Forget Blind Faith, Led Zeppelin’s the Biggest

Forget Blind Faith, Led Zeppelin’s the Biggest

August 14, 1969, Globe and Mail

 Jimmy Page, the lithe, lean lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, was sitting in the mixing room of A & R Studios in New York, sipping tea and munching a prune Danish pastry. His hair hung six inches below the collar line, and his red velvet bells harmonized with the burgundy patent boots—if not with the pink brushed velvet Edwardian jacket.

Page had flown in from Salt Lake City, and he would be returning to the airport in an hour to catch a flight to Los Angeles. It had been a long day, but the 24-year-old-guitarist was in lively spirits.

The track he was mixing (called “Bring It On Home”) sounded like Sonny Boy Williamson mixed with Jimmy Page. Actually, it was Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, Robert Plant, trying to sound like Williamson and doing a pretty fine job of it.

Page was racing against time to get this, the band’s second album, out by the end of the month. Led Zeppelin’s first album, released last January, has sold 500,000 copies and earned a gold record. And so Page felt the time had come for a new album.

“We’ve been so busy,” he said, “that we just weren’t able to go into the studio and polish the album off. It’s become sort of ridiculous. I mean, we’d put down a rhythm track in London, add the voice in New York, put in harmonica in Vancouver, then come back to New York to do the mixing.

“When we got together last November, we never expected to be as big as this. We just wanted to be able to come over here to work a couple of times a year. But it’s almost got out of hand.”

In the past couple of months Led Zeppelin has emerged as the most important English group working in North America.

The quartet’s second tour, which brings it to Toronto for two shows with Edward Bear at the Rock Pile on Monday, has been breaking attendance records with amazing ease. More than 10,000 people in Dallas, 10,000 in Chicago, 10,000 in Los Angeles; an incredible 8,000 at Santa Barbara against Blood, Sweat & Tears and Johnny Winter at a nearby location the same night. There can be little doubt that Led Zeppelin is the English band of the moment, including Blind Faith.

One reason is the emergence of singer Robert Plant as the most significant sex idol since Jim Morrison. Initially, Led Zeppelin was all Page but now, with Plant doing a great job of turning on the girls, the band has found a much wider acceptance.

Despite all the raves and monetary return (the band will earn more than $350,000 on this tour) that have come Led Zeppelin’s way, Page has remained remarkably modest and honest: “There are so many guitarists around who are better than me. Everywhere I go I hear some cat who sounds better than I do. That’s the trouble: everyone’s good these days.”

Early next month Page is taking a month off to relax. He intends to travel through Morocco and Spain. Then the band returns to North America for a short tour, which is kicked off by two concerts at Carnegie Hall. They were sold out weeks ago.

“This tour has been fantastic, but you can never be too sure. We’ve got to work even harder now. You can’t rest on your laurels. It’s easy to go down just as fast as you went up. I think what did it for us was the stage thing. We came here unknown on the first tour, did our number, and the word got out that we were worth seeing. We tried as hard as we could on stage and it worked.”