Led Zeppelin Bassist Looks Back On Reunion Show
Band Photo: Led Zeppelin (?)
David Fricke of RollingStone.com recently conducted an interview with LED ZEPPELIN bassist John Paul Jones. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:
RollingStone.com: What were your feelings the day of the show, in the hours before you went on stage?
John Paul Jones: I tried to keep the enormity of it all as far away as possible, until the last minute. I sat around playing banjo all day. It calms me down. For every show we've ever done, there is always hype, expectancy. For us, it was just "Let's get on and do it." Obviously, it was quite a reception when we did get out there.
RollingStone.com: There was a dramatic quality to opening with "Good Times Bad Times" — the first song on LED ZEPPELIN's first album.
John Paul Jones: That's the hardest riff I ever wrote, the hardest to play. But it was a good starter, because everybody had to focus. We soon figured out in rehearsals what the first three numbers would be ("Good Times Bad Times", "Ramble On", "Black Dog") and that we would play them straight through.
What gave us confidence was the week before [the show], we did a full production rehearsal, with the full screen set up. That was really good. It was a smaller room, and you could hear everything, which is the only thing I regret about those stadiums — you don't hear all of the subtleties. The groove is much tighter in the small room. I can only wish we could play 2000 seaters forever, because that's where it sounds great. But the excitement was there on stage [at the O2 arena], as it was in the old days.
RollingStone.com: At soundcheck, I was surprised to hear you, Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham play instrumental versions of "Good Times Bad Times" and "Ramble On". It was like hearing ZEPPELIN in dub — the subtleties and interplay that go into the background when Robert Plant sings over them.
John Paul Jones: He didn't do that much singing in rehearsal. Robert wanted to protect his voice. We did a lot of the songs instrumentally for quite awhile, especially when he was out doing promotion [for "Raising Sand", Plant's hit album with Alison Krauss]. And it was really good for us. It was us getting used to each other, which you have to do in order to bring this off. You want to be tight. But I like to be free in what I do. I hardly ever play the same bass line twice. Even in songs where it's mapped out, like "Good Times Bad Times", I swap it around a little bit. We all enjoy the freedom to do that. In order to have that freedom, you have to know each other so well.
RollingStone.com: How would you describe Jason's playing during the show? He was very much his father's son.
John Paul Jones: A lot of the fills were not what his dad did at all. He's as fearless as his dad, that's for sure [laughs]. But he did an amazing job, when you consider that he had to answer to every drummer in the world after that show. With that sort of pressure, to bring all that off was astonishing. "Kashmir" was absolutely wonderful, the way he led in and out of the choruses and bridges.
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