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September 13th, 1969: "It's impossible to convey just how big Zeppelin are now in the States," says Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page spoke with Keith Altham from Top Pops this week

'It's impossible to convey just how big Zeppelin are now in the States,' says Jimmy Page

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1970.

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Led Zeppelin completed recording their second LP whilst on tour in the U.S. and Europe in August. Jimmy Page returned to London this week, meeting with Keith Altham to discuss Led Zeppelin's recent success and bringing with him the news that "Jim Morrison now looks like the chief Rabbi of Brixton and Elvis Presley still looks like Elvis Presley."

Below are excerpts from the Altham/Page interview:

"Even the unknown group guitarist round the corner has an original phrase or something which he could show to impress Hendrix." - Jimmy Page

On Led Zeppelin's rapid growth:

"Things have happened so quickly it is unbelievable. Our group will only have been formed a year this October and already some critics are giving us rave reports over Blind Faith. Mind you the only reason for that is that they had one or two bad gigs and everything has gone right for us."

On Zeppelin's album sales:

"It's impossible to convey just how big Zeppelin are now in the States but if I tell you that our album sold 20,000 copies in three days last week and is still pounding along it might give you some idea. You can turn on the radio and hear a Zeppelin track played three or four times a day."

Watch below a clip of Led Zeppelin performing "Communication Breakdown" and "Dazed and Confused" on French television in June.

On Zeppelin being a manufactured super-group:

"No one can tell just how a group like ours would be received. No one really expected for it to reach the proportions that it has."

"We were only prefabricated in as much as we deliberately set out to form a group. What happened after that was up to the public and you cannot foist something on the Americans now because you happen to be English. The last thing to happen in America which was English was Joe Cocker and that was last July."

"In many ways we took more risks than groups like Blind Faith and Humble Pie who carefully prepared their music before making public appearances. Our album was cut within three weeks of the group's formation and we began work almost at once so it could hardly be accused of being contrived or pre-packed in that sense.

"We've not managed to establish ourselves so heavily in Britain simply because most of our energies have been directed towards America. The mass media in this country is still not reflective of what the majority of young people want to listen to but in the States it is."

'It's impossible to convey just how big Zeppelin are now in the States,' says Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin

On British audiences:

"Audiences in Britain are more discerning than America – almost hyper-critical – because they get so many good groups, but we have been able to hold our own on the major concerts that we have played here. Contrary to popular opinion it is not the money that is so important to big groups in America – it is the venues and the number of people you can communicate to which is so pleasing. There are very few halls in England which can accommodate more than a few thousand people. This means it is only worthwhile playing the major cities say once every six months at those places."

On musical trends in Britain and the U.S.

"I think it is more a case of differing trends. Although we do have an incredible number of very talented musicians. In America now, they are veering towards a softer country and western approach, so any English group that steams in with heavy, earthy sounds are almost overwhelming to the audiences."

"There is a tendency to return to some of the early rock and roll songs now almost as a reaction against the heavy, intellectual and analytical forms it has been taking. It's very understandable to me – we play it when the mood takes us. It's the perfect balance – so simple. You can't read anything but what there is into songs like 'I've Gotta Woman'. Some music has just got a little too complicated for the public."

On whether the guitar will be replaced as music's dominating instrument:

"No. Firstly the guitar is the logical replacement for the piano which everyone had in their home during the Victorian era. It has become more refined and is of course, easier to carry about. Where you once saw a piano standing in the corner of a room, now you find a guitar."

"The only limitations you can put on the guitar are those you impose yourself. If you set out to be a blues guitarist, then probably the best you can get is BB King but most guitarists now are fusing all the influences of classical, jazz and blues into one style which is limitless."

"Even the unknown group guitarist round the corner has an original phrase or something which he could show to impress Hendrix."

On going into the studio to record their first hit single:

"Everyone says that they will not do that, but I suppose that is what we will be doing, but I don't see that we have to compromise our own standards. Jethro Tull managed to make a good quality single!"

Listen to Led Zeppelin's debut album below via Spotify or Apple Music.

Interview excerpts from the article "Led Zeppelin Are Not Prefabricated" - Keith Altham, Top Pops, 13 September 1969.

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