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'Unconvincing' Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page talks exclusively about the band's early BBC sessions

  • 17/12/2009
  • Georgie Rogers
Jimmy Page

They are one of the most successful rock bands ever, but the BBC was unconvinced about Led Zeppelin when they played their first radio session.

Documents from the BBC’s written archive unearthed by 6 Music and published today (16 Dec) show that producers invited the group to appear on a trial basis only, giving their performance a cautious welcome.

A 1969 Audition Panel of BBC producers reviewed them, with future broadcasts depending on their verdicts.

One wrote: "English blues group longing to sound like Muddy Waters, but failing necessarily through being derivative...for me it’s unconvincing and I’d rather hear the genuine article." 

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Jimmy Page came in to 6 Music to talk to Breakfast Show presenter Shaun Keaveny about those Led Zeppelin sessions, for a Christmas Day special.

The programme, Jimmy Page and the BBC Sessions, will be broadcast in two parts on Christmas Day (25 December).

You can hear Part 1, Led Zeppelin in 1969, on 6 Music between 1200-1300 GMT, with Part 2, Led Zeppelin in 1971, on-air between 2100-2200.

'Out of tune'

The show features a section of the famous Whole Lotta Love medley, that wasn't included on the commercial release in 1997, although after hearing it again at 6 Music, Jimmy seemed to remember why.

"For those who were hearing it for the first time, there was a certain guitarist who was really wincing at the out of tune part, because the string had dropped and it was out of tune," he said. "I was gyrating on the chair here wishing I could tune it up.

"Anyway it got tuned and it got back in, but I could hear then it was putting my playing off. It’s interesting."

In the records there is a mention of a cheque made out to Jimmy Page for six pounds, a payment which bounced.

"It just so happened that quite a number of years ago I was going through some old papers and things in a tea chest, and I found this cheque that said, 'Ordered not to pay'," he explained. "It’s from the Zeppelin era, so one of these sessions.

"I’ve actually got it on the wall at home and I should have looked at the date before I came here. It was probably for that out of tune guitar on that medley, and that’s fair do's."

We had a cheque re-written and Shaun Keaveny presented it to the guitar legend, who says he plans to put it in the frame with the old document.

Follow the links below to view original documentation from the sessions:

Top Gear approval letter
Contract for sessions
Letter of approval
Letter to Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager
Internal BBC memo
Led Zeppelin call sheet
Led Zeppelin Audition Report

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