As some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll history, it comes as no surprise that the members of Led Zeppelin could be…how do I put this?…a little crotchety. And in a way, you can’t blame them.
The endless tours and the hectic studio sessions were likely stressful enough without hordes of journalists hammering down their door looking for an exclusive interview or a tiny tidbit to take back to their grateful editors. Time was precious, and the likes of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones couldn’t be relied upon to be entirely civil all of the time. So, to maximise their interview time and ensure nobody crossed the line, Led Zeppelin set a couple of ground rules that journalists were required to adhere to if they wanted to capture the rock heroes on tape. But before we take a look at those rules, it’s worth explaining why they were needed in the first place.
First of all, it should be said that John Bonham could be intensely unwelcoming when he wanted to be. I mean, come on, it’s all there in his drumming — the chaos, the aggression, the ferocity — all of it. As a result, journalists were frequently pulled to one side before entering a room with Bonham and instructed not to make “any sort of eye contact with John Bonham”. I once met a man in the U.S who told me the same thing about wolves.
But it wasn’t just journalists who needed to be afraid of Bonham. The drummer was a hard-drinker, and when he drank, he often lost control of the simmering aggression lying just beneath the surface. Indeed, he once slammed a fist into Robert Plant’s face following an argument about money just before Led Zeppelin were due to set foot on the stage of the Budokan in Tokyo.
But it wasn’t just Bonham. Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant, could be just as fiery. He developed this aggressive professional persona partly to secure all the best deals for his acts, using his intimidating size to frighten the life out of anyone who stood between him and a six-figure sum.
As ex-Led Zeppelin press agent Bill Harry once recalled: “When Peter Grant was laying down the law to people, they would be visibly shaking. People were terrified of him. He had this immense power to project strength. But I found he was like a cuddly bear.” However, Grant’s business style often found its way into his personal life, resulting in the destruction of numerous hotel rooms with the help of John Bonham.
Having all of these personalities in one place made interviewing Led Zeppelin a complex affair. The rules listed below acted as a sort of road map that allowed journalists to navigate their passage with the band without ending up with a cassette recorder stuffed up somewhere they’d rather it wasn’t. Take a look.
Led Zeppelin’s interview rules:
- Never talk to anyone in the band unless they first talk to you.
- Do not make any sort of eye contact with John Bonham. This is for your own safety.
- Do not talk to Peter Grant or Richard Cole – for any reason.
- Keep your cassette player turned off at all times unless conducting an interview.
- Never ask questions about anything other than music.
- Most importantly, understand this – the band will read what is written about them. The band does not like the press nor do they trust them.