I somehow manage a quick interview with Jimmy Page while we are in LA, and among other topics he bemoans the fact that he injured a finger when a carriage door closed on it as he was alighting from a train at Victoria station, leaving him with only three fingers on his left hand with which to play guitar, which he still does far better than most. As a result, ‘Dazed And Confused’ has been dropped from the set. Like Robert, he too is mortal after all.
Mortal perhaps but I sense that Page operates on a different daily timetable to most others on the planet, that he goes for several nights without sleep, tempting fate, walking along a precipice to see how far he can go, and what will happen. He certainly has an otherworldly, mysterious presence compared to his fellow Zeps who, by and large, seem quite unaffected compared to him. Plant, when well, is certainly easily approachable and is generally friendly towards journalists, usually a pleasure to interview in fact; Jones is sociable enough albeit reticent in a slightly aloof fashion, as if talking to writers is somehow not worth the bother, comfortable in his role as the Zep with the lowest profile and content for things to remain that way; and Bonham, although down-to-earth in the manner of the Midlands brickie he once was, is simply best avoided because his mood is so unpredictable. (This could work both ways, of course. My MM colleague Chris Welch, a drummer himself, recalls visiting Bonzo at his farm in Worcestershire and admiring a kit set up in the practice room. Next thing Chris knew Bonzo had instructed a farm worker to stick it in the boot of Chris’ car.)
In truth I don’t see much of Led Zeppelin during our stopover in LA. Although news of our arrival would have been at short notice, the Continental Hyatt House on Sunset Boulevard – Zep’s regular berth in LA – has found suites for the A-list and rooms for the rest of us. Normally when Zep are in town the Riot House, to give it its unofficial title, is teeming with groupies but not so this time. That particular grapevine could easily be alerted by the presence of two ostentatious white stretch limousines, however; one of them Jimmy’s favourite Mercedes 600 Pullman, the other a Lincoln Continental, both of which have been placed at the group’s disposal and remain outside the hotel on 24-hour standby.
We have arrived quite late in the evening and I join a hastily-arranged trip to the Rainbow Bar & Grill but thereafter, the following day and night, the group keep their own company, Page no doubt wrapped in the arms of his coltish inamorata, Bonzo probably recovering from a hangover, and Jones disappearing into the ether as he is wont to do, maybe even getting in a day’s session work at the Record Plant.
I had a girlfriend of my own to visit in LA in those days and she seemed pleased to see me, so I stay out of the way of the group. A day later I’m back with the three of them on the Starship, flying back to the east coast, to Greensboro, North Carolina, a trip for which we have all had to rise very early as we are travelling against the time changes. As a result the journey is uneventful, most of us keeping our own company and dozing fitfully for the entire trip from west coast to east. The same cannot be said of that evening's concert.