“John Paul Jones kept to himself, but Jimmy Page took great delight in showing you what he’d been doing the night before”: Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on touring with Led Zeppelin, John Bonham’s pranks and Jimmy Page’s ‘fruity’ Polaroids

Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin
(Image credit: Gai Terrell/Redferns | Dick Barnatt/Redferns)

In the summer of 1969, Led Zeppelin embarked upon their third North American tour, incorporating a host of festival appearances alongside their own arena shows. Fellow Englishmen Jethro Tull were given the opportunity to support Jimmy Page’s group at their headline gigs, playing for 35 minutes a night, and frontman Ian Anderson had fond memories of the trek, recalling Zeppelin and Tull having “a kind of football team rivalry.”

“After The Beatles, American audiences still had a lot of curiosity about what we weird Brits to offer,” he recalled. “Jimmy Page was confident about how Zeppelin would go down, but the other guys were gobsmacked to get so much adulation so early.”

“The Zeps seemed genuinely humble,” Anderson told MOJO magazine’s James McNair in 2009. “John Bonham was the main prankster. He liked to urinate in the ice machines outside your hotel room. There was a roguish humour about Bonham, but he was a tortured soul too. John Paul Jones kept to himself, but Jimmy Page took great delight in showing you what he’d been doing the night before. Polaroid cameras were becoming popular, and I recall that Jimmy’s snaps involved a lot of soft fruit. I doubt id he has the photographs still, but I’d certainly like to see them again.” 

Anderson revealed that he and Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant “never really hit it off”, but freely admitted that he was “quite jealous” of his compatriot’s “greatly superior vocal skills.”

“I wasn’t born with those attributes,” he acknowledged, “and I knew I would never be in his league.”

But in a 2020 interview with eonmusic, Anderson played down rumours that there was any “feud” between the two frontmen, saying, “when people ask me about my ‘feud’ with Robert Plant, then they can expect a sharp retort, because there was never a feud.”

He continued, “I remember meeting Robert Plant, and he said, ‘I hope we can put that behind us’, and I said, What? He said, Whatever it as we are supposed to be feuding about’… We never had a feud, because we didn’t really communicate. Led Zeppelin were Led Zeppelin; they were rock gods, and we were the humble support act.”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.