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By Bob Kennedy

From the time Jimmy Page launched Led Zeppelin, it did what most groups dream of doing: it floated right to the top, first in England and now in the U.S. We caught Jimmy Page at the high temple of rock, the Fillmore in San Francisco, where he was making one of his first U.S. appearances. Although the Led Zeppelin had only been together two months, they were jamming as if they had been doing it for years.

Jimmy, who plays lead guitar for Led Zeppelin, worked two years with the much-lauded Yardbirds. At that time he became good friends with another Yardbirds veteran, Eric Clapton. "Eric and I did a lot of stuff at my house," he recalls. "We used to just get the tape recorder working and start playing. A lot of the tapes we did together came out in the media. However, at the time I was recording with Eric, he was under contract and so his company took possession of the recordings. It's interesting to see the progress Eric has made since then."

Jimmy started on the guitar about eight years ago: "I have always wanted to be an electric guitarist. I even started a paper route to get my first instrument because I didn't have any money. Well, I got one, and then I just started exchanging and getting better ones. I think the second one I had was a Fender Stratocaster, and that was the first good guitar I ever had. Then I got a Gretsch, and then a Les Paul with three pickups. The reason I don't use the Les Paul now is because I didn't feel that particular model was good for blues. It's called the 'Fretless Wonder' and the frets are filed real fine, but it just doesn't happen for the blues."

Jimmy says the best match he's found has been a Gibson guitar through a Marshall amp: "You get a Marshall with a Gibson and it's fantastic, a perfect match. I'm using Ernie Ball super slinky strings, although I usually sort of swap around gauges. You know, they have these custom-gauge things, and I usually have it a bit heavier around the third and sometimes a bit lighter. It depends on what sort of mood I'm in."

Once in a while when jamming, Jimmy will sit down behind a steel guitar. "We wanted to use a steel guitar in Led Zeppelin," he explains. "I have used one for about a month. It's frustrating to play it though. You hear those country guys, and they can play it so damn well. It's such a complicated instrument for someone who doesn't have that sort of line to begin with, and it's a struggle for me to play. We used it on our album a couple of times, but nothing really complicated. When I play, I try to do a bit of everything. I don't know if that's good. I guess it can be annoying." One of Jimmy's most dynamic sounds occurs when he draws a violin bow across the strings.

"Led Zeppelin's music never duplicates itself," he insists. "We might use the same pattern, but it's always changing. By now a tune may be entirely different from when we first started. The only thing which will remain the same is the first couple of verses. Although we've got cues when we cut in, the idea is to get as much spontaneity as possible. But to get yourself out of trouble, you've got certain keys you can use to come in. Otherwise it can be chaotic. Usually we just start the song off and then go in different tangents, change it four or five times, and then come back to the original song."

Jimmy wouldn't call what they do during rehearsal a practice. "We jam," he says. "Once we've got a number, everything is happy, but getting there is another thing. That is why it is so easy using an old blues number. You know it, and then you go on from there. I think most groups must have the same trouble.

"How original our work is depends upon how you want to classify it. You might say it's 80% original if you want to exclude the words. In fact, it would be 90% original, because our numbers would be ten or fifteen minutes whereas the original number would only be three minutes long. So basically we are making it up all the time."

Jimmy is establishing himself as one of the top rock guitarists. How high he goes is only limited by his creativity and ability to expand his technique.
Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 1970

The following notes on Thursday night's Led Zeppelin concert in the Salt Palace Arena will spell what artists know as a "lukewarm" review - a review not particularly meant either to acclaim or to abominate. Led Zeppelin, then, is not particularly hot, nor is it cold. Led Zeppelin is not good, nor is it bad

Without question, Jimmy Page, the lead guitarist, is a virtuoso. There is seemingly nothing he cannot do in the technical realm. He plays one of the fastest guitar necks to be seen. His intonations, his vibratos and his sense of time and syncopation probably are matched by only a handful of contemporary guitarists.

However, one can only carry the wavering in the pitch of a tone so far, and a more conscious sandwiching of pure tones or "white" tones in his runs would have made the music more dimensional and fuller. At times, then, this incredibly gifted musician turned to gimmickry. Still, Page's "White Summer" solo was superb, motivated, as it was for harmony's sake.

Ideally, rock concerts should be environmental experiences, and the closer one is to the source the closer he is to the substance of the art. So those seated at a distance were invited down closer to the stage, and people were everywhere. But with the push of almost 14,000 in the hall, there was, on the other hand, an invitation to paranoia.

Throughout Led Zeppelin's 12-year career, the band remained a tight four-piece unit with only a handful of outsiders penetrating their inner circle. Notwithstanding the occasional guest appearance of mates like Phil Carson, Simon Kirke, Mick Ralphs and Ron Wood at live shows, and noteworthy contributions from the likes of Ian Stewart, Sandy Denny and Viram Jasani in the studio, Zeppelin were never all that keen on augmenting their sound with the help of extra musicians, particularly on stage.

Eric Gorfain pic

What a difference 14 years can make.

In 1994, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant decided to work together again and perform classic Led Zeppelin song with a mind to adding new textures and arrangements to some of their classic compositions, particularly those featuring exotic middle-eastern sections. To bring those plans to fruition, Page and Plant recruited Charlie Jones and Michael Lee on bass and drums respectively from Plant's touring band (Lee also spent time with The Cult prior to linking up with Plant) and augmented this basic four-piece rock unit with a wealth of international musicians, including second guitarist Porl Thompson from the Cure, Jim Sutherland on mandolin and bodhran, Indian superstar vocalist Najma Akhtar, acclaimed session musician Nigel Eaton on hurdy-gurdy, keyboardist and string arranger Ed Shearmur, a string section of Middle Eastern musicians known as the Egyptian Pharaohs featuring percussionist Hossam Ramzy, and the London Metropolitan Orchestra's string section.

When gathered together for the grand finale of Kashmir, more than 30 musicians filled the stage. Quite a contrast from Zeppelin's original four-piece takes on this classic tune!

The resounding success of the UnLedded project led (sic) to a world tour in 1995 and '96; with many of the same musicians joining Robert and Jimmy, plus orchestras "picked up" from town to town to fill the roles played by the London Symphony string players. Editor's note: When asked to comment on his former band mates' No Quarter album and UnLedded MTV special, John Paul Jones took great pleasure in noting how many musicians it took to play the parts he once handled on his own on stage and in the studio.

Eric Gorfain, violinist, is one of the many classical musicians who joined this multi-national caravan of musicians working with Robert and Jimmy. Eric joined the string section during a few 1995 tour dates and then signed on for the entire run of shows in Japan in 1996.

Eric began playing violin at the age of four, influenced by his father who had studied violin until his teens. Within a few years, Eric was playing in youth orchestras, eventually working his way up to Concertmaster of the Sacramento Youth Symphony. While attending UCLA as a Music Performance major, Eric was given the opportunity to study in Japan in his senior year, which, after graduating, led to the start of his professional career as a studio musician in 1991. The first foreign violinist to establish himself in the studios of Tokyo, Eric spent three years playing violin on recordings and tours for the top artists in Japan, but in 1994 he decided to come back to Los Angeles. Now ten years into his career, Eric is truly a bi-continental musician. He's performed with Live, Bryan Adams, Sinead O'Connor, Eric Clapton and even Grand Funk Railroad!

During the interview that follows, Eric talks about how he came to work with Robert and Jimmy and the role he played during the Japanese tour. He also discusses his current project - a tribute to Led Zeppelin featuring his string section called, appropriately enough, The Section.

Please meet Mr. Eric Gorfain.

How did the opportunity to work with Robert and Jimmy first come about?

The whole thing started when a local contractor hired me to play on the Irvine Meadows shows in October of 1995. He also sent me to Salt Lake City and Boise to help out with the local orchestral players. Concurrently, the San Francisco sub-contractor for the Sacramento and Mountain View gigs hired me, so without even trying I had six consecutive dates with the band. After the first few shows I became friendly with the keyboardist, Ed Shearmur, who then asked me to accompany the tour to Japan to hire and translate for their orchestras, as I used to live there and I speak Japanese.

Were you a Led Zeppelin fan before working with Robert and Jimmy in 1995?

Before working with the band, actually, I wasn't (laughs). I did go back and buy all the albums and realized that I had missed out on a lot! For about two years following the tour, I devoured everything on the studio albums and became quite the fan.

When presented with the songs to arrange/perform during the '95 dates in the U.S. and the '96 tour of Japan, how did you prepare? Did you listen to the original recordings? If so, what struck you the most about the songwriting, the use of strings, etc., on the originals?

Well, let me clarify here that I did not write the string arrangements for the '96 tour or the '95 dates. Ed Shearmur, who is now a successful film composer, wrote all the arrangements for the tour and was musical director for the band. He would fly ahead to the next city early every morning in order to rehearse the orchestra for the next show. Needless to say, he must have been tired! In terms of prep-work for the shows, I must admit there was none on my part. At first I was a hired musician, so we arrived at Irvine Meadows in the afternoon, for example, sight-read the material with Ed, did a short sound check and, voila, it's show time!

By the time the Japanese leg came around, I had fully immersed myself in the Zeppelin song catalog, so I was much more aware of what I was playing. I found that Zeppelin was ahead of its time in blending world-music with heavy rock, taking a cue from the Beatles I suppose, and also using orchestral flourishes in that blend. Their songwriting and arranging skills became very apparent.

Was it at all intimidating to be working with two rock legends like Jimmy Page and Robert Plant?

But of course!! Both Jimmy and Robert were very gracious and nice to me and treated me in a very professional, respectful manner. I was incredibly flattered.

Page/Plant were extremely adventurous during the '96 tour of Japan, playing many songs that had never been performed live *and* shuffling the set list from night to night. Were there any songs - new or Zep - that were rehearsed, but *not* played during the tour and if so, why not?

To my knowledge, no. There were some songs in the orchestra's book that were never rehearsed or played during any shows I played on, but I seem to remember those to be from Robert's later solo albums, which may explain why they weren't brought out. I do remember that Tie Dye on the Highway was one of them.

During rehearsals, we didn't interact too much. The band knew the songs backwards and forwards, so most of the rehearsals involved the orchestra without the band. Jimmy and Robert didn't even play every soundcheck. Ed kept things very much under control, so the band didn't have to worry too much about the orchestra from night to night and town to town. The only input I may have had, indirectly, was by assembling a good group of players in Tokyo, which made doing the Rain Song possible. After trying it out in a rehearsal at Budokan, both Robert and Jimmy were excited to dust it off and give the song its first appearance on the tour. That may have also given them the confidence to pull out Ten Years Gone and Tea for One later on.

Speaking of Ten Years Gone; TYG has long been considered a very special song by Zeppelin fans. In fact, many consider it *the* Zeppelin song, surpassing even Stairway and Kashmir in notoriety. Consequently, you can imagine how excited Zep fans were when it was performed during the 2.15.96 show. Can you explain why it was only played once and how it came to be tried/performed in the first place?

I was excited too! I mean, to have songs like Rain Song, Ten Years Gone and Tea For performed because the band had the enthusiasm and the confidence in the orchestra was a great thrill. As you know from the bootlegs, the first attempt at Tea For One was something to behold, but to paraphrase John Cleese, "it got better." I think that Jimmy & Robert were trying to juggle the set lists to keep it interesting not only for themselves (remember, this was around the 100th show of the tour) but also for the Japanese fans, who everyone knows are quite rabid. This tour marked the first time in 24 years that Jimmy & Robert had played together in Japan, so it was a big deal for everyone involved.

Anyway, why Ten Years Gone was only played once, I do not know. I would have played it every night, since it is one of my favorite songs. That's why I included it on my tribute album.

One more specific question about your experiences during the '96 tour of Japan. The new Page/Plant song Yallah was performed during the '96 Japanese tour featuring a brand new middle eighth section. Were you involved in writing/arranging this new section? It's a dramatic and powerful enhancement of the original arrangement on the "No Quarter" album.

No, I was not involved in any of the writing or arranging. That song also met a quick fate at Budokan when the loop providing the basis for the song couldn't be heard through the monitors on stage, which basically stopped the song in its tracks. Makes for a good bootleg, though.

What was it like working with the Egyptian Pharaohs and a musician like Hossam Ramzy? Did this present any challenges or difficulties when trying to synthesize the Japanese classical musicians with these Middle Eastern string and percussion players?

The Egyptian Pharaohs were nuts! Very cool guys, actually, and amazing musicians, lead by the unbelievable Hossam Ramzy. I didn't get to interact too much with the guys, as some of them didn't speak much English, but I liked listening to them warm up backstage and I did get a few pointers as to the tunings the violinists use and whatnot. The Japanese players were also impressed by the Pharaohs, especially the violin soloist - the same guy from the Unledded video, actually. He was incredible. The only challenge with any of the orchestras was trying to get "classical" players to sound more rock & roll!

Any funny or interesting stories to tell about the tour?

When they decided to do Tea For One, I was asked to go help put the lyrics together for Robert, since Zeppelin had never performed the song live in their career. So what did we do? We went down to the production office, whipped out a tattered, commercially produced Zeppelin songbook, just like the one everyone who's ever tried to learn Stairway to Heaven has, and proceeded to type out the lyrics for Robert!

The only other story I can tell, without getting sued (laughs), is of those moments on stage where I would catch Jimmy's eye and he'd give me a wink and a smile...and then continue on with rockin' the house! Those were special moments.

Are you still in touch with people like Michael Lee, Charlie Jones, Ed Shearmur and other members of the Japan '96 Page/Plant crew?

Yes, I am in touch with Charlie and Michael and Ed quite a bit. I'm most in touch with Charlie in England, though I've recently seen Michael in LA, and Ed lives here in LA.

How do you look back on the experience?

I made good friendships with the guys in the band, friendships that continue to this day, so I look back with great pride and fond memories. I mean, how many violinists get to pretend they're rock stars?

Let's bring this discussion up to the present day. Your current Zeppelin-related project is a tribute album titled "The String Tribute to Led Zeppelin - Volume Two." First off, can you discuss "Volume I" and where Zeppelin fans can find ordering information for it?

The String Quartet Tribute to Led Zeppelin - Volume I was released by Vitamin Records in January of 2000. That was the first string quartet tribute album on which I participated. There are a variety of arrangers and musicians on that album, but I contributed with Dazed & Confused and No Quarter. The album can usually be found at Amazon.com, cdnow.com and the usual sources, but since it is three years old, it may be a bit harder to find. I'm sure the label is prepared to fill orders that may be generated by the Volume 2 release.

Now tell us about the new album.

Volume 2 is entirely arranged by myself and performed by my quartet, The Section. It includes standards like Good Time Bad Times and Thank You, but also more obscure songs like Darlene and Tangerine, with Ten Years Gone as the focal point of the album.

It's surprising that you went for some of Zep's more rockin' tunes like Good Times, Bad Times and Living Loving Maid over more "orchestral" songs like In the Light and Achilles Last Stand. Was it a conscious decision on your part to do some unexpected songs instead of more obvious choices?

I purposely chose songs that you wouldn't think would work, while keeping an eye on the "hits" that people would want to hear. Living Loving Maid follows Heartbreaker, so there was no getting around that one! Achilles would have been fun, but a monumental task. Perhaps for Volume 3? As I mentioned before, Ten Years Gone is the focal point for me on this record and was the song I was most excited about arranging. Hearbreaker, complete with my version of the guitar break, came out pretty good too.

Where can Led Zeppelin fans go to find out more about you and ordering information for The String Section Tribute to Led Zeppelin - Volume 2?

They can go to my web site at http://www.quietstreet.com to order the CD and also to learn about my company - Quietstreet Productions. Radiohead fans - I'm told there are a number of them in your club - are also encouraged to check out our tribute to the band called "The String Tribute to Radiohead - Strung Out on OK Computer." Upcoming string quartet tribute albums include "The Cure" and "Nine Inch Nails", which I am very excited about. Be sure to check out my site for updates.

What music are you listening to these days?

Let's see, having just gotten back from England and Ireland, I'm listening to a lot of trad Irish music lately. And I performed over there with Grant Lee Phillips, so I've been listening to his new solo material as well as re-discovering the Grant Lee Buffalo songs. But I've been listening to Elbow, Afro Celt Sound System, Jimmy Eat World, a bit of Sigur Ros, and Starsailor. The new Ozzy record is pretty good - a throwback to the days of old! I've been making personal compilations recently, which have ranged from 80's rock to 90's emo-rock. Oh yeah, we're in the 00's, right? (laughs) The old stand-bys are Peter Gabriel, Zeppelin, Joe Jackson, Live. I was lucky enough to play on Live's latest record, which was a definite thrill! It's always hard to say because I do listen to the radio quite a bit just to stay on top of what's out there.

Eric, thanks a million for your time and for answering so many questions.

Thank you! It's been a pleasure and I hope your readers enjoy my interpretations of these classic Zeppelin songs!

Copyright © 2002 by Bill McCue. All rights reserved. No part of this article/interview may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Bill McCue.

by Frank Tortorici

Robert Plant was in a playful mood, despite the fact that he had been waiting anxiously for his former Led Zeppelin cohort Jimmy Page in a suite at the Soho Grand Hotel.

The longtime partners in rock were scheduled to be interviewed about their soon-to-be-released album, Walking Into Clarksdale, and upcoming spring and summer concert tour, but Page was nowhere to be found. "Where the 'ell is my partner?" Plant asked, seemingly indignant.

Then, he did an about-face.

"He's probably having a nap," said the tall, blond lead singer, sleek and stylish in green satin pants, but certainly older than in Zeppelin's '70s heyday.

Just then, guitar-maestro Page appeared, mumbling something about a call to nature. His attitude was friendly, but quizzical. This was not how you'd expect the notoriously drug-mongering and Satan-loving Page to appear: short-haired, chubby-cheeked, fresh-faced, with sweet, puppy-dog eyes. Casually dressed in dark duds, he looked at least a decade younger than his 50 or so years.

Perhaps he's been invigorated by recording Walking Into Clarksdale, which is the first full-length album of new material from the Page & Plant duo since Led Zeppelin went up in flames in the early '80s. In 1994, the two musicians released a reunion CD, No Quarter, which includes new songs, as well as remakes of vintage Led Zeppelin material which they refreshed with exotic acoustic instrumentation.

While in Zeppelin, Plant and Page were never into explaining what their often esoteric songs were about, and that hasn't changed. "[Our messages are couched in] abstractions and ambiguities," said Plant, when asked about the new songs, which feature a straight-ahead rock sound that draws from their classic style but has been sonically retooled for the late '90s. "My favorite songs are the ones that I have to voyage into. It should be a journey [for the listener]."

Due next month, Walking Into Clarksdale (the title refers to the Mississippi town of Clarksdale), features mostly straightforward rock, along the lines of classic Zeppelin. Only the single "Most High" offers any trace of No Quarter's Eastern influence.

To capture the sound they wanted for their new music, Page & Plant employed Nirvana producer Steve Albini, who they knew as a "craftsman." Albini responded to their initial call with reams of paper showing how he wanted to record them. Albini, who Plant said is "very astute, diligent, and incredibly quick," also forwarded illustrations with various placements of microphones to get certain atmospheres.

"We wanted to be a four-piece rock 'n' roll band," Plant said. To that end, the twosome jettisoned the Egyptian orchestra that accompanied them on the previous album and its accompanying dates. Page & Plant's upcoming American tour -- which begins at Pensacola, Fla.'s Civic Center on May 19 and wraps up 26 shows later in New York at Madison Square Garden on July 16 -- will include bassist Charlie Jones, drummer Michael Lee and keyboardist/mandolin player Tim Whelan, all of whom play on ... Clarksdale.

When asked about Indian singer Najma Akhtar, who joined them on the last project and who was linked romantically to Plant, the singer answered, "She's gone now."

Page teasingly added, "I'll find another one, if you like."

As of now, there are no additional vocalists slated for the tour, which will include the band playing some Zeppelin tunes. And there are no current plans for small club dates, along the lines of the Rolling Stones' "Bridges To Babylon" tour.

While they may not adhere to any one musical style, Plant said that their songwriting process hasn't changed over the years. "I take notes all the time, like [a reporter] would. Jimmy gets something drifting, and [then], I open my notebook to see what I've been writing about that suits it."

With regard to musical influences, Page said, "Our roots go back decades, right from when we first started individually getting into music. All of it comes out [on our records] in one shape or another."

"You hear so many things," Plant added. "Subconsciously, they drift out. It's not like listening to Muddy Waters and then playing 'You Shook Me.' We take in the stimulating music of the time, though there's very little mainstream pop music we're attracted to."

Besides expressing a fondness for the music of the late East Village songwriter Jeff Buckley, Page said he admired the work of Sean "Puffy" Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, with whom he collaborated on a tune for the soundtrack to the upcoming "Godzilla" film. "I enjoyed that," Page explained. "In the context of the film, [the track] is brilliant."

And while things have been going relatively smoothly for the legendary duo, Plant said they were distressed to hear of a story on MTV that mentioned the blues museum in Clarksdale in reference to the CD's title. "Christ, it's got nothing to do with the museum at all," Plant scoffed. "If you listen to the [title] song, you'd [know]. They probably went 'Clarksdale? Hmm, what's there?' Well, Dunkin' Donuts, too!!"

Though they feel that they got what they wanted in terms of the music on Walking Into Clarksdale, the two mates were quick to point out that they are not overly concerned with radio play and attracting new fans.

"These are new times and people want new heroes," Plant noted. "[But] trends and fashion and the validity of music got nothing to do with each other."

"We just want people to get the record," Page said.

Taken from VH1.com - 3/24/1998

by Adam Vickery

Deborah Bonham is the youngest child of John Sr. and Joan Bonham. Raised in Worcestershire, Deb found herself becoming fascinated with the idea of performing music. Her eldest brother John had joined Led Zeppelin when Deborah was just five years old.

When Deb became a teenager, she would often sit and jam with her nephew Jason who was only a few years younger. They would write their own material and perform for family and friends. It's with a little encouragement and with the help of Robert Plant she was able to record a demo and have some success with her debut album For You and the Moon.

Today, Deborah has achieved great success professionally. Deb has always been goal oriented and she has pushed forward no matter what the circumstances. It's well known the tragedy of her brother John, who died back in September 1980 but, another grief-sickening moment came on January 14, 2000, when her brother Mick died suddenly of a heart attack. Mick was a good natured person, who in latter years chummed around with John listening to Motown music and getting into mischief about the town. It was after John's death that Deb and Mick became close often seen laughing or jamming together on a stage somewhere, enjoying life to the fullest.

Fast forward to August 2006. I caught up with Deb at Fairport Convention's Cropredy Festival. I dial Deb's cell phone and on the other end, a warm and excited voice answers, "Adam, hi how are you?" I'm speaking with Deborah Bonham. She has taken the time to talk to me in regards to her new album, plus discuss her family and a few things about Led Zeppelin.

Here's how it went.


AV: Deborah, you have a new album coming out soon. What is the name of it and how is it compared to The Old Hyde?

DB: First off, it'll be out in the first part of the next year. I've had to put it off because I've been so busy playing plus some other stuff. The title of which, I don't know nothing has come to me as of yet (laughs) so it's currently untitled. Compared to the Old Hyde it's like rock, blues, funk comes together. It's not a million miles away in comparison to the "Hyde" but, it now features Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie on drums where as Jason played on The Old Hyde.

AV: The Old Hyde received some really wonderful reviews; Do you hope to achieve the same or greater success with the new album?

DB: Yeah, I hope so. We've been working away at this. It's been a long hard slog and not an easy quick fix to fame and stardom. You know that would be great but, you become more level headed and grounded when you have to work so hard. We've been chipping away at this and we've developed a great following and the word is starting to get out. The festivals have gotten much bigger, I'm playing one here with 40,000 people, plus the shows are really starting to come together. On the next album I have some really radio-friendly songs I hope to hear on there, not that I wrote them for that reason. The one song "Hold On" came out of desperation really about how your life goes with all the negative stuff hitting you all at once and you have to hold on to what is really great in your life and if you open your eyes you'd find you're not doing so bad. (laughs). A lot of people have picked up on that track and felt it was radio-friendly so well, you know, we'll see.

AV: Now you are currently out on tour and you did some shows with Foreigner, was it nice to be out jamming with Jason again?

DB: Well I didn't actually play with him but, we did open up and it was fantastic, one of the best tours I've been on. You know I just can't say enough about the Foreigner guys, the management and especially the fans. Mick Jones made us feel so welcome, it was like being on tour with your family, rather lovely and we had an absolute ball. We'd open every show and then Foreigner would come and blow the audience away, they were absolutely amazing! I was knocked out, so yah it was brilliant.

AV: You just commented on the tour "like playing with family" Have you considered playing with Jason or Zoe on some sort of recording in the future?

Deb Bonham & Jason Bonham

DB: Yeah, you never know! My attitude is never say no, if the opportunity arises and it comes together then absolutely why not? It would be brilliant but, we are all sort of doing our own thing at the moment. I think it would need the right time for everyone to say so do you want to do this or shall we? Jason and I have collaborated a lot. He's such an amazing talent, he's more than just a drummer. He has an innate ability to find great melodies and for writing songs and harmonizing. He's a great singer himself. We did a duet on his album When You See the Sun, plus on a radio station The Battle of Evermore which was amazing, I didn't know he could sing like that and Zoe, she has her own thing going and she's a tremendous song writer. She does her own one women show out in New York.

AV: She was doing some DJ club sort of stuff, right?

Zoe Bonham, 5-14-2003

DB: Yeah, she was doing a bit of that but, in her own right she is also doing her thing as a singer/songwriter. She's great in the sense that she'll just pick up an acoustic guitar and start playing and it's fantastic. I would love to do something with Zoe, maybe you could get it together. Jason is in America, Zoe is in America and I'm here in England (lots of laughing). We'll just have to coordinate it somewhere.

AV: Easier said then done. (laughs) Now, you commented on Jason being a good singer in his own right and having heard some backing vocals on a few Zeppelin tracks, he must have got that from his father.

DB: John had a great voice he was very much a melodic person. Again, everyone thought he was this hard rocker. You know there was a lot more to John Bonham then that. He grew up listening to Motown and bands like the Everly Brothers. He loved harmony, he loved Crosby, Stills and Nash. His whole thing was about harmony and melody.

AV: John and Mick were into soul music, too, right?

DB: Oh God yes, without a doubt. When I was growing up with John and Michael, in around where we lived, soul and Motown is where it was at. James Brown, Aretha Franklin, it was just great music.

AV: You were very fond of your brothers John and Michael. Is there a story that sticks out in your mind, maybe one that the fans would not have heard about?

Mick Bonham & Deb Bonham

DB: Oh, well a lot have the stories have now been written in Michael's book Bonham by Bonham, My Brother John, ( the title has since changed) but, there is one in there where the three of us just took off and John was buying me a horse. As we picked him up, I thought he was the most beautiful horse I'd seen. We put him in the trailer and John was driving and I sat between John and Michael and on the way home I said I've decided I'm going to call him Moby Dick and John looked at me and said No, he's much too fine for that. Well what should I call him and John said,"How ‘bout Achilles?" and I said, "Yes, that's It, Achilles!"

AV: You have a thing for horses and it was well known John had a thing for cars. What was his favourite?

Bonzo's Aston Martin JB-7

DB: The Jenson, the Jenson Convertible. That was his favourite. It was a car he kept up until when he died. He had many cars, the AC Cobra, his Ferrari. My God he had cars. He always held on to the black Jenson. That was JB-7.

AV: John, the rock star, was different at home, a down on the farm kind of guy, do you think John ever would have packed it all in and settled down?

John Bonham

DB: No, I couldn't ever imagine John giving up music or the band. It would have driven him to destruction, he loved being in Led Zeppelin. You know he found it hard touring. It is hard. I'm here today at this festival (Cropredy) with my dogs, my Mom, my sister-in-law Pat, John's wife, and I got my family with me. You know it's hard going away and leaving your family, but John he lived for that moment on drums. I couldn't imagine him packing it in.

AV: You mentioned in Mick's book that you've seen Led Zeppelin live. What was your impression of the band or even your big brother?

DB: (Ecstatic laughter, Deb is thrilled with this question.) I was blown away! That is when I decided I've got to sing. God, it coloured my whole life. It coloured everything in the way I look at music, the band, my band, the way you play, the expectation on how good you should be, the grooves, you name it. It's just everything.

AV: Do you remember which show it was?

DB: Well, I first saw them when I was ten, at the Birmingham Odeon in the West Midlands. I'm going back a few years but, it was when they were first going. I saw them at Bath Festival, I saw them at Earls Court and I saw them at Knebworth.

AV: What did you think of the Earls Court show?

DB: It was fantastic, they were brilliant. There was a different style going on at Earls Court, if you watch John he's a lot more solid. If you watch the Albert Hall you can see he was such a showman. As he progressed he tried new techniques like playing from the wrist, I think he was phenomenal. The bass playing... I've always been in love with John Paul Jones, I just think he's...(giggles) You just need to hear him play Ramble On and it's all over.

AV: John and your brother were quite a duo when it came to the rhythm section.

DB: Oh, the grooves the two had, put that with Jimmy Page, the maestro, the man behind it all and Robert's voice and all that he brought to it and you have an amazing band. It's coloured my life in every which way you can think of.

AV: So interesting enough that you say that. It seems it was from that moment on you wanted to play.

DB: Yeah, that's where it's at for me now, playing live, I love the finish product of recording but, I'm very much a live person and I love rehearsing.

AV: So you prefer live to the studio?

Deborah Bonham

DB: Yeah, this time in the studio I said "Right, we all go in sing it, play it and you record it." That's the way I like to do it. Of course, you do some over dubbing but, I can't deal with all that multi-tracking. I go for that live feel, much like the way Humble Pie use to do it. We did The Old Hyde like that although we had to piece it together because we recorded Jason at one place and the others somewhere else but, it was always sort of like one take like a live vibe when we did it. So, it's definitely a live thing for me, especially after watching Led Zeppelin.

AV: It's been mentioned that John was always critical of his drumming; do you think he was pleased with his ability and even his performance of Moby Dick?

DB: Well, if I'd have been him. I'd be quite pleased. (laughs) I would imagine knowing John the way that I did is that he was a perfectionist, so he would have to be better and better every time. If he thought he couldn't perfect something then yes he would be critical of that but, then again I'm like that and so is Jason. I think any musician is like that if you are true to your art. So if you do a bit and you're not quite happy with it you would try and do it again a bit better so maybe that's what it was. I can't imagine John ever coming off stage and going "Oh, I didn't do that well!"

AV: Which album did John favour most?

DB: Hmmm, I don't know. Every time he'd come home and be more excited then the last. It's like every new album was the one.

AV: Which one do you prefer?

DB: I don't know! (laughs) It's hard I love Led Zeppelin, I love Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, I just love it. I love Led Zeppelin II, one of my all time favourite tracks is Ramble On, I adore Since I've been Loving You, I love because of The Battle of Evermore and When The Levee Breaks and so on. Out of all the albums I couldn't tell you. The main thing I loved about them was that they were all different. There was such an eclectic mix of style. There just wasn't a bad album, they were all great albums the whole way through.

AV: Now, just out of curiosity you've been known to carry a copy of The Song Remains The Same with you everywhere you go. You will also watch it with anyone willing to sit down and watch it with you. Is this now the case with the new DVD?

DB: (Laughs) I've sort of calmed down. I went crazy on the new DVD for awhile but, I've since taken a break from Led Zeppelin. I think it dominated my life for quite awhile. Today, funny enough of all days, is time I played them on the way here (on route to the Cropredy Festival) I was screaming and singing all the way here.

AV: So, maybe that will help inspire you on the remaining part of your tour.

DB: Yeah, absolutely! (more laughs)

AV: Speaking of the remaining part of your tour and the new album due out soon, do you have any plans for North America?

DB: I'm really hoping to come over to America next year and do it up. We really need to, we haven't done it this year, but, as the interest builds, we have one particular agent and label who is keen on having us out there and, of course, you can't do the States without doing Canada.

AV: Well, thank you Deborah, I should let you go now so that you can prepare for the stage and I would like to thank you for talking with me and answering a few questions.

DB: It's been lovely talking to you. It's been great and thank you. I'm going to go now but, I'll keep in touch and let you know where we're at. Cheers!

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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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