriter Tim Rose. Page had considered other drummers – Aynsley Dunbar, Bobby Graham and Clem Cattini were all mentioned – but maintains that as soon as he saw Bonham he knew he’d found what he was looking for.
“He was just incredible,” says Page. “You could just feel him.”
And the rest, as they say, was hysteria.
The new MOJO Magazine is a Led Zeppelin Spectacular, featuring...
• The 50 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs: ranked and revered by top MOJO writers and Zep-obsessed musicians, including Billy Gibbons, The Black Keys, Wayne Coyne and more.
• Exclusive Jimmy Page interview, with a whole new perspective on the birth of the band.
• The Remastered Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III, re-explored by Jon Savage.
U.S. & WORLDWIDE READERS PLEASE NOTE: THE LED ZEPPELIN MOJO (MOJO 248, July 2014 issue) REACHES YOUR SHORES FROM JUNE 24. CAN’T WAIT? BUY OUR COLLECTOR'S POSTER ISSUE HERE.