John Paul Jones, Led Zeppelins basist och keyboardist, var tyst och spelade backgammon och ena halvan lyssnade i en telefon på en radio talkshow på New York FM.
”Jag var på en klubb i går kväll när någon frågade mig om jag ville träffa Jimmy Page,” show värdens plötsliga erbjudande mellan samtalen. ”Du vet, när jag tänker på det, finns det ingen jag mindre vill träffa än någon så motbjudande som Jimmy Page.”
Jones rusade upp från sitt spel. ”Låt mig bara säga att Led Slime inte kan spela sin väg ut ur en papperspåse och om du planerar att se dem i morgon kväll på Garden, är denna dumbum ”ripping” dig. Starta inte nu med att slösa min tid att försvara Led Slime. Om du funderar på att ringa upp att gör det, doppa huvudet i toaletten och spola. ”
Jones, normally a man of quiet reserve, strode furiously across the room. He snapped up a phone and dialed the station. After a short wait, the talk show host picked up the phone.
“What would you like to talk about?”
“Led Zeppelin,” Jones answered cooly in his clipped British accent. The line went dead. Victim of an eight-second delay button, the exchange was never given air time.
It was a familiar battle, as Jones saw it. Although Led Zeppelin has managed to sell more than a million units apiece on all five of its albums and is currently working a U.S. tour that is expected to be the largest grossing undertaking in rock history, the band has been continually kicked, shoved, pummeled and kneed in the groin by critics of all stripes. “I know it’s unnecessary to fight back,” Jones said. True enough: The Zep’s overwhelming popularity speaks for itself. “I just thought I’d defend myself one last time.”
The night after that aborted defense, in the first of three concerts at Madison Square Garden, Led Zeppelin brought a standing-room-only audience to its feet with one of the finest shows of its six-year career. On Page’s unexpected midset impulse, the band launched unrehearsed into a stunning 20-minute version of his tour de force, “Dazed and Confused.” The tension of uncertain success was an evident and electric element in Zeppelin’s performance that evening. “No question about it,” lead singer Robert Plant enthused before returning to the stage for a second encore of “Communication Breakdown,” “the tour has begun.”
It has been a long time since Zeppelin last rock & rolled. After 18 months spent laboring over their new double album, Physical Graffiti, the band has some warming up to do. “It’s unfortunate there’s got to be anybody there,” Plant said. “But we’ve got to feel our way. There’s a lot of energy here this tour. Much more than the last one.” The tour’s official opening night, January 18th at the Minneapolis Sports Center, went surprisingly well considering the circumstances. Only a week before, Jimmy Page broke the tip of his left ring finger when it was caught in a slamming train door. With only one rehearsal to perfect what Page calls his “three-and-a-half-finger technique,” the classic Zeppelin live pieces, “Dazed and Confused” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” were indefinitely retired. Codeine tablets and Jack Daniel’s deadened the pain enough for Page to struggle through the band’s demanding three-hour set.
Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager och president för Swan Song, gruppens skivbolag, grundade de första datumen något konstigt: “En Led Zeppelin konsert utan ‘Dazed and Confused’ är något jag måste vänja mig vid. In a lot of ways that number is the band at its very best. There’s one point in the song where Pagey can take off and do whatever he wants to. There is always the uncertainty of whether it will be five or 35 minutes long.”