The three surviving members of Led Zeppelin - Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones - look back upon the making of their band’s monumental fourth album in a new interview to celebrate the album’s forthcoming 50th anniversary.
And while guitarist Page acknowledges that he was the band member driving the album sessions at Headley Grange in Hampshire in January 1971, he dismisses suggestions that he exerted a dictatorial role over proceedings: “I wasn’t walking around with jackboots and a whip,” he says with a laugh, as reported in the new issue of Mojo magazine, which has Zeppelin on the cover.
The making of Led Zeppelin IV actually began at Island Studios in London in December 1970, but Page suggested relocating the sessions to the former Victorian workhouse at the dawn of the new year, wanting the band to have a space where they could have privacy and time to write and create while living under one room.
“Headley Grange was cold, damp, dirty, smelly,” John Paul Jones tells Mojo’s Mark Blake. “I remember walking into my room and thinking, Oh really? I had to steal someone’s electric fire.”
“Why is John complaining?” Jimmy Page asks Mojo. “We were there to work. I don’t want to say anything to embarrass Mrs Smith, the lady in charge. Headley was a bit austere. But there was no, ‘Let’s get stoned or go to the pub and get pissed.’ That wasn’t our raison d’etre. It was ‘eat, sleep, work’, but at the same time, I wasn’t walking around with jackboots and a whip.”
“It’s like there was a magical current running through that place and that record. Like it was meant to be.”
In the interview, Page and Jones talk about the writing of the album’s centrepiece, Stairway To Heaven.
Jimmy said, ‘I’ve got this thing and it’s in different sections’,” Jones recalls. “I sat down at the electric piano, and we worked out where everything should go. The joy of it was it didn’t sound like anybody else.”
Jones reveals that one original working title for the song was Cow And Gate... as Robert Plant had recently bought a farm.
“John Paul and I worked on it before getting with John Bonham,” says Page. “A lot of the music precedes John coming in. It’s a slow reveal. But the whole time, Robert was listening and writing. Then he started singing and had most of the lyrics written… it was an inspired time for everybody.”
The full interview with Page, Jones and Plant is in the new issue of Mojo, out now.