The era known as ‘classic rock’ was a time characterised by the shoulder-rubbing of the stars. The Beatles were introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix was discovered by Linda Keith, the then-girlfriend of Keith Richards, and Keith Moon of The Who was a good-buddy and drinking partner of Harry Nilsson and John Lennon.
The tales of these convergences are manifold and eye-opening. However, there was another little know relationship between two of the era’s biggest bands. This was between The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. In fact, Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, had a pre-Zeppelin career as one of London’s premier session musicians, and he even played on the demo of The Stones’ classic track ‘Heart of Stone’. That was the start of the band’s relationship, way before Led Zep were even a concept and before Page had moonlighted as the replacement for Paul Samwell-Smith in the iconic rock band, The Yardbirds.
After Zeppelin’s meteoric rise in the late 1960s, the relationship between both band’s was cemented after they shared the same recording facilities in the early ’70s. It was during those sessions for Led Zeppelin’s iconic record, Led Zeppelin IV, amid the winter months between 1970 and 1971, that they used The Stones’ iconic mobile recording studio and even enlisted their pianist, Ian Stewart, to help them record tracks such as ‘Rock and Roll’.
The Rolling Stones’ assistance of Led Zeppelin didn’t end there either. They would record segments of their later records, 1973’s Houses of the Holy and 1975’s Physical Graffiti at Mick Jagger’s famous Stargroves mansion in Hampshire. This was also the same location where The Who recorded parts of Who’s Next and scenes of Tom Baker’s outing as Doctor Who were filmed.
On other occasions, Page even jammed with Jagger and Keith Richards outside of the confines of their respective bands. Additionally, in 1974, he recorded the song ‘Scarlet’ with The Rolling Stones, which wasn’t released until July 2020.
While appearing on BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show later that month, Jagger cast his mind back to meeting both Page and Zeppelin multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones in the ’60s, a time when they were both session musicians: “That was 1965, so I knew Jimmy from then,” Jagger said. “Later, they made this very successful band.” Very successful indeed. Like a cloud of mystical smoke, Led Zeppelin galvanised rock music. In 1969, Led Zeppelin II beat the iconic Beatles album Abbey Road to the top spot on the album charts. In many ways, they assumed the position that the then sclerotic Beatles had occupied for so long.
Of the early Zeppelin performances, Jagger commented: “I remember watching their concerts live in New York and everything,” he said, before adding: “And it was great, thunderous, wonderful racket. Brilliant.” However, Led Zeppelin would draw to a tragic halt in 1980 after their drumming maestro, John Bonham, passed away. The three surviving members would reunite less than sporadically across the following years. Mick Jagger just so happened to be there at the last recorded event, which was the sold-out show at the O2 Arena in London, all the way back in 2007.
The standout element of the O2 show was that it wasn’t John Bonham who played the drums for the band, but his son, Jason. The spirit of John Bonham triumphantly coloured all of their songs. Jagger opined: “I saw their last concert as well… And they were absolutely incredible.”
It seems as if once a rock ‘n’ roll legend, always a rock ‘n’ roll legend. Mick Jagger’s assertions were bang on the money. Apart from the absence of John Bonham, there really is no difference between Led Zeppelin in their heyday and 2007.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they say, but what about if the tricks the old dog already knows are iconic?