Photographer Ross Halfin has given a revealing interview in which he explained Led Zeppelin’s archive of unreleased live shows, Jimmy Page’s record collection, why the band hasn’t released more live albums and plans for 30 shows following the 2007 reunion.
Halfin spoke to The Vinyl Guide podcast, which you can listen to in full here, to promote his new book “Led Zeppelin Vinyl” which features rare official and unofficial Led Zeppelin vinyl records.
Halfin is a well-known music photographer and a close friend of Page, so he has insight into Page’s archive and his views on Led Zeppelin’s career.
Led Zeppelin’s archives
During the interview, Halfin was asked by host Nate Goyer whether there are good quality unreleased live recordings in Led Zeppelin’s archives.
“Yeah, Led Zeppelin have the tapes,” Halfin said. “The band have the actual master tapes.”
“There’s the live in Japan 1971 that’s never come out. There is Southampton 1973 that has never come out. They have stuff and then I think the original idea was Jimmy was always going to do a live album and call it Early Days and Latter Days which became a greatest hits [album].
“I’m curious to see if Led Zeppelin ever put anything else out,” he added. “I’m surprised they haven’t put out the Albert Hall on vinyl because they have the tapes of that. And there’s always the Southampton 1973 warm-up show, that hasn’t come out. I’d love to hear the Japan 1971 they have complete from the Budokan.”
Halfin was asked why the band hasn’t released more live recordings. “It has to be agreed by all of them. It’s the same as Pink Floyd, it’s a band agreement and you’ve got certain band members that think it interferes in their solo career,” he said.
Later on in the interview, Halfin explained why Page might be unwilling to release more Led Zeppelin material.
“I think there is other stuff, I’m sure Jimmy has in his archive,” he said. “Also I respect his viewpoint [which] is that … ‘why didn’t you put out these photos?’ ‘Because I don’t want to.’ If he doesn’t want to, you should respect his wish. It’s his music. He made the music. So Led Zeppelin was Jimmy Page’s band and if he doesn’t want to release it then you have to respect that, it’s his choice.”
Halfin said that he’s aware of the location of Led Zeppelin’s master tapes of the band’s 1971 Japan tour.
“Led Zeppelin went to Japan and they were going to record them for a live album,” he said. “And Led Zeppelin said ‘let’s listen to the tapes and we’ll pick the stuff’ and basically kept the tapes. So I don’t know where … actually I do know where they are.”
Elsewhere in the interview, we learned about the condition of Led Zeppelin’s original album artwork.
“I know Physical Graffiti exists,” he said. “Presence does with some bits of it. But I also know a lot of it with Hipgnosis, they thought they were going to become these huge cinematic video directors and they tossed it in a skip. Threw it all away … some of the artwork exists, yes it does.”
He also claimed that Led Zeppelin had been seeking the master tapes of the band’s March 7, 1970 performance in Montreux. “They were trying to find the master tapes and the people looking after Claude Nobs’ vault deny having it but I think they know they’ve got it,” he claimed.
Recent Led Zeppelin bootleg releases of the band’s 1975 and 1977 performances are “obviously coming from people who worked at Showco, the sound company, thinking it’s OK to put out,” Halfin claimed.
Jimmy Page’s record collection
The interview also shed light on Page’s personal record collection, which Halfin revealed was partially photographed for his book.
“Half the book is his and my record collection. Some of it is his. Some of it is mine. I’m not saying which,” Halfin said.
Halfin was asked whether Page might allow him to photograph his collection and said that “he might do it himself. I know him, he’s done it himself. He has it all on his phone.”
“He has a great collection,” he added. “He has an amazing collection of Dylan albums as well … he’s got it all alphabetically. The difference between him and I [is] I will put TMOQs together, he has it by tour.”
“He’s got every acetate for everything … he showed me one that was a set of seven inches which was for Presence or maybe it was Physical Graffiti, [that] they’d made it separate tracks.”
Listeners also gained an insight into which official and unofficial Led Zeppelin vinyl releases Page has heard.
“Just as the book was done I got a mono Led Zeppelin II which I’ve loaned to Jimmy to listen to,” Halfin said. “He wanted to listen to it because the bass and drums are way more prominent in it. It sounds different.”
“‘Live In Montreux’… is them at their best. It’s great,” he added. “I know Jimmy has heard it and he thinks it’s great. He’s got it. He said it’s great … them on fire.”
And while Page has been supportive of Record Store Day, even releasing a Led Zeppelin vinyl single for the event in 2018, he has been dismissive of the quality of some releases, according to Halfin.
“Jimmy said this to me, he said ‘you go and look at these re-releases for Record Store Day and the quality of the covers are appalling but you’re paying $60 for that used to be $6.'”
The ‘Led Zeppelin Vinyl’ book
Halfin also revealed that Page had some input into the book, specially asking for one section to be included. “The list at the back [of the book] is the most comprehensive list that’s ever been done which is what Jimmy thought was interesting,” he said. “He asked us to do it so that if you just buy these records with no info, you can see what show it’s from.”
The book may have just been released but Halfin said he is already in talks to publish an updated version.
Led Zeppelin planned 30 shows after the 2007 reunion
Led Zeppelin planned to play 30 shows following their December 10, 2007 reunion show in London, Halfin claimed. “I heard they were meant to do 30 shows and I heard that they were meant to play like a week at the Forum for a few days, Madison Square Garden, Sydney, India, China. Unusual places. London.”
“And then let’s just say that one band member wouldn’t do those shows. That’s all I’m going to say. Flatly refused. Wouldn’t do them because it affected their solo career. I do know the idea was to tour and then someone wouldn’t tour.”