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Jimmy Page excerpt: ‘Zeppelin was always in a process of change and evolution’

Led Zeppelin bandmates, singer Robert Plant, left, and guitarist Jimmy Page, reunite to perform for the Live Aid famine relief concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985.


Between the Albert Hall show and Earl's Court, you certainly had enough material to issue two DVDs. Why did you decide to release all of this material at once?

The idea at first was to put out just the Albert Hall shows. But that didn't make sense to me. I knew we had precious little visual documentation of the band, so I thought, Why not just put it all out and have a nice big package? Technologically, the time is right to present the material because you have a crisp digital medium and 5.1 surround sound.

I think there was hope from management that we would be able to create a DVD from each performance. But it became apparent that, for example, the Earl's Court show would be quite tedious on its own because it consisted of nothing but close-ups and tight shots.

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Why is that?

Our shows at Earl's Court were the first time, to my knowledge, that anyone used back projection in concert. It's pretty commonplace now, but back then it was a pretty revolutionary thing to do. We projected close-up shots of ourselves onto the screen behind the stage, and it allowed those in the back of the hall to see us. But those ended up being the only images recorded from the shows, and because of the nature of back projection, they're all close-up shots.

With that in mind, it just seemed more entertaining to present these performances as an unfolding story. So what you have on the DVD is a real journey. It begins when we rejected television appearances and continues through to our last performance at Knebworth.

What I like about Knebworth is that it brings everything full circle. What I loved about Zeppelin was that it was always in a process of change and evolution. Even our oldest songs would differ from night to night. You mentioned using Whole Lotta Love earlier as a springboard to new things. Well, even when we did it at Knebworth, I came up with a whole new middle section for it, just to show people that we were still thinking about what we were presenting them.

There may be precious little film of the band, but it's been rumored that Zeppelin made a number of professional board recordings through the years. The 1972 shows from L.A. are excellent, but can we expect more live audio?

You're right, we did record a lot of shows, but many of the board tapes were stolen from me years ago. They were sort of "relieved" from my house in the early eighties when I wasn't there. All that stuff, along with the recordings of our rehearsals, were stolen and have surfaced as bootlegs, and it's a drag.

I discovered the theft around the time that I was working on my solo album, Outrider [1988]. I remember looking around for some demos and sort of wondering where all my tapes were. There was so much going on around my house and in my life at that time, I just figured they'd turn up somewhere. Well, they did turn up – as bootlegs! Someone who was pretending to be a friend stole the tapes.

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Excerpted from Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. Copyright © 2012 Brad Tolinski. Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

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