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Why John Paul Jones Didn't Need Led Zeppelin To Become A Music Legend

Nowadays, few people would disagree that Led Zeppelin revolutionized rock music in the 60s and 70s. But Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones -- who turned 71 this week -- had already left his mark on music history before he teamed up with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Bonham. Here are 6 legendary moments from his pre- and post-Led Zeppelin days.

1. Beefing Up Beck's Bolero

In 1966, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck wanted to do a side project outside of his work with The Yardbirds. So he recruited Keith Moon of The Who, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and session session pianist Nicky Hopkins to play on his first solo release -- a rollicking instrumental called "Beck's Bolero," a prototype of 70s rock that would make Led Zeppelin famous.

Alan di Perna of Guitar World described the 1967 hit as "one of the great rock instrumentals, epic in scope, harmonically and rhythmically ambitious yet infused with primal energy. It set the stage for heavy, powerful rock with progressive ambitions that were soon to come."


2. Saving Superman

Jones' reputation as an innovative bassist got him plenty of attention in London's musical circles in the mid 60s. And that led to collaborating with Scottish folk singer/songwriter Donovan on tracks like the 1966 hit "Sunshine Superman." In fact, we only have that track because Jones saved it from getting scrapped in the recording studio.

"The first Donovan session was a shambles — it was awful," Jones told rock journalist Steven Rosen in 1977. "It was 'Sunshine Superman' and the arranger had got it all wrong so I thought, being the opportunist that I was, 'I can do better than that' and actually went up to the producer."


3. Hurdy Gurdy Bassman

Jones also played bass on Donovan's 1968 hit "Hurdy Gurdy Man," which has since been used to establish the 60's setting of films like Sleepers and Zodiac.


4. Orchestrating the Rainbow

Jones is best known as a bassist. But he actually plays a wide range of instruments, including mandolin, violin and cello. He showed off his virtuoso chops by arranging the string section that plays at the end of The Rolling Stones' psychedelic hit "She's a Rainbow" (1967).


5. Getting R.E.M. in Gear

Jones accomplished a lot before joining Led Zeppelin. And he didn't stop when the band broke up following John Bonham's death in 1980. He's gone on to record with artists like Peter Gabriel, Foo Fighters and Lenny Kravitz.

One of the best highlights from his post-Zeppelin career is his work orchestrating the string arrangements on four songs from R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People -- including the brooding anthem "Drive."


6. Them Award Winning Vultures

And in 2009, Jones, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme -- bandmates in Them Crooked Vultures -- won the Grammy Award for their hard rock single "New Fang."


h/t Rolling Stone

Banner image: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones at the Led Zeppelin Celebration Day DVD screening launch held at Hammersmith Apollo London. ( Featureflash Photo Agency /


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