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XYZ Interview with Alan White, 1993

by Mike Tiano of the Yes mailing list

Q: One of the less known periods in your career was your involvement with XYZ. Yourself, Chris and Jimmy Page. How did you and Chris link up with him?

AW: I met Jimmy quite a few times because he lived pretty close to Chris, he lived in the same area. We used to meet at parties in London and all that kind of stuff and basically Chris called me on day and said," Jimmy wants to go and play in the studio kind of thing", so we all just turned up one day and started playing and it started sounding pretty good. We got the engineer in there and they started putting down the XYZ tapes as it were.. Quite a lot of it was stuff that I'd been writing with Chris and we had, I think it was like four, five, six songs. I don't know if that's out in the black market yet.

Q: I don't think so...I've never heard of them--

AW: I think the only two cassettes that exist is, that outside of the master tapes, is I've got one and Chris has got one, but Chris says he can't find his now, but I do have a copy of it at home.

Q: Do you think that the band had real potential?

AW: Oh, it was sounding pretty good, there was some interesting music. It was really different, it was like Zeppelin meets Yes kind of stuff, it was real odd.

Q: Was it always a trio or was Robert Plant ever involved at any point?

AW: It was a trio, and Jimmy kept calling Robert saying how great is was and he should get involved but Robert thought (the music) was too complicated. He came and listened to it and I think he thought it was too complicated; or else there could have been the kind of a Yes Zeppelin band at that time. I think that kind of either frightened a lot of people off at that time or it was a too-good-to-be-true kind of thing. But the management thing got involved and they really screwed it up and it just all went haywire, that's what really dissipated the whole thing.

Q: So it was the management, or was the band behind it as well?

AW: Pretty much the management, but I think Robert was very iffy about it, he thought the music was too complicated, he was more of a rock 'n' roll wailer kind of thing. We were doing things in (taps out five beats)...there's one thing that we did that was kind of a lick that I wrote at home one day it was like almost like a military type thing put in a odd time signature that built up into this really orchestrated kind of piece of music...and it was all in 7/4 time so I think when Robert heard 7/4 it was like, "What am I getting myself into here?" So...

Q: That's not rock 'n' roll.


Here is part of a Chris Squire interview talking about the XYZ project back in the early 80's with Page and Plant

Q:I understand that "Mind Drive" from Keys 2 is largely based on a piece you and Alan White workedon with Jimmy Page in the early 80s.

CS: Uh, yes, that's right. [in a surprised tone of voice] Who told you that?

Q:The rumor is that copies of the original version are circulating on Led Zeppelin bootlegs in Japan.

CS: So, that original version is out there. Hmm. Yeah, it sounds very similar, apart from the fact that Jimmy Page isn't playing on our version of it. [laughs] But I wrote the thing in the first place - the chords and everything. Jimmy just played my chords. But I suppose it's interesting to compare the two versions.

Q:What can you tell me about the sessions that resulted in it?

CS: There was a period when Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes had been in Yes in the 80s. We had done the Drama album and toured America on that, and that's also when John Bonham died around the summer of '80. So, after we got back from touring, Jimmy [Page] moved and bought a house in England near the house I was living in. So, we became neighbors and got together. He was obviously pretty depressed about John Bonham's death for awhile, and I kind of helped him out of that by saying "Let's try to do some new music" and that's really what happened.

Q:Is it true that you were planning to form a band with Page and Robert Plant called XYZ, standing for "Ex-Yes and Ex-Zeppelin?"

CS: Yeah, that's right. It was gonna be myself, Alan White, Jimmy [Page] and Robert [Plant]. Page and Plant are of course now playing together, but at the time, Robert wasn't ready to jump back into it. He was feeling the loss and wanted to go his own way. But of course, 18 years later, he's doing what we could have done then. At the time, Yes was in a kind of sabbatical period. [laughs] Geoff Downes and Steve Howe started the Asia project, so Alan and I were gonna work with Jimmy and Robert. But Robert never completed the equation, so that's when we went back into the reformation of Yes with 90125, which was probably the best thing to have done.

Q:What was it like to work with Page during that period?

CS: Uh, very stony. [laughs] There was a lot of drinking etcetera involved, I remember. Umm, yeah. [laughs and pauses] Let's leave it at that shall we?
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

December 16, 1968 - Zep plays Bath Pavilion for a mere £75.
December 26, 1968 - First American concert at the Coliseum in Denver, CO
December xx, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are reported to have sold 5 million dollars worth of albums in the US
December 11, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are presented gold and platinum discs for their first two albums
December xx, 1970 - The band enters Island Studios to begin work on the fourth album
December xx, 1971 - The band plays a few low-key shows back in England
December 23, 1972 - The band break for Christmas holiday after a London gig
December xx, 1973 - John Paul Jones works on studio productions for Madeline Bell
December xx, 1973 - Joe Massot films Jimmy Page’s fantasy sequence at Loch Ness
December 19, 1974 - John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page jam with Bad Company at the Rainbow Theater
December 10, 1975 - Led Zeppelin play a 45-minute show with Norman Hale at Behan’s in Jersey
December xx, 1976 - Led Zeppelin rehearses for the 1977 tour
December 25, 1976 - It’s announced that Plant and Bonham will reunite with the Band of Joy for three shows in the new year
December xx, 1977 - The band minus Robert gather to discuss Led Zeppelin’s future plans
December xx, 1978 - The new album is completed quickly at Polar Studios and mixed at Jimmy’s Plumpton Studio
December xx, 1979 - John Bonham considers joining Paul McCartney’s Wings
December 29, 1979 - The band minus Jimmy Page attend the Paul McCartney And Wings Kampuchea befefit show
December 04, 1980 - Led Zeppelin issue the following statement not to carry on as a band: "We wish it to be known, that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the deep sense of harmony felt by ourselves and our manager have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."
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