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Music

John Paul Jones shares his memories of Jimmy Page's performance during the Led Zeppelin reunion

@SamWKemp

In 2007, 39 years after their first rehearsal, Led Zeppelin reunited for a very special show in the 02 Arena. Having left eight era-defining albums in their wake, it’s no wonder the world went a little mad when news of Zeppelin’s return broke. The band’s split in 1980 – following the death of John Bonham – not only marked the end of one of the greatest stadium rock bands of the 1960s, but it also served as a dividing line between two distinct musical eras. Over the next decade, the face-melting guitar solos and theatrical pomp that had defined Led Zeppelin’s image would become the currency of hair metal, while grunge bubbled under the surface, waiting for its moment in the sun. But by 2007, rock and roll nostalgia had set in, and the world was looking to the bands of the 1960s and ’70s for an antidote. Cue Led Zeppelin.

The year after Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion, John Paul Jones sat down with Uncut to share his thoughts on the momentous occasion. Jones confirmed that it felt “pretty damn good” to be playing with his old friend Jimmy Page after so many years. “We put a lot of work into it – I had done quite a lot of playing with him, obviously, in the months preceding up to it – and it was really, really enjoyable. It was good fun revisiting the numbers and just playing with a really good player again.”

Jones’ friendship with Page began in 1964, at which time the pair were working as studio musicians. Having honed his musicianship in the same high-intensity environment, Jones clearly recognised just how good a guitarist Page was. Indeed, his appreciation of his friend’s talent didn’t fade over time: “He was always one of my favourite guitarists,” Jones began. “I know it sounds obvious, but he was – and as soon as we started in rehearsal, I was just amazed to hear how he’d kept everything and actually improved, I thought. He seemed to have grown since I saw him last.”

One of the most impressive aspects of Page’s performance in 2007 was his ability to fill a sonic space, which, on record, is filled with five or six over-dubbed guitar tracks. According to Jones, Page was able to cover almost every detail of those recordings with just one guitar. “Obviously we always used to do songs that had a lot of extra, overdubbed parts, and we used to have to come to some arrangement about doing them live,” Jones said. “So we’re kind of used to it, but yeah, you’ve got to be pretty nimble to cover all the important parts so that the song makes sense. And he did it without a second thought, it seemed.”

The Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert saw Led Zeppelin play a two-hour set, which featured performances of some of the band’s greatest hits, including ‘Good Times Bad Times’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘Dazed And Confused’, ‘Stairway To Heaven’, and ‘Kashmir’, with an encore of ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The sheer magnitude of each member’s performance – from Jones’ thumping basslines to Robert Plant’s elastic vocals – serve as proof that Led Zeppelin are indeed one of the best rock bands of all time.