John Lennon on Led Zeppelin

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For the longest time I have looked in vain to see any of the Beatles comment on Led Zeppelin. I just couldn’t find anything on what John, Paul, George or Ringo thought of Led Zep. And to me, the torch passed from the Beatles to Zep in terms of world-dominating groups that mattered. So why this amazing silence? Zeppelin certainly commented on the Beatles a bit. Maybe there is more out there that I haven’t seen, but I finally found one mention last night. It’s from a Lennon interview with the Hit Parader in 1970. Here are the question and answer:

Q: “Do you think in terms of feelings? Do you think of music, popular music, in terms of emotional reaction as opposed to saying something…”

JOHN: “I think in any of those terms. You know, I just think it’s either something I like or don’t like or it’s heavy or it’s light. I like heavy music, I call it rock. I like Zeppelin, I’ve only heard a couple you know, they’re okay.

So there you have it. John, at that early stage of Led Zep’s career, said that ‘they’re okay.’ Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Maybe he feared them as rivals and replacements for his own genius, I don’t know.

55 thoughts on “John Lennon on Led Zeppelin

  1. Paul weighed-in as well. His Wings song, “Rock Show” has a lyric–going from memory here–something like

    “……………………………….on stage
    with a red guitar just like Jimmy Page.”

  2. I’ve never heard the song Jim – but thanks for the reference. That is great! I guess the Beatles did follow Zep after all.

  3. George Harrison was a huge led zeppelin fan. He had once told….I think it was Plant, something to the effect of “The problem with your band is you don’t write any ballads.” In turn, Plant/Page wrote the Rain Song. Also, I heard at one of Bonhams Birthday parties, he got so drunk and rowdy he threw Harrison in the pool. I also believe John Paul Jones and Bonham worked with Mccartney at times.

  4. Wow, that is really cool. Harrison seemed to be the most in touch with music in the 70’s. Is this in a book somewhere? I’d like to read about it.

  5. It’s probably in many books. I think i read some of it in Dazed and Confused. An album by album and song by song breakdown of Zeps music.

  6. I would certainly love if someone could find me some more Quotes from the Beatles about great bands like Queen and Pink Floyd who not only followed their influence but left their own to be followed by the following generations.

  7. I don’t know the exact quote from Lennon regarding Queen. What I do know is that Queen tried to get in with Apple records but was rejected because Lennon didn’t like them. Also, I know McCartney was into Floyd from the start in 67 when he used to go see their shows. Then he went to to work with David Gilmour in the 70’s and 80’s. Example: Rockestra and No More Lonely Nights where Gilmour played the solo. If anyone can find some quotes please post. :-)

  8. Ok. hope the thread’s not too old. McCartney had Gilmour play in his Rock-a-billy album circa 2000, Run Devil Run. Didn’t sell well but it has McCartney interpret Chuch Berry, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent. The title track is a MAC original imitating Chuch Berry a bit. I have it and it’s a great CD.

    Re Queen, MAC loved Brian May’s guitar playing. Obviously the guy’s a virtuoso. I read a MAC quote years ago in some guitar magazine where PMAC referred to May as “the Governor” (of his instrument) and Freddie Mercury as “King Freddie”–a play on “Queen.” I think the occasion was Queen or May being honored by the crown.

    There’s something else I remembered about the Beatles and Led Zep but I forgot it again. Let you know if it comes back.

    1. You will not find McCartney saying much about Zeppelin (at least while they were still a group) as Page/Plant did not worship Sir MAC. In an early 1970’s interview, Page/Plant said they were NOT influenced by The Beatles. That would have been sacrilegious to Paul….thus, as his history has shown, he would not have given much compliment to their work.

  9. Jim, regarding Paul M referring to Queen
    guitarist Brian May as ‘The Governor” he
    was probably referring to the 1998 CD single
    by the Brian May Band called ‘The Guv’nor’
    which May, ironically, dedicated to Jeff Beck!
    A few days ago BM declared JB his all time favourite.

  10. Thank you for clarifying. It’s cool how all these guys admire each other’s work.

    JBeck is unbelievably good. I saw him about ten years ago with Santana as the headline at Wolf Trap. Beck was far better than Carlos. I usually don’t go for intrumental stuff and that’s all JB plays but it was so inventive and melodic the audience was spellbound. Towards the end of his set the lights on the floor of the stage were arranged into the shape of the cross. Not reading anything into that but it was cool.

    JB of course was one of the Yardbirds guitarists along with Clapton and Page. He really went his own way just playing what he wanted which turned out to be not all that commercially viable.

    This needs to develop into a guitarist blog. the first thing we need is a diagram with all the connections.

  11. Jeff Beck is amazing. Truth is such a great album. Blow by Blow, Wired, Rough and Ready,…i could go on forever. It’s a shame though i feel he is underrated. All you hear about is the big 3. Clapton, Hendrix, and Page. Many tend to get overlooked as well crafted guitarists with a style all their own. As alot of you may agree—George Harrison, Tommy Bolin, Neil Young, Mick Ronson, Mike Bloomfeild, Peter Green, Johnny Winter, Stephen Stills, Martin Barre, Alvin Lee, Robert Fripp, Andy Powell and Ted Turner,Andrew Latimer, and my all time personal favorite…Rory Gallagher. If you are a fan of 60’s and 70’s rock and haven’t heard of some of these guys, then i urge you to check them out.

  12. I’m a true fan of the people that you’ve mentioned like Eric Clapton, Brian May, Hendrix or Page, but when it comes to saying Who is the best guitar player of all times How can you possibly compare Clapton, George Harrison, May or many others; I mean I’ve had long discussions about this with other music fans, and I would like to know your opinions about this, or a way to measure their great talent. If i had to choose My personal vote would go to Brian May, because he makes the guitar sound in ways I have never heard or been able to reproduce. let me know you’re own vote.

  13. The thing is you can’t really say who is the best, it’s all matter of opinion. All those guitarist’s I have mentioned above all have that special something in their playing. For example, I like George Harrison’s playing because of some unusual sounding chords he used in alot of his music. He used alot of diminished chords and had some great progressions which made his style very unique. I also like Peter Green and his reverb bluesy based guitar playing, which with him he leaves a lot of gaps in his solos, where as many other guitar players would just fill with a finger tapping or crazy riff. And like Abraham said about Brian May and the sounds he achieved…I can say the same about Gilmour and Jeff Beck. All three produced some insane sounds but all three were also very different in their playing.

  14. Agree totally subjective. Bought Clapton’s Crossroads 2007 concert with a Christmas gift card. Many good guitarists on that one including old bluesman.

    Albert Lee is absolutely insane–speed and taste–and he’s playing a country song to boot. JBeck is great too–pulling crazy stuff out of his Strat. Also, read that Beck and Page were early school mates–have known each other since age 11.

    Learned an amazing (at least to me) thing on Rock station 94.7. Page was a studio guitarist before Yardbirds and Zep and played the guitar parts on the Kinks signature (original)tune “You Really Got Me.” I have a friend who has seen the Kinks several times and he always wondered why Davies couldn’t reproduce the absolutely crazy lead. Listen to it. It can be none other than Jimmy Page

    Back to McCartney–Pink Floyd recorded Dark Side O’ Moon at Abbey Roads and Paul hung out during the recording. He is one of the spoken voices in (i think) Us and Them. He says, “I don’t know, I was really drunk at the time.”

  15. whoops. above is wrong Paul was interviewed and recorded for DSM by Floyd and hung out at the studio(Linda too) but his voice wasn’t used. The above line was recited by Wings bandmate Henry McCullough.

  16. Yeah….Paul was recording Red Rose Speedway(a very underrated album by the way) at Abbey Road while Floyd was doing Dark Side. Anyway, those little bits of vocals you hear through out Dark Side “I was really drunk at the time” “Why should i be afraid of dying…there’s no reason for it” are responses to questions Roger was asking various people in and around the studio. For example one question was something like “When was the last time you were violent? Stuff like that…interesting questions and he wanted legit answers. Well, Paul did answer some questions but they never used his. Apparently he was trying to be funny and I guess thats not what Floyd was looking for. Oh and as far as Page goes I knew he was a session player but had no idea about the Kinks relation. Very cool. Learn something new everyday! I also heard he did some stuff with The Who on their first record.

  17. Page wanted to start a band with Who’s drummer Moon and bassist Entwhistle–another obvious commitment but those two gave Zep their name. they started as the “New Yardbirds” (how boring). Moon said Page’s idea for the band would go over like a Led Balloon, Entwhistle answered, “more like a Led Zepplin.” Check this out. Page playing with Beck and Beck smashes up his guitar.

  18. Thinking about Heath Ledger, I’m reminded of Lennon’s lyrics of “Yer Blues” and “I’m So Tired” from the White Album. He was the same age as Ledger when he wrote those songs.

  19. The Dirty Mac consisted of John Lennon, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell. The performance of Yer Blues can be seen on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus DVD.

  20. It’s a great performance. isn’t it? Imagine had the Dirty Mac developed into a real album producing band? wow. Anway at the time Mick Jagger wanted to get various musical talents such as Jethro Tull and Taj Mahal, both of which apear in the show. Led Zeppelin was a mention but Mick thought they were to “guitar heavy” Also, an idea was to throw Steve Winwood and Paul McCartney into the mix but that never happened. Mick Jagger was pissed off because he felt the WHO had upstaged the stones and if you see the Who’s performance you can see why. wow…this thread has gone way off the topic hasn’t it?

  21. au contraire. It’s made the circle back to Lennon and Led Zepplin.

    over the weekend on 94.7 I heard a version of beatles/Paul Mac’s “She’s a Woman” done by Jeff Beck. All instrumental except for a “talkbox.” It was great.

    Clapton and Winwood are touring. Their versions of “Presence of the Lord” and “Can’t find my way Home” are excellent from the Crossroads 2007 concert. Winwood is mainly a keyboarder but he absolutely rocks on guitar during the latter song. Yes, now we are off track!!

  22. Yes, She’s a woman is on Jeff Becks Blow by Blow album which was produced by non other than George Martin. I’ve also heard Jeff Beck do A Day In The Life, check it out on youtube.
    Now I am going to have to check out the 2007 crossroads concert. I saw one from a few years ago that was pretty cool.

  23. watched the Yer Blues. Richards on bass playing with a pick. guess it had to be done with Clapton on lead and Lennon on Rythm. This was before Clapton swithced to the Strat permanently. Nice bluesy sound and John is riffing and filling rather good.

    I read Lennon wrote Yer Blues and So Tired after hanging out in India with the Marahrishi. “lonely wanna die.” Didn’t sound like the season of meditation was all that edifying. Lyrics like this helped lead me to Christ. I thought, these guys should have it all together. Rock stars, everything they want and their singing about wanting to commit suicide. Made me reevaluate my belief system. Being depressed and tired didn’t seem like all that much fun.

    “yes, there are two paths you can go by but…”

  24. About John Lennon, he said in an interview that he wrote songs like “Help”, “Yer Blues” when he was under a heavy depression. But what I resisted to believe for a long time was that he really looked down on Jesus. And I’m not talking about the famous interview “…We’re greater than Jesus…thing” I refer to his book A Spaniard in the Works, where, Lennon portrayed Jesus Christ as “Jesus El Pifico, a “garlic eating, stinking little yellow, greasy fascist bastard Catholic Spaniard.” And that made me think a lot about the true meaning of a lot of lyrics that even leave you clues such as “and If you listen very hard” “cause you know sometime words have two meanings” or “imagine there is no heaven”

  25. totally agree. “Imagine” is the atheist humanist anthemn. In Olympic opening ceremonies hands are uplifted as it is sung. Who says atheist aren’t religious?

    John was quite the blasephemer but I think he changed a bit before he passed–less militant.

    When I read the Gospel passage about Jesus’ two paths it made “me wonder” about Plant’s two paths in the song. Thing is one never knows if there will be “time to change the road you are on.” Interesting that he didn’t go for the many paths up the same mountain to God route. Not saying there was any real intention here but it makes me wonder if Stairway was written as a conversation with a Christian. She’s buying a …. Stairway on “the whispering wind” It’s a fairy tale type thing.

    1. I think Plant is right to not tour again. He just can’t sing like that anymore and those songs are made for twenty-somethings.

  26. I just read that the song “Helter Skelter” was created because Paul McCartney read that “the Who” said that they were the wildest rock band ever, so he decided to show them who ruled the Rock Scenario on those days. Talk about some ego. but it adds up to the fact that they also competed with the beach boys in songs like back in the USSR where you can hear them making choir just like the beach boys.

  27. hey, I almost forgot 2 ask. I just found out about the Beatles Unplugged sessions at George Harrison´s house in 1968, Can someone tell me how to get them? I’ve been looking for them everywhere but no results so far, any help would be much appreciated. thanks

  28. Abraham, I do in fact own the Beatles unplugged CD. It was indeed recorded at George’s home in Esher in late may of 1968. They recorded their new songs on George’s Reel-to-Reel tape machine. The sound quality is horrible but nevertheless an interesting listen. I came across the disc at a local record store in Philly where I live and the CD packaging looks very cheeply made. It’s made by Invasion Unlimited…whatever undergound company that is. Google it and maybe you can find it online somewhere. Like I said, bad quality but worth it for any Beatles buff.

  29. Very cool -The Beatles on Zep, Zep and the Beatles on Christianity? If you can “Imagine” a newly discovered Christian concept album by The Beatles, (Hey, look at the recently released 1970 interview where Lennon said he was Christ’s biggest fan and reccommended Christianity), this new album might be of interest to you, if you are into that sort of thing. http://www.cdbaby.com/TheAbout

    As far as the greatest guitarist- which style of music? George Harrison was the best at complimenting a song when he was with The Beatles as was Jimmy Page with Zeph, but I don’t think either one of them would have done very well switching roles.I love both of their styles with their bands, as I do Clapton, Hendricks, and a host of others. I tend to think of Harrison as my favorite guitarist because he was such an essential part of my favorite band- The Beatles, but I personally believe Page was the King of memorable guitar riffs. Then I think, who would be the most versatile guitarist? I don’t know, but Pete Townend and Jeff Beck certainly come to mind. Who would be the most technically good guitarist ? ??? Probably someone I’m not as familar with. I think of Steve Howe of Yes, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, but there are others probably better on the tecnically complicated end. As I tend to enjoy the feel of music more than the complexity of it, I’m not as familar with some of these guys like Eric Johnson, Joe Saturani ( See, I’m sure I just mutilated his name) or some Jazz or Classical guitarist.

    At least in my case my favorite guitaist, my favorite technical guitarist, and the absolute best tecnical guitarist would probably be three different people. Also, as I said if I broke this down by styles like blues, pop/rock ect, my list would be even longer, but considering everything I still find myself putting in a Beatles CD more often than any others, and to be honest I tend to think of the music as a whole, like how the music compliments the vocals and how the vocals compliment the lyric, and how the “Song” overall makes me feel, including the guitar or for that matter any other solo instrument at the right time in the song.

    That’s my Pop/Rock view, but as someone said earlier, it’s a matter of music preference and opinion, but if you like The Beatles, and spiritual references in songs, do check out the web site.

    1. Ever heard of Jan Akkerman of FOCUS. He could blow the doors off of Jimi Hendrix before breakfast. If you take away the Hendrix effects you will see the difference. There is no comparrison. Eddie Van Halen is an excellent player but he hammers too much and plays alot of irrelevant notes.

  30. u think lennon wouldve have feared a group that were never and just arent as popular as the beatles if he was goin 2 fear any1 it most certaintly wouldnt have been zeplin

  31. No group will ever be as popular as the Beatles, they were unique due to the time in history in which they appeared. Zep was just as massive in terms of charisma, and their legacy is just as enduring.

  32. Yes, because pop culture is all about now. When you’re old, you’re out and the new, young guys are IT. Zep was it then, and the Beatles were becoming old men. Pop culture is a fickle master.

    1. Pretty dumb comment. When zepp came around in the mid 60’s, maybe 67. lennon being the oldest beatle, was only 26…..that is old? i guess you have to be 11 years old to be “young” in rock and roll…

  33. George Harrison was a major fan of Led Zeppelin. He once complemented Zep on their concert intensity and endurance. I read somewhere years ago that he said ” The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are two very different style of rock band, so I would not call one better than the other.” He also defended Zeppelin in their very early days when they were getting bashed by quite a few clueless critics. The jist of that comment was: (paraphrasing) “They have become at least as big as we were, and that is no accident. They are phenomenal musicians and it seems as though a couple of fans have figured that out”.

  34. Yeah the Beatles connection was going on mostly behind the scenes, with members of Zep, the Who, and others partying at Paul’s house in the late ’70s… at least until 1979 when members of Zep played onstage with Wings.

    You can find clues in some Robert Plant interviews that are obscure. In 1994 after the Page/Plant Unledded special, quite matter of factly but sublimely, said he had asked George Harrison where to find good Indian musicians for the tour.

    Led Zep actually went to India in 1972 and recorded Indian versions of some of their songs but never released them. At least one that I heard on a bootleg is good and would go along well with the Beatles’ Indian influenced music ….

    Ringo at least knew and hung out with Bonham at gatherings.. and John Lennon while he filled in for a radio show host one Friday morning in 1974 had an interesting conversation with a random caller:

    john:”KHJ and that’s a cut from my new album. It’s 8:05 in Southern California, let’s take some callers who’s this?”

    “Hi John Lennon, this is Linda from Van Nuys.”

    john:”Hello Linda? Not Paul’s Linda eh?”

    “What?”

    john:”Hello, let’s go, no, yes, how are you.”

    “I just wanna know if you’re still into transcendental meditation.”

    john:”No I’m not into it I’m out of it. I think George is still uh, croaking on the hill though.”

    “Oh.”

    john:”Ha, ha, ha, ya got any requests?”

    “Uhh…”[silence]

    john:”Oh come on.”

    “I can’t think of any.”

    john:”Well you can’t think of any, you get a surprise.”

    “How about something from Led Zeppelin?”

    john:”From Led Zeppelin? OK. I think I know the one I wanna play. ” [hangs up and goes to the next random caller]

    I think later on, John Lennon said other things like that as a musician he couldn’t get into Zep because he could clearly hear all the earlier obscure blues songs they copped lyrics and riffs from and it bothered him somewhat.

    In January of 2009, Classic Rock magazine published this:

    Sir Paul McCartney has expressed his disappointment that there will be no Led Zeppelin world tour happening in 2009. After we broke the news of Robert Plantentering the studio with Alison Krauss last week, Sir Paul McCartney has expressed his grief that the Zeppelin tour looks dead in the water by saying: “What’s happened to Planty? He was great at their gig. It’s such a pity.”

  35. RE Lennon’s opinion: A bootleg recording from the late Beatles period has him playing the riff to “Communication Breakdown” while jamming with Yoko.

  36. I had a book about Paul Maccartney from the mid seventies, he complains about the state of radio in the UK and laments that they dont play the “GOOD STUFF LIKE ZEPPELIN”, that, and his reference to Jimmy Page in “Rock Show” convinced me he was a fan early on. Which is great coming from a Genius like him.

  37. Wasn’t McCartney at the Zep reuinion in 2007? I read somewhere that he was backstage at some point and was caught smoking some Buddha.

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