From the Archive: Jimmy Page Discusses Tour and Album with The Black Crowes
From the archive: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes discuss their 2000 tour and live album.
"But yeah, Bigger Than Colossus is a mammoth album. It's got some great guitar playing on it. I have total respect for the work of Peter Green. He had the complete package. He was a beautiful guitar player, fantastic songwriter, and his vocal delivery was just superb. I just think he was so unbelievable at the point in Fleetwood Mac's career when they did 'Oh Well.' It's a brilliant track. The whole construction of it, as a piece of work, was just fantastic. It's a great one to play."
Page and the Crowes were confident, but hardly over-rehearsed, by October 12, 1999, the first date of the tour at New York's Roseland Ballroom. "We didn't rehearse an insane amount," says Chris. "We only did two full days with Jimmy. And we were really only in there for four or five full-day rehearsals on our own. We always like to keep things a bit spontaneous in the Black Crowes. And I think it's always been the same with Jimmy. You get out there and see what the vibe is."
"Every night was a completely different set list, let alone a different vibe," says Page. "So we were really living dangerously."
"We tried to learn a lot of songs so we could change the sets every night," adds Rich Robinson. "We learned a lot of blues songs too. At soundchecks we'd be like, 'Okay we gotta go over this one. We're gonna play it tonight.'"
For Page, revisiting some of the old Zep classics with Rich Robinson and the Crowes' Audley Freed as co-guitarists was "more than a deja vu experience. When we did 'Ten Years Gone' it was the first time I'd ever heard all the guitar parts from the record played live. It was like being in guitar heaven."
The surprises continued when the tour moved on to Worcester, Massachusetts, where Aerosmith's Joe Perry jumped onstage to jam on "You Shook Me." ''As a singer, there wasn't a lot for me to do," Chris laughs. "I just sang my verses and got out of the way and let Jimmy Page, my brother, Audley Freed and Joe Perry do their thing. For us, it was just fun to get on an airplane and go to L.A., like, 'Hey, we're in a band with Jimmy Page! Alright!' My favorite part was the traveling -- all of us on the airplane. Bands generally get better and tighter over the course of a tour. It was like that here, only it was condensed into six shows."
"You get to know and appreciate each person in the band more and more," says Page, "both musically, by playing every night, and socially, by hanging out together offstage as well. We started off at Roseland and things just got better and better as it went on. It was getting scary, actually. You think, It's getting too good; we've got to have a bad night. But it didn't go like that."
The Greek Theatre is an outdoor venue, nestled idyllically in the foothills of L.A.'s Griffith Park. On a balmy evening, with the sun setting in rosy hues behind the massive pine trees that tower over the stage, it's easy to understand why people think of L.A. as paradise. Those lucky enough to be at the Greek on October 18 and 19 certainly got a taste of rock and roll heaven as the Page and the Crowes roared through the final dates of their mini tour.
"I wish I could have been in the audience," says Page. "Because I know how good it was up onstage."
Post-show festivities were held at the Whisky, on the Sunset Strip. "It was kind of a two-night-in-a-row, end-of-tour party," says Rich Robinson. "It wasn't one of those big, decadent party scenes from Zeppelin's heyday. Just a chance to sit and hang out."
"It was a bit sad to say goodbye to everybody," says Page. ''A band does become like a family, and it was cool to be a surrogate member."
"The whole thing was so much fun, it kinda sucked to quit," Chris chimes in.
PART 2: LET'S MAKE A DEAL
But it wasn’t goodbye after all. THE seeds for further gigs had been planted. The Greek shows had been captured on tape. "It didn't take a genius to recognize that something very special was happening up there on the stage," says Pete Angelus. "Bill Curbishley and I both felt we'd be missing a really rare opportunity if we didn't record the shows to see what came of it. Initially, it was just, 'Let's get it on tape and see what happens.' Later on, Bill and I started talking about how this might be something that we wanted to release, and how we could do it in a special way. I said, 'What avenue would provide us with the immediacy to get music to the fans right away?' The internet made sense on that level. Had we gone through a traditional major-label marketing and distribution system, I think it's safe to say that it would have been four to six months before the record would have been in the stores."
An internet release suited Curbishley's agenda as well. "I had a slight problem in terms of product," he says. "I knew we were releasing Latter Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 2 at Christmas and I didn't want to have too much product out there confusing the public. That was one side of the reasoning. But I've also had an interest for some time now in the internet and what it's really going to mean in the future. And it just so happened, by coincidence that the Crowes had ended their contract with Sony, and Jimmy's not signed as a solo artist. He has a contract with two record companies as a duo with Robert Plant, but not as a solo artist. So we were free to test the internet."
But while both artists were contractually free to enter into an internet deal, the Crowes weren't entirely in the clear: "In the Sony contract," Angelus explains, "there's a two-year holdback saying that the Black Crowes can't re-record any songs of theirs that have been commercially released. And that's the reason why there are no Black Crowes songs on Live at the Greek. There are cover tunes, like 'Shake Your Money Maker.' But rather than go to war with Columbia or spend a lot of time negotiating to resolve the issue, we just felt we would make it a non-issue and eliminate Crowes songs from the release."
Several different internet distributors were under consideration, according to Curbishley: "Musicmaker appealed to us because they were the only ones to give the consumer two options: either to download the music or to take their choice of tracks and have a custom CD made up."
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