The 1969 Album Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham Recorded Before 'Led Zeppelin'
Our semi-recent story about Jimmy Page's five best guitar solos as a member of the Yardbirds got us thinking about another legendary pre-Led Zeppelin recording featuring Page.
This project, however, features all four members of Led Zeppelin—Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham—recording together before there even was a Led Zeppelin.
While still in "New Yardbirds" mode, the four pre-Zeps took part in the August 1968 recording sessions for P.J. Proby’s 1969 album, Three Week Hero.
Page and Jones were successful session musicians at this point, and when Jones got the Proby gig, he invited his fellow New Yardbirds along. A recent Dangerous Minds story quotes Jones as saying, “I was committed to doing all the arrangements for the album. As we were talking about rehearsing at the time, I thought it would be a handy source of income. I had to book a band anyway, so I thought I’d book everybody I knew.”
The sessions started August 25, 1968, and led to an album that didn't cause much of a stir when it was released the following April.
“The boys told me they were going over to play in San Francisco and all that, and I said, ‘Look, from what I’ve heard and the way you boys played tonight, not only are you not going to be my backing band, I’m going to say goodbye right now, because I don’t think I’m ever going to see you again'," Proby says in the DM story.
"'That’s how successful you’re going to be. You’re exactly what they want, you play all that psychedelic stuff and everything.' I said, ‘You’re going to go over there and go down so great I don’t think you’re ever going to come home.’ They didn’t ever come back until they changed their name to Led Zeppelin and stayed over there and came back huge huge stars. … I said goodbye that day when I cut that album, and I haven’t seen one of them since.”
Check out some samples from the album (and a non-album B-side) below.
Is there any doubt this is Led Zeppelin? This is part of the eight-minute medley that closed the album. I admit, this track really "shook me" ... all night long.
“The Day That Lorraine Came Down”
Here's track two from the Proby album, which was released on CD in 1994. It's easy to picture Plant on vocals—not that there's anything wrong with Proby's voice.
"Mery Hopkins Never Had Days Like These"
Here's a non-album B-side from the same sessions. This song is interesting because Proby calls out each member of the band, who then plays a little solo, starting with bassist John Paul Jones. By the way, for a little more info about about the album, check out good ol' Wikipedia. (PS: It seems the word "Mery" in the song title is supposed to be spelled like that; it's obviously a fun reference to then-popular Welsh singer Mary Hopkin.)
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World. Follow him on Twitter.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Last Man Standing (2006)
Coverdale/Page: Coverdale/Page (1993)
Jimmy Page: Outrider (1988)
The Firm: The Firm (1985)
P.J. Proby: Three Week Hero (1969)
The Yardbirds: Little Games (1967)
Page & Plant: Walking Into Clarksdale (1998)
Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes: Live at the Greek (2000)