George Harrison played an integral part in shaping the sound of the 1960s with The Beatles, whose influence can even still be felt today after The Fab Four’s era came to a close. However, Led Zeppelin picked up the mantle and re-imagined music once more, but what was George Harrison’s thoughts on the new kids in town when he first heard about them?
When Led Zeppelin first arrived onto the scene they were unlike anything that had come before them. Despite the group being the anti-thesis of The Beatles, there was never any bad-blood or rivalry between the two acts as their zenith’s barely overlapped with The Fab Four being all but split by the time Led Zeppelin began to make a name for themselves.
The Beatles were in the studio working on Let It Be when engineer Glyn Johns alerted him to Jimmy Page’s new group with Harrison replying by asking: “Is he the one that was in The Yardbirds?” Harrison sounds intrigued by the new band that Johns is recommending and you can feel an excitement in his voice when talking about his love of psychedelic music.
When Johns says that John Paul Jones plays bass in the group that raises an eyebrow from Harrison who is bemused by his name and the similarities with his bandmates, simply replying: “John Paul?” Johns’ assessment on the ‘bass god’ is perfect and is testament to his eye for raw talent, describing him as: “He’s like the guv’nor. He’s very young, he’s about 24. The guv’nor bass player. Really good.”
He then goes on to talk about the incredible John Bonham who may be the most talented person to ever get behind a drum kit who Johns said this of: “A kid called John Bonham on drums who is unbelievable.” Harrison then revealed the following: “I think he was in a session with Paul [McCartney] last year with some of the other people there.”
Harrison was hooked on Led Zep and began a great fruitful friendship with the band, the other members of The Beatles also became acquaintances with Zeppelin but Harrison was the one who spent the most time in their company.
One wild story from Harrison’s friendship with the band comes from John Bonham’s 25th birthday party in 1973. Harrison knew that the evening was going to be full-on and he expected to be on the receiving end of pranks from the drumming maestro so, instead, he decided to get things going himself. Not long after arriving, Harrison grabbed the top tier of Bonham’s birthday cake and shoved it in the face of the birthday boy which led to the drummer launching everybody he could into the swimming pool including Harrison.
Harrison was also the inspiration behind one of Led Zeppelin’s most well-loved song’s ‘Rain Song’. Jimmy Page revealed to biographer Brad Tolinski: “George was talking to Bonzo one evening and said, ‘The problem with you guys is that you never do ballads,’ I said, ‘I’ll give him a ballad,’ and I wrote ‘Rain Song,’ which appears Houses of the Holy. In fact, you’ll notice I even quote ‘Something’ in the song’s first two chords.”
If it wasn’t for Johns turning Harrison one to Led Zeppelin who knows whether this friendship would have been born and we would have the gift that is the magnificent ‘Rain Song’, listen to the remarkable audio below of George first hearing of Led Zeppelin.