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(Credit: Xavier Badosa)

Music

The classic rock band that Bob Dylan mocked

@TomTaylorFO

Bob Dylan has been such an influential force in music that it only stands to reason that not everybody who he inspired returns the favour. The folk legend may well have once said, “the highest purpose of art is to inspire,” but there are certain acts that he would rather not have stirred up it would seem. 

It was Jimmy Page who once discussed the game-changing ways of Dylan’s explosive style. “In May 1965 I experienced the genius of Bob at the Albert Hall,” Page opined in an Instagram post. “He accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and cascaded images and words from such songs as ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ and ‘She Belongs To Me’ to a mesmerised audience. It was life changing.”

However, Dylan was less complimentary about what followed from Page when it comes to his work with Led Zeppelin. As the comical story goes, Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant infamously approached the folk troubadour in 1974 backstage at a Los Angeles show and with an extended hand announced, “Hello Bob, I’m Peter Grant, I manage Led Zeppelin.” Dylan then proceeded to dismiss the handshake and utter with unerring wit and disdain, “Do I come to you with my problems?”

It would seem that Dylan preferred the more stripped back rock stylings of The Rolling Stones at the time and had little care for the grandiose ways of Led Zep. As he said of The Stones: “They are the greatest rock and roll band in the world and always will be. Everything that came after them, metal, rap, punk, new wave, pop-rock, you name it… you can trace it all back to the Rolling Stones.”

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Despite his comical tiff with Peter Grant, however, Dylan has remained on good personal terms at least with the rest of his fans in Led Zeppelin. As Robert Plant recently told Classic Rock: “I recently did a gig in Roskilde, Denmark, and Bob Dylan wanted to talk to me about touring. So I met him where all the buses are parked, at this big festival, and we eyeballed each other and smiled in the darkness. It was pissing with rain, two hooded creatures in a blacked-out car park, and I said to him: ‘Hey, man, you never stop!’ He looked at me, smiled and said: ‘What’s to stop for?’”

However, while Plant is a huge fan, he struggles to discuss music with Dylan. As he continues: “I couldn’t ask him about his songs, because as much as I’ve been affected by his work you can’t talk about it. My work is not anywhere near as profound in what it’s trying to do. At the same time, you can get to know the motive and circumstances behind a particular song, without it being ‘Masters Of War.’”

Whether or not Led Zeppelin remain beyond Dylan’s own taste, he is not the sort who would fail to recognise that they have, indeed, fulfilled the highest purpose of art (according to Dylan himself) and inspired a generation of musicians.