John Paul Jones – Led Zeppelin’s Behind the Scenes Genius

Led Zeppelin is one of the only bands that helped to define rock music history. The musical legacy that they have left will live on for countless generations. Many bands influenced music, but Zeppelin helped to define an entire genre. The defining pieces of their legacy are easily broken down into the individuals that make up the band. John Bonham, one of the most skilled and heavy hitting drummers to walk the planet. Robert Plant, the tall and lanky Englishman somehow born with vocal chords from the deep south. Jimmy Page, the controlled chaos of wild improvisation reigned in. But the one you often hear nothing about is John Paul Jones, which I could never figure out – because he’s as much a cornerstone of that band as any of the other three.

It’s funny, after Bonham died Robert Plant did his solo thing off and on, and Jimmy Page did both the HoneyDrippers and The Firm, as well as a solo project in the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t remember hearing anything from John Paul Jones. Then their was Plant / Page, a pseudo-Zeppelin project, but again no John Paul Jones. On January 12, 1995 Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and when it was John Paul Jones’ turn at the mic his famous words were “Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number…”. As a matter of fact, that speech is (of course) on YouTube – here it is:

Often overlooked (as many bass players are), without his bass and keyboard parts – most Zeppelin songs would sound completely different. It just isn’t Zeppelin without all three of the original surviving members. I can’t be alone in thinking this, since the November Zeppelin charity concert in London with Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham’s son was not only sold out, but the web site with news of the show received over 1 billion pageviews in under a month. That’s a STAGGERING amount of interest in a band that’s only been on stage one time (for the Hall of Fame) in the last 28 years.

Well, the reason I was particularly thinking of Jonesy today is because over at Ultimate Guitar, I read a ‘rock chronicle’ interview from 30 years ago with John Paul Jones originally in Guitar Player. It’s a very interesting read, not only because it’s from one of the most underheard voices of the legendary Zeppelin, but more because the interview was taken at the height of Zeppelin’s fame and it’s very interesting to get responses during that period of time. In addition, and amount of buildup to the interview by the author is very telling and reminds us how big the legendary Zeppelin was and also that there really hasn’t been a band that big save one or two in the last 30 years.

It looks like the only things I have to look forward to in the near future are The Mothership Led Zep Compilation to be released Nov 16th, and possible YouTube footage of their November reunion concert. One can only hope that the rumours of a 2008 tour will come true after all.

One thought on “John Paul Jones – Led Zeppelin’s Behind the Scenes Genius”

  1. You cannot have a Led Zepplin without John Paul Jones…Jimmy Page,Robert Plant and John Bonham have their own uncomperable styles to contribute to the Zepplin sound, but frankly, without John Paul Jones I cannot see a true Zepplin sound since he provides not only bass lines that are out of this world, but also orgen/piano and mandolin sounds that if misssing would drop Zepplin from the annals of history in my humble opinion. And personally; Jeff Beck’s attempt to copy Jimmy Page on “Stairway to Heaven” is nothing more than a “mechanic’s” attempt to imitate a true artist.

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