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From the Archive: Jimmy Page Discusses Tour and Album with The Black Crowes

From the Archive: Jimmy Page Discusses Tour and Album with The Black Crowes

Here's an interview with Jimmy Page and Chris and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes from the July 2000 issue of Guitar World. To see the complete cover, and all the GW covers from 2000, click here.

Check out the "Ultimate Guitar Giants of Rock: Led Zeppelin" box set at the Guitar World Online Store.

Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes loves being a rock and roll lead singer. Onstage and off, he plays the role to the hilt. During a photo session at a loft in Manhattan's Soho district, Robinson sashays across the floor as if in concert, shaking his impossibly slender, leather-clad hips and flailing skinny arms swathed in the billowing sleeves of a frilly shirt.

"We're trying to keep our cool here," he cries out. "It's hard sometimes. This is Jimmy Page, man!"

True enough. The guitar legend is off in one corner with Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson. The duo is quietly examining a vintage Gibson Firebird that belongs to Rich. Page is in New York to be photographed with the Robinson brothers. It's all to promote their new, internet-only album, Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes: Live at the Greek, and their current tour in tandem with the Who.

Jimmy Page looks cheerful, dapper and fit, with short-cropped hair that emphasizes the squareness of his jaw. Veteran Page watchers say the master is in exceptionally good spirits these days. This Black Crowes collaboration seems to have revivified him. While they're no spring chickens themselves, the Crowes bring more freshness and youthful zeal to the classic Zep repertoire than a full-on Led Zeppelin reunion could probably generate at this point. The group certainly brings out the best in Page. His guitar playing on Live at the Greek reaches levels of fire and fury that it hasn't attained in years.

"It's very musical, isn't it?" says Page of the project. "The Crowes are really known for jamming and ad-libbing. And that's what I've been doing ever since I've been playing. So it's complementary. And I know people respect the fact that there are musicians trying every night to put themselves right on the edge."

The combination seemed improbable at first: Jimmy Page, the Black Crowes and the internet? But great rock music is often born of strange encounters at the crossroad of culture and commerce. Although Page and the Crowes belong to different rock generations and come from opposite sides of the Atlantic they share a profound love of the blues and the other musical traditions that form rock's roots. Given that common heritage, it made perfect sense for them to team up for a series of live shows last year. What was more puzzling, for many observers, was why they decided to release their concert recordings exclusively on the internet, through musicmaker.com. But the wisdom of this move ceased to be questioned when Page and the Crowes became the first artists ever to crack the Top 10 with an internet-only single, a rendition of Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be" from Live at the Greek.

"Everyone gives David Bowie the credit for having gone on the internet with his [Hours] album," says Page. "But he just put it up there for two weeks or something. It was more publicity than anything else. But here we've gone and done it for real."

All this summer, Page and the Crowes will be on the road, touring America alongside the Who, whose new live CD, The Blues to the Bush, is also being distributed exclusively on the internet through musicmaker.com. The concerts will be presented in a unique new way: the tour will roll into town, the Who will play one night, Page and the Crowes will perform the following night (or vice versa). This not only skirts the issue of who's opening for whom, it also allows the two bands to share P.A. equipment, lighting rigs and other expenses of touring. These savings will be passed onto fans in the form of discount rates on lawn seats if you purchase tickets for both shows. The whole thing was masterminded by Bill Curbishley, who manages both Jimmy Page and the Who.

"The way the touring business is going, I think a lot of people might have to do it this way in the future," says Curbishley. "Get two bands, tour together and go back to back, sharing the costs. Because, for some unbelievable reason, the general public or the media seem to feel that concerts should be cheaper than football, basketball or hockey games."

PART 1: LET'S PLAY TOGETHER

All these innovations in rock presentation might not have taken place if Jimmy Page hadn't found himself in need of a pickup band one night about a year ago. He was asked to act as music director for a concert to benefit two of his favorite charities: SCREAM (Supporting Children through Re-Education and Music) and the ABC (Action for Brazil's Children) Trust.


"It was a charity venture that was going to be put forward at a place in London called the Cafe de Paris," says the guitarist. "I was asked to spearhead the thing. Robert [Plant] and I had played at the Cafe de Paris with [drummer] Michael Lee and [bassist] Charlie Jones the year before, for another charity, War Child. It wasn't really appropriate that we should be doing that again. So I was thinking, Who would be really good to play on this?"

It was rock photographer and frequent Guitar World contributor Ross Halfin who suggested the Black Crowes, who were in London at the time to play Wembley Stadium with Aerosmith. Page had known the Crowes since 1995; he'd been introduced to the band by Robert Plant, who brought Pagey down to a Crowes show at London's Albert Hall. A few nights later, Page and Plant got onstage to jam a few blues numbers during a Crowes gig at the Zenith in Paris. The acquaintance improved out on the festival circuit, where Page and Plant shared a few gigs with the Crowes. So it seemed an ideal fit for Page to team up with the Black Crowes for the Café de Paris event.

"When the request came through our friend Ross, we were amazingly flattered, to say the least," Rich Robinson recounts. “All people ever see is the Stones influence in our music. But Zeppelin has been a huge influence on us for our whole career. They're definitely up there as one of the major reasons why we're in a band."

The Crowes did some woodshedding on their own but had only one rehearsal with Page, in London. They were nonetheless able to put together a 10-song set that was enthusiastically received by the throng packed into the 400-capacity Cafe de Paris on the evening of June 27, an audience that included Alice Cooper, Queen's Roger Taylor and tennis star John McEnroe. On the set list that night was "Shake Your Money Maker," the blues standard that has become a Crowes signature tune, Jimmy Rogers' "Sloppy Drunk," B.B. King's "Woke Up This Morning," Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well," Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and "In My Time of Dying" and the Willie Dixon-penned Zep classic "You Shook Me."

"It felt really, really good," says Page. "Then, a couple of months later, the Crowes' manager, Pete Angelus, called and said, 'Would you fancy doing some gigs with the Crowes?' I said, 'Hey, I'd jump at that. We had a lot of fun last time.' I had a really good feeling for the band -- actually playing with the band, you know? So I said, 'Yeah, I'm up for that. I bet it's gonna be a lot of fun.'"

Pete Angelus has been through many ups and downs with the Black Crowes over the years. "To be honest," says the manager, "the London gig with Jimmy was the first time in a decade I have seen the Crowes all collectively smile. As I was standing on the side of the stage that night, I thought to myself, It would be really great to bring this to America, because there was so much excitement and power between the musicians. So I discussed the possibility with Jimmy and his manager."

"Jimmy came to me and asked me what I thought of the idea," Curbishley recalls. "So I said, 'Well, it's all about enjoyment.' That's the most important aspect at this stage of Jimmy's life and career. He said, 'Well, I'd like to do a few shows.' So we arranged to put on three shows at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, one in Boston and a couple at the Greek Theatre in L.A."

In terms of music and career, the venture promised to be mutually beneficial. The Crowes are notoriously obsessed with the Sixties and Seventies British rock that derived from American r&b -- Page's own milieu, in other words. As sons of the American South, they brought a note of bluesy authenticity to the proceedings as well. Also, it's no secret that sales have been soft on the last few Black Crowes albums.

An association with Jimmy Page has done much to increase the band's visibility. On the other side of the coin, the Crowes gigs have given Page an opportunity to celebrate his Led Zep legacy in a way that he hasn't been able to in his recent work with Robert Plant. The Page and Plant collaborations have stressed the softer, acoustic side of Led Zeppelin, with special emphasis on the Arabic/North African leanings that lend Zep credence as world-beat precursors. But playing with the Crowes has given Page a chance to leave the ouds, neys and Egyptian violinists back home, strap on his trusty Les Paul and play some unabashed Led Zep hard rock.

Via phone calls, faxes and the like, Page and the Crowes laid plans to expand the set list they had played at the Cafe de Paris. A few Black Crowes songs, including "No Speak No Slave," "Wiser Time" and "Remedy," were added, as was a generous helping of Led Zeppelin numbers.

"We wanted to do some songs, like 'Ten Years Gone,' that Jimmy and Robert haven't played that much on the last couple of tours they did together," says Chris. ''Also, we chose songs where the Black Crowes could add something of their own."

As before, the Crowes did some rehearsing on their own before getting together with Page. "They sent me some soundcheck tapes -- versions of the songs," Page recalls. ''And I thought, Wow, these are sounding good. I wasn't even playing on them at this point and they were really good anyway. I thought, When we get together, I'll probably have to top and tail a few things. But they'd done their homework so well that there was hardly anything where I had to say, 'Actually, it goes like this, as opposed to that.'"


"There were a few songs," Chris admits, "that we played by ourselves, before Jimmy got there, where we said, 'We're not really killin' this one. Let's drop it.' Like 'Houses of the Holy.' I just didn't think we had the funk.''

Much credit is due to the Crowes and Page for taking on difficult Zeppelin material like "Nobody's Fault but Mine" and "Ten Years Gone."

"I was afraid we were gonna spend the whole rehearsal time learning 'Nobody's Fault but Mine,' " Rich laughs.
"I think we all were," Page counters.

"We put on the record to get the arrangement down,'' says Chris. ''And Jimmy's writing out a chart for himself, 'cause Zeppelin only did it that one time in the studio. So Jimmy's writing this chart out, and at one point he just looks up and scratches his head, like, What were we doing? I said, 'I don't know, man. This shit is hard!' "

Like many rock and roll siblings, the Robinsons are polar opposites in many ways. Square shouldered and straight backed, Rich Robinson seems to have spent his entire life playing the sensible counterpart to his excitable, loose-limbed brother. When Rich speaks -- which he does with the hint of a southern accent --it's mainly to make some practical observation or point out a useful detail. Getting to play with Jimmy Page would be a wet dream come true for nearly any rock guitarist. Rich is no exception.

"It was really cool to learn all those Zeppelin songs and play them with Jimmy,'' says Rich. "Because I'd never learned them. I never played in cover bands or anything like that. And it was just amazing to dissect those songs and find out how they were put together."

But a lot of the pressure was really on Chris, who had to put across songs inextricably associated with Robert Plant's persona and vocal style.

"I have an insane amount of respect for Robert," says Chris. "He's always been great to us. But I'm gonna sing the songs the way I sing them, although I want to stay close to the way Robert sang them, in terms of melody and phrasing. We come from the same kind of background, as far as r&b and blues and that kind of thing. But obviously we're different. It's the same kind of vocal range. I just don't have the blond hair to go with it."

Stylistically, Robinson has always been a little closer to the Steve Marriott/Rod Stewart school of r&b-inflected rock vocals. There's a kind of historical poetic justice in this, as Marriott -- the lead singer of the Small Faces, who was succeeded by Rod Stewart -- was one of the people originally slated to be Led Zeppelin's lead singer. "It was a Led Zeppelin that almost came to be," says Page. "Or at least it was spoken about very passionately after the session that produced 'Beck's Bolero' [from Jeff Beck's Truth]. Keith Moon was playing drums. John Paul Jones played bass, curiously enough. Nicky Hopkins was on piano. I was on electric 12 and Jeff was on electric six. And Keith Moon was so keen about what had gone on that he wanted to do a band with us. He was going to come out of the Who. He said, 'Entwistle will come and join us.'

"That's how the whole Led Zeppelin thing came about [i.e. through Moon]. He said, 'Let's call it Led Zeppelin.' The singers proposed at the time were Steve Marriott and Steve Winwood. Somebody approached Steve Marriott about it. I think it must have been Moonie; it wasn't Jeff. And apparently Don Arden, who was the manager of the Small Faces, called up and said, 'How would you like to play in a band with broken fingers?' And that was the end of that."

Rock history was also revisited in the arrangement of "Shapes of Things" that Page and the Crowes fashioned for their set. "It was Jimmy's idea to mesh the Jeff Beck Group version with the original Yardbirds version," says Rich. "Chris probably sings the Jeff Beck Group version better. But the guitar solo in the Yardbirds version is amazing."

"We asked Jimmy, 'When was the last time you played that solo?'" Chris adds. "He said, 'Oh, probably 1969.'"

It was Jeff Beck, of course, who played the solo on the original Yardbirds recording of "Shapes." But as Beck's successor in the Yardbirds, Page would often recreate the landmark guitar moment in concert. "That solo was absolutely astonishing at the time it came out," he says. "It was so heady in its concept and technical ability that I had no problem playing Jeff's solo. No problem whatsoever. And I just thought it would be a cool idea to combine the two versions of 'Shapes' -- just for the musos out there, the ones who know both. Just to show people we were thinking about what we were doing."

Stepping outside the players' personal histories and the 12-bar-blues domain, Page and the Crowes also put together a kick-ass cover of the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac song "Oh Well." Coincidentally enough, the music of Fleetwood Mac had been the catalyst for an early bonding experience between Page and the boys.

''A few years ago, the Black Crowes were doing the festivals in Europe," Chris recalls, "and we were on a bunch of shows with Jimmy and Robert. We were in a trailer around the back at one of these dates. We always carry a huge sound system with us. And we were playing the Otis Spann album Bigger Than Colossus. [Blues piano/vocal great Otis Spann was backed by Fleetwood Mac on this particular album -- GW Ed.] And Jimmy comes running over, like, 'Is that Otis Spann? Alright!'"

''Actually, to be honest, I think I ran over there saying, 'What in heaven's name is that?'" Page laughs. "Because I wasn't sure whether it was Otis Spann. That album is Fleetwood Mac with Otis Spann, and I'd never heard it before. The whole thing was throwing me. 'Cause it sounded like Otis Spann, but I wasn't sure. So I just had to go over and ask.


"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."


Musicmaker's business is mainly based on licensing existing catalogs from record labels and making them available for internet customers to use in creating custom CDs of their favorite tracks. As internet companies began taking a nosedive in the stock market earlier this year, musicmaker came under fire from disgruntled investors, who charged that most major artists' record contracts preclude them from cutting separate deals for internet distribution. So the unique contractual situation that left Page and the Crowes free to negotiate an internet deal for their live recording was as much of a godsend for musicmaker as it was for the artists -- if not more so.

"We've had some great success doing artist-specific projects like this before," says musicmaker President of Global Marketing Larry Lieberman. "We're really focused on getting great repertoire in five genres in particular: classic music, jazz, classic rock, Latin and contemporary Christian.

"What we're really talking about here is empowerment for the average Joe -- the grand promise of so many computer technologies. The fan at home can place the website's 19 Page/Crowes songs in any order he or she likes, or choose just a handful of favorites, again, in any running order. All this can be delivered as a computer download or as one or two custom CDs express-mailed to the customer's home. Buyers can even make up their own title for the CD."

"The one person who's disappeared out of the business is the A&R man," says Page. "Because the listener at home becomes the A&R man. He's the one who chooses what tracks he wants on the album. And that's cool."

"Once the site went up and I showed it to Jimmy," Lieberman recalls, "the first thing he did was say, 'Well, fuck y'all. These are the songs I want, and this is the order I want them in.' And he made one for himself and mailed it home. Then he came to me and said, 'Can I send one to Robert [Plant]?' I was like, 'Yeah, sure.' He went in and wrote himself a little title, picked some songs and shipped it off to Robert at home. We did it right out of a hotel room in New York."

What's even more appealing for artists is that internet outfits like musicmaker run much leaner than your average major record label. With less overhead, more of the profits can go to the artist. No one will quite say how much more in this case. "But the interesting thing," Curbishley notes, "is that we didn't get any of the old-fashioned -- dare I say it? -- thievery: the old-fashioned accounting tactics and procedures of major record labels. Like a royalty rate being based on 90 percent of CD sales for no good reason other than they don't want to pay you based on 100 percent. And there was no such thing as returns because musicmaker only manufactures what's ordered. They either do that or the customer downloads the music. So your sales figures are absolutely real. Also, in the ordering process, your accounting is done for you. When musicmaker reports back to us, not only do we know the name and address of every buyer, we also get a readout of how many records were sold and where. So it's not necessary to do an audit, which makes things a lot easier."

What also makes things easy is that, for artists of Page and the Crowes' stature, a substantial pre-sold audience already exists. So unlike a new band, these artists don't really need the promotion and marketing machinery of a major label. As Page said to Lieberman during one meeting, ''Anyone who's gonna buy this already owns the last 11 albums I played on."

But no one was about to rely entirely on word of mouth in marketing Live at the Greek. "I really felt that the only way they could drive people to the internet site to buy the product was by advertising and promoting in conventional ways," says Curbishley. "To drive the normal buyer to that site, you couldn't just do it on the internet. 'Cause all you'd be getting are those people who are avid internet users."

So musicmaker and the bands' management set up a radio promotion deal, whereby listeners in a given territory could order Live at the Greek directly from their local radio station's website, via a link to musicmaker. "We provide banners and links that the radio stations can put on their sites," Lieberman explains. "So a station like WBCN in Boston can announce, ‘That was the new song from Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes. It's not available at retail. If you want this song, come to our website.’ We give the radio stations a commission on sales the same way we would give any other retailer that sends us traffic. We have similar agreements with the major music retailers, who can also have links to musicmaker on their websites."

"The radio stations loved it," Curbishley adds. "They stood to generate income from the record in the same way a retailer would."

All these strategies paid off. "What Is and What Should Never Be," the first single from Live at the Greek, became the first-ever internet-only single to make into the Top 15 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart.

Meanwhile, the parent album is having a successful run as well. "Live at the Greek is certainly the best-selling custom CD ever in the history of this medium," Lieberman enthuses.

At the time of this writing, Curbishley estimated that, including downloads and custom CDs, sales of Live at the Greek are "nudging 90 to 100 thousand. Which is phenomenal for internet activity. So who knows where it will end up? It's constant. It's going to sell more with the tour this year. So who can say? The other interesting thing is that they're getting orders from everywhere around the globe -- Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe... "

Curbishley adds that the album will most likely make its way into conventional CD release one day: "We always had in the back of our minds that we would probably go with a retail deal at some stage. But then we might change the album a little bit -- add tracks to it, take a couple of tracks away, or whatever. We've still got all those options. I haven't actively chased a retail deal yet. But there are several companies that have chased us -- by virtue of what happened when we went to radio."

Indeed, Curbishley is so pleased with musicmaker's sales figures of Live at the Greek that he has released a live album by another of his acts, the Who, via the website. "This probably won't be a Top 10 album," he says of The Blues to the Bush. "But there are a lot of people out there who would like that particular album. And this is a way for them to go find it and for it not to clash with other product. It can be sold over a long period of time. It's not any big hype or power sell. It is what it is."

Curbishley is among those who regard the internet as a potential partner for conventional record labels and retail outlets, rather than a threat or competitor. "My firm belief is that the internet will eventually become an avenue for sales that will probably generate five to 10 percent of additional global record sales for the major labels -- once they embrace it instead of running away from it. And I think that's great for the artist. Because the artist deserves to explore all avenues for sales."

Classic rock fans are one of many groups who feel disenfranchised by the current music scene, where corporate consolidation of the record business has led to a big-time dumbing down of the popular music marketplace. Can the internet become a home for music that isn't about suckering the 13-and-under demographic into buying vacuous teen pop and pseudo angry, de-politicized, suburban rap metal?

"I thought the music business was corporate back in 1988," says Chris Robinson. "But, Jesus, music is way beyond corporate now. We've been blessed to have a career. A lot of these young bands don't get a chance to be around that long."

"The corporate industry has way bigger egos than any band," Rich Robinson marvels. "You take the most ego-ed out artist of the last hundred years and those corporate guys have bigger fuckin' egos than any of them. And they're getting cocky about creating formulas. Like, 'We'll create you.' They build things up so they can tear them down. It's all about control."

''And that kills off so much of what's good about a band," Page adds. "We were lucky in the days of Led Zeppelin. Each album was different. We didn't have to continue a formula or produce a certain number of singles. Because, in those days, radio was still playing albums. That was really good. I don't know whether a band could get away with all that right now. I've heard it from top record executives, who say it just couldn't happen again. Just couldn't."

Maybe not in the conventional record business. But what about the internet? As a relatively new industry, internet music distribution is a little like the record business was during the first 15 years of rock and roll. All the angles haven't yet been worked out and reduced to a spreadsheet marketing formula. That'll come soon enough. But for now there's room for plenty of good music to seep through the cracks.

"In my romanticized notion," says Chris Robinson, "I wish it would be like the old days of Chess Records, selling records out of the trunk of a car. I gotta put it in terms like that, because I don't understand technology. But the way I see it, the internet seems like the way for bands to be on a more one-to-one basis with fans who know what they want.

Check out the "Ultimate Guitar Giants of Rock: Led Zeppelin" box set at the Guitar World Online Store.



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