Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Misty martian bop

On this day in 1997, Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" video made its world premiere online to a reported audience of 1,400 fans. Also that night was an online chat between John Paul Jones and Led Zeppelin fans.

The video was a promotional gimmick made to support the newly issued double album, BBC Sessions, which contained material Led Zeppelin recorded for the British Broadcasting Corporation between 1969 and 1971. It was 21 years since Led Zeppelin had commercially released a live performance.

Both the album and the "Whole Lotta Love" video contained previously unreleased elements that appealed to fans. The video revealed unseen clips from the band's own 8 mm footage and professionally shot video from many key performances throughout Led Zeppelin's career. These included Paris 1969, Royal Albert Hall 1970, Bath 1970, Atlanta 1973, Earl's Court 1975, Seattle 1977 and Knebworth 1979. It was a fan's dream to discover what performances were in the archives and had the potential to be released by the band someday.

Fans using the Internet service America Online were also able to join John Paul Jones for a question-and-answer chat session. Besides talking about playing bass and keyboards for Led Zeppelin in the 1970s and dealing with the inevitable questions about why he had not been on tour with his Jimmy Page and Robert Plant when they reunited in 1994 ("Their plans didn't include me, although it did seem to include my music"), Jones gave the world something new to await: a solo career from the talented multi-instrumentalist.

What fans really wanted to hear was that Led Zeppelin was going to reunite. What Jones told them was:
"There is no Led Zeppelin, and there's certainly no plans for any reunion of the 3 remaining members... that I know of."
When asked whether he would play again with Page or Plant, Jones commented that they have now lost their chance.

In lieu of a reunion, Jones said he was working on recording a solo album. He reported it would be:
"Instrumental -- no vocals, no guitar, no jazz. Pure rock (with some funny noises)!"
He also hinted toward the inclusion of "computer processing and electronics over a live rhythm section" and mentioned that he'd just received a new 10-string bass from manufacturer Hugh Manson.

Of course, Jones mentioned BBC Sessions. He described the sound:
"the very raw sound of a cocky, young, enthusiastic band at the height of its powers."
And he also commented on the "Whole Lotta Love" video:
"There's a funny little bit where Robert [Plant] and I seem to be doing some strange Martian dance together. Don't know where they found it, but it's a good video. I must be biased."
Albums covering groups' BBC sessions were becoming more and more common in the late 1990s. Progressive rock band the Nice had released its BBC sessions in 1995, and Van Der Graaf Generator followed suit in 1996. Unfortunately for some bands, BBC tapes had long been lost or destroyed, rather than preserved. Some people in the 1960s lacked the ability to foresee the intrinsic value of such tapes as historical documents.

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