It is, Jimmy Page declares proudly, “the mother of all Codas – an absolute celebration of Led Zeppelin, all things bright and beautiful, all of the curios.” The Led Zeppelin guitarist pauses and grins. “It’s cool.”
Over his morning coffee in a New York hotel suite, Page is marking the end of his year-long reissue of Zeppelin’s studio catalog, in deluxe editions with previously unreleased material, with a rare, extended look back at “the most difficult album I had to approach” – Coda, a half-hour of outtakes compiled by Page and released in 1982, two years after he, singer Robert Plant and bassist John Paul Jones quietly disbanded following the death of drummer John Bonham. “It was put to me that there was another album due,” Page recalls. “It was contractual. I was like, ‘Oh my God, no.'”
The weight of obligation showed on the original LP; three of the eight tracks were left-behind songs from Zeppelin’s last, least compelling studio album, 1979’s In Through the Out Door. But that was then. Reissued on July 31st along with new editions of In Through the Out Door and 1976’s Presence, the deluxe Coda is now essential Zeppelin, a three-disc, 23-track account of the band’s studio life in illuminating rarities, including the 1970 B-side “Hey, Hey What Can I Do”; “Sugar Mama,” a bluesy grenade from the 1968 sessions for Led Zeppelin; two exotic jewels from Page and Plant’s 1972 evening in a Bombay studio with members of an Indian orchestra; and a revelatory test run of “When the Levee Breaks” from Led Zeppelin IV.
The ’82 Coda was, Page now admits, “an attempt to make something out of very little – or nothing.” The reboot, in turn, “has all of the quirkiness, the totally unexpected aspect of things” that characterized Zeppelin’s ascent on record throughout the Seventies. In a story in the current issue of Rolling Stone, Page also speaks about his immediate plans as a solo artist – “To pick up the guitar, and I won’t stop from that point on” – and remembers the crushing helplessness he felt after Bonham’s death: “I didn’t want to play the guitar . . . It was going to bring up too much.”
In these additional excerpts from that conversation, Page goes long on Coda, especially that Indian sojourn, and his short-lived spell as a composer for films, anthologized in Page’s recent, independently released four-disc set, Soundtracks. He also drops a hint about a future archival mission: his 1967-’68 work with the Yardbirds. “I’ve got enough recordings of the Yardbirds to make it interesting,” Page claims. “Now that I’m finished with Led Zeppelin, I have a chance to talk to them – as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my guitar project.”
How much of your heart did you put into compiling the original Coda? It was only two years after Bonham’s death.
It didn’t feel like two years. It still felt like yesterday. That was the most difficult album I had to approach. I knew that it was just going to be things that were left over. It couldn’t be current. We’d lost John. We couldn’t do another album. It sold really well under the circumstances. But it was a compromise.