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