Few bands in the history of classic rock are as well-known as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. The world bemoaned the idea of a decade without the Beatles as the 1960s came to a close, and the Stones assumed the title of the biggest band in the world. Led Zeppelin, a heavier, prog-rock alternative, took a back seat.
Although these two icons of rock ‘n’ roll never had a significant media-fueled animosity, The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has often demonstrated his disinterest in Led Zeppelin’s music over the years.
Richards joined in June 1969 as Led Zeppelin began to gain notoriety after their debut of two albums. “I grew to dislike the guy’s voice. I don’t know why; maybe he’s a touch too acrobatic,” Richards said of Robert Plant’s singing technique in an interview with Rolling Stone. With his mastery of the guitar, Page gained more and more respect during the 1970s. He got to know Richards well after working with The Rolling Stones on the song “Scarlet,” which was recorded in 1974 but only made public in 2020.
Understandably, Richards found it difficult to criticize his counterpart’s skill, but he has continued to have negative views about the other members of Led Zeppelin throughout time. Richards stated in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, “I love Jimmy Page, but as a band [Led Zeppelin], 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?.”
Richards, a devout follower of the blues, doesn’t appear to have been ready to embrace the harder rock genre that Led Zeppelin promoted as a renowned metal band. In 2004, Richards expanded on his Led Zeppelin analysis in a discussion video that he put on his website in response to inquiries from fans.
“As a band, I thought they never took off musically. At the same time, Jimmy Page is one of the best guitar players ever known, and Bonham was a hell of a powerhouse drummer, although I think he was kind of heavy-handed, myself, but that’s where the ‘Led’ comes in [laughs]. But at the same time, Plant is exuberant, Robert is exuberant enough to be an LV [lead vocalist]. But I think he’s very much in that English mode of LV, like Roger Daltrey, you know, with the fringes and blah, blah, blah, and the microphone. [Your] Rod Stewart’s and even Mick Jagger’s come to mind. They all seemed to copy each other a bit, but to me, Led Zeppelin is Jimmy Page. You know, you wanna cut the story short: Jimmy Page… yeah… shy boy.”
When Richards refers to Page as a “shy boy” in his final statement about him, he appears to be emphasizing the contrast between Page and Plant’s vivacious and ostentatious demeanor. Keith Richards and his friendlier songwriting collaborator and bandmate Mick Jagger might be contrasted in the same way. Perhaps Richards and Page share more than just their mastery of the guitar.
With Richards’ final word on Page, describing him as a “shy boy”, he seems to be highlighting the contrast between Plant’s exuberant and showy presence. This same contrast can be seen between Richards and his much more gregarious songwriting partner and bandmate Mick Jagger. Perhaps guitar virtuosity isn’t all Richards and Page have in common.
Page told to 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.”
Here, you can watch the official music video for The Rolling Stones’ upcoming song “Scarlet,” which stars actor Paul Mescal.