Saturday, November 17, 2007


...are....John “Bonzo” Bonham (drums; born May 31, 1948, died September 25, 1980), John Paul Jones (bass, keyboards; born January 3, 1946), Jimmy Page (guitar; born January 9, 1944), Robert Plant (vocals; born August 20, 1948)

Combining the visceral power and intensity of hard rock with the finesse and delicacy of British folk music, Led Zeppelin redefined rock in the Seventies and for all time. They were as influential in that decade as the Beatles were in the prior one. Their impact extends to classic and alternative rockers alike. Then and now, Led Zeppelin looms larger than life on the rock landscape as a band for the ages with an almost mystical power to evoke primal passions. The combination of Jimmy Page’s powerful, layered guitar work, Robert Plant’s keening, upper-timbre vocals, John Paul Jones’ melodic bass playing and keyboard work, and John Bonham’s thunderous drumming made for a band whose alchemy proved enchanting and irresistible. “The motto of the group is definitely, ‘Ever onward,’” Page said in 1977, perfectly summing up Led Zeppelin’s forward-thinking philosophy.

The group formed in 1968 from the ashes of the Yardbirds, for which guitarist Jimmy Page had served as lead guitarist after Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Page’s stint in the Yardbirds (1966-1968) followed a period of years as one of Britain’s most in-demand session guitarists. As a generally anonymous hired gun, Page performed on mid-Sixties British Invasion records by the likes of Donovan (“Hurdy Gurdy Man”), Them (“Gloria”), the Kinks (“You Really Got Me”), the Who (“I Can’t Explain”) and hundreds of others. Page assembled a “New Yardbirds” in order to fulfill contractual obligations that, once served, allowed him to move on to his blues-based dream band, Led Zeppelin.

Bassist John Paul Jones also boasted a lofty session musician’s pedigree. His resume included work for the Rolling Stones, Donovan, Jeff Beck and Dusty Springfield. Singer Robert Plant and drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham came from Birmingham, England, where they’d previously played in the Band of Joy. Page described Led Zeppelin in a press release for their first album with these words: “I can’t put a tag to our music. Every one of us has been influenced by the blues, but it’s one’s interpretation of it and how you utilize it. I wish someone would invent an expression, but the closest I can get is contemporary blues.” Integrating Delta blues and U.K. folk influences with a modern rock approach, Led Zeppelin’s symbiosis gave rise to hard rock, which flourished in the Seventies under their expert tutelage. Such classics as “Whole Lotta Love” were built around Page’s heavyweight guitar riffs, Plant’s raw, half-screamed vocals, and the rhythm section’s deep, walloping assaults – all hallmarks of a new approach to rock that combined heaviness and delicacy.

In Jimmy Page’s words, the band aimed for “a kind of construction in light and shade.” The members of Led Zeppelin were musical sponges, often traveling the world –literally traipsing about foreign lands and figuratively exploring the cultural landscape via their record collections – in search of fresh input to trigger their muse. “The very thing Zeppelin was about was that there were absolutely no limits,” explained bassist Jones. “We all had ideas, and we’d use everything we came across, whether it was folk, country music, blues, Indian, Arabic.”

The group’s use of familiar blues-rock forms spiced with exotic flavors found favor among the rock audience that emerged in the Seventies. Led Zeppelin aimed itself at the album market, eschewing the AM-radio singles orientation of the previous decade. Their self-titled first album found them elongating blues forms with extended solos and psychedelic effects, most notably on the agonized “Dazed and Confused,” and launching pithy hard-rock rave-ups like “Good Times Bad Times” and “Communication Breakdown.” Led Zeppelin II found them further tightening up and modernizing their blues-rock approach on such tracks as “Whole Lotta Love,” “Heartbreaker” and “Ramble On.” Led Zeppelin III took a more acoustic, folk-oriented approach on such numbers as Leadbelly’s “Gallows Pole” and their own “Tangerine,” yet they also rocked furiously on “Immigrant Song” and offered a lengthy electric blues, “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”

The group’s untitled fourth album (a.k.a., Led Zeppelin IV, “The Runes Album” and ZOSO), which appeared in 1971, remains an enduring rock milestone and their defining work. The album was a fully realized hybrid of the folk and hard-rock directions they’d been pursuing, particularly on “When the Levee Breaks” and “The Battle of Evermore.” “Black Dog” was a piledriving hard-rock number cut from the same cloth as “Whole Lotta Love.” Most significant of the album’s eight tracks was the fable-like “Stairway to Heaven,” an eight-minute epic that, while never released as a single, remains radio’s all-time most-requested rock song. Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, was another larger-than-life offering, from its startling artwork to the adventuresome music within. Even more taut, dynamic and groove-oriented, it included such Zeppelin staples as “Dancing Days,” “The Song Remains the Same” and “D’yer Mak’er.” They followed this with the Physical Graffiti, a double-album assertion of group strength that included the “Trampled Underfoot,” “Sick Again,” “Ten Years Gone” and the lengthy, Eastern-flavored “Kashmir.”

Led Zeppelin’s sold-out concert tours became rituals of high-energy rock and roll theater. The Song Remains the Same, a film documentary and double-album soundtrack from 1976, attests to the group’s powerful and somewhat saturnalian appeal at the height of their popularity. The darker side of Led Zeppelin – their reputation as one of the most hedonistic and indulgent of all rock bands– is an undeniable facet of the band’s history.

In the mid-to-late Seventies, a series of tragedies befell and ultimately broke up Led Zeppelin. A 1975 car crash on a Greek island nearly cost Plant his leg and sidelined him (and the band) for two years. In 1977, Plant’s six-year-old son Karac died of a viral infection. The group inevitably lost momentum, as three years passed between the release of the underrated Presence (1976) and In Through the Out Door, their final studio album (1979). On September 25, 1980, while in the midst of rehearsals for an upcoming American tour, Led Zeppelin suffered another debilitating blow. Drummer John Bonham was found dead due to asphyxiation following excessive alcohol consumption. Feeling that he was irreplaceable, Led Zeppelin disbanded.

Robert Plant launched a solo career, Jimmy Page formed The Firm with former Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers, and John Paul Jones returned to producing, arranging and scoring music. There were brief reunions at Live Aid and for Atlantic Records’ 40th anniversary celebration. Something of the old power was rekindled in 1995 when Page and Plant reunited to record an album (No Quarter) and tour with a large and diverse ensemble of musicians.

Meanwhile, the Led Zeppelin legend endures and grows long after their demise, much like that of the Doors and Elvis Presley. The lingering appeal of Led Zeppelin is perhaps best summed up by guitarist Page: “Passion is the word....It was a very passionate band, and that’s really what comes through.” At the dawn of the new millennium, Led Zeppelin placed second only to the Beatles in terms of record sales, having sold 84 million units. Led Zeppelin IV is the fourth best-selling album in history, having sold more than 22 million copies, and four other albums by the band – Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin II, Houses of the Holy and Led Zeppelin - also rank among the all-time top 100 best-sellers. Fittingly, Led Zeppelin is tied with the Beatles (five apiece) for the most albums on that esteemed list – a mark of both bands’ impact. In their ceaseless determination to move music forward, Led Zeppelin carved out an indelible place in rock history.









Widely recognized as one of the most creative and influential musicians of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix pioneered the explosive possibilities of the electric guitar. Hendrix's innovative style of combining fuzz, feedback and controlled distortion created a new musical form. Because he was unable to read or write music, it is nothing short of remarkable that Jimi Hendrix's meteoric rise in the music took place in just four short years. His musical language continues to influence a host of modern musicians, from George Clinton to Miles Davis, and Steve Vai to Jonny Lang.

Jimi Hendrix, born Johnny Allen Hendrix at 10:15 a.m. on November 27, 1942, at Seattle's King County Hospital, was later renamed James Marshall by his father, James "Al" Hendrix. Young

Jimmy (as he was referred to at the time) took an interest in music, drawing influence from virtually every major artist at the time, including B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Holly, and Robert Johnson. Entirely self-taught, Jimmy's inability to read music made him concentrate even harder on the music he heard.

Al took notice of Jimmy's interest in the guitar, recalling, "I used to have Jimmy clean up the bedroom all the time while I was gone, and when I would come home I would find a lot of broom straws around the foot of the bed. I'd say to him, `Well didn't you sweep up the floor?' and he'd say, `Oh yeah,' he did. But I'd find out later that he used to be sitting at the end of the bed there and strumming the broom like he was playing a guitar." Al found an old one-string ukulele, which he gave to Jimmy to play a huge improvement over the broom.

By the summer of 1958, Al had purchased Jimmy a five-dollar, second-hand acoustic guitar from one of his friends. Shortly thereafter, Jimmy joined his first band, The Velvetones. After a three-month stint with the group, Jimmy left to pursue his own interests. The following summer, Al purchased Jimmy his first electric guitar, a Supro Ozark 1560S; Jimi used it when he joined The Rocking Kings

In 1961, Jimmy left home to enlist in the United States Army and in November 1962 earned the right to wear the "Screaming Eagles" patch for the paratroop division. While stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Jimmy formed The King Casuals with bassist Billy Cox. After being discharged due to an injury he received during a parachute jump, Jimmy began working as a session guitarist under the name Jimmy James. By the end of 1965, Jimmy had played with several marquee acts, including Ike and Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers, and Little Richard. Jimmy parted ways with Little Richard to form his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, shedding the role of back-line guitarist for the spotlight of lead guitar.

Throughout the latter half of 1965, and into the first part of 1966, Jimmy played the rounds of smaller venues throughout Greenwich Village, catching up with Animals' bassist Chas Chandler during a July performance at Caf‚ Wha? Chandler was impressed with Jimmy's performance and returned again in September 1966 to sign Hendrix to an agreement that would have him move to London to form a new band
Switching gears from bass player to manager, Chandler's first task was to change Hendrix's name to "Jimi." Featuring drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, the newly formed Jimi Hendrix Experience quickly became the talk of London in the fall of 1966.

The Experience's first single, "Hey Joe," spent ten weeks on the UK charts, topping out at spot No. 6 in early 1967. The debut single was quickly followed by the release of a full-length album Are You Experienced, a psychedelic musical compilation featuring anthems of a generation. Are You Experienced has remained one of the most popular rock albums of all time, featuring tracks like "Purple Haze," "The Wind Cries Mary," "Foxey Lady," "Fire," and "Are You Experienced?"

Although Hendrix experienced overwhelming success in Britain, it wasn't until he returned to America in June 1967 that he ignited the crowd at the Monterey International Pop Festival with his incendiary performance of "Wild Thing." Literally overnight, The Jimi Hendrix Experience became one of most popular and highest grossing touring acts in the world.

Hendrix followed Are You Experienced with Axis: Bold As Love. By 1968, Hendrix had taken greater control over the direction of his music; he spent considerable time working the consoles in the studio, with each turn of a knob or flick of the switch bringing clarity to his vision.

Back in America, Jimi Hendrix built his own recording studio, Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The name of this project became the basis for his most demanding musical release, a two LP collection, Electric Ladyland. Throughout 1968, the demands of touring and studio work took its toll on the group and in 1969 the Experience disbanded.

The summer of 1969 brought emotional and musical growth to Jimi Hendrix. In playing the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in August 1969, Jimi joined forces with an eclectic ensemble called Gypsy Sun & Rainbows featuring Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Juma Sultan, and Jerry Velez. The Woodstock performance was highlighted by the renegade version of "Star Spangled Banner," which brought the mud-soaked audience to a frenzy.

Nineteen sixty-nine also brought about a new and defining collaboration featuring Jimi Hendrix on guitar, bassist Billy Cox and Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles. Performing as the Band of Gypsys, this trio launched a series of four New Year's performances on December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970. Highlights from these performances were compiled and later released on the quintessential Band of Gypsys album in mid-1970 and the expanded Hendrix: Live At The Fillmore East in 1999.

As 1970 progressed, Jimi brought back drummer Mitch Mitchell to the group and together with Billy Cox on bass, this new trio once again formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience. In the studio, the group recorded several tracks for another two LP set, tentatively titled First Rays Of The New Rising Sun.

Unfortunately, Hendrix was unable to see this musical vision through to completion due to his hectic worldwide touring schedules, then tragic death on September 18, 1970. Fortunately, the recordings Hendrix slated for release on the album were finally issued through the support of his family and original studio engineer Eddie Kramer on the 1997 release First Rays Of The New Rising Sun.

From demo recordings to finished masters, Jimi Hendrix generated an amazing collection of songs over the course of his short career. The music of Jimi Hendrix embraced the influences of blues, ballads, rock, R&B, and jazz a collection of styles that continue to make Hendrix one of the most popular figures in the history of rock music.







rock on

...the end