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John Paul Jones: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Bass V, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    the great backbone of Zeppelin, my observations as a fan from afar


    I heard early Led Zep under my pillow a few times as underground FM's KUSC pumped the wee hours with groundbreaking rock without knowing who they were and long before hearing Whole Lotta Love for the first time, yet immediately knowing ...that's them! Everything was identifiable except the bass sound and patterns, JPJ as I would learn kept it interesting as well as frustrating as a kid in trying to understand them and pretty rare for the days of the new up front bassists. Black Sabbath with Geezer? I got that immediately. Alice Cooper and Dennis Dunaway? you bet. Mountain + Felix? yep! Mel and the Funk all day. they were great on record and better live, and it was that way the first time seeing the mighty Zep (that Long Beach show was half of the live CD How The West Was Won), but soon the rhythm section just fell apart too often in concert and became more of a liability despite the acclaim they managed to salvage over the decades, and are never questioned today. it became a love / hate relationship with Jonesey in particular as I sought them out in over 2 dozen shows from San Diego's Arena to Kezar Stm. in The Haight, but it was always half the show being masterful on his part and the rest a mess. I always caught good but not killer shows and excused it as him being an excalibur musician and me a git kid, but the bootlegs show the rhythm section to all too typically be the sloppiest in rock while still pulling off some of the most majestic examples in live music history. quite the conundrum back then, especially seeing them for the last time in '75 and John being a huge part of that 2nd best show of all those I witnessed, they really blew the roof off the arena for us that nite. it sure put him back in statue form for me but he's always remained an enigma, always changing and pushing boundaries in relative anonymity without caring what I think about it, and Zep wouldn't have been the same without him

    here they are in '69 and Jones is tight
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
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  2. I could write a long rambling response to this one, go into the history of the band, the interpersonal dynamics, the drug abuse, etc. but.........I can't be bothered, the info is all out there for any who seek it.

    So I'll keep my response short and to the point.

    Jones was never the root cause of any sloppy performance Zep put on, period.

    I have dozens of bootlegs that demonstrate this. I have heard others on YT. He simply was never the problem.

    Did he get bored on occasion? Phone it in? Sure.

    But sloppy?

    Please point me in the direction of the bootlegs indicating HE was the sloppy one.
    58kites, xhawk5, mrm56 and 17 others like this.
  3. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    I wasn't there, but to me there seems to be more examples of Page sending the groove into utter derailment during live shows than Bonzo or JPJ's playing. That guy was all over the place and it probably drove the true time keepers nuts.
    nolezmaj, Ben B, Bob_Ross and 31 others like this.
  4. Understatement of the year. :thumbsup:

    Although by '75 Bonham's performances started to decline, not always, not every show or even every song, but drugs and alcohol (documented), depression (assumed) and boredom (also assumed) began to take their toll.

    I have one bootleg from '75 (Feb 14th, 1975, AKA The St.Valentines Day Massacre) where there is this amazingly awful train wreck as they come back into the main riff of Heartbreaker at the end. It all starts, and continues, with Bonzo. It's the most amazing mess I think I have ever heard from a band of their caliber, truely drunk weekend warrior band territory. The song also started with some other amateurish riff, and ad lib vocal by Plant, before they get into the proper HB riff. SMH.

    You can find it on YT. Most of these boots are loaded as full shows without song breaks, I think Heartbreaker is their first encore, after Stairway.
  5. JPJ is one of my favorite bassists of all time and Bonham one of my favorite all time drummers, but as a rhythm section they were always fighting each other.

    This led to some spectacular studio works and some spectacular live train wrecks.
  6. Interesting viewpoint. I have never heard anyone describe their playing as a unit in that way.
  7. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    in part I fully agree, he was hardly the only one to blame, and unfortunately I attended a dozen shows where he contributed to the morass. but even on the better nites he was usually much too undefined and certainly not featured as a stand out as the tunes tended to ramble on without focus as tho Page was going to make those shows into 3 hour plus extravaganzas no matter what the cost. even on record Jones was relegated to the background, and transferring that onto the stage were it was magnified was costly when the others weren't on top of their game. fortunately there are many examples where it all worked as intended and my first and last Zep concerts were certainly at the top of that heap. seeing the picture I posted reminded me of how much impact he had on me when it worked, and I wanted him to be that larger than life role player which other bassists excelled at but being increasingly disappointed, and for a starry-eyed kid that sucked.

    one of the better Zep shows I saw was @ Kezar in San Fransico, and the only time I've ever seen a Fender Bass V being played by anyone other than myself ...in the mirror
    but even this show was hampered at times by the ramshackle rhythm wrecking house where Bonham was an out of control monster. an unheard of band called The Tubes helped open the day long affair between Roy Harper and Lee Michaels, they actually stole the show! they were great!

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  8. Well here's the thing, it sounds to me like you wanted him to be more than a traditional support guy (like Entwistle, Bruce, etc.), but that wasn't his bag. He certainly has (and had) the chops for it, but he didn't see that as the role of the bass. He has said as much in print. So not surprising you were disappointed I guess. Maybe check out his later solo albums and see if your opinion changes.

    And yes - they, Page, Plant, the lot of 'em, clearly were intent on playing far too long, and coming up devoid of ideas. Thanks to the excess of the '70s. But again, I don't see that as a failing on JPJs part. He was along for the ride, and by '73, while not a hired gun, there were tensions, as he had discussed quitting due to too much road time (an early 70s killer of many bands).
    Bass V likes this.
  9. Here is that Heartbreaker disaster.......

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  10. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    yep, I hoped on the train when the 4 stringers were evolving from mostly support to stepping up big time and more and more Jones just would lay back and rumble away, it drove me nuts.
    JMacBass65 likes this.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I think his parts shined more in the studio, where he could lay down a proper part. Live, he had to deal with lots of problems. Page was a great player, but extremely loose and sloppy. Bonham, like Moon, could be tight and ready one night, barely breathing the next. Add in the alcohol and drugs, and my assumption that neither Plant nor Page wanted to be off the spotlight (further dictated by the song construction), and Jones was never gonna have a chance to be like Entwistle.
  12. :roflmao::roflmao:

    Maybe this would be better?

    Not really my bag - I don't care for strictly instrumental music much.

    That said - my favorite thing on here is "Bass and Drums" at about the 22:00 minute mark.
  13. BassUrges


    Mar 14, 2016
    I'm purportedly going to play all of Zep IV next month, and even with 2 songs having no bass, having the parts written out and having owned the whole album since I was a kid--I can't keep up with JPJ. Drummer is struggling too.

    The risk of a train wreck is real, which from what you say might be faithful to the original.

    (I'm playing DB with a bow on Evermore--it should be pretty cool if the sound guy can handle the necessary level/EQ shift).
  14. I could never understand the appeal of Jimmy Page's playing, he's very "Hamfisted" and sloppy, the exception being when he plays acoustic.
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  15. Treebeard

    Treebeard Supporting Member

    Jun 5, 2016
    Fuquay, NC
    Bear Light Symphony, TimepeaceNC Band
    I will hear no negativity towards JPJ! I simply will not stand for it! Really nice guy.
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  16. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    his post-Zep output has been very expressive, I'm a fair weather fan, and his live shows are the opposite of the old days, he kinda goes inbassane. steel guitar being my primary instrument I of course love his 'bassteel' noise. here on some kind of mega Melobar

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  17. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    If you listen to the recordings, Bonham has a tendency to speed up slightly before enjoyable fills, and you can hear the fight against JPJ and then afterwards when to me it seems that they are not sure who is supposed to be following who as Bonham has got a tiny bit ahead. They seem to straighten it out before too long, but to me I can hear tension. Maybe I just notice it more than most. And I am not saying I could do any better, as listening back to my own playing I most assuredly can't.
  18. DavidEdenAria


    Dec 13, 2013
    On a Hill
    Its his creative spirit and feel for the song....why else would he be a session player at a very young age? Page could be pretty accurate if need be, but that was never his calling, thats where the really RAW old blues influence came in imo.

    Otoh, when i saw the 2nd Page/Plant tour, he was not sloppy at all for the most part and the rhythm section was decent, though i missed Bonham's style on drums, the bassist stood out a bit more than JPJ .....almost TOO clinical and not sloppy enough in that sort of sexy way that Zep possessed....Zep knew HOW to pull listeners in..... unlike so many perfect, practiced musicians and trust me, i was one of them in band where we HAD to play perfectly note by note.
  19. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    I see where you're coming from. Bonzo must have had a tough time trying to squeeze in his expression behind Page's roughshod shenanigans, and I think this in turn resulted in a rhythm section in a state constant dynamic flux. It's always seemed to me that Page had chosen a rhythm section that was almost too tight for his style.
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  20. I have always had trouble hearing the whole "behind the beat, ahead of the beat" and so on thing. I think I am good at discerning groove, etc, but subtitles like that I just can't seem to hear, and I think I have a better ear than most.

    Setting aside my inability to hear these things, your observations are interesting. I have read in a few places Jones talking about working with Bonham (who he loved form the first time they played together), and he talks about pushing the beat, moving the beat around, laying back at other times, etc. I wonder if this is what you are hearing, a couple of guys deliberately introducing this sort of thing (as opposed to me fighting to keep my drummer from speeding up/slowing down) to introduce some tension and feel.

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