In the words of one of their songs, Dancing Days are here again for fans of Led Zeppelin.
Defunct for almost 23 years, the pioneering English band behind such hard rock classics as “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” has cleaned out its vaults to issue eight hours of previously unreleased live material on DVD and CD.
The “Led Zeppelin DVD” contains footage from four tours spanning 1970 to 1979; the CD “How The West Was Won” combines two Los Angeles shows from 1972 to replicate a single concert.
Remarkably, the band’s leader and guitarist, Jimmy Page, who compiled the releases, says he remembers all the concerts as if they were yesterday.
“To actually go through it bit by bit and hear sections of it, you go, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s really good’ or ‘I played really well there’ or ‘My God, that’s embarrassing, that bit I played then,”‘ Page, 58, said in an interview.
Both the DVD and CD were released this week with Page, singer Robert Plant, 53, and keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones, 56, embarking on a publicity blitz. Ironically, Led Zeppelin shunned such chores during its 12-year reign, preferring to let the music speak for itself.
But rumors that the trio would play together came to naught. The band has reunited only twice since breaking up after the 1980 alcohol-related death of drummer John Bonham. Page and Plant toured and recorded together in the 1990s, to Jones’ initial chagrin. These days, the threesome’s relationship is more business than social, Page says.
“There were four very different personalities anyway in Led Zeppelin, very different personalities,” Page said. “But when they bonded musically, the four elements joined together, took on a fifth element – a thing which is totally intangible and it can’t be charted, which was that magical element.”
Led Zeppelin’s members fused folk and blues influences to create a genre known as heavy metal. The group’s catalog, highlighted by their untitled 1971 album and 1975’s “Physical Graffiti” has sold about 200 million copies worldwide.
But their strength was arguably live performances. They toured incessantly, setting new standards for ticket sales. Songs from the albums were radically reworked on stage.
The new CD boasts a 25-minute version of “Dazed and Confused,” while Bonham drums relentlessly during the 19-minute “Moby Dick.” Spontaneity was the key, which is why the band decided to call it a day rather than try to feign improvisation with a new drummer.
“You had to be totally, totally involved. It’s like a sacrifice you were there for,” Page said.
The DVD features songs from London’s Royal Albert Hall (1970) and Earl’s Court (1975), New York’s Madison Square Garden (1973) and England’s Knebworth Festival (1979). And that’s it as far as live footage is concerned, Page says.
“We didn’t have a documentary crew going round with us all the time. What would we do it for? We weren’t a television band,” Page said.
“A BIT OF A LAUGH”
Similarly, the only other audio footage in the vaults was from a university gig, which was done “for a bit of a laugh.” Page vows it will never see the light of day because the band made so many mistakes. (Page did use some computer tricks to fix a few wrong chords on the newly released material.)
These days, Page divides his time between a historic London townhouse and a mansion in nearby Windsor. His post-Zeppelin career has been patchy, with highlights including a tour with the Black Crowes and recording a rap version of “Kashmir” with rapper Sean Combs. He says he’s working on something “quite surprising” but declined to go into detail.