The versions of the songs on Led Zeppelin III are very different.
“Well, here’s the thing: I’ve purposely laced it where it gives you the insight of what was going on in making these albums.”
These aren’t subtle differences, though.
“No, they’re not. Because if you’re going to have a companion to the original track, it’s got to be sufficiently interesting. And also, the album’s got to hold up on its own.”
Did you have any a-ha! moments when you were doing the companion discs? Or did you just really know it all so well?
“No, I just really know it. I really honestly knew it. Even with Keys To The Highway [Ed: a thrilling, previously unheard track featured on the Led Zeppelin III companion disc], it didn’t say ‘Keys To the Highway.’ It just said ‘Blues.’ But the minute I heard it, I went [snaps his fingers], ‘This is Keys To the Highway.’ I’ve got an extraordinary memory recall on this stuff. It’s lucky that I do.
“What we’re going for is the rerelease of the catalogue, but each of the albums has its companion disc, which from Zeppelin II onwards is all rare studio outtakes and various different versions and mixes. It’s the one thing that’s been missing, really, if you think about the releases from Led Zeppelin over the last few years, because it’s all been live stuff. So now we’ve got something that’s from the studio, of course apart from the live show from the companion disc that comes with Zeppelin I, because, as I said before, we didn’t have anything left over really to make a companion disc.”
What did going back to the tapes feel like?
“I had a huge collection of quarter-inch tapes from the sessions, because I was the producer of the band. So, consequently, I had far more tapes than the others – although Robert contributed some things he had as well, because he’d sometimes have tapes of backing tracks to take home to listen to.
“So I just collected all those tapes – some tracks might have only had half a dozen, while others might have had 15 or 16 – and then I’d listen to them and make notes. It was quite a long process, and a lot of memorizing even though I was taking copious notes, but as I said I do have a great memory for this stuff and I quite enjoyed the process."