Jimmy Page looks back on Led Zeppelin III: "We didn’t want to be a band that was known for singles"

Led Zeppelin III
(Image credit: Led Zeppelin)

In 2020, Total Guitar magazine featured an extensive interview between editor Chris Bird and Jimmy Page as the guitarist and producer looked back on his history with Led Zeppelin.

In this extract, Page talks about their third album, as it now reaches its 52nd anniversary. The seminal Led Zeppelin III is a record that showcased just how versatile the young band could be…

With Led Zeppelin III – released 50 years ago this month – you had Immigrant Song, a powerful statement of intent, and Since I’ve Been Loving You, this huge blues ballad, but also acoustic tracks such as That’s The Way and Tangerine...

Jimmy Page: "People were saying, ‘Oh, Led Zeppelin’s gone acoustic’. Well, what happened to your ears on the first album and the second album? Ha ha. It’s just variations on a theme, really. There were so many ideas put into the first album, but they were able to grow and be developed.

"With the third album, we had a break from touring and it gave us a chance to work on more of the acoustic stuff."

"If you say straight away you’ve got Friends and Immigrant Song, already it’s got the yin and yang"

What are your memories of making that album?

"Right at the early stages of rehearsing, when I think it was just John Bonham and myself, I had Immigrant Song, Out On The Tiles, and also Friends. If you say straight away you’ve got Friends and Immigrant Song, already it’s got the yin and yang. And there’s all this other stuff that’s going to go in. 

"We’d already played Since I’ve Been Loving You before, that was written just before the third album. So we knew we had that as well. There were all these textures coming up, and I was keen to do Gallows Pole because I thought it was quite curious the way that song had started off in England and gone all the way around the States and come back, so then we were going to do it and send it back to the States again as a folk song."

"We didn’t want to be a band that was known for singles"

There was a clear progression with each successive album.

"Certainly within the written context of what was being presented to people to hear, everything was going to be moving forward. So when it went to the point of the more acoustic style of the third album, you can imagine our record company getting that in and going, ‘Where’s the Whole Lotta Love?’ If anyone had said that to me I’d have said, ‘Oh that, that’s on the second album – this is the third album.’ 

"You know how it is with A&R men going, ‘Oh, you’ve got to have a single.’ We had singles in America and other places, but I wanted to stay clear of that market and keep it as an albums thing. Right in the early stages I demanded – after having done all the Mickie Most stuff – that we didn’t want to be a band that was known for singles. It was albums that we were going to be known for. And clearly I wanted to make each album different from the one before.

Total Guitar

(Image credit: Future)

"I wrote Tangerine back in The Yardbirds"

It’s evident that you had a clear vision for Led Zeppelin right from the start.

"Yes, I did. I really knew what it was that I wanted to do. If you think about it, on the third album there’s Tangerine, but I wrote Tangerine back in The Yardbirds. So I’d waited an amount of time. I didn’t stick it on the first album or the second. I waited until it would fit in with the right texture of everything else. It fits great in the third album. 

"So, yeah, I had a bit of a plan [laughs]. And not just for that one number, of course!" 

"If anything started to sound like something else that we’d done before, we’d just stop doing it"

If you were back at the time of the third album, how would you describe it? 

"I didn’t really do interviews in those days, to be honest with you, but I would have just explained what it was in the context of the second album having the energy of touring, and this being the other side. 

"Things like That’s The Way are bloody brilliant, you know? There’s just so much good stuff on it, and every number that we recorded was always different, it always had its own character. If anything started to sound like something else that we’d done before, we’d just stop doing it.

"We wouldn’t be doing recordings that sounded like we’d recorded it before, like a secondary version of something else, like Whole Lotta Love Mark Two. We didn’t do that. 

"So yeah, I would have brought people’s attention to Since I’ve Been Loving You, no doubt about it, because nobody had actually approached blues up that point like that. Everybody was playing blues but nobody had gone that sort of extra mile."

Jimmy Page: The Anthology is out now through Genesis Publications. For more info visit genesis-publications.com

Classic interview: Jimmy Page talks Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin and his early career with guitars

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.