How Jimmy Page Reacted to Robert Plant Sampling Led Zeppelin on ‘Now and Zen’
In the beginning, Led Zeppelin was Jimmy Page. When The Yardbirds fell apart, Page collected the ideas and riffs he wanted to keep and set about starting a new band. And when it came time for a name, Page had that too, from the “Beck’s Bolero” session he’d played with Keith Moon.
Once Page brought in Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham, he had the ensemble that dominated rock for much of the ’70s. When the Zep came crashing down in 1980, you could say the band went back to being Page.
In the past 40 years, as Jones and Plant went their own ways, Page — who produced every Zep album — has guarded the band’s legacy. Page remastered all the records for re-release; collected and curated live performances (audio and video); and very likely oversaw licensing deals.
He also collaborated with Zep’s surviving bandmates along the way, and his work on Plant’s Now and Zen (1988) was especially noteworthy. On the “Tall Cool One” single, Plant sampled five Zep tracks. In a ’88 interview, he recalled Page’s priceless reaction upon first hearing “Tall Cool One.”
Robert Plant had Led Zeppelin samples and a Jimmy Page guitar solo on ‘Tall Cool One’
If you haven’t heard “Tall Cool One” in a while, get ready for a blast of the ’80s. The track begins with a highly processed keyboard part and finger snaps. But it’s not long before you hear Page, who overdubbed a guitar solo for Plant’s track.
“Throughout every verse there is this sonic-dive-bomber guitar sound,” Plant told Rolling Stone in 1988. “I played it to Jimmy Page, and he didn’t even know what it was. It’s the guitar that goes into the middle bit of ‘Whole Lotta Love.'”
As the playback continued, Page wouldn’t have had any trouble recognizing the Zeppelin tracks Plant sampled. At 3:37, he uses the opening guitar riff to “Custard Pie” (from 1975’s Physical Graffiti). Plant did his best to reclaim that from the Beastie Boys, who’d used it on “Time to Get Ill.”
Immediately after, you hear Plant’s “Hey hey, mama” that opened “Black Dog.” And at the very end he mixes in the opening riffs of “The Ocean” and “Whole Lotta Love.” Plant said it was really something watching Page react to the finished product.
Plant recalled Page’s expression of ‘tiresome wonder’ upon hearing ‘Tall Cool One’
The moment Plant played “Tall Cool One” to Page was a memorable one. “I wish I’d had a camera to catch the expression on [Page’s] face,” Plant told Rolling Stone. When the interviewer asked if Plant saw “pleasant surprise” in Page’s reaction, Plant replied, “more like tiresome wonder.”
“Like, [Page thinking] ‘What is he doing, and why is this essential for him?'” Plant recalled. “‘Is he taking the piss out of it?'” Plant said his intention was quite the opposite. “I’m not taking the piss,” he said. “I’m showing that his riffs are the mightiest the world has ever heard.”
Music fans of all generations tend to agree with Plant on that front. By the late ’90s, Page was getting accustomed to mash-ups involving his mighty riffs, and he even jumped into the fray with P. Diddy at one point. Led Zeppelin never gets old.