‘BBC SESSIONS’ BRINGS NEW OLD LED ZEPPELIN RECORDINGS
Guitarist Jimmy Page pulled together vintage tapes for the expanded release
Call it Led Zeppelin’s most ambitious reissue yet.
Since 2014, guitarist Jimmy Page has remastered and re-released all nine of the legendary British rockers’ studio albums. But curating The Complete BBC
Sessions, out Friday, posed a unique challenge.
“Let’s put it this way: All the other tapes were in my possession in one way or another,” says Page, 72, who unearthed eight unreleased recordings for the three-disc set, including a “lost” three-song session for BBC radio from March 1969. Those particular performances of You Shook Me, I Can’t Quit You Baby and the otherwise unrecorded Sunshine
Woman had been wiped from BBC’s archives, only to turn up on the bootleg market in years since.
The recovered versions featured on Sessions were “recorded off the radio through a microphone into a tape recorder by a fan in Eastern Europe,” Page says. “That’d make sense, because it was way before the (Berlin) Wall coming down and they would’ve been playing music through Eastern Europe on the BBC World Service. (It’s) the best copy that I could get. It’s pretty raw, but fun.”
Page dug up other unheard tracks from the Zeppelin vault, including extended performances of Communication Break
down and Dazed and Confused (premiering on usatoday.com). The band relished playing both songs on air, especially at the outset of their career. “We would do Communication
Breakdown because it was so hard-hitting,” Page says. “Dazed
and Confused would reflect the side of Led Zeppelin that’s pretty avant-garde, in the fact that it has the (violin) bow section and everything else. You do those two songs because they’re extremely different to each other and that would be a good way to promote the (self-titled) first album,” from which they’re taken.
Led Zeppelin’s popularity in the U.S. far eclipsed that in their home country, which brought a certain dogged spirit to their BBC performances. “Airplay was really substantial for Led Zeppelin I in the States, but over in England, it was minimal,” Page remembers. “It was pretty limited, the airtime that we would get, so when we got the opportunity to do these live sessions, we went in there determined to really make a name for ourselves.”
Sessions was first released as a two-disc set in 1997. This week’s expanded release will be available on CD, vinyl and digital, with a “super deluxe” edition including a 48-page book and print of the original album cover. Page says he was keen to remaster the album because “it was calling out for it,” but after spending so much time on the Zeppelin reissues, “it’s time to pick up the guitar and start to think about what I’m going to do next.”
Page announced plans for a new album and tour late last year, but says that “the schedule I’d presented to myself was (too) ambitious.” He hopes to release a solo effort next year, adding that he has not had any discussions with former bandmates Robert Plant and John Paul Jones about another Zeppelin reunion show. (The band last performed together in 2007, with drummer Jason Bonham stepping in for his father, John, who died in 1980.)
As for the possibility that more unreleased music could see the light of day? “I’ve got a biiig archive,” Page laughs. “Let’s just say that.”
The Complete BBC Sessions includes eight unreleased tracks from Led Zeppelin’s 1969 radio performances.