Tuesday, November 25, 2014

James Dylan: Artist

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience singer James Dylan is, by day, an artist. Last year at this time, James offered a pencil drawing of Robert Plant. This year, he turned his hand to John Bonham

These pencil drawing look incredibly like photographs, and lend credence to the idea that James is as good an artist, if not better, than singer. No small praise that.

Cost of the pictures is $95 for a 9 x 13 print signed by Dylan or $65 for a 6.5 x 10 signed print (plus shipping) and can be ordered from JamesDylanOfficial.com. There appears to be Robert Plant prints still available too.

Last year the original pencil drawing was also made available for $2,000 (plus S & H). No word on whether the original is available this time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page

I came home from New York with my Jimmy Page pictorial autobiography,Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page, and my wife picked it up. It's a big book, and heavy, but beautifully laid out with high quality paper and exquisite pictures throughout. She started nosing through the book, and next thing she is asking questions about Page, looking him up in Wikipedia to see his marital history and does he have kids. You need to understand, she usually rolls her eyes at my Led Zeppelin habit, and has never shown any interest in anything Led Zeppelin related. But here she was keeping me from my Jimmy Page book.

It's not a cheap book, retailing for $70+ up here in Canada, I bought it for $50 at Jimmy Page's Q&A in New York last week. But it's not a book you'll ever look at and think, "why did spend so much on this?" It's a beautiful book, it really is. It weighs about as much as a Datsun, the lettering on the cover is gold inlay and the paper photographic quality. It may be a bit steep for a book, but it's good value for the money.

But the real magic happens when you open it up. Page one, 10 or 12-year old Jimmy Page as a choir boy, and the caption "it might get loud." It did. The last page is a now famous shot of Page by his friend Ross Halfin, grey haired and holding his guitar in front of him. "It might get louder."

In between choir boy and mature gentleman, between loud and louder, is more than 500 pages of pictures, telling the story of the musical life of Jimmy Page. Playing his guitar outside his school, his earliest bands, his session days. And look at the pose on his schoolboy picture, or on his knees playing for Neil Christian and the Crusaders. He had those Jimmy Page moves long before anyone called him "Jimmy F-in Page." Onward to the Yardbirds, then Led Zeppelin. Onstage, backstage, leaping through the air and tuning his guitars behind and amp, massive crowd in the background. All minimally captioned, walking you through the story, but letting the pictures do the yeoman's work, the captioned merely filling in the details.

Open Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page to any page, and you'll find a picture to enjoy. And if you don't happen to like any of the pictures on that page, try the next one, it's sure to have something. So many of the pictures are excellent, so many interesting. There's very few you won't study a bit, absorb the story it tells. Page reportedly spent a lot of time tracking down pictures and it shows. If you're a Led Zeppelin fan, you'll have seen many of them, but never in this detail, not in this quality. And there are plenty others that you've never seen, won't see outside of this book.

If there's one thing missing, considering he does refer to it as an autobiography, it's any pictures of Page when he's not, in one way or another, at work. There's no pictures of any of his children (or his granddaughter for that matter) and only one of any of his wives, a fairly well known shot of he and Charlotte Martin exiting a helicopter backstage at Knebworth in 1979. This book is strictly about Jimmy Page, musician.

Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page, the pictorial autobiography of the Led Zeppelin guitarist is, simply put, an excellent book.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Robert Plant and Richard Branson Split the Cheque

Actually, it appears, and logic dictates, they didn't split the cheque. It's one of those cases of a media gang-pile without any facts at their disposal. If you blog on a specific subject for long enough, i.e. Led Zeppelin, you see these things once in a while. Stories that make no real sense, or that are flat out wrong, but get picked up and run with by reporters who don't know enough about the subject matter to smell the fishy bits. My personal favourite involves a six month old quote by Dave Grohl saying he'd drum with Led Zeppelin, that got turned into a full reunion tour, with Dave Grohl at the drums.

This week it was the story of Richard Branson offering £500-million for a tour. Page, Jones and Plant could split the money, and hire whatever drummer they wanted at scale.  Page and Jones, reported an inside source, jumped at the chance/money, but Plant ripped up the cheque in front of Branson. So much for Jason Bonham making a sideman's wage (serious question: would Dave Grohl play for scale?)

But the story has its holes, not the least of which, musician's don't walk into a room with a promoter who's about to make a £500-million offer without knowing that in advance. It would be ridiculous for Led Zeppelin's three surviving members to meet as a group with anyone who does this kind of promoting, unless they had discussed it in advance and were interested. Seriously, do you think they like getting questions about this sort of thing every single interview? Do you think they don't know that these sorts of things are never really secret? And why, after years of saying no, would Page and Jones agree to anything without Robert being on board first?

But beyond that, Robert Plant, and I have been known to be critical of Plant at times, is simply not that rude. The idea of a serious offer being treated that way is too strange. Plant is, all the guys in Zeppelin always have been, pros. They don't rip up cheques in front of the person making an offer. That's for amateurs, or unnamed sources and a-holes. Plant doesn't tend towards either, by all accounts.

It was Plant too, who was first to deny this. "Rubbish," came the wordy response to this story from Plant's publicist. Today, Richard Branson added his response to the record:

I’ve been left dazed and confused by a story doing the rounds this week about us apparently offering Led Zeppelin £500 million to reform and carry out a tour. As much as I love the band, there is absolutely no truth to the story.

There were even claims that Virgin Atlantic was about to rename one of our planes and include a stairway to heaven in honour of the band. However nice an idea, this is also completely untrue. After a week of seeing worryingly inaccurate reports in various publications regarding Virgin, it was sad but not particularly surprising to see yet another fabricated story.

I spoke to Robert Plant about the story, which he also confirmed is complete rubbish from his side too. Robert told me he is very proud of his history and the band’s past, and has always had great respect and love for his work throughout his career. However, he really believes he must move on with his life and career today.

Making up this story is very disrespectful to how wonderful his solo career with the Sensational Space Shifters is going. He is setting out on a sold out tour today and they released a brilliant album last year.

Fellow band members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones also have many exciting projects in the works and should be respected in their own right. I’m proud of how so many artists from my generation, whether it is Led Zeppelin, Mike Oldfield or Peter Gabriel, are still being so creative and inventive. They have all moved on into exciting new phases, while still celebrating their incredible pasts.

As Robert told me: “Look Richard, I just do things because I love them and I want to do more new things that I love.” I couldn’t agree more.

The story had its legs, but it should die now, to be resurrected, mark my words, in six months time with a small variation. But unless a reliable, named source, say Jimmy Page or John Paul Jones, confirms the story, consider it absurd and move on.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Review: Robert Plant The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin by Dave Thompson

It came up last Christmas, one of my guests asked the question that comes up too often: "What the hell is wrong with Robert Plant? Why won't he do a Led Zeppelin reunion?" It seems so easy, just sing the old songs, make a big pile of money and everybody gets to go away happy. So why won't he do it? It doesn't help that Plant tends to answer the question with a series of non-sequiturs: I don't want to be singing cabaret; I want to move forward with new material - even as he spreads the old liberally through his set lists &tc.

In his new book, Robert Plant: The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelinby Dave Thompson looks at Plant and examines the man through the lens of his history, and the effect it has on Plant today. There are two major events in the Plant narrative, the death of his son Karac in 1977 and the death of his best friend from youth, whom he brought into Led Zeppelin, John Bonham.

On Karac Thompson writes:

His (Plant's) lifestyle, he knew, had already placed his marriage under incredible strain—the months he spent away touring, leaving Maureen to raise two children on her own. Now there was just one, and Plant could not help but wonder whether things might have been different if he had been at home.

and on John Bonham:

It was John Bonham who sat next to him on the hastily arranged flight back to London, and then for the drive up to the farm. There the boy was buried, at a funeral where Bonham was the only one of the singer’s bandmates or management to even bother attending... Now, the very person who had stood alongside him throughout that terrible night, providing much of the glue with which he repaired his shattered psyche, had himself been taken away.

Those two quotes represent, as much as anything does, the thesis of The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin. Those two events, presented as they are above, explain so much about Plant's decisions, including the one not to re-unite Led Zeppelin in any long-term way. Thompson delves into what makes Plant tick far more deeply than into what Plant does or says, using the former to explain the latter. It's a good thing that he does such a good job of examining Plant the person, because he gets far too many of his facts wrong.

Details like what year Page and Plant played Glastonbury, what they played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction or the heretofore unheard claim that Yardbirds bassist Chris Dreja actually rehearsed with Plant, Page and John Bonham before turning down the job of bassist in Led Zeppelin and John Paul Jones was brought on board. Furthermore some of his opinion statements, such as the tone of Zeppelin's songs come from Plant's lyrics or that the last five albums in Plant's career - Dreamland to lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar - are the best set of five he has done, including say Led Zeppelin II through Physical Graffiti, are laughable.

But Thompson isn't after the facts of the case, so much as explaining Plant through the lens of those facts. The fact he got a date wrong here, a song wrong there doesn't do unrepairable damage to the book. Neither does the obvious fact that Thompson's trying, for reasons unknown, to tear down the mythology of Led Zeppelin and raise the myth of Robert Plant in it's place.

In fact, Thompson's conversational writing style, of which I have been a fan for a long time, makes The Voice that Sailed the Zeppelin a thoroughly enjoyable read. I did not always agree with Thompson, and he gets some of the basics wrong, but Robert Plant: The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin by Dave Thompson is one of my favourite of the Led Zeppelin books out there. It's well worth the read.