20 Years Ago: Jimmy Page Joins Puff Daddy for ‘Kashmir’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’
Even the most legendary rock artists sometimes leave us shaking our heads and wondering what they were thinking. Jimmy Page had his turn in 1998, when he not only gave his blessing to a hip-hop remake of Led Zeppelin's classic "Kashmir," but decided to play guitar on it — and then went a step further by appearing in the video and showing up to perform the "new" song on Saturday Night Live.
The track was the work of producer and MC Puff Daddy, who'd fashioned a recent string of hits for himself and other artists by building songs out of large, immediately obvious samples from other artists' work.
With his debut solo single, 1997's "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," he drew from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message" while using the melody from Matthew Wilder's hit "Break My Stride" for the chorus — a method he doubled down on later that year with "I'll Be Missing You," which was essentially the Police's "Every Breath You Take" with rapping on top.
Those hits, among others, made Puffy a natural choice for the producers of 1998's Godzilla movie, which was being positioned as the blockbuster of the summer — and being given an appropriately star-studded soundtrack featuring contributions from Foo Fighters, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, and others. Tasked with bridging the gap between rap and rock — and hopefully delivering a multi-format smash hit single in the bargain — he set his sights on "Kashmir."
Alas, nothing really turned out the way anyone planned. Puffy's track, titled "Come With Me," mirrored Godzilla in the worst way: Both the single and its film were seen as crass, lumbering, bloated miscalculations that tried to trade on former glories for commercial gain. It all added up to a lot of fast-forgotten noise; the single and soundtrack were Top 5 hits that quickly cluttered cutout bins, while Godzilla the movie, poisoned by lukewarm word of mouth, grossed $136 million domestically against a reported $130 million budget.
It wasn't for lack of promotion, either. Puffy and Page stepped on the Saturday Night Live stage May 9, 1998, doing their best to ramp up anticipation for the movie's May 20 premiere by performing "Come With Me" with a band that included a 40-piece orchestra. None of the spectacle really helped disguise the desperate futility at the heart of a collaboration that's still widely derided today. As Public Enemy leader Chuck D put it in a 2012 interview, "I like Jimmy Page and P. Diddy, but what they did to ‘Kashmir’ was a debacle. They are giants in their own way – and you can print this – but that was a f—ing travesty."
All that being said, as much as we might love our favorite songs, they aren't really ours; they belong to the artists responsible for writing and recording them, who can do with the music whatever they like. Most of the time, it's easy for us as fans to stand behind our favorite artists' decisions, but every once in a while — as Page reminded us in May of '98 — it can hurt a little.