10 Sep Zeppelin 5 Coming
Jimmy Page talks from the studio about the new album and their upcoming tour. Led Zeppelin is slated for the Montreal Forum on June 7.
LONDON – Barnes, where the world famous Olympic Studios are located, is a quiet little suburb of South London, complete with a village green and a tranquil pond.
It’s really not the sort of place you’d expect to find the world’s heaviest hard rock going down. But the Olympic Studios were the site and sound of many of the early Stones albums and international hits by countless others.
On a recent evening, around the midnight hour, a visitor to Olympic wouldn’t have had much trouble being impressed by the available talent. In studio one, England’s new super group, Slade, were putting the finishing touches to an album.
If it wasn’t for the vocalist, I’d have sworn it was Led Zeppelin. Actually that was why we’d come — Zepp were hack in the stain s working on LZ 5 (there isn’t a title yet) and guitarist Jimmy Page had extended an invitation to drop in.
After apologetically stumbling out of the Slade session, an engineer pointed me in the direction of the other main studio, which had just been equipped with 16-track machinery thus accounting for the presence of Zepp. Usually they cut their material at Island Studios or in the Stones mobile truck.
As we opened the door below the buzzing red light, the shriek of Jimmy Page’s guitar was easily recognizable. Jimmy was overdubbing a guitar part on a rhythm track and doing our best to blend into the background, we slithered into seats inside the control room.
Page was in a small studio and bass player John Paul Jones was sitting back behind the engineer in the control room. The vibes were pretty heavy, and we soon learnt that the sound Jimmy wanted wasn’t forthcoming.
The average Zepp fan would have had difficulty in recognizing Page. He’s cut off most of his hair and the beard is also gone. He was looking relatively conservative in a dark red brushed-denim suit, a red embroidered shirt and brown sneakers.
The giant Scully 16-track tape recorder and a filing cabinet pile of Dolby noise reduction units were bathed in a green aura in one corner.
In the other corner, one of the Zepp roadies was boiling up a pot of tea. Some other guy was leaning over the control board, hustling business for the Stones’ mobile studio which is currently located at Mick Jagger’s country house, Stargroves. Most of the recording is done in the Great Hall of the mansion.
After about 15 minutes of fruitless experimentation, Page came into the control room, “Hi man,” he said quietly. “I’ve got laryngitis. Some latent deadly infection.” He went over to the tape operator and asked him to play two of the new tracks.
“Robert’s just had a baby. It’s a boy. He’s up in the wilds of Worcestershire now with his old lady,” Page said, drawing a wave of laughter from the assemblage.
The mobile studio man was still into his rap, and the roadie was dispersing cups of tea. “We’re coming over to North America later in the summer,” Page said, squashing that endless circle of rumors that Zepp have put an end to touring for good.
“Probably in June. We won’t be playing Toronto this time, but we are doing Montreal and Vancouver. We just got back from a tour of Australia and Japan. It. was incredible. Huge crowds, and they really seemed to enjoy the shows. We really enjoyed the tour.”
By now, the tape operator had a track called Dancing Days cued up for playback. On it came, bursting out of the speakers in the grand Led Zeppelin manner. A cement-clouting hard rocker, with an infectious riff.
The end came, and it brought no comment from either Page or John Paul Jones.
The second song was called Slush and it too was really nice. Zepp are back into showing the world where hard rock is at. Those ominous rows of Marshall speakers in the studio are being put to good use.
“we hope to have the album ready for release just before the tour,” Page said. He didn’t ask what I’d though of the two preview tracks, but I told him anyway. He seemed pleased.
Page went away to make arrangements to test some new guitars and amplifiers the following morning, and manager Peter Grant elaborated on the success of the Pacific tour.
Somebody gave Page a phone number to try for a rare guitar he was attempting to locate. He picked up the phone and talked for a couple of minutes, then suddenly hung up. “Some dozy bloody bird,” he said, “It must have been a wrong number.”
With nothing much coming together, he decided to pack it in for the night. One didn’t envy the 90-minute drive he faced back to his houseboat home on the upper Thames at Pangbourne.
“Well man, see you later. Sorry there wasn’t much happening tonight. But, that’s how it goes.”