Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anthony "Top" Topham: "A pre-Zeppelin album exists..."

In May 1963, Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith left The Metropolitan Blues Quartet and joined Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty and lead guitarist Anthony “Top” Topham to form a new band, The Yardbirds. Sixteen year old Topham was a high school friend of Dreja.sir-topham-hatt

In September of that year, Topham left the Yardbirds at his mother’s insistence, who was concerned about her 16 year old son spending his nights playing in the clubs. His replacement, Eric Clapton, would use the Yardbirds as a springboard to international acclaim and success, as would Clapton’s successors, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

In an interview with Guitar International, Topham claims that is not the end of his story flirting with fame. In 1968 JImmy Page was remaking The Yardbirds in his own image, creating the band that would become Led Zeppelin. According to Topham, he was contacted to play in the band:
Well this is what happened, in 1968... I received three telegrams, which I still have, from Peter Grant and Jimmy Page, expressing an urgency to get in touch with them, one of these said “great news for you.” I called them... and I spoke to Jimmy who I saw reasonably regularly. He said he wanted to reform under the name of the New Yardbirds and hit America, and asked if I would be interested.

Wait for it, I said no.

Topham also claims there was an early, pre-Led Zeppelin I album, under the name of The New Yardbirds:
Also, it’s a fact that a pre-Zeppelin album exists under the name the New Yardbirds, and includes much of the same as early Zepp. I believe this has never been released.

The idea of Topham being in Led Zeppelin and of an early album is new information in the Led Zeppelin narrative. It is unknown whether, if the album actually exists, it is with the members of Led Zeppelin, a Yardbirds album with some variation of Keith Relf, Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty playing, or a group of musicians previously unknown. What is known, however, is that the last lineup of The Yardbirds performed a number of songs that would find their way onto Led Zeppelin I, so the The Yardbirds recording this material can’t be discounted.

The Top Topham interview is not just about the sixties, and is an interesting look at the player who didn’t become “One of the legendary Yardbird guitarists.”

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