The Rolling Stones recently released a long-lost 1974 collaboration with Jimmy Page, ‘Scarlet’. It saw the most dangerous band of the sixties join forces with the ultimate guitarist of the seventies for an inspirational song. It is a track that is even more surprising when reflecting on the caustic comments that Keith Richards previously made about Page’s band Led Zeppelin. He may be a master of riffs but he’s also a master of his razor blade barbs.
Led Zeppelin and The Stones are two of the most important acts in the history of British music, two bands who you would assume there is great respect between or at least a small amount of admiration. However, it seems it is only Jimmy Page who has earned an ounce of respect from guitarist Richards, the rest of the band he found intolerable.
“The guy’s voice started to get on my nerves. I don’t know why; maybe he’s a little too acrobatic” — this was the first time that Richards uttered words of disdain about Led Zep all the way back in 1969 in an interview conducted with Rolling Stone and, as the years have passed, his opinion on Plant’s talents haven’t changed for the better.
With Page collaborating with The Stones some years after these initial remarks, it’s clear that Richards has always admired his talents even if he hated his band. The Stones guitarist went as far in his praise of Page on one occasion as stating: “To me, Led Zeppelin is Jimmy Page if you wanna cut the story short.”
This admission of Page being the driving force behind Led Zep’s success was about as much praise as he was willing to hand out: “As a band, I felt aptly named, it never took off for me musically,” he once said. “At the same time, Jimmy Page is one of the best guitar players I’ve ever known. Bonham was a hell of a powerhouse drummer although I think he’s kind of heavy-handed, myself — that’s when the ‘Led’ comes in,” Richards added when answering fan questions on his website in 2004.
He then continued with a similar venom: “At the same time, Plant was exuberant, Robert is exuberant to be an LV(lead vocalist) but he’s very much in that English mode of LV’s like Roger Daltrey, with the fringes, microphones blah blah like you’re Rod Stewart’s or even Mick Jagger’s — they all seem to copy each other a bit.”
His harsh words have not softened with age and, remarkably, his tongue has only sharpened if anything. Years later, Richards dismissed Led Zeppelin as ‘hollow’ even as recently as 2015. “I love Jimmy Page, but as a band, no, with John Bonham thundering down the highway in an uncontrolled 18-wheeler. He had cornered the market there. Jimmy is a brilliant player. But I always felt there was something a little hollow about it, you know?” — he brutally stated to Rolling Stone.
His somewhat harsh statements over the years about Zeppelin in the press have not affected his relationship with Page, however, who he counts as a friend. It’s worth mentioning that the Led Zep member isn’t particularly lamented by Richards’ dislike of his former band either.
“Keith can say what he wants. He’s Keith Richards. I think he’s done some amazing work. I respect his playing,” Page told Classic Rock. “And he has a solo album out. But if I was promoting a new album, would I be more caustic? The answer is… no. I’m not sure what he means by calling Led Zeppelin hollow. I think he’s got his tongue in his cheek. What we did was really cool.”
The Rolling Stones are a band that have spent most of their finest years on tour. Having banked over six decades worth of live experience, the band know when to invite a stellar guest act or two. From Amy Winehouse to Bob Dylan, the Stones have welcomed almost everyone onto their stage, except, yep, you guessed it, Led Zeppelin.
The closest we’ve ever come to such a feat took place at the seventh annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction celebration in 1992. That night saw Richards join Jimmy Page, alongside John Fogerty and Carlos Santana, for a rip-roaring performance. But, even then, things were a little frosty.
One thing is clear even though Richards certainly is not a fan of Led Zeppelin, his attacks were always about the music and never a personal assault against any of the members. If there’s one thing that Keith has always been then that’s honest in his opinion and saying exactly what’s on his mind.
Listen to Page and Richards’ long-lost collaboration, below.