JOHN PAUL JONES ON THE OCCASION OF HIS BIRTHDAY/EXCLUSIVE TBL 41 INTERVIEW EXTRACTS/71 AT 71 PLAYLIST
John Paul Jones on the occasion of his 71st Birthday:
John Paul Jones is 71 today (January 3)…
Throughout the past 12 months, John has again moved effortlessly between differing projects and collaborations – and along the way, there was continued work on his opera project – of which more news will unfold this year.
Here are some extracts from the only interview John conducted with me last year, for publication in TBL issue 41:
DL: So let’s start with the present and your opera project – which I think I am right in saying is partly based on August Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata. What stage is that currently at?
JPJ: I’ve just about finished it. All the orchestration is done now so I’m talking to opera house directors. There are several interested so hopefully we can get it off the ground real soon. It will probably be next year when it goes into an opera house. Everything is booked years in advance with these things.
DL: How long has it taken?
JPJ: I’ve only been working on it for six months in each year solidly. In between all that, I’ve done three tours with Dave Rawlings, I’ve done a lot with Seasick Steve so there’s been other things going on. I haven’t been at it absolutely solidly for however many years it is. I began thinking about it at the end of the Crooked Vultures. I had an initial idea but then a year later I changed the subject as I wasn’t happy with it.
DL: Can you just give me some background to what it’s all about?
JPJ: It’s adapted from the play The Ghost Sonata by Augustus Strindberg. It was written about 1905. It’s a psychological drama – it’s very dark there is a few comic moments in it but not too many. I got a librettist to do a complete re adaption of the play – we had our own translation from the Swedish so it’s in English now. I then set the whole thing to music. If you work solidly on an opera I mean day in and day out, it takes at least a year to write the score, then another year to orchestrate the whole thing. So at best its two years – it’s two hours and 40 minutes of just music at the moment – there be some singing obviously but it’s a lot of music. I’ve not written that much music for one project for a long time and it’s a full orchestra 60 or 70 piece orchestra with six main singers. It’s really a big project so it’s not surprisingly it’s taken so long to do it. I’ve got two of my lead singers. One of the advantageous of it taking so long is that at least one of the singers was up and coming at the time when it started – and now he’s a big star but he still wants to do it.
DL: Can you reveal who that is?
JPJ: I don’t actually want to say who it is – I’ll keep it under wraps until we are all ready to announce everything. I’m very excited about and we’ve got a director. As I said, I’m talking meeting with several to several houses – I’m travelling a bit and meeting with directors, opera house directors, artistic directors and there’s quite a few people very interested. It may be a combination of two or three opera houses that take it. These things only have half a dozen performances but what I’d like to do is stage half a dozen in one house and then go into another and hopefully it will go around the world.
DL: The recent Led Zeppelin reissue companion discs yielded some very nice surprises – the instrumental piano led POD from the Presence sessions was a lovely find – were you aware that was in the archives?
JPJ: No, I had completely forgotten about it.
DL: That one was a real surprise as one thinks of Presence as a guitar bass drums album.
JPJ: Yes I know. I was pleased to hear that, our playing is just so good on that. In fact there was a few things that Jimmy found that I’d completely forgotten about .That Keys To The Highway piece – the guitar and voice only, that’s fantastic. I’m surprised that didn’t go onto an earlier record.
DL: Another illuminating find was the early version of In The Light titled Everybody Makes It Through – it has that almost Elizabethan sounding keyboard sound – it was great to finally here that version officially
JPJ: I did remember that one. When I heard these things I did start to remember. We did so much stuff – I have said before that most of it did get released but things changed as we recorded them. So In The Light changed a lot in the writing. We would try a lot of different ideas before we decided on the final version. You tend to forget how you got to the end result – so it’s great that these things have surfaced. It’s so good to hear them again .
DL: That’s not you on vocals on Royal Orleans as I wrongly suspected! It sounded like a Dr John gruff sound – something you high have attempted.
JPJ: No – that is Robert.
DL: Listening to the Zep catalogue again – which of the albums really stand out for you?
JPJ: Oh lord… everything just came flooding back. I can’t pick one album. It was like ‘Oh I remember that oh that’s good isn’t it’. Jimmy played me some of the earlier alternate things – it takes you back to what happened and how we a arrived at what was released. Listening again you realise why we didn’t go that way or this way.
DL: The alternate Since I’ve Been Loving You is one of my highlights.
JPJ: Yes, that is really good – you can hear we were going for that. In fact, just hearing the different mixes which weren’t the mixes we finally arrived at, they were still interesting in their own way. Hearing different parts bought out – like the way Bonzo was brought out in a lot of things. Trampled Underfoot for instance – all of it was so exiting to hear.
DL: It was also great to hear the vinyl sounding so good. There’s been a real resurgence in vinyl – do you play vinyl much yourself?
JPJ: A bit, not a lot as I don’t play a lot of music. I don’t listen to a lot of music these days mainly because I am busy writing and playing. If I listen to a lot of music, it’ll get stuck in my head and then it moves everything else
DL: Looking at your 1960s session work – what of your contributions from that period stands out for you ?
JPJ: There was so much of it wasn’t there and it was a bit of a bur at the time. I know what came to light recently a record I did with Graham Gouldman
DL: The Graham Gouldman Thing. That as an album with Graham Gouldman who wrote many 60s hits and went on to form 10CC.
JPJ: Yes that was really good. At the time Peter Noone was supposed to produce it and I don’t think he turned up so we were stuck and the musicians were in the studio so it was like ‘Well ‘let’s get on with it do it ourselves.’ I heard that recently and I saw Graham last year I listened it to again and thought there’s some really good stuff on there
DL: I think it was recorded at Olympic Studios
JPJ: I think Eddie Kramer engineered it. I also like the stuff I did with Dusty Springfield. Angel In The Morning by PP Arnold was another one that stands out. I was on masses of stuff and every now and again I get reminded. There was that one I put up on my Facebook page Beverley Martin’s version of Happy New Year. Steve Wynn sent me an email ‘Have you heard this?. It was his favourite song at the time and he researched who was on it and found it was me I listened to it. It’s almost a bass solo record. Beverley Martin is fantastic and it’s a great Randy Newman song that one.
DL: The Rolling Stones have just opened their major exhibition – would you like to see something like that for Zeppelin?
JPJ: I don’t know, I haven’t seen it for to be honest you never know. I don’t know who would take that on – the photographers perhaps.
DL: The recent passing of Keith Emerson saddened us all –I think I’m right in saying you sold your Yamaha GX1 to Keith?
JPJ: Yes I did. I had seen him for ages. I sold him that one in the 19080s. I think. He had one that needed repairing so he bought mine. I’m sure it got destroyed by a fire in his barn. I had seen him for ages- he was a really great bloke and it’s very sad what happened..
DL: Can you remember the first record you ever bought or owned?
JPJ: Yes, it was Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis. I got in a shop in Eltham. I was born in Sidcup – that was only where the hospital was I don’t know Sidcup at all. I grew up in Eltham Another one was Cathy’s Clown by the Everly Brothers. That was a huge influence on me.
DL: When it comes to your favourite albums – which ones spring to mind?
JPJ: Well early on I couldn’t afford albums though I did have a Shadows album. Later when I joining bands I didn’t listen to much rock’n’roll –that’s when I discovered a lot of jazz stuff. Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain, Giant Steps by John Coltrane Cannonball Adderley At The Lighthouse. They were some of my Jazz favourites for sure.
DL: Was the arrival of Motown an important influence?
JPJ: Yes Motown was important – the bass playing of course. Another real favourite album that springs to mind is that first Aretha Franklin record – that is just stunning. At the time I kept telling everyone ‘Listen to this it’s unbelievable’. Oh and Jimi Hendrix – the first few albums I had all the Hendrix albums.
DL: Looking over your nigh on 55 year career, what would you site as some of the highlights ?
JPJ: Highlights? Well the first San Francisco gig with Zeppelin was a highlight. That was a moment when we just thought its really coming together. The first rehearsal together was another moment – meeting Bonzo and just having that recognition that certain rhythm sections have – it was like ‘Oh wait a minute this is somebody I could play with quite happily’. All four of us instantly knew it would be great.
I mean there’s so many gigs with Zep – the Forum, Madison Square Garden, they were all pretty big highlights – moving on to some of my solo shows -there was a Boston one and Seattle – there were some really good solo shows which I remember very fondly.
DL: Where does the 02 performance rank?
JPJ: Oh yes you have to mention that – yes that was amazing and of course the Kennedy Honours – that was a fantastic occasion for us all.
DL: Back to the present. You recently appeared on the recent album by Rokia Traore Ne So – how did you get involved in that?
JPJ: I’d known her work with Africa Express so she asked me to play on some tracks on her album. Unfortunately I was a bit ill at the time so I actually couldn’t play with her then but I went over to Brussels last year and added bass. I just love playing with Rokia , she’s so sensitive and so interesting also does a lot of stuff with musicians from Mali – she’s very talented singer songwriter.
DL: Any plans for a solo album? We await a difficult third album from you!
JPJ: I kinda gave that up because nobody would book the shows. We were doing very well and were packed out and people were saying this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and all this sort of stuff. However, I could actually struggled getting the right bookings it was like ‘Oh where the singer?’ It was just too much like hard work getting good places to play. I just gave up on it. As for going back on the road again, I don’t know about that – especially when it’s hard to get promoters to recognise that you can have a good instrumentalist thing without a singer plusd I still don’t sing much.
DL: Well you have a little bit…
JPJ: Somebody showed me clip of The Battle Of Evermore . Do you know what’s really annoying about that? There’s a little YouTube thing when you can see me singing at the beginning of the song in 1977 (Seattle). When it goes to Robert in the bridge everyone thinks that’s me singing but it’s not, it’s that wretched eventide harmoniser hideous voice effect! .It doesn’t know what key you’re singing in. It’s like ‘ How did you get all those harmonies to be so awful?’ The clip goes back to the verse and there’s me singing again. It looks like I made that awful noise in the bridge. I saw the comments underneath it – so will you clear that up for me!
DL: Consider it done! Looking ahead, do you plan to do further live work with Supersilent and Mini Bus Pimps again ?
JPJ: Yes, I probably will at some point. I see Dave Grohl now and again and it would be nice to do something with him again.
DL: Are there any artists that you would like to work with?
JPJ: I did think of somebody but I’ve forgotten ! I don’t really plan anything like that. What happen is that the opportunity arises or somebody asks me and it’s like ‘ I haven’t done this before so let’s get it in and do it’. Then it all appears on YouTube like my performance at the Todos Santos Music Festival with La Santa Cecilia, the Mexican-American band.
DL: When will see you perform live in the UK this year?
JPJ: I am not quite sure what with the opera to finalise.
DL: Well as you know all TBL readers avidly follow what you do
JPJ: Yes I do know that and it’s very good to know. It was amazing you turned up with your Supersilent gig
DL: Yes there were a few of us there that night
JPJ: I was so happy to see you all – it’s right out of the comfort zone!
DL: Like I said, it’s a pleasure to follow all the diverse things you get involved in.
JPJ: I just like that sort of way of working. It’s good to keep diversifying – it keeps me awake It gets your mind thinking in different ways and sparks stuff off. It keeps it all churning over. Then again it’s still all me…
DL: That’s always a good thing! John thanks for this catch up – it’s been a pleasure.
Dave Lewis interviewed John Paul Jones on April 14 2016 . Many thanks to Adrian Molloy.
The full interview is one of the many highlights of TBL issue 41 – available at the link below:
John Paul Jones remains the consummate musician – his work within Led Zeppelin and without, has constantly produced moments of sheer genius.
Here is a listing compiled by myself and Richard Grubb that was featured in TBL 41. It highlights in chronological order, 71 examples of his work as arranger, bassist, keyboardist and everything in between.
Whilst by no means a definitive listing – you will all have your fave moments that best represent his work, this TBL playlist acts as something of a snapshot of his vast musical achievements over the last 50 plus years – and it would certainly make a comprehensive 6 CD career retrospective.
I am sure many of these performances will be played today by countless fans across the globe – as we celebrate the 71st birthday of a master musician who continues to provide so much joy…
Happy Birthday John – from all of us to you…
Dave Lewis – January 3, 2017.
John Paul Jones 71 at 771 – The TBL Playlist:
1 Foggy Day In Vietnam – Available on: Your Time is Gonna Come –The Roots Of Led Zeppelin (1964)
2 Baja – Available on: Your Time is Gonna Come –The Roots Of Led Zeppelin (1964)
3 Little Games (The Yardbirds) – Available on: The Yardbirds Little Games (1967)
4 She’s A Rainbow (The Rolling Stones) Aailable on The Rolling Stones Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
5 Bus Stop (Graham Gouldman) Available on the Graham Gouldman Thing (1968)
6 Baby Come On Home (Led Zeppelin) – Available on Boxed Set 2 (1968)
7 You Shook Me – Available on: Led Zeppelin I (1969)
8 Dazed And Confused – Available on: Led Zeppelin I (1969)
9 Your Time Is Gonna Come – Available on: Led Zeppelin I (1969)
10 How Many More Times – Available on: Led Zeppelin I (1969)
11 What Is And What Should Never Be – Available on: Led Zeppelin II (1969)
12 The Lemon Song – Available on: Led Zeppelin II (1969)
13 Thank You – Available on: Led Zeppelin II (1969)
14 Ramble On – Available on: Led Zeppelin II (1969)
15 Immigrant Song – Available on: Led Zeppelin III (1970)
16 Since I’ve Been Loving You – Available on: Led Zeppelin III (1970)
17 That’s The Way – Available on: Led Zeppelin III (1970)
18 St Tristens Sword – Available on Coda Companion Disc (1970)
19 Black Dog – Available on: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
20 Rock And Roll – Available on: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
21 The Battle Of Evermore – Available on: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
22 Stairway to Heaven – Available on: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
23 When The Levee Breaks Alternate UK Mix In Progress Available on: Led Zeppelin IV Deluxe Edition (1971)
2 The Rain Song – Available on: Houses Of The Holy (1973)
25 The Crunge – Available on: Houses Of The Holy (1973)
26 No Quarter – Available on: Houses Of The Holy (1973)
27 No Quarter (Live Madison Square Garden) – Available on: The Song Remains The Same (1973)
28 Comin Atcha (Madeline Bell) – Available on Madeline Bell Comin’ Atcha (1973)
29 In My Time Of Dying – Available on: Physical Graffiti (1975)
30 Trampled Underfoot – Available on: Physical Graffiti (1975)
31 Kashmir – Available on: Physical Graffiti (1975)
32 In The Light – Available on: Physical Graffiti (1975)
33 Going To California (Live Earls Court May 1975) – Available on: Led Zeppelin DVD (1975)
34 Trampled Underfoot (Live Earls Court May 1975) – Available on: Led Zeppelin DVD (1976)
35 Achilles Last Stand – Available on: Presence (1976)
36 Royal Orleans – Available on: Presence (1976)
37 Pod – Available on: Presence Companion Disc (1976)
38 Rockestra Theme – Available on: Wings Back To The Egg (1979)
39 South Bound Suarez – Available on: In Through The Out Door (1979)
40 Carouselambra – Available on: In Through The Out Door (1979)
41 All My Love – Available on: In Through The Out Door (1979)
42 Kashmir (Knebworth) – Available on: Led Zeppelin DVD (1979)
43: In The Evening (Knebworth) – Available on: Led Zeppelin DVD (1979)
44 Spaghetti Junction – Available on Scream For Help soundtrack (1985)
45 Crackback – Available on: Scream For Help soundtrack (1985)
46 Are You Gonna Go My Way with Lenny Kravitz (1993) – Available on: You Tube
47 Do You Take This Man (with Diamanda Galas) – Available on: The Sporting Life (1994)
48 Skotoseme (with Diamanda Galas) – Available on: The Sporting Life (1994)
49 Zooma – Available on: Zooma (1999)
50 Smile Of Your Shadow – Available on: Zooma (1999)
51 Bass ‘n’ Drums – Available on :Zooma (1999)
52 Snake Eyes – Available on: Zooma (1999)
53 Leafy Meadows – Available on: The Thunderthief (2001)
54 Hoediddle – Available on: The Thunderthief (2001)
55 Ice Fishing At Night – Available on: The Thunderthief (2001)
56 Down To The River To Pray – Available on: The Thunderthief (2001)
57 Dazed And Confused (with Ben Harper and Questlove – Bonaroo 2007) – Available on: You Tube
58 In My Time Of Dying (Live O2 2007) – Available on: Celebration Day (2007)
59 No Quarter (Live O2 2007) – Available on: Celebration Day (2007)
60 For Your Life (Live O2 2007) – Available on: Celebration Day (2007)
61 Trampled Underfoot (Live O2 2007) Available on: Celebration Day (2007)
62 The Pretender (Foo Fighters – 50th Grammy Awards 2008) Orchestration – Available on: You Tube
63 No One Loves Me & Neither Do I – Available on: Them Crooked Vultures (2009)
64 New Fang – Available on: Them Crooked Vultures (2009)
65 Walkin’ Man (with Seasick Steve iTunes Festival 2011) – Available on: You Tube
66 Over You (with Seasick Steve) – Available on: Hubcap Music (2013)
67 Improvisation (Supersilent) Live in Oslo 2013 – Available on YouTube (2013)
68: Going To California (with Dave Rawlings Machine live at Georgia Theatre 2013) – Available on YouTube (2013)
69 Superbolt (Minibus Pimps) – Available on: Cloud To Ground (2014)
70 When The Levee Breaks (with Mike Mills and friends Ice Station Vadsø, Norway) – Available on YouTube (2015)
71: I’m With Her(with Sara Watkins Union Chapel 2016) – Available on YouTube
Compiled by Richard Grubb and Dave Lewis
Until next time – have a great week…
TBL Website updates compiled by Dave Lewis
with thanks to Gary Foy and James Cook
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