Today is Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones’ birthday.
He was born today in 1946 in Sidcup, Kent. Born John Richard Baldwin, he changed his name during his session work days, at the suggestion of a friend who thought he needed something more “artistic”. The friend was Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham, who had recently seen a poster for the 1959 film John Paul Jones.
Both of Jones’ parents were musicians, his dad a pianist and arranger for big bands and his mother a singer and dancer. He learned to play the piano at an early age and soon began to take organ lessons and played at his church. By age 14 he had picked up the bass guitar. His father had initially wanted him to play the saxophone because, as John Paul explained, “He said I’d never starve”. He started a band in his boarding school and he and his father would perform as a duo during the holidays. He left school at age 17 and auditioned for Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, who were putting together a band. He got hired as their bass player and the band toured for about a year or so, playing a fusion-style music that bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago would play years later.
In 1964 Jones started doing session work, and for the next four years recorded for just about everyone from Donovan (arranger on Hurdy Gurdy Man and Mellow Yellow) to The Rolling Stones (arranger on She’s A Rainbow). He released his own single in April 1964, titled Baja. He made quite a name for himself and came to be highly desired by big producers of the time, such as Mickie Most. During a 1968 session for Donovan, he overheard Jimmy Page, another popular session musician at the time, talking about starting a new group. He called Page to inquire about the bass guitarist position, and Page agreed to add Jones to his new group. Jones would go on to have a significant contribution to Led Zeppelin’s nine albums and 26 tours, most notably on 1979’s In Through the Out Door, where he co-wrote all but one song.
After Led Zeppelin, Jones took the most low-key position of all the remaining members, focusing mainly on producing and arranging for such performers as Ben E. King (1986), The Mission (1987), Cinderella (1990), and Peter Gabriel and R.E.M. (1992). He rejoined Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at Live Aid on July 15, 1985 and on May 14, 1988 for Atlantic Records’ 40th Anniversary party. He continued to do various appearances and album production after this, and he played with Led Zeppelin again in the Dec 2007 tribute to Ahmet Ertegun. Jones continues to be active in various music projects to this day.
Today (and Jan 4 and 5) in 1969 Led Zeppelin played their first billed shows in the US, at the Whisky-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles, with Alice Cooper as the opener. They were billed as “Led Zeppelin featuring: Jimmy Page formly (sic) of the Yardbirds” (see ad below). But upon their arrival in California, Jimmy Page contracted a fever and the band was forced to eliminate their second set from this series of shows.
1. As Long As I Have You (including Fresh Garbage, Summertime Blues, Bag’s Groove, Mockingbird)
2. I Can’t Quit You Baby
3. The Train Kept A Rollin’
4. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
5. Dazed And Confused
6. Killing Floor
7. For Your Love
Happy New Year!
Today in 1974 Led Zeppelin re-signed with Atlantic Records after their initial 5-year contract expired. Zeppelin manager Peter Grant announced that all future Led Zeppelin recordings would now appear on their own label, named Swan Song (to be distributed by Atlantic), and that the label would also be signing other acts.
Also today, in 1976, Robert Plant took his first unaided steps since his Aug 4, 1975 car accident in Rhodes, Greece. This was the accident that forced the band to cancel proposed 1975 Fall tours of Europe, Japan and South America.
Today in 1968 a virtually unknown rock band opened for Vanilla Fudge at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. How unknown was the opening band? So unknown that the concert ads in the local papers read, “The Vanilla Fudge, with Len Zefflin”; the ad copywriter thought it was some guy named Len Zefflin. Here’s how singer Robert Plant introduced one of the songs: “This is off an album that comes out in about three weeks’ time on the Atlantic label. It’s called Led Zeppelin. This is a tune called Dazed and Confused”. So their first album hadn’t even been released yet; it wouldn’t make a mark on the charts until February 1969. This concert was only Zeppelin’s fifth in the US; the band had done tours of the UK and Scandinavia a few months before, many of them billed as The New Yardbirds.
So why is today’s date significant? Because a student at that show had a tape recorder and captured what is now widely believed to be the earliest known bootleg recording of Led Zeppelin. Today, this tape – known as “Led Zeppelin Gonzaga ‘68” and bootlegged and distributed all over the world – has assumed an historic status in Zeppelin lore.
1. The Train Kept-A-Rollin’
2. I Can’t Quit You
3. As Long As I Have You
4. Dazed And Confused
5. White Summer
6. How Many More Times (includes The Hunter)
7. Pat’s Delight (this would later become Moby Dick)
Today in 1968 Led Zeppelin invaded America! They started their very first US tour at Denver Auditorium Arena as an unbilled opening act for Vanilla Fudge and Spirit. The story, from the Rocky Mountain News:
Denver music man Barry Fey (Feyline Productions) nearly became famous for being the guy who refused to book Led Zeppelin.
Fey had sold out a Dec 26, 1968 Vanilla Fudge and Spirit concert in the Denver Auditorium Arena. About 10 days before the show, he got a call from Ron Terry, Vanilla Fudge’s agent, saying he wanted to add an act to the show. Fey told Terry all the tickets were sold. Terry begged, saying “You’ve got to do this for me, Barry; this is a big, big act. Their name is Led Zeppelin.” Fey thought it was a joke and turned Terry down.
Ten minutes later Terry called back and said “Vanilla Fudge is going to give you $750, and if you provide $750 of your own money, we still can put Led Zeppelin on the show”. Fey finally agreed. The concert crowd had no idea that this new heavy-metal band from Britain was added to the show, and that night marked Zeppelin’s American debut.
Fey got up on the stage and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, give a warm Denver welcome to Led Zeppelin”. Fey said, “They started playing, and it was incredible. It was an unbelievable show; people were gasping. That was a big day in Denver history”.
Today in 1978 Zeppelin completed the initial recording sessions for their last studio album, 1979’s In Through the Out Door, at ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm. Jimmy Page would then mix some of the new material at his Plumpton home over Christmas, but the album would not be released until August of 1979.
Today in 1976 Led Zeppelin appeared on the cover of People magazine. Inside was a brief article about the band, with some direct quotes from Robert Plant.