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The Durable Led Zeppelin

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What's your attraction to the place?
Page: The unknown. I'm attracted by the unknown, but I take precautions. I don't go walking into things blind.

Do you feel safe in the house?
Page: Yeah. Well, all my houses are isolated. Many is the time I just stay home alone. I spend a lot of time near water. Crowley's house is in Loch Ness, Scotland. I have another house in Sussex, where I spend most of my time. It's quite near London. It's moated and terraces off into lakes. I mean, I could tell you things, but it might give people ideas. A few things have happened that would freak some people out, but I was surprised actually at how composed I was. I don't really want to go on about my personal beliefs or my involvement in magic. I'm not trying to do a Harrison or a Townshend. I'm not interested in turning anybody on to anybody that I'm turned on to ... if people want to find things, they find them themselves. I'm a firm believer in that.

What did you think about your portrayal in [the illustrated book] Rock Dreams? As a guitar Mafioso along with Alvin Lee, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton?
Page: There's nothing about Zeppelin in there at all. The artist spends his whole time masturbating over the Stones in that book, doesn't he? The Stones in drag and things like that. When I first saw that book, I thought, aw, this is really great. But when I really started to look at it, there were things that I just didn't like. People can laugh at this, but I didn't like to see a picture of Ray Charles driving around in the car with his arm around a chick. It's tasteless. But the guy's French, so what can we say? Ray Charles is blind. What kind of humor is that? They may be his rock dreams, but they sure aren't mine.

Out of all the guitarists to come out of the Sixties, though, Beck, Clapton, Lee, Townshend and I are still having a go. That says something. Beck, Clapton and me were sort of the Richmond/Croydon type clan, and Alvin Lee, I don't know where he came from. Lester or something like that. So he was never in with it a lot. And Townshend, Townshend was from Middlesex and he used to go down to the clubs and watch the other guitarists. I didn't meet him, though, until "I Can't Explain." I was doing the session guitar work on that. I haven't seen Townshend in years. But I suppose we've all kept going and tried to do better and better and better. I heard some stuff from Beck's solo LP recently that was fucking brilliant. Really good. But I don't know, it's all instrumental and it's a guitarist's guitar LP, I think. He's very mellow and Beck at his best can be very tasty.

Have you seen Eric Clapton with his new band?
Page: Oh, Eric. Fucking hell, Eric. Yes, I saw him with his new band and also at his Rainbow concert. At least at the Rainbow he had some people with some balls with him. He had Townshend and Ronnie Wood and Jimmy Karstein and [Jim] Capaldi. "Pearly Queen" was incredible. And I would have thought that after that, he would have said, "Right, I'm gonna get English musicians." Ever since he's been with American musicians, he's laid back further and further.

I went over to see him after he'd done his Rainbow concert and it wasn't hard to sense his total disappointment that Derek and the Dominoes were never really accepted. It must have been a big thing for him that they didn't get all the acclaim that the Cream did. But the thing is, when a band has a certain chemistry, like the Cream had . . . wow, the chances of re-creating that again are how many billion to one. It's very, very difficult.

The key to Zeppelin's longevity has been change. We put out our first LP; then a second one that was nothing like the first, then a third LP totally different from them, and on it went. I know why we got a lot of bad press on our albums. People couldn't understand, a lot of reviewers couldn't understand why we put out an LP like Zeppelin II, then followed it up with III with "That's the Way" and acoustic numbers like that on it. They just couldn't understand it. The fact was that Robert and I had gone away to Bron-Y-Aur cottage in Wales and started writing songs. Christ, that was the material we had, so we used it. It was nothing like, "We got to do some heavy rock & roll because that's what our image demands ..." Album-wise, it usually takes a year for people to catch up with what we're doing.

Why did you go to Bron-Y-Aur cottage for the third album?
Plant: It was time to step back, take stock and not get lost in it all. Zeppelin was starting to get very big and we wanted the rest of our journey to take a pretty level course. Hence, the trip into the mountains and the beginning of the ethereal Page and Plant. I thought we'd be able to get a little peace and quiet and get your actual Californian, Marin County blues, which we managed to do in Wales rather than San Francisco. It was a great place. "The Golden Breast" is what the name means. The place is in a little valley and the sun always moves across it. There's even a track on the new album, a little acoustic thing, that Jimmy got together up there. It typifies the days when we used to chug around the countryside in Jeeps.

It was a good idea to go there. We had written quite a bit of the second album on the road. It was a real road album, too. No matter what the critics said, the proof in the pudding was that it got a lot of people off. The reviewer for Rolling Stone, for instance, was just a frustrated musician. Maybe I'm just flying my own little ego ship, but sometimes people resent talent. I don't even remember what the criticism was, but as far as I'm concerned, it was a good, maybe even great, road album. The third album was the album of albums. If anybody had us labeled as a heavy metal group, that destroyed them.

But there were acoustic numbers on the very first album.
Page: That's it! There you go. When the third LP came out and got its reviews, Crosby, Stills and Nash had just formed. That LP had just come out and because acoustic guitars had come to the forefront, all of a sudden: Led Zeppelin Go Acoustic! I thought, Christ, where are their heads and ears? There were three acoustic songs on the first album and two on the second.

You talk of this "race against time," Jimmy. Where do you think you'll be at 40?
Page: I don't know whether I'll reach 40. I don't know whether I'll reach 35. I can't be sure about that. I am bloody serious. I am very, very serious. I didn't think I'd make 30.

Why not?
Page: I just had this fear. Not fear of dying, but just . . . wait a minute, let's get this right. I just felt that . . . I wouldn't reach 30. That's all there was to it. It was something in me, something inbred. I'm over 30 now, but I didn't expect to be here. I wasn't having nightmares about it, but . . . I'm not afraid of death. That is the greatest mystery of all. That'll be it, that one. But it is all a race against time. You never know what can happen. Like breaking my finger. I could have broken my whole hand and been out of action for two years.

You've been criticized for writing "dated flower-child gibberish" lyrics.
Plant: How can anybody be a "dated flower child"? The essence of the whole trip was the desire for peace and tranquillity and an idyllic situation. That's all anybody could ever want so how could it be "dated flower-child gibberish"? If it is, then I'll just carry on being a dated flower child. I put a lot of work into my lyrics. Not all my stuff is meant to be scrutinized, though. Things like "Black Dog" are blatant let's-do-it-in-the-bath-type things, but they make their point just the same. People listen. Otherwise, you might as well sing the menu from the Continental Hyatt House.

How important was "Stairway to Heaven" to you?
Page: To me, I thought "Stairway" crystallized the essence of the band. It had everything there and showed the band at its best . . . as a band, as a unit. Not talking about solos or anything, it had everything there. We were careful never to release it as a single. It was a milestone for us. Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time and I guess we did it with "Stairway." Townshend probably thought that he got it with Tommy. I don't know whether I have the ability to come up with more. I have to do a lot of hard work before I can get anywhere near those stages of consistent, total brilliance.

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