Cover Story Excerpt: Jimmy Page Looks Back on Led Zeppelin's Epic Ride

'There was a certain amount of acid poured on us'

Jimmy Page
Photography by Neal Preston
Jimmy Page on the cover of Rolling Stone.
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In the cover story for the new issue of Rolling Stone, Jimmy Page gives his deepest interview ever, speaking to Senior Writer David Fricke for more than eight hours about his post-Zeppelin drinking problem, the death of John Bonham, his life as a Sixties session guitarist, his favorite Led Zeppelin riffs, and much more. Here is an excerpt:

You formed the group and picked the players. Would you say Led Zeppelin was your band?
There was no doubt about that. At that time, absolutely. I'm the one presenting the material and giving the ideas, how these things should be done. But the ruthless efficiency – everybody went into the first album with that. Everybody knew how good we were. And we were strict in that if we were writing something and it sounded like something else we'd done, we'd immediately drop it. There was one tipping of the hat: "Tea for One," which was like "Since I've Been Loving You" [on Led Zeppelin III]. That was intentional, to apply a different feel to that blues.

Were you hurt by the initial, negative critical reaction?
I was hoping you would ask that, writing for Rolling Stone [laughs]. There was a certain amount of acid poured on us. I could see it as venomous then. How I see it now? It went over their heads. I will give the reviewers the benefit of the doubt – each album was so different to the others. After Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II, you get III: "What's this about? Acoustic guitars?" There were crazy conclusions: "They're doing a Crosby, Stills and Nash." That's because your ears weren't open to the first album, when there was quite a bit of acoustic guitar too.

Did the reviews make you mad?
It made me more determined. I knew what we had. We obliterated them in San Francisco on the first tour. [Led Zeppelin opened for Country Joe and the Fish at the Fillmore West for three nights in January 1969]. By the time we were moving on, through these other territories, everybody wanted to see what had come from the ashes of the Yardbirds.