By Bob Andelman
Originally published March 14, 1986
The fans started waiting around the parking lot at 5:30 p.m.
Most never got to see more than the back of Jimmy Page’s head, but it didn’t matter. They were there, and so was he.
Page arrived at rock radio station WYNF 95-FM just after 11 p.m. Monday night. Smiling slightly, he was surrounded by about a dozen people, including security guards, promoters and radio station personnel.
The guitarist was herded off to a studio, out of reach of the media and the 10 people who had been invited to the station to meet him.
Page, in the area rehearsing with the Firm for the kick-off of their 1986 concert tour at the University of South Florida Sun Dome tonight at 8 p.m. (tickets, available through Select-A-Seat are $15, reserved seating) came to be interviewed by people across North America during a rare remote broadcast of RockIine, a weekly, 9O-minute call-in talk show which is simultaneously broadcast via satellite to 135 stations in the United States and Canada.
“It is an honor to be speaking with you,” began Kurt from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma “I hope someday to meet you in person.”
Rockline normally originates from Los Angeles, where host Bob Coburn is a disc jockey at KLOS. The last time the program hit the road was to go to Texas last spring to talk to Page’s former mate from Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant.
“You can see the stature of artist that it takes to drag me out of L.A.,” says Coburn.
“We feel Jimmy Page transcends rock ‘n’ roll – it’s a cliche, but if there is such a thing as a legend, he certainly qualifies,” Coburn says.
Led Zeppelin released its first album in 1969, its last in 1982. “Stairway to Heaven,” a solemn, winding ballad, is the song that defines the essence of the band, but the Zeppelin could rock hard and fast, as on “Communication Breakdown “and “Whole Lotta Love.” The band’s followers remain fanatic in their devotion to Page and Plan” who reunited publicly for the first time at Live Aid last summer. Rumors are still strong that Led Zeppelin will officially get back together sometime this year- sooner if the Firm doesn’t pan out.
While Page was on the air with Coburn, the Firm’s bass player Tony Franklin wandered about the WYNF studios, chatting with fans and posing for pictures.
Janice Cohen was one of the lucky ones. She took a picture of her 14year-old daughter Joann with Franklin, then posed for a picture with them. Mrs. Cohen got the chance to beat the studio by winning a contest for the best excuse for being late to work. She refused to repeat the rea…, son, citing acute embarrassment.
One of the callers asked Page if playing with Franklin, singer Paul Rodgers, and drummer Chris Slade in the Firm was different from working with Led Zeppelin.
“For me, playing with the Firm it’s three new guys. The output of each guy is obviously different from Zeppelin. Hopefully, it’s something you enjoy; it appears you do,” said Page. Outside the studio, almost three dozen fans – mostly young men had car radios turned up or carried portables. Those in front of the building congregated beneath the window they decided’ Page was behind.
I wish they’d open the curtains,” an unidentified man said.
“He’s a great artist,” said Mike Edwards, 21, of St. Petersburg, when asked why he was standing in wet grass outside a two-story building after midnight. Edwards was wearing a T-shirt that read “Drunken State.”
“There’s only two groups that I’d do this for,” he continued. “One is the Beatles. The other is Led Zeppelin/The Firm. Wouldn’t do it for anybody else. I’d be out partying … I still can’t believe he’s here.”
A man called Rockline and asked Page about an album the guitarist played on called White Boy’s Blues.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Page said, irritated. “I don’t have any bootlegs.”
“Oh, I don’t think it’s a bootleg,” the man insisted.
“Tell me what titles are on it,” Page said.
“I don’t know,” the man responded. “I can’t read. I’m blind.”
“Well, if you don’t know the titles,” said Page, “I can’t help you.”
It was the only evidence of the guitarist’s legendary short temper, but the incident caused the guys sitting on their car hoods to shake their heads at their hero’s insensitivity.
At the back of the building, several men and women were waiting to see Page depart after the show.
“This band here started rock ‘n’ roll,” said Scott Henkel, 20, of Clear-OJ’ water. “If it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be no bands. Zeppelin is the number one band. I wouldn’t be here if it was any other band. I wish they were still together. They mean a lot to me. If it wasn’t for Led Zeppelin, I don’t know if I would listen to music.”
Night disc jockey Charlie Logan was thrilled about Page’s appearance at the station.
“I’m excited about it and I’ve been in rock ‘n’ roll for a long time. But when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, is there a bigger name? Mick Jagger might be a bigger name in a certain demographic, but Led Zeppelin I’ crosses all demographics. My brother-in-Iaw would love to be here. My 8-year-old nephew would kill to be here.”
Logan was quite an attraction himself. Several women asked him to pose with them for photos.
“This is a very big moment for the station,” he said. ‘4We’re getting a lot of exposure – it’s because we have a lot of respect nationally that we were able to do this.”
WYNF was just one of the local places the Firm could be spotted in the past two weeks. The first sighting was made at the Del Fuegos concert at London Victory Club last Thursday; several band members reported1ywentbackto the Tampa club last weekend. The group rehearsed this past week at the Sun Dome.
After the interview, contest winners were escorted in pairs to meet Page and get their pictures taken with him. (He had autographed albums for them earlier.)
“I thought it went very well,” described host Coburn. “Jimmy’s manager was even commenting on what fine form Jimmy was in.”
Curelop agreed. “He was a very gracious guest, seemed very glad to be here. Sometimes you hear about people and their bad reputations- I didn’t see any of that tonight.”
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Copyright 2018 Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman