“I was pissed off”: why John Paul Jones resented his Led Zeppelin bandmates

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John Paul Jones, the bassist and multi-instrumentalist of Led Zeppelin, has always been somewhat of a mystery. In an era filled with flamboyant personalities, his quiet demeanor stands out. However, his musical contributions were crucial to the band’s immense success.

While Jimmy Page, the band’s leader, is a legendary guitarist and brilliant composer, John Paul Jones often acted as the bridge between the band’s bold creative visions and their actualization. Jones’s background in music was deeply rooted from the beginning, with both his parents in the business. His formal training and early exposure to music positioned him perfectly for the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Before joining Led Zeppelin, he was already a respected session player and arranger, working with artists like The Rolling Stones, Nico, and Dusty Springfield.

Initially, Jones wasn’t approached by Page when he was forming Led Zeppelin. However, encouraged by his wife, Jones reached out to Page, who was thrilled at the prospect of having such a talented musician join the band. Jones brought a level of sophistication and versatility that was vital to the group’s success.

Jones’s contributions to Led Zeppelin are well-documented. He created iconic basslines for songs like “Ramble On” and crafted the shifting melody of “Black Dog.” His keyboard work added depth to tracks such as “The Rain Song,” “Trampled Under Foot,” and the epic “Kashmir.” Jones also played the mandolin on “The Battle of Evermore,” a song he performed during the band’s 1977 US tour. His versatility and skill were unparalleled.

Despite his integral role in Led Zeppelin, Jones felt betrayed when Page and frontman Robert Plant formed the project Page and Plant in 1994 without him. He discovered their collaboration through the newspapers shortly after discussing an Unplugged project with Plant. Reflecting on this during a 2010 Q&A with fans, Jones expressed his frustration: “Oh yeah, I was pissed off about it. The surprise was in not being told. It’s ancient history now, but it was a bit annoying to find out about it while reading the papers. It came just after Robert and I had been discussing the idea of doing an Unplugged project.”

Jones continued, “Then I’m on tour in Germany with Diamanda Galás. I turn on the TV and see Robert and Jimmy doing it, with someone else playing all my parts! I was pissed off at the time. You would be, wouldn’t you? But… it’s all in the past, isn’t it?”

Though Page and Plant’s project lasted only four years and produced one album, 1998’s “Walking into Clarksdale,” John Paul Jones’s legacy with Led Zeppelin remains unassailable. His contributions were essential to the band’s sound and success, cementing his place in rock history.

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