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SteveAJones

Zeppelin Mysteries Hosted by Steve A. Jones

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During the Royal Albert Hall show !983, a Metronome, Guitar tuner & widget(something?) were stolen from his dressing room. It was mentioned in a music paper at the time.

I'll look into this and post any findings.

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After Plants car accident in '75, rumour has it that Page wanted to take the band out as a trio.

Any truth to that?

None, for as you may know, the band went on hiatus from performing to allow Robert time to heal. They went on hiatus again in '77 following the tragic loss of Robert's son.

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None, for as you may know, the band went on hiatus from performing to allow Robert time to heal. They went on hiatus again in '77 following the tragic loss of Robert's son.

I recall there was a rumour circulating in early 1978, during Plant's break from the band, that Page was writing new material with Roy Harper. It was of course flatty denied by Page. I don't remember anything earlier though between 75-77.

Meg

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I recall there was a rumour circulating in early 1978, during Plant's break from the band, that Page was writing new material with Roy Harper. It was of course flatly denied by Page. I don't remember anything earlier though between 75-77.

Meg

Led Zeppelin had of course reconvened at Clearwell Castle in May '78, rehearsing medleys and Carouselambra. I can't recall Jimmy and Roy ever having written

anything together for use in Led Zeppelin.

Edited by SteveAJones

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Did Clive Davis ever try and win Peter Grant and the Zep back after the boys went with Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic after Clive and RCA didn't want to sign Zep to such a large signing fee?($200,000 was it?)

There paths must have crossed somewhere. Maybe when Zeps contract expired with Atlantic?

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Did Clive Davis ever try and win Peter Grant and the Zep back after the boys went with Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic after Clive and RCA didn't want to sign Zep to such a large signing fee?($200,000 was it?)

There paths must have crossed somewhere. Maybe when Zeps contract expired with Atlantic?

The band enjoyed such unprecedented success with Atlantic and a close relationship with Ahmet there was never really any question of them leaving Atlantic. Even when Swan Song was launched Atlantic was still handling the distribution.

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Frank Zappa(as did Ted Nugent) once said that Jimmy Page was the most overated guitarist after claiming to watch him from backstage at a gig where the Mothers of Invention and Zep were on the same bill. Any idea when and where that was?

Also when and what gig did Bonzo pour orange juice over Alvin Lee during Lee's set? Where Zep playing the same gig or just hanging out?

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Oh, I see. No, the crop circles were not created specifically for the album art. They were a pre-existing phenomena which were "appropriated" for use on the album cover,

just as the Giants Causeway in Ireland was "appropriated" for use on the HOTH album

cover.

If anyone is interested (besides moi), the crop circle in question appeared in 1990 in the Alton Barnes area, near Milk Hill. It's truly spectacular: http://www.cropcircleship.com/wiki/Alton_Barnes_1990

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What does Jimmy think about Jazz and who does he admire?? If you think long and hard about this and you live in the UK you will know where to meet him,

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What does Jimmy think about Jazz and who does he admire?? If you think long and hard about this and you live in the UK you will know where to meet him,

He has mentioned Django Reinhardt in a number of interviews over the years eg. Steven Rosen's 1977 interview.

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What does Jimmy think about Jazz and who does he admire?? If you think long and hard about this and you live in the UK you will know where to meet him,

When Jimmy went to see Terry Reid perform at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club (11/20/05)

Jimmy said he had never been there before because he "never liked jazz". Granted,

that was just one remark made during a lifelong musical journey.

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And he's not going to be meeting the long-deceased Django Reinhardt there.

I love Reinhardt, too, though to me he's unclassifiable. Even in his partnership with Stephane Grapelli. I don't hear anything of him in Jimmy's playing--which doesn't mean anything, of course.

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Frank Zappa(as did Ted Nugent) once said that Jimmy Page was the most overated guitarist after claiming to watch him from backstage at a gig where the Mothers of Invention and Zep were on the same bill. Any idea when and where that was?

Also when and what gig did Bonzo pour orange juice over Alvin Lee during Lee's set? Where Zep playing the same gig or just hanging out?

I'll look into the Frank Zappa anecdote. Meanwhile, I'd like to post this extract from

Don Murfet's book, which discusses the Alvin Lee incident in specific detail and also

resolves delicate questions in other threads pertaining to Bonham's death and burial:

Leave it to Me

by Don Murfet

AN ANVIL PUBLICATIONS

PAPERBACK

© Copyright 2004

Don Murfet

The right of Don Murfet to be identified as Author of

this work has been asserted in accordance with the

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

A CIP catalogue record for this title is

available from the British Library

ISBN 0-9547280-0-9

Anvil Publications

Printed and Bound in Great Britain

CHAPTER ONE

1963 – 1994

LED ZEPPELIN

‘Bonzo’s dead,’ said a shaky voice on the phone. It was Ray

Washbourne – the PA to Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s

manager.

The enormity of his words took a few moments to sink in.

And then that cold fact took its grip on my guts. I was

sickened. John Bonham was such a lovely bloke; I’d been

through so much with him...It was a shock. But there was no

time for grief – not yet. But maybe I’m starting at the end?

Before going into John’s tragic death, I’ll explain how I came

to be involved with Led Zeppelin and how I had come to be

so close to that legendary band’s members.

* * *

They say first impressions last – and that’s certainly true of

my first encounter with Peter Grant. The name Peter means

‘rock’, and no-one ever epitomised ‘rock’ – in both senses of

the word – like Peter. He was physically huge; an enormous

hulk of a man, a former wrestler who, on that fateful night in

1964, had landed the job of Road Manager for the evening’s

show at Edmonton’s Regal Theatre. With wild American

Blues legend Bo Diddley and the latest teen sensations, a

louche and motley bunch of kids called The Rolling Stones,

on the bill it wasn’t going to be an easy ride. But old Peter

was a rock in the face of any crowd, no matter how unruly.

And, as I was to find out later, he was ‘rock’ personified in

other ways too – notably in his unrelenting passion for what

became known as ‘rock ‘n’ roll habits’. But more of that

later...

I wasn’t exactly uninitiated in the esoteric ways of the music

business behind the scenes and I’d turned up to take care of

someone else on the bill: Tommy Roe, who’d just scored a

big hit with Sheila and who was represented in the UK and

US by G.A.C., the massive American agency into which my

mentor Vic Lewis had tied his own London firm. Used to

breezing my way unquestioned past Security to the backstage

area, I strolled through the front-of-house and made my way

easily to the pass door (the door at the side of the stage

leading into the auditorium that was a feature of all the old

theatres). There I was accosted by this towering giant with

piercing eyes and a Mandarin-style moustache and beard who

growled, ‘Who are you and where do you think you’re

going?’

I gave him my name and humbly explained that I there was

there to look after Tommy Roe and after a painfully long and,

on my part at least, very tense pause, the future legend

shrugged and let me pass with a gruff, ‘OK.’

Sad to say, the strikingly vibrant Regal Theatre’s days as a

Rank cinema, concert hall and focus of local social life are

long gone. Like so much that we took for granted as part of

the rock ‘n’ roll life’s rich fabric, it’s been torn apart and

now, where guitars and drums rang out almost nightly, you

only hear the ring of cash registers. No longer Regal – it’s

now a lowly local supermarket. Thinking back on it, I and

associates like Peter Grant, Don Arden, Mickey Most and

countless others were incredibly lucky to have been starting

out in the music business in the mid-sixties – a time now

acknowledged as one of the most creative, vibrant and

innovative that British rock ‘n’ roll has ever seen. At the

time, though, like the people who saw no heritage of great

import in the old Regal Theatre, we just saw every epoch7

making event as another ‘day at the office’. If only we’d

known the significance of the times we were living in – and

our impact on them!

It may not have seemed the most auspicious of introductions,

but increasingly my life was to become intertwined with

Peter’s – and those of the bands with whom we both became

associated. Within a year or so I found myself sharing the

same London business address – 35 Curzon Street – with

Peter and a whole gang of blokes whose names now read like

a Who’s Who of major music business figures: Don Arden,

Vic Lewis, Micky Most, Pat Meehan, Barry Clayman, Ken

Pitt, Alan Blackburn, Don Black, Barry Dickens, Irene Korf,

Colin Berlin and Richard Cowley.

I was still working for Vic – and Peter was the road

management supremo for another soon-to-become-legendary

rock figure: Don Arden. Don was one of the new and seminal

breed of band promoters that the Sixties sired – dynamic,

charismatic, creative and often even more outrageously

flamboyant than the artists they looked after. With a fast

growing stable of the hottest, brightest stars, including The

Small Faces and Black Sabbath, Ozzie Osbourne’s

Birmingham rockers, who were to become the definitive

‘Heavy Metal’ act, Don was something of a star himself.

Incidentally, his daughter Sharon later managed and married

Ozzie. And the more he shone, the more trouble gravitated

towards him, wherever in the world he showed his face.

Which, of course, was why he needed to be surrounded by

brick shithouses of men like Peter and his equally imposing

colleague, Pat Meehan. No matter what he got up to, you

simply didn’t cross Don Arden – and over the years there

were many who rued the day they’d tried. One hapless

accountant springs to mind. He made the (almost literally)

fatal mistake of mismanaging Arden’s financial affairs in the

early 70s. Don and his son David weren’t the types to call the

cops. They called the shots.

I don’t recall exactly what that poor accountant’s fate was,

other than that he was held prisoner for a while – but I’m

sure their vengeance was swift and terrible. It was certainly

illegal, because David ending up doing time for it and Don

fled to the States, just out of reach of the long arm of British

law. As Arden’s right hand man, and a force to be reckoned

with in his own right, Peter was a formidable character – and

one you definitely wanted on your side. Although I never had

any business dealings with him, I always got on well with

Don Arden and found him great company.

Another nascent manager/producer star saw the value of

having a man of Peter’s magnitude in his orbit – and soon

Peter was installed at the Oxford Street offices of one Mickey

Most (now sadly departed) and Ron Madison. Mickey was

riding his first wave of success – and it was a big one. Not

only was his record label, RAK, immensely successful with

hits by the likes of Donovan and Herman’s Hermits but he

was also handling seminal acts such as The New Vaudeville

Band and, crucially, The Yardbirds – a group whose success

at this stage was to lead to undreamable prosperity in the

future for Peter.

Things were taking off for everyone around me – and by late

’65 I thought it was time I struck out on my own. I knew all

about the hassles the most popular acts faced – and the three

most important of them were security, privacy and transport.

With my new venture I was going to solve all three at a

stroke, fill what I saw as a gaping hole in the market – and,

with a bit of luck, fill my pockets at the same time!

I was right. Artistes Car Services, as I christened my new

enterprise, was an immediate success. The core of the idea

was to offer performers a genuinely luxurious ride to and

from their concerts with a minimum of fuss and total,

uncompromised security and discretion. This proved to be

exactly what the new breed of pop stars needed as their fans’

adulation began to feel like persecution. That year some very

big people rode in our sumptuously appointed limos,

including The Beatles and Donovan among many others in

an increasingly galactic list that began to read like a Who’s

Who of British rock ‘n’ roll. But undoubtedly the biggest

arse to grace the seats of my fleet of cars was that of Peter

Grant! From 1966 onwards he relied on us to get his

fledgling acts from A to B (and often via C and D and all the

way to Z!) and back again without incident or

embarrassment. Of course, that meant we saw each other on a

regular basis and, with so much in common, it was almost

inevitable that we became close friends. What it really all

boiled down to was trust. A simple thing, you might think –

but a rare and valuable commodity in that exciting, yet

frightening dog-eat-dog time and place. Ultimately, Peter

knew that he could rely absolutely on me – and, by

association, on the team of level-headed, broad-minded,

strong but utterly discreet men I employed. The old-school

rule books had gone out of the window and he knew we

could cope with any of the bizarre problems this new

untamed form of showbiz could throw up. More importantly,

he knew we could make them go away.

Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that many of these

problems were actually of Peter’s own making – certainly he

increasingly involved us in circumstances that had little to do

with our original remit: chauffeuring the artists to the gig and

back again and protecting them all the way. Drawn into all

sorts of disputes from run-ins with the authorities to

‘withdrawing’ illegal bootleg albums from record shops, I

found myself in the dubious role of Peter’s personal

‘troubleshooter’. I suppose it was a compliment really.

It showed his utter faith in my integrity – a faith that was,

though I say it myself, completely justified. However, over

the following years, it embroiled me in difficult personal,

even intimate, situations that, often, I could have done

without - even if Peter had convinced himself that he was

merely acting in his artists’ best interests. For example, if a

band member lost interest in a particular girlfriend, it was our

job to make her persona non grata and ensure that she was

no longer on the scene. Cast-off groupies were ‘cleansed’

from the band’s entourage with ruthless efficiency - the

unfortunate girl concerned would suddenly find that the

backstage doors and party venues that had once magically

opened for her were now firmly closed - and often slammed -

in her face. But it wasn’t only people who were intimate with

the band who we had to remove. Sometimes Peter simply

took an instant dislike to a face in the crowd for no apparent

reason. Ours was not, as they say, to question why, and it was

down to me to get the unfortunate owner of the face he’d

taken exception to removed. Of course I tried to elicit some

sort of rationale from the great man as to what constituted a

‘threat to security’ – but in the end it was a lot easier to just

‘do it’ than to try and reason with him.

All the hassle and heartaches paid off handsomely though

when Peter asked me to take on the Road Management duties

for the forthcoming US tour of his new management signings

– The Jeff Beck Group. It was quite an honour. Probably the

first ‘supergroup’, the band comprised four established faces

(two quite literally!) who were destined for a place among

the greatest in the history of rock ‘n’ roll: former Yardbirds

guitar hero Jeff Beck, of course, future Faces and Rolling

Stones strummer Ronnie Wood on bass, new boy Tony

Newman on drums and a fresh-faced former grave-digger

with a voice that sounded like it was made from the gravel he

dug – one Rod Stewart. Like everything else in the music

business in those days (and right up to this day I suspect) the

job description of Road Manager was an elastic one. I

imagine even the uninitiated would expect it to involve

overseeing the hotel bookings, flights, shipping, trucking,

setting up, soundchecking and breaking down the PA,

lighting and staging at each venue. In fact most of that would

be handled by the Roadies themselves – and the Road

Manager would only get ‘hands on’ when there were

problems to sort out, such as equipment going astray. Less

obvious are what you might call ‘ancillary’ duties – and they

were often the least predictable, most onerous and prone to

disaster. There were disputes and fights to settle, bills to pay,

concert promoters to harangue and haggle with over

percentages of gross and ‘dead wood’ to keep an eye on

(‘dead wood’ was the unsold tickets, which had to be

meticulously checked because they were our only means of

verifying the number of tickets sold – and therefore the

percentage owed to the band). And then there were services

of a more personal and often illicit nature that are always in

demand with a rampant rock group pumped full of adrenalin

and testosterone after a great gig. I’m sure I don’t need to

spell out the exact nature of such missions! Suffice to say I

jumped at the job and threw myself into it wholeheartedly as

always!

I’d already met Jeff Beck some years before – he’d turned up

at the office in his pre-Yardbirds days several times while

Vic Lewis was courting him for a management deal. Jeff had

recorded a single called ‘That Noise’ and CBS were keen to

sign him but he hesitated before signing just long enough to

get another offer. As you can imagine, Vic was gutted when

‘the one that got away’ joined the Yardbirds and began his

meteoric rise to stellar status. That single never saw the light

of day – and nor did Vic’s hopes of managing Jeff Beck. It

turned out that Vic’s loss was Peter Grant’s very lucrative

gain – and it was my baptism of fire in the sheer madness and

barely contained anarchy that was life on the road in the

States with one of the original hair-raisingly hedonistic rock

supergroups.

I didn’t meet the rest of Jeff’s boys until our rendezvous at

Heathrow. Like a dog urinating to mark out its territory, I

knew I had make my mark immediately – stamp my authority

on the lot of them. If I didn’t I might as well not get on the

plane. I should explain that some of the Road Manager’s

more banal duties are also the biggest nightmares. Like

coaxing a hideously hung-over musician from his hotel bed

and getting him onto the plane/tour bus/stage on time. They

don’t thank you for it and a lot of the time you had to be the

‘bad guy’. In fact at times I felt like some kind of satanic

scoutmaster!

The high jinks started almost the second that the plane

levelled out at cruising altitude and the seat belt lights went

out. The boys were in a particularly playful mood, like a

bunch of schoolboys on an outing with teacher – although

considerably less innocent. They seemed set on testing me;

goading me to see just how far they could push me and at

times it was hard to tell the playing up and play-acting from

whatever would pass as normal behaviour in the unique

world of a successful rock musician, which is, as far as I can

tell, one gigantic amusement park. I took the wind-ups and

pissing about with good humour until suddenly the

atmosphere of levity dropped like a.... well like a Led

Zeppelin...Young Rod was squirming in his seat, clearly

overcome with nausea. As he clutched his stomach in agony

and gagged and heaved those dry retches that make everyone

around feel sick too, a couple of concerned fellow passengers

got out of their seats and rushed to his aid. Right on cue he

shuddered, convulsed and spewed forth a torrent of evillooking

grey vomit all over his would-be Good Samaritans.

Bet that was the last time they rushed to the assistance of an

unruly rocker! It turned out that the disgusting globby mess

that splattered out of Rod the Mod’s mouth wasn’t vomit at

all – just an unpleasant papier maché of superstar spittle and

the paper he’d been chewing up since take-off. Not, I

imagine, that this was much consolation to the people whose

clothes were soaked in it!

Unfortunately that was just the start. They got down to some

serious drinking and some bright spark suggested a game of

‘Kelly’s Eye.’ What that involves you really don’t want to

know. OK, maybe you do! Here’s how it worked. One of the

group, sitting in the window seat (which is important) would

call out weakly for a stewardess (and they were generally

female in those days. Somehow the game wouldn’t have the

same appeal these days with as many males as females in the

flight crew). When the stewardess arrived and asked what

was wrong, the occupier of the window seat would mumble

incoherently in reply. So she’d lean forward, cocking an ear

to hear what he was trying to say. He’d groan something

equally unintelligible under his breath. Keen to do her duty

and help an ostensibly sick passenger, she’d lean further

forward, now almost prone across the aisle seat. He’d gasp

helplessly. And what the hapless stewardess took to be the

whimper of a seriously ill man was actually the strain of

stifled laughter – because the further she stretched over, the

higher up her thighs her skirt would ride and the better the

view for the rest of the group, ogling enthusiastically from

behind. I don’t think the name of the game needs any further

explanation! And from there things went downhill fast.

Halfway into the flight the band were considerably higher

than the plane that carried them. Their raucous laughter,

shouting – screaming even – was getting out of control. And

it was out of order. It was time, I decided, to draw the line.

Not the kind of line usually associated with rock stars – but it

certainly got right up their noses! Ironically, the relative

newcomer to rock, Tony Newman, was by far the most

obnoxious of the four. So I decided to single him out – make

an example of him; lay my cards on the table and see if he’d

call my bluff (and it really, really was not a bluff!).

I lunged across the aisle and loomed over the back of his seat

– and my face was right in his face, livid with pent-up fury.

The hearty guffawing instantly shrivelled to the sheepish

titter of chastised schoolboys (or boy scouts).

‘Listen you!’ I roared at the top of my voice, ‘Two of us can

play this game – and I don’t mean Kelly’s bleedin’ Eye! We

can do this tour two ways. I could make it hard for you –

really hard – or...we could learn to work together!’

It worked. I suppose that when my words sunk in they

thought about just how unpleasant I could make their life on

the road – how their post-gig sexual and chemical proclivities

could be curtailed by a martinet of a Road Manager bent on

laying down the law to the letter of their contracts. They had

little option but to toe the line for a while. I’d made my point

– and made my mark. Temporarily at least, I’d tamed the

wildest of party animals and for the rest of the tour The Jeff

Beck Group were, if not exactly model citizens, admirably

civilised. They’d learnt a valuable lesson from that little

contretemps – and more importantly, so had I.

That Jeff Beck tour set the tone for my future life on the road.

The hassles, the chaos and the loose cannons would be the

same despite that fact that in my career I’ve worked with a

diverse range of artists that includes Led Zep, David Cassidy,

Adam and the Ants and The Sex Pistols among many others.

In the end, as I learnt, the musical trends may come and go

but that quintessential rock ‘n’ roll attitude, like the song,

remains the same. And long may it stay that way! Frankly, it

wouldn’t have been much of a challenge if I’d been in charge

of a bunch of choirboys – and nor would it have been as

lucrative!

The attitude was a constant – and so were the hassles. They

might be different in their precise nature, but I learned to

anticipate the unexpected so that in the end there wasn’t

much that could shock or faze me. I became an accomplished

‘firefighter’. When things got heated I cooled the situation.

When tempers blazed I extinguished them and when bands’

self-destructive urges looked like making them crash and

burn I usually managed to control the fire without losing the

vital spark that made these guys legendary. I think it was Neil

Young who said it’s better to burn out than fade away – well

I’m not so sure, but I certainly got the impression that most

of Zep (with whom I was to work later on) and the Jeff Beck

Group would have gone along with that philosophy! Sadly,

there were to be times when I couldn’t prevent a great talent

from falling prey to his own volatility and unquenchable lust

for excess, more of which later...

A perennial problem that always rankled with the acts was

when greedy agents booked them into venues that were

entirely unsuitable – in terms of size, access, acoustics or

even sheer mortal danger for fans and performers alike. One

of Jeff and the lads’ gigs was a perfect example of the

bookers’ total lack concern for their performers’ image and

style of music. To their horror they found that they’d been

booked to perform at a kids’ summer camp – one of those

places where American parents dump their stroppy teenagers

for the school holidays. Playing to an audience of thirteen

and fourteen-year-olds was not a job for serious rock

musicians – that was for children’s entertainers and cutesy

pop performers. To say the band were unhappy would be an

understatement – and, when the inevitable on-stage

shenanigans started and they began to treat the gig as little

more than a private party, the organisers and their charges

were unhappier still. Always the wild card, Tony Newman

abandoned his drum kit and kept up the percussion as he

staggered from table top to table top by banging his sticks on

anything that would make a noise – bottles, pipes, chairs, you

name it. At least he stopped short of banging out a paradiddle

on a teenage head – well, at least I think he did! And then

Jeff and Woodie joined in. Not to be outdone by their

drummer’s antics, they picked up a fire extinguisher and

liberally doused the first few rows of the audience with foam.

Talk about dampening the audience’s spirits - sheer bloody

pandemonium broke out! The organisers were evidently not

amused. As they picked up the phone to call the police I

realised that it was time for action. The ability to think on

your feet is one of the first attributes anyone should look for

in a prospective Road Manager – and I pride myself on the

number of scrapes and brushes with the law I got my bands

out of over the years. On this occasion a quick getaway was

called for – my speciality!

I bundled the band out of the hall and into the waiting

Limousine as quickly as I could and the sleek stretched motor

screeched out of the compound in a mad dash for the state

line and immunity from arrest. We made it in the nick of time

– but that wasn’t much consolation to my assistant, Henry

(the Horse) Smith, who’d had to stay behind with the truck

and all the band’s gear. When the cops arrived they didn’t see

the funny side. Quite the contrary, in fact, because they were

determined to confiscate anything they could lay their hands

on in an attempt to force the band to come back and face the

music. And when you consider the vast value of a major

band’s touring technology, we probably would have had no

alternative but to turn ourselves in and cough up the fines

and/or backhanders, if not face jail sentences, to get it all

back. But the appropriately named Henry had horse sense.

He claimed that all the equipment belonged to him and that

he’d simply lent it to the group for the performance and

didn’t expect to ever see them again. Unbelievably the police

swallowed the story and let him – and the band’s equipment

– go free. All we lost was Ronnie’s bass guitar and a few

odds and sods – not that that stopped the boys sulking about

it for a day or two! I’ve had better times – but few of them

were entirely without some kind of incident...

...Like the Jeff Beck Group’s gig at Schenectady Hall in

upstate New York, for example. It seemed that things were

really looking up when we heard that Peter Grant’s latest

managerial signing – Led Zeppelin – were also on the

American east coast at the time on their inaugural US tour

and arrangements were quickly made for the two bands to

hook up for some serious partying. Led Zep and the Jeff

Beck Group – talk about an explosive combination!

Those two now legendary bands may have been volatile – but

their signing was a major coup for Peter. The downside, for

Peter and for me was that great talents are notoriously ‘too

hard to handle’, as the song goes. In Beck, he had one of the

world’s greatest guitarists and a proven record seller –

temperamental, often stroppy but always ready to pull a

rabbit out of the hat. In the end, though, it was Zeppelin that

was to be Peter’s great cash cow – and one he’d take to rich

new pastures and milk for all it was worth.

Right from the off, everyone knew that Led Zeppelin was a

cut above the rest of the rockers – a true supergroup in the

making. Formed by Jimmy Page, one of the key

songwriter/producers of his generation, from the ashes of The

Yardbirds, Zep blended vintage blues and heavy rock with

consummate musicianship and made all those elements add

up to something far greater than the sum of their parts. Added

to Page’s prodigious talents was lead singer Robert Plant.

And what a find he was! An imposing handsome blond

Viking of a man whose sex appeal was as powerful as his

thunderous, yet soulful and vulnerable voice. John Paul Jones

on bass was no less gifted – both at laying down the deep,

throbbing basslines that melded the Zep sound together and

at laying the countless women that fell willingly at his feet.

And then there was Bonzo on drums. I would grow to love

John Bonham (that was his real name) dearly. He was a good

- even great - man; a funny man and a great friend. He was

also one of the wildest I’ve ever known – and I’ve known

some very wild men in my time, as you can tell from other

chapters in this book! I’d describe him as a playboy – but the

term has too many suave and pretentious associations to sum

up an irrepressible character like Bonzo. He was a walking

bag of contradictions: a gentle soul who was nevertheless the

epitome of the ‘wild man of rock’ with an iron constitution

capable of withstanding his prodigious and insatiable appetite

for booze and drugs. His formidable drumming was the

kingpin of Zep’s musical direction and rightly made him a

rock legend – but his offstage antics were equally hardhitting

and were to become equally famous.

Given their origins, it was almost inevitable that media

interest in the band verged on the rabid – even before the

release of their first album. And if the critics were a little

sniffy about them at first, the live audiences fell in love with

Zep at first sight and sound! America was similarly smitten,

thanks largely to the heavy radio promotion of Whole Lotta

Love, (later the Top of the Tops theme for many years – and

recently revived in that role!).

Anyway, Zep were coming along on The Jeff Beck Group’s

tour bus to the Schenectady Hall gig – but it soon became

clear that they weren’t just there to appreciate the

performance. Richard Cole, their notorious Road Manager,

lost no time at all in getting up to mischief with the rest of

Zep following his lead. While Jeff, Rod, Ronnie and Tony

were grooving away on stage the majestic Zep boys held

court in the dressing room with numerous excited females in

attendance. Knowing their reputation, you’d have thought it

would be John Paul, Jimmy or Bonzo who’d make the first

lecherous leap on the compliant assembly of girls – but no, it

was Richard Cole. When a pleasantly plump, rather innocent looking

girl walked shyly through the dressing room door in

search of her rock gods, Richard lunged at her and literally

swept her off her feet, spinning her upside down and rubbing

his face lasciviously in her crotch. And that was just for

starters. For all I know she enjoyed it – but I’m pretty sure

the victims of the next little prank weren’t at all happy.

One of the boys, unnoticed in a corner of the dressing room,

decided to urinate into a big jug of Coca Cola – and, as

you’ve probably guessed, he offered this foul tainted chalice

to every hapless girl who stepped tentatively into the room in

the hope of having some contact with her heroes. Poor girls, I

thought. It wasn’t funny. Just crude. And cruel. But it wasn’t

the worst abuse of these innocents who threw themselves at

the rock ‘n’ roll animals they lionised. I’d just about had

enough of that kind of behaviour and had stepped outside

with Peter for a breath of fresh air – both literal and

metaphorical – only to walk straight into a distraught young

girl as she emerged from the toilets in floods of tears. Clearly

grateful to find two potential knights in shining armour, she

turned to us and wailed, ‘There’s a guy in there who’s just

been groping me!’

Fired up with righteous indignation, Peter and I stormed into

the toilets (or should I say ‘Rest Rooms’ since we were in

America!) and immediately confronted the groper – who was

about to regret the sexual assault bitterly because he, and I,

were introduced to Peter’s celebrated ‘kicking trick’. This

involved taking the terrified bloke by the scruff of the neck

and kicking him in the shins, again and again. And then again

and again. And again. And again - boot cracking against bone

with a rhythmic precision that Bonzo would have been proud

of. This treatment was followed up with Peter’s other mode

of administering punishment – namely a stiff four fingers

shoved into and under the ribcage, which really takes your

breath away! As I’ve mentioned, Peter was a whale of a man,

about six foot two and weighing in at something over 300lbs.

A kicking from Peter was like one from a carthorse – and one

that the groupie groper wasn’t going to erase from his

memory or his shins for a helluva long time! After a minute

or so, that must have seemed like a lifetime to the groper,

Peter finally laid off, dragged the guy’s limp and crippled

form to the door and hurled him through it like the sack of

shit he clearly was. Unlike a sack of shit, however, he

actually bounced off the floor before hauling himself

painfully to his feet and wobbling off, dazed and confused, in

the immortal, and accurate, words of the Led Zep song. The

message came over loud and clear: urinating in a bottle was

one thing, but nobody messed with Zep’s fans when Peter

was around, whether they were male or female.

The two bands’ paths were to cross several times over the

next few days as their respective tours wended their way

across the States – but it was at the Singer Bowl, a massive

sports complex doubling as a concert venue just outside New

York’s Flushing Meadows that things really came to a head.

Jeff and the boys were supporting America’s flavour of the

month, Vanilla Fudge. More significantly, as it turned out,

Alvin Lee’s new band, Ten Years After, were opening the

star-studded bill. The Zep boys and their entourage said

they’d be there to lend Jeff a bit of moral support. I thought

that was quite touching to begin with – such selfless

solidarity between two of the UK’s best bands while they

were touring on foreign turf. But of course it wasn’t as

simple – or as innocent as that. Nothing ever was! Hindsight

being 20:20, maybe I should have sussed that there was more

to their eagerness to attend than geeing their mates along. In

fact that had nothing to do with it. The Zep boys were there

to get their own back on Lee for some pretty nasty remarks

he’d once made about Jimmy Page – and Jeff Beck’s roadies

seemed happy to help them wreak their revenge, egged on,

inevitably, by Bonzo and Richard Cole. Chick Churchill –

one of Ten Years After’s associates – was unlucky enough to

be caught without backup in a locker room by a vengeful

rabble of roadies who scared the crap out of him before

ruthlessly stripping him of his clothes. Then they stripped

him of his dignity by dumping him naked and trussed like a

lamb to the slaughter in the starkly lit corridor outside.

Next it was Ten Years After’s turn for the revenge of

Zeppelin. Hidden in the anonymity of the shadows in a

corner in front of the stage, the Zeppelin crew pelted Alvin

Lee mercilessly from the moment he took the stage with

anything that came to hand – including hot dogs, burgers,

orange juice and probably much messier and more painful

missiles. It was glorious! Lee and his band had no idea who

the mysterious assailants in the shadows could be. The

shower of debris stole their thunder, undermining the

storming performance they’d had their hearts set on and,

understandably enough, mediocrity was all they could

muster.

In retrospect, Peter and Jimmy – the two partners in crime –

had to be behind this. It was their way of saying, ‘Don’t ever

mess with the Zeppelin!’

If that had been the sum total of their retribution for an off colour

comment, I guess it would have been ‘fair dos’. But

they’d already planned a masterstroke that would add insult

to injury. Of course, as far as the audience was concerned,

Led Zep’s joining The Jeff Beck Group on stage was an

impromptu jamming session. I knew different! Having ruined

Alvin Lee’s set, a band that hadn’t even been booked to play

was about to steal the show. And steal the show they did. But

even the Led Zep boys hadn’t planned the finale that was to

be the highlight of the night!

Bonzo had been at the backstage booze. Nothing unusual

about that – or about the fact that, drunk as a lord, his

drumming on the fast blues the galaxy of rock stars was

playing was as blisteringly bang on the nail as ever. What

was a bit unusual was the fact that he’d suddenly decided to

do a ‘Full Monty’ while he was at it, still hitting that kick

drum with mechanical, maniacal precision and venom despite

the strides and underpants tangled round his ankles. For most

of the audience, the sight of his private pubics made public

was just a bit of a Bonzo bonus to the already exciting event.

But, among the ogling crowd, some punters were less

impressed at the sight of Bonzo’s manhood flapping about on

the drum stool. I clocked one humourless woman talking

animatedly to one of the fairly heavy local police presence.

Like a chill wind, the prudish outrage swept through the

crowd and it was clear to see that the cops were not amused.

Now I’m not saying I’d normally think Bonzo getting his kit

off was going too far. On the contrary, high spirits and

outrageous behaviour like that are the all part of the sheer joy

of rock ‘n’ roll – and long may it stay that way. A few people

will always be upset by it - but when the police are among

the ones with the hump, that’s when the fun stops and the

trouble starts. Of course, it was my job to make sure it didn’t.

I could see the cops rallying together, conferring and calling

for backup. I had to get Bonzo off the stage before they could

arrest him. Suddenly I had a plan. I took Henry the Horse

aside and told him to kill all the lights the moment the

performers finished their song. He did so, plunging the stage

into darkness for about ten seconds – just long enough for

Richard Cole and I to grab Bonzo by the arms, pull his pants

up and drag him full pelt backstage. Obviously we couldn’t

hide him in the band’s dressing area – that was the first place

the cops would look for him. So we lugged him into another

locker room nearby which, since it was fully equipped with

shower facilities and suchlike and plastered with sporting

paraphernalia, I assumed was an American Football players’

changing room. Somewhere out there, the police were

stumbling about in the darkness, their mood turning as black

as the blackout we’d plunged them into.

I kicked the door shut and locked it. Hearts banging as loud

as Bonzo’s drumming and holding our breath in case we

were heard, Richard and I set about tidying up the legless

sticksman. We waited. Bonzo, by now, was unconscious,

draped lifelessly over a chair, marooned helplessly in the

empty tiled expanse of the backstage changing room. The

distant rumble of angry men echoed along the corridors

outside – then suddenly loomed uncomfortably close. And

then there was an explosion of outraged voices. At first it was

an incomprehensible babble. Then it was way too close and

way too clear.

‘Where is the dirty motherfucker?’ one loud American voice

kept roaring with an authority that cut through the general

furore. At least, I thought, we were safely locked in this

room. No one could hear us. Bonzo was temporarily out of

the game. Keep schtum and we’d be in the clear.

But then there was a thunderous banging at the door - the

kind of banging that won’t take no for an answer. The door

burst open to reveal five or six huge cops with waists as wide

as their minds were narrow. Some traitor must have given

them the master key. We were outnumbered, out muscled,

outweighed and, most importantly, outlawed.

Richard and I stood in front of Bonzo in a forlorn attempt at

solidarity – as if we could hide him; protect him. Two of the

police posse strode forward – too close for comfort,

intimidating, demanding to know if this was the drummer

who’d just given his public a pubic performance (not that

they put it that delicately!).

‘Look, he’s just drunk – he’s harmless,’ I spluttered. ‘Look at

him – he didn’t mean any harm...’

The cops looked with distaste over my shoulder at the inert

figure sprawled over a chair in the middle of the bleakly lit

and Spartan room. Neither was impressed. Their collective

sense of humour bypass was obviously complete. I suppose it

wasn’t much of an excuse. It can’t have been - because then

they whipped out their batons threateningly, making it utterly

clear that they meant business.

To be honest, at that point, Richard and I had given up the

ghost. We were all going to get nicked and that was that. But

neither we nor the cops had reckoned on a far superior

authority. I’d thought the police had made a fairly impressive

entrance just minutes ago. But the door through which they’d

marched with such self-righteous import suddenly exploded

open to admit the furious and fighting mad figure of Peter

Grant. He was always almost ludicrously huge – but fluffed

up, furious and bristling with rage like a giant Mother Hen

hell bent on protecting her chicks he almost took the door off

its hinges. The door wasn’t the only thing almost unhinged

by his entrance: the cops clucked in panic – overshadowed

and overawed and chickening out completely.

‘I’m the manager of the band,’ Grant boomed imperiously.

‘Who’s in charge here?’

The gobsmacked police officers silently pointed out their

Captain, whose eyes met Peter’s and were fixed in his glare.

‘You and me need to talk – alone.’ Peter said quietly. ‘Get

your men out of here.’

With a wave of his arm the Captain dismissed his troops and

Richard and I followed suit – we didn’t need telling. Closing

the door carefully behind us, we left Bonzo, Peter and the

Captain in the room and waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, after about ten minutes that seemed a lot longer, the

Captain emerged, all that anger drained from his fat face, and

beckoned his men to follow. Bemused, we gingerly stepped

back into the locker room, where Peter greeted us with a

smile.

‘Well done!’ he beamed. ‘Now, let’s get Bonzo on the bus.’

I didn’t need to be told twice. I grabbed the still-prone Bonzo

and hauled him bus-wards and within minutes Peter and Led

Zep, complete with their semi-conscious drummer, were

speeding out of town. No charges. No arrest. In fact, it was as

if the incident had never happened. I was in awe of Peter’s

unique brand of diplomacy that had somehow convinced the

outraged cop Captain to let the matter drop. It was amazing

the authority that guy commanded. Maybe it was his sheer

size and physical presence...Well, that and the sheer size and

physical presence of his wallet – as I found out when I asked

Peter later on the bus.

‘That was a cheap get-out, Don!’ he laughed heartily. ‘It only

cost me $300!’

So now I knew how Led Zeppelin did business – and how the

big man made problems just disappear. It was a lesson I’d

take to heart – and which would take me to the very heart of

the stellar supernova that Zeppelin were about to become.

The irony was that the quiet, understated style of getting

things done that I’d developed for myself was sometimes at

odds with Peter’s methods. The further their balloon went up,

the more money there was sloshing around – and Peter’s

preferred way of dealing with problems was to throw money

at them. And that may have taken the edge off tricky

situations – but it also brought a whole new range of

complications. Despite – or maybe because of – his

unquestioned authority within the rock ‘n’ roll sphere, Peter

was drawn to people who had power of other kinds. He

seemed to be influenced by anyone who was ‘connected’ –

whether in government circles or in the underworld. One

gentleman – although I’m not sure the term is accurate in this

case – seemed to hold particular sway over Peter. Herb

Elliott. That was his name. Ex CIA or ex-Agency, he

appeared on the scene after a huge US tour that Zep had just

completed and he soon became instrumental in smoothing the

band’s way through the States. The powers that be move in

mysterious ways and this Herb guy was clearly connected.

As if by magic the band had police escorts on demand and

incidents such as that Singer Bowl debacle were ironed out

and wiped away without the need for negotiation.

One time outside Peter’s favourite London hotel – the

Montcalm at Marble Arch – I spotted three dodgy looking

men in a car, who were definitely staking out the hotel.

Naturally, I mentioned it to Peter and Herb.

‘What make of car? Registration?’ Herb asked in a flash.

I told him – having made a mental note of the licence plate

just in case. Herb left the room purposefully and was back in

ten minutes.

‘It’s OK. They’re police – but they’re looking for someone

else,’ he said with an air of confidence that could only come

from a man with some serious contacts at the highest level...

* * *

Maybe here’s the right place for me to go back to the

beginning, where, you may remember, I opened with the

tragic end of John Bonham.

‘Get down to Jimmy’s and take care of things,’ Ray had said

in that awful phone call to tell me Bonzo was dead.

‘OK, leave it to me, I’d replied. And I knew from long

experience that Ray and Peter Grant wouldn’t have called if

the shit wasn’t about to hit the fan. I had to get down to

Jimmy Page’s place sharpish. It was down to me to contain

the situation, limit the damage – and that probably meant

keeping the police and the press at bay.

I put the phone down, grabbed my keys and in minutes I was

out of my office in the NOMIS complex in Sinclair Road,

W14 and gunning my BMW onto the A4 and speeding west

for Windsor, where Jimmy, the prince of rock’s royal family,

had a palatial mansion, the Old Mill House in Mill Lane,

Baggott (incidentally, formerly owned by Michael Caine) - a

stone’s throw from another royal household: Windsor Castle.

My mind raced faster than the car’s screaming engine. John’s

dead. How? Was it accidental? Did he suffer? What about

Pat...And Jason, his wife and son? That frantic half-hour’s

drive was on auto-pilot as a cascade of John’s larger than life

exploits flashed through my mind - fleeting recollections that

made me smile despite the Bonzo-sized hole deep in the pit

of my stomach. This tragedy was the latest in a run of bitterly

bad luck for the band. Whether by sad coincidence or

something more sinister, the Grim Reaper had been knocking

at Zeppelin’s door much too often for comfort of late – as I

was reminded when I stumbled breathless into the guest

room at Jimmy’s mansion to find Bonzo’s body, lifeless on

its side where Benji le Fevre, his personal roadie, had put

him to bed after his drinking session, having taken care to

prop his back with a bolster to ensure that he couldn’t roll

over and choke on his own vomit. The central heating had

been left on but later someone had opened the windows – and

it was the fresh air, I was told, that had caused the strange

discoloration of his face. It was as if John’s life and soul

went out of the window as the fresh air blew in.

Arriving at around noon, I’d beaten the police and press to

the scene. Professionals to the end, the roadies - Benji and

Rex King - and, Jimmy’s manservant Rick Hobbs had

already ‘cleaned up’, by which they meant that they’d got rid

of anything potentially incriminating or embarrassing to the

band or John’s family. The one thing even they couldn’t

conceal or control, though, was his blood – and whatever that

contained would be revealed in the post mortem. To the

uninitiated that might sound impressively level-headed and

professional; but to a seasoned roadie it’s pretty much

standard procedure; as routine as tuning a guitar and placing

the monitors correctly – especially if your man indulged

heavily in all the usual extracurricular rock ‘n’ roll habits!

And there’s no denying that John Bonham indulged – in fact

he was the epitome of the wild man of rock, modelling

himself on his boyhood hero, the late, great Keith Moon. It

transpired that the boys had been rehearsing that day and

Bonzo, characteristically, had been hitting the vodka hard –

at least four quadruples, by all accounts as well as who

knows how many speedballs, the last of which was to be

John’s final hit. But, ironically, it wasn’t that heady mix of

coke and smack that killed him. Tragically, despite Benjy’s

diligent precautions, it was later found that John had vomited

and inhaled at the same time in his deep drunken sleep,

setting up a fatal siphon effect whereby the contents of his

stomach were pumped into his lungs.

Shaking off my initial shock, I took charge of my emotions –

and then I took charge of the situation.

You have to be pragmatic at times like that. It was too late to

do anything for John – and I could take care of his family

later. Right now, damage limitation was the name of the

game – and the first threat was the police. I briefed everyone

in the house: keep your mouths shut and make sure the cops

confine their investigation to the guest room. They must not

be allowed to nose around the rest of the house! I didn’t

know what they might find – but whatever they turned up, I

was sure it wouldn’t do the band any good. And once the

press got wind of it they’d have a field day - especially since

Bonzo was the second visitor to have died in one of Jimmy

Page’s guest rooms in just over a year. In fact that earlier

incident served as a sort of rehearsal for this latest tragedy...

On October 24th 1979 Paul McCartney’s company, MPL

Communications, hired us to provide men to check the guest

list and handle the overall security at a very prestigious

award ceremony that The Guinness Book of Records was

holding at Les Ambassadeurs nightclub just off London’s

Park Lane. Everybody who was anybody was there,

including the press, paparazzi, liggers and jibbers (jibbers are

people who blag their way into gigs, receptions or backstage

without a pass or invitation), largely because Paul was being

presented with a medallion cast in rhodium (which is a very

hard, silvery platinum-like metal element) by a government

minister. I was just checking out the members of Pink Floyd

when one of my men said that there was a call for me

upstairs (obviously this was a long time before the advent of

mobile phones!). At the reception desk I found the call was

from Ray Washbourne – and it wasn’t the best of news!

They’d just found one of Jimmy’s guests dead at his home at

Plumpton Place, Sussex. Predictably, he wanted me to get

down there and take care of things.

‘I think someone may have phoned for an ambulance,’ he

said, ‘but that’s all I know.’ ‘Leave it to me,’ I said before

telling Gerry Slater, my business partner, what had happened

and taking off like a scalded cat.

I arrived at the same time as the police. Obviously that was

because they’d been called out by the ambulance crew –

which is standard procedure. Their presence meant that I

couldn’t ‘clear up’ the way I’d have liked to. All I could do

was confine their investigations to the guest room where the

guy, whose name I later found out was Richard Churchill-

Hale, had popped his clogs. And that annoyed the cops

intensely! If I’d arrived ten minutes later they’d have been all

over the house like a rash – so I was very lucky, timing-wise.

I didn’t get a chance to ‘clear up’ completely so they did find

‘substances’ by his bedside. It transpired that the poor bloke

had overdosed – but because he was a guest, staying in a

guest room, the room he slept in was where the police’s

snooping stopped...

Anyway, going back to Bonzo, I knew that the press would

hound his family pitilessly – and that simply wasn’t an

option. I had to keep a lid on it for as long as I possibly

could, at least until Peter turned up and started throwing his

weight around – and, as demonstrated that time at the Singer

Bowl, that was a lot of weight to throw!

The police weren’t happy about being stymied at every turn.

But what could they do? It was apparently an accidental

death – nothing suspicious about it. A drunken man had

seemingly inhaled his own vomit - period. There was no

good reason for them to snoop around, no matter how much

they’d have liked to. Anyway, it was the law – they knew it

and so did I. Funny how rock ‘n’ roll makes lawyers out of

everyone involved – just like crime!

Sure enough, by the time Peter and Ray arrived and John

Bonham had ‘left the building’ for the last time in the

ambulance, the road had filled with reporters and the mob

was growing by the minute as the circling vultures homed in

on the smell of death. The three of us discussed all the

angles, analysed the kinds of problems that might ensue,

made contingency plans and decided how we would box for

the next few days. That resolved, Peter and Ray went off to

console the boys in the band. It was only after his unusually

subdued departure that it dawned on me that Peter hadn’t

been in his normal control-freak manager mode. Far from it –

he was obviously deeply shocked by the event and, after our

preliminary talk, left the whole affair to me to deal with.

At least I didn’t have to worry about the rest of the band –

they’d made a hasty departure minutes after John’s body had

been discovered and I’d arranged for more of my men to go

and look after them until they were safely ensconced in

secure retreats where there would be no intrusions. That may

sound callous. It wasn’t. It was, again, standard procedure.

When there was a ‘death in the family’ unwritten rule

number one was to make sure that the band were as far away

from the action as possible. It meant fewer questions for

them to answer. But more importantly it allowed them to

grieve in private, protected from the press (which in such

situations might as well be an abbreviation of pressure!).

The platoons of press and police set up camp at The Old Mill

House for days. So I did too. I hardly left Jimmy’s place for

the following few days. Keeping the hounds at bay was a full

time job and a hard one, with the more dogged photographers

climbing over the walls – and driving me and my men up the

wall in the process. There were a few little incidents – but

nothing I couldn’t handle – and I managed to contain the

situation as effectively as anyone could. Maybe I shouldn’t

have bothered. They’d caught the whiff of a story that was a

tabloid hack’s wet dream: rock star, booze, drugs and death –

and if there wasn’t any sex they’d find a way to work some

in. So, if they couldn’t get the story from the horse’s mouth

they’d let their imaginations – and Led Zep cuttings archives

– run riot. Predictably, they added that Ol’ Black Magic to

the lurid mix, concocting ludicrous fantasies involving

Jimmy Page and his admittedly strong interest in the occult in

general and Aleister Crowley in particular. For example, he

owned a house that had formerly belonged to Crowley and in

which there had allegedly been a terrifying catalogue of

murders and suicides. The place was also apparently haunted

by the spirit of a man who’d been decapitated there some

three hundred years earlier – all lurid grist to the newspaper

mill!

Having been so close to so many famous people whose lives

had been blighted and hacked to pieces by the lies and

sensationalism of the gutter press hacks, I knew exactly what

they’d do to John’s memory, given the chance. They didn’t

care whose feelings they hurt as long as they could drag up

enough dirt to muddy the issue – because they know mud

sticks. Any little association, any name, any snippet of gossip

or unsubstantiated innuendo would do if they could cook it

up into a tasty dish for their hungry public. I wouldn’t mind

so much if what they printed were true – but in my

experience they get it wrong most of the time and hurt people

more than they’ll ever know. But they never, ever apologise.

Worse still, they never, ever, seem to care. Luckily enough,

because John was so well-liked by his friends, there were

very few new revelations about him. In fact, it’s a tribute to

his friends’ loyalty and integrity that all the press could do

was dig up and rehash old stories.

Despite the press, I at least partially succeeded in controlling

the way the whole tragic affair was perceived by the public

by keeping a lid on everyone involved and ensuring that they

didn’t disclose anything. And now I faced another, far more

unsettling, task: to make sure John looked his best for his

swansong show for all the family and friends who wanted to

pay him their last respects. To do him justice, the mortician

needed to know what this vacant frame had been like in life –

larger than life was what Bonzo had been. I found a photo

that captured that free spirit we’d lost and made an

appointment at Kenyon Morticians in Kensington – at which

I duly arrived, full of trepidation.

After polite introductions in the office, I was ushered into the

area where the bodies were stored, silently awaiting their

burial or cremation. It was cool like...well, like a morgue

really. I, on the other hand, wasn’t cool at all. I was chilled to

the bone when the mortician reverently drew John out of

what looked like an oversized filing cabinet – the one where

they file your life when it’s no longer current. Desecrated by

the autopsy and horribly discoloured, this wasn’t the Bonzo

I’d known and loved. John’s wasn’t the first dead body I’d

seen and wouldn’t be the last, but that didn’t make that ‘death

mask’ any less mortifying. I was calmed, though, by the

mortician – a kind, congenial and fascinating man – who

soothingly discussed the whole mysterious process of his

profession with me. It’s a tribute to his professionalism and

integrity that when he looked at John’s body, having talked

about John with me and examined the photo I’d brought

along, he saw him through my eyes. He explained the way he

would use make-up and style his hair and assured me that by

the time he began his quiet sojourn in the Chapel of Rest,

John would look peaceful and serene – and no-one would see

any sign of the autopsy or the discoloration that had so

disturbed me. Bonzo, peaceful and serene. That’s a first, I

thought.

A consummate professional in the art of sending people

gracefully to their final rest, he was just as skilled in bringing

peace to the living – and, having put my mind at ease, he

shared some of the intimate and touching aspects of his craft.

In another ‘file’ was another body – that of a sixty-year-old

Greek or Cypriot woman. She was fully clothed and looked

as if she’d just fallen asleep. But it had been a very long

snooze because, amazingly, she’d been dead for nearly two

years. Evidently her husband had requested that they kept her

there, perfectly peaceful and preserved, until he died – which

apparently would be soon – so that they could make their

final journey together; go home to be buried in their own

country. And this wasn’t a one-off – he told me he’d once

kept the body of an exiled African head of state for more than

six years because his family was waiting until their country’s

political climate changed before they could take him home

and bury him in his native soil. I found myself moved by the

reverence with which this gentle man accommodated

people’s last wishes in God’s departure lounge. There

couldn’t have been anyone better to administer this art to

John: a great and talented artist performing his art for another

great and talented artist.

A few days later I returned to see his handiwork and my faith

was fully justified – John had been transformed. He looked

lifelike – perhaps better than he’d looked for several years.

All his confusion and conflict was resolved; the stress and

strain relieved. He just looked bloody handsome and, finally,

the wild man of rock was completely at peace.

I phoned Peter to tell him that the funeral arrangements could

go ahead and also that people could now go and pay their last

respects. John was to be buried near his home at Rushock in

Worcestershire, where he had lived with his wife, Pat, and

Jason, his son.

My involvement in John’s demise had been a tragedy in three

acts. Act One: the death scene at Jimmy’s house. Act Two:

the Chapel of Rest. Act Three was the funeral – and again my

own grief had to be put on hold because my team and I had

been employed to ensure that it would be a dignified and

respectful occasion, unsullied by intrusive press or fans. It

was the last meaningful thing I could do for John – and I was

determined to do that sad duty well, despite the irony that

‘quiet and dignified’ were hardly what the wild man would

have wanted. What he definitely would have wanted, though,

was for Pat, his beloved wife, to be spared any more stress

and strain than she was already suffering. And that, I’d make

sure of – for Pat, for Jason and for John. My lads and I met,

appropriately, at John’s favourite watering hole just opposite

the graveyard where he was to rest, to toast him the way he’d

have wanted us to. In fact Pat made a remark that June (my

wife) and I will never forget.

‘From his grave, John can see this pub, so he can see us

celebrating his life as he would have wanted us to.’

With that deeply moving thought in mind, I reluctantly left

John’s close family and many other friends – many of whom

were my friends too – to say their final goodbyes while we

prepared to fortify the church against the inevitable

onslaught.

Security was just one aspect of the operation. There were

more sensitive duties to deal with too and I’m proud to say

that the busload of my men I brought in did an admirably

discreet and respectful job and behaved impeccably. You’d

never have known that their background was in the rather

less formal world of rock ‘n’ roll – but it was clear that their

solemnity and dedication to the job was inspired by the fact

that most of them had worked with Zeppelin at one time or

another. They acted as ushers for the collected family and

friends and were invaluable in helping to receive and lay out

with due solemnity the innumerable floral tributes that

poured in. Of course I made sure that the men were

strategically placed and blended in – the last thing we wanted

was for them to look oppressive, like a bunch of bouncers.

And to their credit they blended with considerable diplomacy

and aplomb. In the pub, then before, during and after the

service, they kept the hordes of press, autograph collectors

and souvenir hunters at a respectful distance with nothing

more dramatic than a wagging of fingers, a meaningful look

and a shake of the head that said ‘that’s a no no!’. The

respect with which the onlookers treated the proceedings was

impressive – particularly the national press boys, who aren’t

renowned for their sensitivity. Mind you, they weren’t

behaving themselves out of any sense of decency! Just to

make sure they behaved, we had quietly pointed out that if

they took any liberties on that day they’d pay dearly for them

in future. They knew we were the boys in charge of most

major rock ‘n’ roll happenings they’d want to cover and took

the warning to heart – as well they might – and were on their

best behaviour.

That day a cornerstone of one of the world’s greatest bands

was lowered into the ground – and the lack of Bonzo’s

unbeatable beats undermined Page, Plant and Jones. Soon

they announced that they felt they couldn’t go on without

him. It was the end of an era. Yet another rock legend had

succumbed to the lethal cocktail of self-doubt, temptation

and adulation that only the great stars ever sample. Because

when you’re very, very high there’s a very long way to go

down. John was history – and so was the band. History in the

real sense of the word.

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And he's not going to be meeting the long-deceased Django Reinhardt there.

I love Reinhardt, too, though to me he's unclassifiable. Even in his partnership with Stephane Grapelli. I don't hear anything of him in Jimmy's playing--which doesn't mean anything, of course.

This guy is still alive - A further clue - Who did Jimmy play with/opposite in the early 60's when he was doing session work?

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This guy is still alive - A further clue - Who did Jimmy play with/opposite in the early 60's when he was doing session work?

Big Jim Sullivan.

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Big Jim Sullivan.

Meg you are quite right and if you go and see BJS play (tends to be Jazzy Blues) in the South of England you just might bump into Jimmy - I did sometime ago - and Eric Clapton once.

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"I wasn't into jazz so much — I preferred things raw." - Jimmy Page, Rolling Stone June 12, 2008.

But in an interview by the time BBC Sessions was released, he said that he played in a number of jazz sessions during his session period. He told that it helped him to learn more about chords.

I'll post the interview a.s.a.p.

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Frank Zappa(as did Ted Nugent) once said that Jimmy Page was the most overated guitarist after claiming to watch him from backstage at a gig where the Mothers of Invention and Zep were on the same bill. Any idea when and where that was?

Also when and what gig did Bonzo pour orange juice over Alvin Lee during Lee's set? Where Zep playing the same gig or just hanging out?

This will have been at the Bath Festival on June 28, 1970, the only occasion that I can remember. Zeppelin had already become very big by that time, and they were headliners. They also took a lot of money for performing there, which may have annoyed some people.

I wasn't aware that Frank had ever said that, and would very much like to know where that quote comes from. I doubt the comment fully reflects what he thought of LZ, or of Jimmy's playing in particular. One of the world's renowned Zappa freaks, Ben Watson, notes an ambiguity in Zappa's views on LZ; and he kept coming back to them in one way or another. I tend to think he's right on that.

- That said, Jimmy might actually agree with that comment, but I certainly don't..... :D

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How old was Zoe Bonham when her dad died? I wonder why the Murfet account doesn't mention her.

P.S. One mo' thing: I think that's the only time I've heard claims that JPJ was a womanizer.

Edited by FireOpal

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This guy is still alive - A further clue - Who did Jimmy play with/opposite in the early 60's when he was doing session work?

Reinhardt died in 1953! :huh: Or was this a reference to BJS? Sorry, bit ambiguous.

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How old was Zoe Bonham when her dad died? I wonder why the Murfet account doesn't mention her.

Zoe was just 5 years, 3 mos old. Murfet's account is entirely self-referential, meaning

he is simply sharing with us his own recollection of events as he remembers them.

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This will have been at the Bath Festival on June 28, 1970, the only occasion that I can remember. Zeppelin had already become very big by that time, and they were headliners. They also took a lot of money for performing there, which may have annoyed some people.

I wasn't aware that Frank had ever said that, and would very much like to know where that quote comes from. I doubt the comment fully reflects what he thought of LZ, or of Jimmy's playing in particular. One of the world's renowned Zappa freaks, Ben Watson, notes an ambiguity in Zappa's views on LZ; and he kept coming back to them in one way or another. I tend to think he's right on that.

- That said, Jimmy might actually agree with that comment, but I certainly don't..... :D

They get honorable sexual mention on The Mothers Live at the Fillmore 1971 LP

.."robert planet"...yadda yadda

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