The cover of the December 2012 issue of Rolling Stone magazine reads “Jimmy Page Looks Back”, with a larger than life image of Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page wailing on his guitar. I skipped right to the article and was pleased to see that it was written by David Fricke, Senior Editor at Rolling Stone. As I began to read, I became even more excited as Fricke described the interview as the most extensive Jimmy Page had ever given to Rolling Stone. I thought to myself, “finally, someone was going to ask Page some hard-hitting questions”, but sadly, it wasn’t to be the case.
As the article went on, Page said things like “There would be no story without the work we put into the songs”, which gave me a chuckle… Then how he considers himself “the guardian of the Zeppelin legacy”. I bet he does. But what really grabbed me was deep into the interview, where Jimmy invokes The Beatles name, inferring that, like The Beatles and other British acts of the period, that Led Zeppelin was a band that wrote their own songs.
Truth is they did write a few. Yet, a great deal of evidence indicates that some of their biggest and most iconic songs were really only covers of other songs, or songs that lifted precise melodies, cord progressions and riffs from other songs.
They were far from original.
But this wasn’t unusual. Many British blues groups – like Cream, Jeff Beck, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Rolling Stones – were recording covers, but unlike Zeppelin, they didn’t claim they were original works…
But this isn’t new information.
When Led Zeppelin first released their self titled debut album, they credited themselves on seven out of nine tracks. Herein lies the ruse… In fact, only one of the nine tracks on the album (Good Times, Bad Times) was completely original.
This blatant plagiarism didn’t stop at Led Zeppelin 1, but continued on album after album with Zeppelin giving themselves full credit for songs that were partly or entirely not original.
In 2009, Howard Stern did an interview with Denny Somach, leading Musicologist, author, and radio Disc Jockey where the two discussed the Zeppelin ripoffs at great length. Somach even hinted at a rumor that the entire Led Zeppelin catalog had been sold to Atlantic Records for twenty five million dollars, simply because Zeppelin didn’t want to deal with the lawsuits.
I think these would have been interesting things to ask Jimmy Page about.
As if Rolling Stone needs further discrediting, this whole bit about Zeppelin stealing songs is old news, with lawsuits dropping for decades. I’m not saying Led Zeppelin wasn’t a great band, but more so that Rolling Stone – once regarded as a leading publication in the music industry – asks disappointing questions. Instead of asking Jimmy Page why he plagiarized music and lyrics he claimed was original work, we get fluffy pseudo-personal questions about drugs and sex, and the “What are you doing now” question, which has to be the most droll of them all.
Mr. Fricke, we already know that Jimmy Page did drugs, had sex, and that Led Zeppelin broke up. Most of us know he is into the occult, and that he plays guitar. Two days with Jimmy Page and that’s all we get? Another interview, another rock star…
About as unoriginal as a Led Zeppelin tune.
A great video that explores both Zeppelin’s “rip-offs” and the concept of the remix/copy.
Fascinating interview from 2009.
A song-by-song breakdown of Zeppelin’s ripoffs
And of course, my greatest source of all… My ears.