Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page on how band’s final remastered works show a Whole Lotta Love for Bollywood

By Pierre Perrone

Harmonically, melodically and psychologically, the Middle East and South Asia regions held a special fascination for many musicians who first came to prominence in the Sixties. The Grateful Dead played three concerts near the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt, in September 1978, while a decade earlier The Beatles and Donovan spent several weeks in Rishikesh, northern India, practising Transcendental Meditation at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Indeed, George Harrison and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones introduced the sitar and the tanpura to the pop canon in the mid-Sixties, but Page and his bandmate, the lead vocalist Robert Plant, might just have a bigger claim to fame as pioneers of what would eventually become known as world music. In October 1972, the pair stopped off in Bombay on the way back from Led Zeppelin’s second Japanese tour. One thing led to another and, before you knew it, they had left the Taj hotel and were jamming with a bunch of local musicians at a dingy bar, the Slip Disc. Sadly, no one recorded the impromptu hour-long session that followed or Page would have made sure he owned a copy and considered it for inclusion on one of the companion discs he’s been curating while bringing the mighty Led Zeppelin catalogue up to 21st-century standards.

However, the guitarist has done the next best thing and unearthed striking new studio versions of the Led Zeppelin classics “Friends” and “Four Sticks” that he and Plant recorded with the Bombay Orchestra in 1972. “They were the musicians who supplied Indian pop music, film music for Bollywood, the equivalent of what I used to be in the Sixties, when I was a session musician,” says the veteran whose guitar parts bolstered early hit singles by The Kinks, The Who and Lulu.

The addition of two companion discs has certainly transformed Coda from an afterthought to a pivotal part of the Led Zeppelin catalogue, even if some will cringe when hearing the simplistic, blues-rock wail of “Sugar Mama”, shelved at the time.

“I thought it would be a really fascinating project to go into a Bombay studio, not have a musical arranger, and request instruments such as the sarangi, the mridangam, the tabla drums and violins. I just knew that it would work and it did work. Robert and I just went over with the acoustic guitar and pulled it together over the course of an evening. Once “Friends” was done, I wasn’t going to leave it there,” he insists. “The whole thing was really happening. We also had a crack at the equivalent of “Four Sticks” because the percussion was just so thrilling. These were the two things that really came out of the recording that night.

“At the time, it wasn’t appropriate to put this into Led Zeppelin. It was 1972 and we were still into the fourth album. Houses of the Holy hadn’t come out at that point. Now is a great time to be able to present that stuff,” says Page about the brace of tracks that bolster Coda, the 1982 collection of out-takes now generously expanded with two companion discs, a surprising move considering what preceded.

“It’s jubilation. You have to understand, I have been working on this for a long time. To visualise a project like this, with all the substantial box-sets and companion discs, there were hundreds of hours of listening to set all this up, it wasn’t just another band putting out their material with a few bonus tracks. It was something that addressed all the formats of listening,” he explains. “I’m just really thrilled because for the people who like Led Zeppelin, there is now twice as much information as there was before and it’s really good quality. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve done my job here.”

Long-standing fans will be delighted to discover “Pod”, a reflective John Paul Jones instrumental piece, included on thePresence companion disc. “It’s chalk and cheese to anything else that’s going on. Presence had a real intensity and was shaping up as a guitar album with epic tracks like ‘Achilles Last Stand’. It’s dark,” reflects Page about Led Zeppelin’s last great gallop and the contrasting atmosphere “Pod” introduces into the narrative.

“John Paul Jones had got a Yamaha GX-1, the Dream Machine, as Stevie Wonder called it, a real state-of-the-art synthesiser keyboard. He was quite inspired by this instrument. “Pod” is really superb. I must say, when the tape turned up, it was such a surprise, [it was] one that the rest of the band didn’t really remember so much and it’s a real thrill that we can share it now. It’s cool. I like that, I like to present surprises.”

Similarly, an alternative version of “Bonzo’s Montreux”, recorded at Mountain Studios in Switzerland, and added to Coda, highlights the invaluable contribution the late drummer John Bonham made to Led Zeppelin’s all-conquering sound. “It was just myself and John, we’d spoken about doing something like this, a complete drum orchestra and of course he could do that. The important thing was to have the tunings of the drums so you could hear all the notes and it becomes a very musical piece. It was done on a 24-track. In 1982, I’d approached it in a very tentative way because it wasn’t that long after we’d lost John. It still felt like he was with us,” says the guitarist about his bandmate, who died in September 1980 after drinking more than a litre of vodka in 24 hours and choking on his own vomit.

The addition of two companion discs has certainly transformed Coda from an afterthought to a pivotal part of the Led Zeppelin catalogue, even if some will cringe when hearing the simplistic, blues-rock wail of “Sugar Mama”, shelved at the time. “We did it for the first album right here in this room all those years ago in 1968. We did return here many times of course. Coda is now a real celebration of everything, the group, everybody’s playing. On “St Tristan’s Sword”, we had fun in the studio. It’s just bass, drums and guitar. No overdubs. It’s just really good to hear how we lock in,” argues Page, whose inspired curatorship has introduced the band to new generations of listeners. “It’s been apparent for many years, before this, going back decades really, that young musicians come to Led Zeppelin because it’s such a rich textbook of music. I know what it means, that the baton is passed on.”

Read the complete article at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/led-zeppelins-jimmy-page-on-how-bands-final-remastered-works-show-a-whole-lotta-love-for-bollywood-10347262.html

The Brag: Whole Lotta Love

The Brag: Whole Lotta Love

Most rock’n’roll fans would agree that there ain’t nothing like a good live show. We can sit and pontificate about the illuminating merits of classic records, but a properly exciting live performance trumps all else. However, as the wheels of time keep turning, an increasing number of killer bands will retire from the live arena. Led Zeppelin are one such example. While three of the band’s original members are still alive, they’ve adamantly refused to reform. Laudable as this is, it means generations of Zepophiles will never get to witness them at full strength.

This is something Sydney musician Joseph Calderazzo simply couldn’t tolerate, so back in 2003 he conceived the Whole Lotta Love concert. Over the past 12 years, Calderazzo has led an impressive ensemble of musicians in an annual night of Zeppelin celebration. Whole Lotta Love returns this September, with a lineup featuring vocalists Jeff Martin, Sarah McLeod, Dallas Frasca, Frank Lakoudis and Simon Meli of Sydney band The Widowbirds.

This is Meli’s sixth year taking part in the onstage Zeppelin worship, and he’s pretty chuffed to be involved. “It’s Led Zeppelin the loudest that you’ll ever hear it, with guys playing it with as much gusto and passion as you would expect from the real thing,” he says. “The State Theatre is no small little pub, so there’s volume, there’s ambience, there’s the architecture, there’s a big lineup of people and they’re all pouring out huge passion for the band. Joseph only gets people involved if they really love Led Zeppelin, otherwise it doesn’t translate. So you’ve got all those people combined walking out onstage year after year and every song is dynamite.”

It only takes a quick listen to The Widowbirds to recognise that Led Zeppelin have played a major role in Meli’s musical development. “Led Zeppelin did shape the way The Widowbirds sound,” he agrees. “It’s OK to say, ‘Yes, we did walk down that trial-and-error path of trying to sound like them,’ but I think we are sounding more like ourselves nowadays. But we do fly the flag for what they did represent.”

As well as making reference to the legendary British rockers when shaping the sound of The Widowbirds, Meli developed his singing personality with a little help from Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. “When we’re younger vocalists and we’re trying to find out what our strengths and weaknesses are, we do go through emulation of singers that we just fall in love with,” he says. “We want to recreate what magic we’re feeling from them, just through trial and error, working out what style works for you – and for me, it does lend itself exactly down the Robert Plant path.”

This puts Meli in the perfect position to relive a handful of Zeppelin originals at Whole Lotta Love. Over the past six years, he’s developed a method for respectfully interpreting Plant’s distinct style.

“Being a really massive fan of [Led Zeppelin], I want to give the audience what they reminisce or what they see in pictures and stuff online or in old clips. But I am not Robert Plant, so there will be definitely an element of me that will make it not Robert Plant. When I walk out there onstage, I do what comes natural, and some of it’s probably inherent from the things that I watched in their old clips onstage. But it’s not a deliberate thing where I’m putting on a wig and I’m wearing a denim cut-off vest and I’m packing a foiled cucumber in my pants. It is me giving them my best representation of someone who’s a fucking legend.”

Whole Lotta Love photo © Russell Cherry

Pay homage to Led Zeppelin at Whole Lotta Love taking place at the State Theatre on Saturday September 5, and Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford on Friday August 28 and Saturday August 29. – See more at: http://www.thebrag.com/music/whole-lotta-love-0#sthash.ZvbWpadc.dpuf

Aussie mash-up catches Madonna’s eye

An Australian producer’s mash-up video has inspired Madonna to rock out to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

Tom Compagnoni from NSW, whose online alias is WaxAudio, combined Madonna’s 1990 hit Justify My Love with Led Zeppelin’s 1973 track Whole Lotta Love for one incredibly cool video.

It’s so cool, in fact, it prompted Madonna to learn the riff to the Zeppelin track and post a video playing it on her Instagram page.

The musical chameleon looked every inch the rock goddess dressed in black trousers, buckled black boots and a zip-up top, with her hair in plaits, and topped off with some fingerless black gloves.

“Channelling Led Zeppelin. Whole Lotta Love. #rebelheart,” she posted alongside a video of her making a fine attempt at the infamous rock riff.

The video has gained a lot of interest from online news outlets around the world and Compagnoni has even been speaking with Madonna’s guitarist, Monte Pittman, directly about it.

“I noticed that Monte Pittman started following me on Twitter and I believe he retweeted the video,” Compagnoni told AAP.

Soon after, the NSW producer also noticed that Madge tweeted a video of her playing the riff to the rock song and he knew it couldn’t just be a coincidence. It didn’t take long for Compagnoni to get confirmation of his mash-up’s influence after he reached out on social media.

“I sent a message via Twitter to Monte Pittman and he was very friendly and cool, and we got chatting straight away and he said `Yeah, we both watched the mash-up and loved it, and I showed her (Madonna) the riff and she put it out’,” he said.

Compagnoni spends a lot of time on his mash-up videos for his WaxAudio Vimeo account. Several of them have gained global attention, including one quirky mix of the Ghostbusters theme tune with AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, called Thunder Busters.

He spent several weeks on the Justify A Whole Lotta Love mash-up to get the sound just right.

“I tinkered with it over a long period of time. I work mostly on the audio side and then I put the video together over a couple of days on the laptop,” he said.

It’s not often that songs in mash-ups have a thematic link but when it does, Compagnoni says it really enhances the end result.

“In this instance it’s two iconic songs about physical love,” he said.

“A Whole Lotta Love is that early `70s male perspective on love … then you’ve got the early `90s post-feminist Madonna version. They complement each other beautifully because you’ve got Robert Plant singing `I’m going to give you every inch of my love’ and then you’ve got, 20 years later, Madonna saying `Well no, you’ve got to justify my love’, and I think that just works.”

Madonna just announced she will be touring Australia early next year for the first time in 23 years.

The 56-year-old singer will play six arena shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane as part of her Rebel Heart world tour to promote her 13th studio album.

Perhaps this will inspire the singer to play the Zeppelin hit on stage.

By Danielle McGrane

To view Justify A Whole Lotta Love go to Wax Audio’s Vimeo Account: https://vimeo.com/129186668

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