Cameron Crowe Recalls Battle For Led Zeppelin Cover Story
When Cameron Crowe interviewed Led Zeppelin for a Rolling Stone cover story in 1975 titled ‘The Durable Led Zeppelin,’ it was a piece that represented a big victory for both the magazine and the young journalist.
As Crowe relates in a new interview, Zeppelin had a venomous hatred for the magazine that had panned their first album in 1969 with a review “they had memorized word for word.”
In the review, Rolling Stone said that the group “offers little that its twin, the Jeff Beck Group, didn’t say as well or better three months ago.” The review goes on to slam Jimmy Page as a “very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs.” ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ was branded as being “very dull in places, very redundant, and certainly not worth the six-and-a-half minutes the Zeppelin give it.”
Crowe had spent three weeks on the road with Led Zeppelin working on a story for the Los Angeles Times and pitched the group on the idea of a cover story for Rolling Stone. Slowly, the members of Zeppelin began to come around with Page remaining the lone holdout.
Enter future Eagles star Joe Walsh, who was on the road with Zeppelin at the time and advised Page to give Crowe a shot. As Crowe remembers, Walsh said, “you should trust this kid, c’mon! He loves your band, he wants to write about you -- let him be on the cover with this story!”
Page replied, “well, I have to pose and I don’t know what we’d be doing.” But then the guitar legend had a thought on a potential angle.
“Page got this idea that he wanted to pose on the cover with an arm full of black roses and somehow - it was New York City - he found black roses and they did a photo session at the Plaza Hotel and it was an amazing shot. I know because [unfortunately] only a sliver of one frame came out - the camera malfunctioned - so you just got enough to know what the cover was going to be and it was unusable.”
“But I have to tell you, it was the most amazing shot of Led Zeppelin, like a prom photo, with Jimmy Page in the center holding black roses! And the look in his eyes was like ‘you hated our first album and now you want us on the cover, let's celebrate!’”
The aborted cover idea was replaced with a composite photograph featuring Page and Robert Plant in performance mode and Crowe finally had his desired cover story featuring Led Zeppelin.
He would later take his experiences on the road with Led Zeppelin and use them as the basis for his rock 'n' roll love letter ‘Almost Famous.’ And although he’s quite famous these days, he says he still loves to do interviews, something that he thinks “comes from being a fan.”