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 www.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.
Part 8: PAMELA DES BARRES
The groupie supreme and member of the GTO’s. Despite her relationship with Page, her husband, Michael Des Barres, fronted Detective – the first band signed to Zeppelin’s Swan Song label.
Pamela Des Barres: Some people just have it. Jimmy obviously has insane charisma and his talent is unsurpassed, innovative and majestic. Not to mention he was the epitome of what a British Rock God should look like: delicate, mysterious, androgynous, sensuous. And he made sure you never really knew what was on his mind. He loved being in control of every situation, still somehow remaining an elegant, intense gentleman. One wild night, he gave me a dose of mescaline and didn’t take any himself. He enjoyed being my provider, lover, teacher. It went on for hours, all night long. And I was a joyous, blissed-out basketcase when the sun came up.
UNCUT: Can you tell me about Jimmy’s interest in Aleister Crowley? What did he particularly admire about him and how deeply do you think Jimmy immersed himself in that “black vibe”? There’s the story of you helping him buy a Crowley manuscript once for $1700.
First of all, Crowley’s vibe isn’t ‘black.’ He was a seeker of things beyond our five senses and so was Jimmy. He was fascinated with the search into all things occult and hidden, but not necessarily dark or evil in any way. Crowley was actually attempting to bring understanding to what people deemed ‘dark.’ Jimmy liked living very close to the danger zone, curious about secrets that most of us haven’t even heard about. I knew an old gentleman bookseller on Hollywood Boulevard, also entranced with Crowley, and I found a handwritten manuscript of Crowley’s tucked away on a high shelf. I remember getting that huge sum of money and being honoured to be sending Jimmy something so important to him. I imagined him reading that thing deep into the night, roaming around in Crowley’s castle in Scotland, flapping around in his cape.
Before we met, I was afraid of Jimmy and determined not to fall for his charms when Led Zeppelin hit LA. Deserved or not, their reputation as debauched naughty boys preceded them. But he was intent on getting me to fall for him, and it didn’t take much. He sent me notes, got hold of my phone number and easily convinced me he would be worth the trouble. He did keep whips coiled up in his suitcase on the road, but never attempted to use them on me. He definitely had a wicked sexual side, which made him a transcendent lover. Even when you were intimately involved with him, he held back, which made you want to delve into him even deeper.
And he didn’t disappoint in any way until he broke my baby heart. He did that to a lot of adoring females. I have no regrets, and I treasure that heady time with Jimmy and being a part of all that was Led Zeppelin. There was never any soul-selling to the devil or anything like that – ever. It’s part of the mythology though and fans seem to want to believe it.
What did I make of his dark side? He was very focused and powerful and played with it, played with people in his midst. He relished and enjoyed his heightened place in the rock pantheon immensely. He had a supreme gentleness masking a deceptive strength and determination. Indeed, in some ways, Jimmy was unattainable.
Watching Led Zeppelin on stage, I was one of the lucky few to be sitting atop Jimmy’s amp, with a groupie’s eye view of his violin bow coming apart in the shimmering air, sashaying backstage with him and Robert while Bonzo thrashed away on “Moby Dick”. Besides the magnificence of the music, just being a part of that formidable, unparalleled scene was an enervating, indescribable feeling. When they went back to England after a long tour here, the let down was very troubling to say the least. They split open and shredded previous musical boundaries and other musicians happily took advantage of it. I was very aware I was in the middle of musical history being made and in awe of each moment. It was like being wrapped up in a thunderous hurricane of expanding, contracting holy sound. Aaahhhhhh….