PART 6! Michael Winner On Scoring With Jimmy Page
In the January issue (on sale now) of Uncut , we celebrated the career of rock's greatest and most mysterious guitar hero through the first hand accounts of the people who know him best.
Here at uncut.co.uk, we'll be posting the full and unedited transcripts from those interviews, including words from Robert Plant, Jeff Beck, Roy Harper, Steve Albini and more.
Today: MICHAEL WINNER
Irrepressible film director, columnist, restaurant critic, and Jimmy Page’s next door neighbour. The Zep man also composed the soundtrack to Winner’s 1982 Charles Bronson movie, Death Wish II, and it’s sequel, Death Wish III.
UNCUT: How did Jimmy come to be involved with the Death Wish II soundtrack?
WINNER: They already had Isaac Hayes to do the music in Hollywood. There’s nothing wrong with Isaac Hayes, he's very good, but I thought how dare they choose someone without consulting me? And he was doing it for nothing, I’m not sure why, and giving them a percentage of the record... but I’d lived next door to Jimmy for many years, I’d never seen him, never spoken to him. So I rang up the number, got onto Peter Grant, and actually Peter Grant was very clever because although Jimmy wasn't paid anything, it was a very bad down period for him - the drummer [Jason Bonham] had died, and he was in a very inactive period. Jimmy was in a down period, bless him.
So anyway, we made arrangements for him to do the score - and I had to beat Elektra music who were doing him under the same umbrella, Atlantic, in the deal. I had to get a slightly better deal because I was working for the company, Isaac Hayes was doing it for nothing and giving them a percentage of the track, I couldn't go back and say I've got Jimmy Page for 100,000 dollars... anyway so we did a deal, which was very sensible of Peter Grant because what he wanted to do was restore Jimmy back to creativity. A very sensible thing to do, it didn't matter whether he was paid a lot or not. I think this was a very wise decision, he did a deal to get Jimmy back into action.
And he rang the doorbell, and I thought if the wind blows he’ll fall over. Ha ha! he might possibly have been on substances, shall we say, at that time.... He’s clean as a whistle now, he doesn't even drink! He was running around the block the other day - he said “Don't tell anyone I’m running, it will ruin my reputation.”
He saw the film, we spotted where the music was to go, and then he said to me “I’m going to my studio” – at the time he owned a studio in Cookham, it was later bought by Chris Rea. He said “I don’t want you anywhere near me, I’m going to do it all on my own.” Well, my editing staff said this is bloody dangerous! We’d normally expect to see a sample of music at least, and he’s never don a film! And I said, well, I trust him, that's what we are going to do. I trusted him - just as I trusted Herbie Hancock for the first Death Wish, and Gato Barbieri for Fire Power. I've used a lot of these people who film companies don't usually use.
Anyway, Jimmy then turned up with the score, and it was absolutely magical. Not only was it a great score but you know, filming is done to a 24th for a second, there are 24 frames of film go through every second... and everything hit the button totally! It was one of the most professional scores - well, I've never seen a more professional score in my life. On his own – we gave him the film, we gave him timings, and he did it all on his own. I personally edited the film and I laid the music on the film, and I’ll never forget, it was in my attic here in the house next to Jimmy's – I put the two together, I put his start mark against our start mark, and I said “Fuck me! This is absolutely fucking incredible! Great music and its hits every fucking thing its meant to hit at the right time to the 24th of a second!” I was flabbergasted... he hit everything! You know, Herbie Hancock was adorable but he didn't hit everything... Herbie was great, don't get me wrong, but Jimmy was immaculate.
It was a great score, and we became very close friends. I taught him to swim in Barbados, I have a picture of me holding his hand a lot in the sea when I taught him to swim. We’re like a couple of old washer women - we talk over the garden wall for an hour. It was raining one evening, I went down and started talking to Jimmy over the wall, I was there an hour and a half. My girlfriend came out - she thought I’d fallen down and died. He’s adorable! I see quite a lot of him, you couldn't have a more perfect neighbour.
Then we made Death Wish III.... I cut up the music from Death Wish II and laid it against Death Wish III, and it fitted just as well. So I rang Jimmy one evening and said “Jimmy darling, do you want another film credit and you don't have to do anything at all?” I recut the music, I used them differently, I chopped bits out the middle... I said “You come and see it Jimmy, it’s fucking perfect...” Jimmy said “I must give you new copies of the music from the original masters, I said ‘Well Jimmy I've got the masters, it’s perfectly alright...” he said No no. That's how meticulous he is. “You want me to lay the whole thing again, lay every single cue by hand again?” I said “Jimmy, of course we will.” Hahaha! So he got two films for the price of one...
How did you find Jimmy?
He was the ultimate professional, he was extremely gentle, extremely gentlemanly, I was asked to all his strange girlfriend’s parties - Charlotte, she's now head of the church in Bray. He knows all the restaurants around here, recommends them to me now. He's a great neighbour, a great person and a great expert on Victorian art - a serious expert on Victorian art. I went around all the painters and I didn't realised then he'd been at art school. He's got a fantastic collection of Victorian art, Byrne Jones tapestries and things.
He was an occult expert, as well…
Yeah, I once said to Jimmy “What's all this about the occult and black magic?” Oh, he said, it’s all nonsense... well I’m sure it wasn't nonsense, bless him, but he'd grown out of it by the time I’d met him. A lot of people had a period of lunacy, it didn't matter - in his case particularly it didn't matter, because that great talent was never affected by it.
Do you think Led Zeppelin will ever tour again?
I don’t think they are going to reform. It’s well known that he has a kind of one off love affair with Robert Plant. One minute they love each other and the next they don't... I think it’s 50/50 at best. Jimmy doesn't need the money. What I admire about Jimmy is he is always working - I say “What are you doing Jimmy?”, “Well, it’s the 30th anniversary of something, I’m making a video, were redoing the film, re-relasing it...” He's always doing something. I don't know, I don't want to get involved in asking impertinent questions because he’s a friend, you know? I’m quite happy to read about it in the papers.
Did you read that wonderful book, I’m With The Band? Pamela Des Barres, she was a girlfriend of mine. I said “Thank you dear for not putting me in the book.” She mentions Jimmy a lot.
The house next door to me, as a matter of interest, he bought from Richard Harris the actor... I’m still plugging my diet book. He's putting on a bit of weight now, Jimmy, I may give him a copy. Haha! I think he’s so wonderful - He adored my girls, I've got very pretty receptionists here, and they said “He's not dying his hair any more...” I think he looks much better, bless him. Otherwise he’d look like Bill Wyman. He looks younger, strangely enough, I think.