Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New first rehearsal

On this day in 2007, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham met in a secret rehearsal studio, simply to play some songs. Word of the rehearsal stayed under wraps to outsiders for months and ultimately led to the onstage performance that happened exactly six months ago today. But what's not as commonly known are the circumstances that led to this rehearsal and what it was like inside that room.

Most of what has been disclosed publicly about that rehearsal comes from the youngest one there. No longer a child at 40 on that day, Jason Bonham said he was seeing, for the first time, his dad's bandmates not as elders but as peers.

Through Bonham's interviews last year, we know not only the date of this initial rehearsal -- none of the other musicians could spout it off the top of their heads as could Jason -- but also what songs they played and in roughly what sequence, plus some of what was said inside the walls. All members have commented on that rehearsal, but Jones has been the most vocal in stating, unequivocally, that this new first rehearsal was similar to another first rehearsal in London he'd taken part in 39 summers before, with much the same lineup but only two years separating him from the drummer, rather than 22.

Both Plant and Jason Bonham have admitted their friendship improved last year, especially after a meal with some frank conversation. "Robert and I went out for dinner in February, socially, because we hadn't been that close for years," Bonham told Rythm magazine last year. "There was no talk of a Zep reunion and we had a really deep, heavy conversation going back to the moments before Dad died. It was a beautiful but sad experience, to watch somebody that loved Dad dearly, his best friend, choke up and tell me something he probably thought he would never have to. We needed to speak frankly, gloves off. I spoke my piece and he answered back with his version, which was not pretty for me. But at the end we walked out stronger and definitely mates."

It has also been revealed that reuniting last year to pay tribute to Ahmet Ertegun was something Plant was in favor of from the beginning. He told Steve Jones in an interview this January that not only was the decision to reunite for Ertegun's sake but also for Jason Bonham's. Just after saying what Ertegun meant to everybody in Led Zeppelin, Plant turned his thoughts to the drummer: "And also, the other reason to do it was because Jason Bonham has become such a complete man now. He's gone through all the crap, and he's had to deal with his demons and stuff; his father passed away when he was a kid, you know, and he's never really put it right, but he always thought that there was something that he could do, just that one time, to prove a point to himself, for his mother ..."

Plant expressed similar thoughts earlier this year in an interview with Jonathan Wingate and published in the June issue of Record Collector. Plant said that for Jason to assume his father's role in the band "gave Jason the position that he deserved, because he'd been in freefall in so many different ways since his dad's passing, and he is a spectacular drummer and an incredibly coherent guy now, as opposed to before. So he's repaired to a large extent ... 99 percent of him is fixed by his own volition. So for him and his mother and all that, it was a very important tying-up of all the sort of knots and bows and whimsy."

Throughout last year, the specifics of the date and location for the Ertegun tribute and reunion concert changed in planning for logistics purposes, but the underlying concept was unchanged and successfully remained a secret until just before an official announcement confirmed it would happen. Through it all, details about that initial rehearsal were concealed to the point that the concert's set list would eventually unfold as a surprise to many of the group's most ardent fans worldwide.

Yet it was in Rythm magazine, and also in Rolling Stone, that Bonham broke silence to dish up some info on what went on inside that rehearsal studio. David Fricke, writing for Rolling Stone, even reveals, through Bonham, that the rehearsal started at 2:30 on that Sunday afternoon.

"It was a magical and emotional day. June 10th," Bonham told Geoff Nicholls for Rythm. "We'd been emailing back and forth, 'What shall we start with?' When we got there we did songs not on my list. Typical! 'Houses of the Holy' and 'Custard Pie.' Then we did 'Kashmir,' which was phenomenal, and at the end Jimmy shouts, 'Well done, Jason, come here, give me a hug.' And Robert goes, 'Yeah! Sons of Thunder!' It was really touching, something I'll never forget. Jimmy said, 'That sounded as good as any time we played it, but it's you, not your dad. You play the signature part, but that's all you, don't cut yourself short.'"

Bonham told Rolling Stone about another song rehearsed before "Kashmir," explaining how it indicated an immediate chemistry evident in the lineup's initial run-through. During "No Quarter," Bonham said, "When the riff came in, there was this look that went around. It was brilliant."

"I didn't think there would be an instant sound," Bonham said. "I thought, 'It's going to take some time.'" It couldn't have been further from the truth. Page to Rolling Stone: "It was immediate. ... Everybody went in with a will to work and to enjoy it. It was a delight." Plant spoke in Rolling Stone of "a lot of big smiles" and the day being "cathartic and therapeutic" with "no pressure, no weight." Jones told Rolling Stone he "didn't have any doubts. Someone picked a song. We got through it. And it rocked."

But in comments he made last October to Led Zeppelin biographer Ritchie Yorke, Jones went into more explicit detail, making the obvious connection between this day and the one in August 1968 on which he met Plant and John Bonham for the first time. "That first rehearsal this month was just amazing," said Jones. "It took us back to that first meeting in '68. So we decided to go ahead and we will be putting in some serious rehearsal sessions right up until the show itself."

Bonham, particularly moved by the rehearsal, was excited to hear that this wasn't just a one-off jam session for the sake of fun. Somebody in the band said, "When we get together next ..." and Bonham laughed and thought to himself, "You mean I get another chance at this?"

The rest all told him they were reuniting only because of him. He was the precise reason they could get it done. With any other drummer, it wouldn't be right. Interviews with Plant often remind us that Jason, while not his father, was in the midst as Led Zeppelin created its music. He grew up all around Led Zeppelin, and it's in his blood. He can play it because of that, but even more so because he can now commit to it. And as long as they are all committed, anything can happen.

Led Zeppelin hasn't existed properly since Dec. 10, 2007, six months ago today. But each member carries on. Plant is receiving high praise with his current rendition of "The Battle of Evermore," now playing out nightly in North American concert venues and featuring the vocals of Alison Krauss. Just three nights ago, Page and Jones popped onto another London setting and joined members of the Foo Fighters for two Zeppelin songs, "Rock and Roll" and "Ramble On," in front of 86,000 fans. And Bonham is used to laying down solid beats for Foreigner's live show and tossing in "Whole Lotta Love" as a nod to his lineage.

Another recent development concerning any Led Zeppelin appearances in the future is a statement attributed to Page in an interview conducted just after the Wembley Stadium encore. He is reported to have told Telegraph reporter Aislinn Simpson that the group is ready to play shows again and to look for a tour in the second half of next year. If it happens that way, it would coincide with the 40th anniversary of the year Led Zeppelin blasted off into orbit.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Users agree to avoid posting profanity and defamatory comments.