Recently, “Scarlet,” a long-lost joint effort by The Rolling Stones and Jimmy Page, was made public. The most hazardous band of the 1960s and the greatest guitarist of the 1970s collaborated on an uplifting tune. When one considers the insulting remarks Keith Richards had made about Page’s band Led Zeppelin, the song is all the more shocking. Although he is a master of riffs, he is also a master of razor-sharp jabs.
Led Zeppelin and The Stones are two of the most significant bands in British music history, and you may think that there is a great deal of respect or at least a modest degree of adoration between the two bands. But it appears that only Jimmy Page has gained guitarist Richards’ esteem; he found the rest of the band unbearable.
The first time Richards expressed contempt for Led Zep was in a 1969 interview with Rolling Stone, and despite the passage of time, his assessment of Plant’s abilities hasn’t improved. “The guy’s voice started to get on my nerves. I don’t know why; maybe he’s a little too acrobatic.”
Richards has always liked Page’s skills even if he detested his band, as evidenced by the fact that Page began working with The Stones a few years after these initial comments. The Stones guitarist once went so far as to say the following in reference to Page: “To me, Led Zeppelin is Jimmy Page if you wanna cut the story short.”
This acknowledgement that Page was instrumental in Led Zep’s success was about as much praise as he was ready to offer. He once said, “As a band, I felt aptly named, it never took off for me musically, At the same time, Jimmy Page is one of the best guitar players I’ve ever known. Bonham was a hell of a powerhouse drummer although I think he’s kind of heavy-handed, myself — that’s when the ‘Led’ comes in.” Richards said while answering a fan on his website in 2004.
He continued, “At the same time, Plant was exuberant, Robert is exuberant to be an LV(lead vocalist) but he’s very much in that English mode of LV’s like Roger Daltrey, with the fringes, microphones blah blah like you’re Rod Stewart’s or even Mick Jagger’s — they all seem to copy each other a bit.”
Interestingly, he hasn’t tempered his harsh comments with age and, if anything, his tongue has grown sharper. Richards labeled Led Zeppelin “hollow” years later, even as recently as 2015. He said to Rolling Stone, “I love Jimmy Page, but as a band, no, with John Bonham thundering down the highway in an uncontrolled 18-wheeler. He had cornered the market there. Jimmy is a brilliant player. But I always felt there was something a little hollow about it, you know?”
However, his friendship with Page, whom he regards as a close friend, has not been harmed by his occasionally critical public pronouncements about Zeppelin over the years. It’s important to note that Richards’ distaste for the Led Zep member’s old group isn’t something the musician laments too much.
Page told Classic Rock, “Keith can say what he wants. He’s Keith Richards. I think he’s done some amazing work. I respect his playing. And he has a solo album out. But if I was promoting a new album, would I be more caustic? The answer is… no. I’m not sure what he means by calling Led Zeppelin hollow. I think he’s got his tongue in his cheek. What we did was really cool.”
The majority of The Rolling Stones’ best years were spent on the road. With more than 60 years of live performance under their belts, the band knows when to bring in a standout guest act or two. The Stones have performed with practically everyone, with the exception of, you guessed it, Led Zeppelin, from Amy Winehouse to Bob Dylan.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the seventh year running in 1992 was the closest we’ve ever gotten to pulling off such a feat. Richards joined Jimmy Page that evening, along with John Fogerty and Carlos Santana, for an exhilarating performance. But even then, the atmosphere was a touch chilly.
Even while Richards undoubtedly isn’t a fan of Led Zeppelin, it’s evident that his criticisms have always been on the band’s music rather than an attack on any individual member. If Keith has always been anything, it’s been truthful in his opinions and open about what’s on his mind.
Below, you may hear the long-lost collaboration between Page and Richards.