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Led Zeppelin unleash unheard recordings

By Rebecca Jones
Arts correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe band broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham (second from right)

Legendary rock group Led Zeppelin have unveiled two previously unheard recordings ahead of the reissue of the band's first three albums in June.

The two tracks - blues classic Keys to the Highway, recorded in 1970, and an early version of the famous song Whole Lotta Love - are among dozens of tracks which the band will officially release alongside the reissues.

media captionListen to an excerpt of the new Whole Lotta Love

The companion discs will feature alternative versions of songs, works in progress and live performances, all recorded at the time of the original albums.

The tracks, like hundreds of others, had been carefully catalogued but then locked away in the the band's archive for decades.

Guitarist Jimmy Page, 70, has spent two-and-a-half years combing through the vaults, listening to hundreds of quarter-inch tapes before choosing the best material.

image captionPlant says the band will not reunite again

"I don't want to die and have somebody else do it," he says. "I'm authoritative about what was done in the first place."

Page says the new material "deserves to be heard" because "it's performance art".

media captionRobert Plant says the tracks are "of the time"

It will give fans the first chance to eavesdrop on some of the band's key recording sessions.

Keys to the Highway/Trouble in Mind, to appear on Led Zeppelin III, was recorded in 1970 at the Olympic Studios in Barnes in south-west London, about half an hour after Hats Off to (Roy) Harper. But it was never released.

"It was a particularly prolific time," says singer Robert Plant, "where we were learning about each other's capabilities.

"Jimmy and I were just fooling around with the stuff that we would play at home. We were just trying things out. Nothing was premeditated."

Led Zeppelin II features an early version of Whole Lotta Love, which many consider to be one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs of all time.

There are significant differences between the two tracks. The original is missing the first chorus and middle section. New vocals appear on the finished version, as well as a slide guitar.

"You realise just how important all of those additional layers and the filigree work is," says Page.

"There's all manner of bells and whistles to make it the song Whole Lotta Love as we all know it."

Page says it's "reassuring" revisiting the songs after all this time.

"It's undeniable that we're good," he adds. "The band was the real deal."

But the inevitable passage of time has given Plant, who is now 65, a different perspective.

"My enthusiasm sometimes got in the way of finesse. I listen to it and go, wow, why didn't I shut up a bit?" he laughs. "I kind of overcooked it."

'Very loud'

Page promises "lots of surprises" on the three reissues, which are part of a plan to reissue all nine of the band's studio albums in chronological order.

But he has scotched rumours that there will be versions of songs featuring bass and keyboard player John Paul Jones on vocals.

For a band that broke up in 1980, following the death of the drummer John Bonham, interest in Led Zeppelin remains intense.

The surviving members reunited seven years ago for a concert at London's O2. But fans will be disappointed if they are hoping there will be another one.

Page says: "I'm sure people would love to hear it. I'm not the one to be asking, I don't sing."

Plant, however, is unequivocal. The chances of the band performing live again are, he says rolling his eyes, "zero".

So fans will have to content themselves with the reissued albums. And Robert Plant has one piece of advice for them.

"These things aren't to study. They're to turn up very loud and say, hey, once upon at time, everything was just as easy as this."

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