Rock

The Led Zeppelin song John Paul Jones struggled to play

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Led Zeppelin, often hailed as the inaugural supergroup of rock, showcased a quartet of virtuosos, each bringing unparalleled skill to the band.

Jimmy Page, following The Yardbirds’ dissolution, handpicked England’s elite musicians to form a new ensemble, with John Paul Jones adding a unique flavor with his bass lines. Page’s legendary guitar riffs were perfectly complemented by Jones’s precise and driving bass, creating a dynamic musical interplay.

Jones and Page, both seasoned session musicians, had distinct approaches to timing in Led Zeppelin’s sound. While John Bonham famously laid back on the beat and Page pushed forward, Jones anchored the rhythm, perfectly centered, propelling the music with unwavering consistency.

Led Zeppelin’s debut album, a blend of blues standards and pioneering originals, marked the dawn of hard rock. Tracks like ‘Communication Breakdown’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’ were revolutionary, showcasing Page’s innovative guitar techniques, including his use of bows on strings.

Jones, versatile in his sound, faced challenges with ‘Good Times Bad Times’, the band’s introduction to the world. Despite its seemingly straightforward blues structure, Jones found the groove elusive initially. Reflecting on the song years later, he admitted to Rolling Stone in 2007 that it was the most challenging riff he had ever created, emphasizing its difficulty in performance.

Page, too, recognized the song’s impact, noting in Guitar Greats how John Bonham’s drum pattern misled many into believing he used two bass drums instead of one. The song’s complexity, especially the riff that Jones and Page played together, involved intricate string-skipping that demanded swift transitions from arpeggios to power chords.

Jones mastered this challenging riff with apparent ease in the studio, anchoring the band’s sound and even delivering standout lead licks during instrumental breaks and leading into Page’s explosive guitar solo.

Jones’s contributions to Led Zeppelin’s complexity didn’t end there. For their fourth album, he composed the central riff of ‘Black Dog’, a piece characterized by a complex time signature that momentarily gives the illusion of the band being out of sync, only to come together powerfully on the downbeat. Despite his advanced musical understanding, Jones humorously noted that even he initially grappled with the complexities of his own creations.

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