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(Credit: John Mathew Smith / Dina Regine)

Black Sabbath's long-lost jam session with Led Zeppelin

Rock royalty doesn’t get much more prestigious than Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. On one occasion, astonishingly, these two behemoths joined forces and jammed it out like there was no tomorrow.

The two bands had been friends before Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath even existed. The Black country’s rock scene was a small place, so Sabbath knew Robert Plant and John Bonham, but they were never much more than acquaintances during that period. Although they didn’t particularly know Jimmy Page or John Paul Jones, they were friendly with Bonham and Plant throughout their career.

No two groups have had a more vast influence on heavy rock music than Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. It’s remarkable to think that there was a time when Plant, Bonham, and Sabbath were all just grinding away in the Midlands to no avail, yet, just a few years later, they all wouldn’t be able to walk down a street without getting mobbed.

“We had checked Robert out with his early bands, and he’d told us he was joining The Yardbirds,” Ozzy Osbourne explained to Classic Rock. “Then one day we were in this club in London called Blazes, and the DJ started playing this song.

“So I go up and say, ‘What’s the name of the band that’s playing? That’s fucking Robert Plant singing, he’s a big shot in Birmingham.’ And she goes, ‘It’s The Yardbirds, but they’ve just changed their name to Led Zeppelin.’ I was, like, ‘Fuck me!'”

Led Zeppelin’s breakthrough only took place twelve months before Sabbath’s, but seeing Plant go on to superstardom offered the group a glimpse of what lied ahead in the not so distant future for them. Even though Zeppelin’s fame had exploded, Bonham still made sure to see them live whenever he could.

“When we were playing clubs, John would sometimes come along, and he’d want to get up and jam,” says Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi told the same publication. “The first time we said, ‘OK then.’ So he got up and played Bill’s drums and just wrecked them. Bill was really pissed off, so after that anytime John came along and said, ‘Can I have a go?’, Bill would go, ‘No’ and not let him play.”

“We were recording in Morgan Studios in London, and John came down to see us,” Iommi continued. “He brought Planty and John Paul Jones – Jimmy Page was the only one who wasn’t there. They came in, and John’s going, ‘Let’s play Supernaut!’, cos he loved that song. So he sat behind the kit and we started to play it. Of course, he didn’t play it right, but we just carried on and went into a jam.”

Sabbath thought that there was an ulterior motive for why Zeppelin came to visit them in the studio. Osbourne believes that they wanted to sign them for Swan Song records, but even though he was wary of their reasons for coming round, that didn’t stop them from breaking out into an impromptu monster jam session.

Having seven musicians as supremely talented as that all in one room together is either going to be magical or messy beyond belief. Unfortunately, there’s no recording of it, but Osbourne’s recollection of the incident doesn’t bode well.

“Jimmy Page wasn’t there, but John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham were there,” he told Rolling Stone. “And we just had a jam. It was all right. It was just a jam. It was just all right? I just jammed out, you know? I can’t think back on it now, like, ‘Whoa, we just jammed with Zeppelin.’ It’s just what we did. We were all stoned anyway.”

Whether the tapes are lost, or both bands left the session so disheartened that they decided it wasn’t worth listening back to is a question we will never know the answer to, but seemingly its disappearance isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes reality doesn’t live up to our imaginations, and in this case, it’s probably best to leave it up to our brains to run wild picturing the scene.

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