John Paul Jones Discography
The John Paul Jones discography will, of course, always live in the shadow of Led Zeppelin.
They helped establish his wider musical persona over nine studio albums between 1969-82. There have been a few memorable reunions since – most notably, his appearance with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert in 2007 at London's O2 Arena – but Jones has spent the bulk of time since then doing other, sometimes notably offbeat things.
For instance, you might have expected him to tour with Led Zeppelin after that O2 show. Instead, Jones ended up returning a couple of years later with an entirely different kind of supergroup. But, taking a long view, it made sense: The always-restless Jones initially emerged an ace sessions guy, the sort of behind-the-scenes Svengali who you find tucked away in hundreds of liner notes across a crazy number of genres.
That's his string arrangement on the Rolling Stones' "She's a Rainbow." He's on Donovan's best-known songs, including "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow" and "Hurdy Gurdy Man." He had a series of collaborations with Dusty Springfield, and appeared on records by Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Lulu, Cat Stevens, Nico, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, and the Herman's Hermits, among many, many others. "I can't remember three-quarters of the sessions I was on," Jones told Uncut in 2008.
Later, before he officially began an on-again, off-again solo career, Jones appeared on albums by Roy Harper and Paul McCartney, playing bass on the latter's Grammy-winning "Rockestra Theme." Jones finally got going with a soundtrack recording, but it was notable not for the film itself but for the presence of Page.
Jones has also arranged, appeared or composed songs for a several other movies – including 1968's Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter, 1984's Give My Regards to Broad Street and 1993's The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb. He sat in with Peter Gabriel (Us), R.E.M. (Automatic for the People), Heart (The Road Home) and Brian Eno (Music for Films III).
Ironically, he's always preferred playing live, despite having such a legendary studio presence. "The audience is the main difference, the feedback," Jones said back in 2003. In the studio, "if you make a mistake and it's a really good take, they have to do the whole thing again, so you try not to make a mistake. Onstage, you don't care. You can take chances because you know once it's gone – unless it comes back on a DVD – it's gone. Onstage, you can go further."
Perhaps that's why Jones has only released two proper solo albums, both of them around the turn of the century. Even so, that's not the sum total of his output. Here's a look inside the always-interesting John Paul Jones discography:
Scream for Help (1985)
John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones didn't seem all that interested in going solo when Led Zeppelin split after John Bonham's tragic death in 1980. "At the time that John died, I had just moved to Devon to bring up my family," Jones told Q magazine in 2008. "So, after the split, I was completely out of everything – and I must say I didn't miss it." When Jones finally returned, it was to rather familiar environs. Scream for Help served as the soundtrack for a film by Jimmy Page's Berkshire neighbor, movie director Michael Winner. Page, who had previously done the music for Winner's Death Wish II, appears on two songs. But it wasn't all comfy nostalgia: Jones also takes a crack at singing.
The Sporting Life (1994)
Diamanda Galas and John Paul Jones
Jones resurfaced almost a decade later, this time on a co-credited collaboration with avant-garde post-opera singer Diamanda Galas. "Our backgrounds are very similar," Jones told Deseret News in 1994. "We both played in our fathers' bands when we were starting out, and we're both great fans of classical music, jazz, blues, Mediterranean music and Arabic music." Together, they produced Galas' most approachable record. It was a long way from Led Zeppelin, but Jones was in a different mindset by then. "I may miss the private plane," he added, "but on the other hand, I'm much more interested in new, alternative music now."
John Paul Jones
Jones' first official solo album also included Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, whom he'd worked with five years before on Galas' Sporting Life – as well as King Crimson alum Trey Gunn. First and foremost, however, Zooma served as a broad musical showcase for Jones. The only thing he didn't do was sing, and Jones took that as a personal challenge: "There are no vocals on the songs, no lyrics – [so] it's got to be interesting," he told British DJ Tommy Vance in 1999. "It's got to be listenable and something's got to be happening all the time." So, you have Jones playing 4-, 10- and 12-string basses, an electric mandola, a bass lap steel, guitars, an organ and the Kyma while also handling string arrangements and conducting.
The Thunderthief (2001)
John Paul Jones
Jones' next solo album reflected a more band-oriented approach, following a tour in support of Zooma that featured Chapman Stick player Nick Beggs and drummer Terl Bryant. Both returned for The Thunderthief. Once again, Jones puts the "multi" in multi-instrumentalist – adding synths, ukulele, harmonica, koto and autoharp to his arsenal. He also sings some, for the first time since "When You Fall In Love" and "Bad Child" on Scream for Help. That represented a huge capitulation for Jones. "We toured the world, sold out shows, then promoters started insisting I get a bloody singer," he told Mojo in 2008. "It was instrumental music, but I'm not Jeff Beck. I remember a promoter saying, 'We can't grow it.' Oh, well, fuck you all."
Them Crooked Vultures (2008)
Them Crooked Vultures
Following that disappointment, the John Paul Jones discography went silent for a time. He produced some indie acts, collaborated with Robyn Hitchcock on a tribute to Syd Barrett, and reunited with Led Zeppelin before finally being lured back to the studio. It was again with a supergroup – only a different one: Work with the Foo Fighters led to sessions with Dave Grohl, as well as Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme. Dubbed Them Crooked Vultures, the group satisfied Jones' itch to get back on the road following the Zeppelin one-off: "After that, I was in that mindset where I'd probably do some touring," Jones told the Telegraph in 2009. "When Dave came along and said, 'Do you fancy trying out with Josh?' I jumped at it." Their self-titled hit was a Top 15 in both America and the U.K.
You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (2011)
Jones' return to the blues roots that informed Led Zeppelin's earliest records led to another trip to the upper reaches of the U.K. charts. You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks finds Jones sitting in with Seasick Steve, a Jack White label signee known for playing a beat-up, three-string guitar called the Trance Wonder. The down side was, they're only together for three cuts – the title track and "Back in the Doghouse" (which finds Jones on bass) and "Long Long Way" (where he adds mandolin). The up side was, those are among the very best moments on You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.
Hubcap Music (2013)
Jones and Seasick Steve later played a series of festival dates, including the Isle of Wight and Bonnaroo, leading to a more complete studio collaboration. Jones ended up adding bass to six songs on Hubcap Music including the title track, mandolin and harmony vocals to "Over You," and both bass and Hammond organ to "Coast is Clear." Named after a cobbled-together guitar that Seasick Steve made out of two hubcaps, the album doesn't break any new ground for these guys. But it sure is fun.
Cloud to Ground (2014)
Jones' work with Norwegian avant-garde musician Helge Sten began with Jones sitting in with Sten's jazz collective, Supersilent, in the early '10s. That led to the two of them joining forces to form Minibus Pimps. Cloud to Ground was a collection of electronic, highly improvised live recordings by the duo, and while, as with much of Jones' post-Zeppelin work, it may sound different from, say "Black Dog," his approach was rooted in his old band's concerts. "[T]here was a point in 'No Quarter' where I would go to a piano and literally have not much idea of what I was going to play and I’d just sit down and work out where I was going to go," he said. "Because what else can you do? I can’t just do nothing so I had to come up with something pretty quick!"
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