Led Zeppelin loomed large during my time on MM and our paths would cross many times, not always amicably for, Robert Plant aside, Led Zep were never media friendly in the way that The Who were. As it happened, I had an early long distance encounter with Jimmy Page just over a year before I became a full time music writer, in March of 1969 when I was working for the paper in Bradford. Maybe I smelled something in the air or was simply intrigued by the name but I requested a phone interview with JP or at least allowed myself to be talked into it by their PR.
The PR sent me a press release about Jimmy’s new band but didn’t send me a copy of their first LP which had only just been released, so when I spoke to the guitar maestro I hadn’t a clue what Led Zeppelin sounded like. I noted that they wouldn’t release singles, which was unusual, and Jimmy told me his band wasn’t like Herman’s Hermits, which was certainly true. “With the unlikely name of Led Zeppelin, they specialise in progressive pop,” I wrote. “Jimmy tells me he hopes progressive pop will catch on. ‘People are beginning to accept the idea of sitting and listening to a group instead of dancing,’ he says, ‘but there are no decent halls in this country where the audience can sit. The Albert Hall is the most diabolical place. It is acoustically useless’.”
After dissing the most prestigious concert hall in the country, Jimmy then took a swipe at groups who didn’t play on their own records – “The only people they are fooling is themselves,” he said – and I finished up my little piece with the sage advice: “Watch out for their album on the LP charts.”
The next time I spoke to Jimmy, in person this time, was on June 28, 1970, backstage at the Bath Festival where 150,000 fans eagerly awaited Led Zep’s bill topping appearance. My new MM colleague Chris Welch introduced me. I didn’t mention that we’d spoken once before.
From tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.