Late-'60s Brit rocker Terry Reid was Jimmy Page's first choice to sing for Led Zeppelin. Now 57, the legendary band's unsung architect (who also passed on the chance to front Deep Purple) lives in Palm Desert, California. Reid, whose latest disc, Superlungs, is being released this week on Astralwerks, took a few minutes to indulge some weighted questions.
Westword: There are two versions of why you didn't join Led Zeppelin. In one, producer Mickie Most had you in a contractual bind. In the other, you turned down Jimmy Page to pursue a solo career. Which is it?
Terry Reid: Mickie Most had me in a contract and wouldn't let me make a record with anyone else. He crossed the line. But the reason was simply that I was booked 48 weeks in America with the Stones, and it was a lot of money. At that point, Jimmy was forming the New Yardbirds, and Peter Grant says, 'You either get a new name for the group, or I'm not managing anymore.' So Keith Moon came up with Led Zeppelin. It would take an idiot like that to come up with a mammary frontal approach -- ŒGaw, look at the zeppelins on that!' So I introduced Jimmy to John Bonham, who was in the same group as Robert Plant [Band of Joy]. The reason I put Jimmy on to Robert was because of his range and what he was doin' with Jimmy's guitars licks. They could lick off together, you know?
Lick off together, eh?
Don't go there, mate.
Did Jimmy see you as a potential second guitarist as well as a singer?
He had no idea what he was doing. He only had John Paul Jones at that point. I says, 'Yeah, we've played for Donovan. What kind of band is this? Do you have a flute player, too?' So he's goin' heavy metal on me. I don't care. Great. It would've been me singing. Or Jess Roden. Or Steve Marriott from Small Faces.
If things had gone your way, would you have written songs about hobbits and Vikings?
It has nothing to do with hobbits -- if that's who turns up in the dressing room. We put up with transvestites, who I actually introduced to the Stones. Keith said, 'It's nice to see there's a better class of people in here.' They did my ironing and everything. I looked great!
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Your song 'July' sounds a lot like 'Stairway to Heaven,' which came out two years later. Did Page boost it?
Try "Rich Kid Blues." Robert got on about, ŒOh, Terry's my biggest influence.' Yeah, yeah, yeah. Am I gonna hit him for residuals here? No, I don't think so. You have to go with the flow.
Your own publicist calls you 'the unluckiest man in rock.' Is that title warranted?
Everybody loves a train crash. But frankly, I'm very, very proud of being responsible for that happy accident called Led Zeppelin. And them all earnin' a whole load of money. So what the hell is the problem? It's all very ironic. But anybody that's successful in this business has my blessing, 'cause it's a crapshoot at best. There ain't no guarantees. Put up or shut up. If you don't love it, don't even get in the war.