Venice – Guitarist Jimmy Page says that over the years he has rejected many “miserable” proposals to make a Led Zeppelin documentary. However, he finally agreed when he received a deeply considered proposal that focused almost exclusively on the music and the story of the band’s birth in 1968 and their meteoric rise.
The result was “Becoming Led Zeppelin,” one of the most awaited documentaries at the Venice Film Festival, which premiered on Saturday, with the help of Page himself.
Producers Bernard McMahon and Allison McGurty – recognized Zeppelin fans – have obtained previously unseen footage of some of the group’s early concerts in Britain and America, as well as a surprising audio interview that drummer John Bonham gave to an earlier Australian journalist. 1980.
The interview, concert video, and other archival material are blended with contemporary interviews with the group’s three surviving members—Paige, Robert Plant, and Jon Paul Jones—to create a montage that traces the band’s first two years and their early musical influences.
McMahon, who along with McGurty launched the documentary series “American Epic” for PBS, said it took a year to locate Bonham’s recording after listening to an illegal copy on vinyl.
From the sound, he knew it was placed on a quarter inch magnetic tape. He then spoke “to all the Australian journalists we have known since that era, and asked them if they recognized the (interlocutor) voice because the journalist does not identify himself”.
Finally, I tracked down someone who said, ‘We know who he is, but he’s dead.
MacMahon then used his connections to the audio archive in Canberra, Australia, which examined “30,000 unidentified rolls” to finally find the person who includes the interview.
He did the same job of getting entire recordings of songs, and sometimes he found unedited cassettes of songs he hadn’t heard before. He said he made all these efforts because he wanted the film to be primarily music mixed with interviews.
Page said he especially appreciates the focus on music: The songs are shown in entirety, not just in parts, and the group is allowed to tell their story in their own words. There are no other on-camera interviews.
Page says he accepted the producers’ proposal after receiving the storyboard (or “storyboard”) that gave the film the way they envisioned it and researched it.
“When we first met we were probably a little nervous with each other, but the channel was the storyboard,” Page said. “And I think they really captured it, they really understood what it was about.”
“This suggestion is about the music and what made it resonate,” he said. “It’s not just a sample with someone talking. It’s a whole different kind of thing.”
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