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Led Zeppelin: How Could They Fail? An Overview

Chris Charlesworth, unpublished, 2009

NOTE: The first time I encountered Led Zeppelin was interviewing Jimmy Page by phone when I was a reporter on the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, in early 1969. No doubt their PR had lined up a series of phoners with people like me, coltish rock writers with columns on provincial newspapers, and Jimmy probably groaned in frustration at the uncool prospect of saying the same thing 20 times over down the phone to us. Of course I had no idea then what a 'Led Zeppelin' was and I don't think I'd even heard the first album – I was more into The Who, of course – but I distinctly remember asking him about their decision not to release singles, something I learned from a press release sent to me the day before the phoner. "We're not like Herman's Hermits," JP told me. Indeed not.

I spent a bit of time around Led Zeppelin in the '70s, as can be seen from other pieces up here on RBP. They weren't always the easiest people to be around but, just for the record, my favourite Led Zep moment occurred when I went to see them play two shows in two nights in Monteux, in October 1972. They were pally with Claude Nobs, who promoted concerts at the Casino and often warmed up for big US tours by doing a show or two there, and before one of the them I sat in the hall, virtually alone, watching a soundcheck/rehearsal. That afternoon Led Zeppelin played only early Elvis songs, loads of them, and it was a brilliant pastiche, Jimmy doing note-for-note Scotty Moore, Bonzo tapping away on his snare like DJ Fontana, JPJ on an electric stand-up bass and Robert mimicking Elvis. The pleasure they took playing the songs that inspired them in their teens just shone out in the smiles on their faces, the fun they were having, and I wished the real Elvis was there to watch.

When they'd finished I asked them if they'd play a set like that at my wedding (not that I was planning on getting married!) and Peter Grant laughed and said, "It'll cost yer!" Very good natured it all was, and then Jimmy demonstrated to me how to use a new state-of-the-art electronic tuner he'd just acquired, whose makers wanted him to endorse it I think. Then he picked up his Martin acoustic guitar, the dressing room went quiet and he played some lovely finger style stuff for five minutes or so. In the evening, after the show, we went out for dinner, all of us and Claude on a long table in a fine restaurant, and because some of their wives were present everyone was on their best behaviour, even second lieutenant Richard Cole. What a lovely weekend...

I wrote the following piece about Led Zep earlier this year for an Omnibus book project but in the end it was surplus to requirements.

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Total word count of piece: 3106

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