“I don’t intend to revisit the vaults for awhile,” Jimmy Page says with a smile, sitting in the opulent library of a Victorian hotel in London. The ex-Led Zeppelin guitarist, 70, has spent much of the last decade in a retrospective frenzy: collating the images for his lavish, photographic memoir, Jimmy Page, first published in a collectors’ edition in 2010 and now widely available; and curating acclaimed, deluxe reissues of his band’s historic studio LPs. Rarity-laden editions of 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV and ’73’s Houses of the Holy come out on October 28th, and Page has finished preparing the rest of the catalog for release.
The new version of Presence, he reveals in the current issue of Rolling Stone, includes “two extra things” he found on a reel with an early mix of that album. But in this expanded version of that interview, he is more coy about curious omissions amid the bonus tracks so far, including the Led Zeppelin III-era B-side, “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” and unreleased Indo-symphonic versions of III‘s “Friends” and IV‘s “Four Sticks,” recorded by Page and singer Robert Plant in 1972 in what was then Bombay, India, with sitars, tabla drums and a local orchestra. “Can’t comment on that, really,” Page says with a sly grin. “I can’t tell you what’s coming, can I?”
The guitarist is proud of his research for the reissues. “I listened to hundreds of hours of tape,” he says. “I checked everything that came out in bootleg form, that purported to be from the studio, so that I knew exactly what was out there, in order to put stuff out that people didn’t dream existed. And by the end, I think I will have covered everything.”
Page explains his diligence another way, in a long, freewheeling conversation the day after he unveils the latest reissues at a playback and press conference for the European press at Zeppelin’s old haunt, the former Olympic Studios in London. (It is now an upscale cinema with a small recording studio.) “As there weren’t going to be any more shows, I could concentrate on these more eccentric ideas,” Page says of his book and the re-releases, referring to Plant’s refusal to tour after Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion show at London’s O2 arena. At the press conference, Page politely eluded a question on that topic. He does so here too.
But Page is blunt and voluble on so much more, for over an hour in that library, including his choirboy past, Zeppelin’s manic ascent, the sudden end of that band, the power of the original records and the deeper story unveiled in the bonus tracks. “People said that was a milestone album,” Page says at one point of IV. “Well, honestly, it was.”
You’ve done more promotion for these reissues than you ever did in the band’s lifetime. Do you ever get tired of talking about Led Zeppelin?
The fact is I created it. In July, 1968, I played my last date with the Yardbirds. By the end of that year, Led Zeppelin has an album, and we’re playing America. I had a committment to this. I was writing the material all the way through, shaping guitar riffs and the rest of it. [Bassist] John Paul Jones writes the opening riff to “Black Dog” [on IV]. “OK, you’ve got that bit. Let’s try a call-and-response here.” Or “No Quarter” [on Houses of the Holy], where Robert’s got the verse, but here’s the chorus to tie all this together.
Being the producer, the one who was in the studio more times than the others, I had more points of reference to the work being done. I was the one with the knowledge to pull a project like these reissues together. You wouldn’t find anyone else to do it.