Music historian Chris Phipps has followed the Led Zeppelin phenomenon from the start and Thursday sees him present a special show on Tyneside celebrating 40 years of the band. rushonrock wanted to know more…


rushonrock: So how did you catch the rock bug?
Chris Phipps: Back in the late 1960s I was living in Birmingham and I caught a now legendary gig by the Jeff Beck Group at the city’s Metro Club. I thought I’d seen the band which would become the biggest name in heavy rock. But the classic line up of Beck, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and Aynsley Dunbar didn’t stay the course. Even so I was hooked on rock.


rushonrock: But this isn’t about the Jeff Beck Group – it’s about Zeppelin!
CP: Yeah but some people say there might never have been a Led Zeppelin if the Jeff Beck Group had remained together. They didn’t and that was the cue for another band to take their place. Led Zeppelin were perfect for the US market the Jeff Beck Group had opened up and the rest, as they say, is history.


rushonrock: And how much of that history have you witnessed?

CP: Most of it I suppose. I saw Robert Plant play in front of 18 people and I saw the band sell out vast arenas. I was at the O2 to see the reunion gig and I’ve seen the band perform live so many times over the years. As it’s their 40th anniversary I thought the time was right to celebrate their story and delve into why the band still stands the test of time.


rushonrock: So how do you celebrate the Zepp phenomenon?

CP: I’ve put together an evening with the director Dick Carruthers which involves films, discussion and interaction with the audience. We launched the show at this year’s Bradford International Film Festival and it went down a storm. So we thought it would be a good idea to take it elsewhere. There’s an introductory chat from me and then we go into Dick’s memories of working with a band he has become very close to over the years. He was responsible for their 2003 DVD and filmed the O2 show. He’s trusted by Robert, Jimmy and the band in a way very few people are. After that we show The Song Remains The Same and there’s a chance for audience members to ask questions.


rushonrock: But we understand Dick won’t be there in person at The Sage?

CP: No, he’s very disappointed about it. When we sorted out the date he realised he was double booked and he’s actually in Dubai this week. But to compensate I filmed a new half-hour interview with him last Friday exclusively for this event. It’s the only time it will ever be seen and some of the things Dick says have never been said before.


rushonrock: So why are Zeppelin still revered as rock Gods after 40 years?

CP: There are so many reasons but I think the main one is that they were real innovators. People in this country were and still are too quick to pigeon-hole Led Zepp as heavy music. Yes there are heavier elements to their best work but they always embraced other people’s work from across the world of music and added their own interpretation. If you delve into their back catalogue there’s British folk, orchestral touches, blues, experimental stuff – it’s all there. So there’s always going to be something that appeals to everyone.


‘The Song Remains The Same – Led Zeppelin 40 Years Gone’ takes place in the Barbour Room at The Sage Gateshead from 7.30pm tomorrow. Tickets are £6.