During a recent appearance on “Cassius Morris Show,” TWISTED SISTER guitarist Jay Jay French talked about seeing some of his musical heroes, including LED ZEPPELIN, Jimi Hendrix, IRON BUTTERFLY, and more.
“The first time I saw ZEPPELIN — I was doing a drug deal, I had no intention of seeing ZEPPELIN, I was just doing a drug deal,” Jay Jay said. “I had five pounds of pot in a shopping bag, and I was standing underneath the marquee at the Philip Morris waiting for some guy to buy the weed from me.
“And he didn’t show up. It was freezing cold — January 28th, freezing freaking cold – and someone said, ‘Front row seat!’ And who was the headliner? IRON BUTTERFLY — ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,’ you know that song? That group.
“So, I had seen IRON BUTTERFLY about six months prior, and I went, ‘Yeah, f*ck that, I got five pounds of weed — who cares, how bad could it be?’ So I go to the front row, sit down — because in those days, the promoter, Bill Graham, used to make crazy bills, he would just put all different kinds of groups together.
“The opening act was a gospel group, a Christian gospel group called PORTER’S POPULAR PREACHERS, and they sang gospel songs, so OK, I love gospel. I’m an atheist, but I happen to love gospel music. I even wrote an article once — ‘Can Atheists Love Gospel?’ The answer is, ‘Yes, they can.’
“I love gospel music, I will go to churches to hear gospel because usually, these performers are the best performers on the planet,” he continued. So I’m listening to PORTER’S POPULAR PREACHERS, and they’re singing ‘If I Had a Hammer,’ ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and I’m rolling all these joints, and ZEPPELIN comes on, and they play the whole first album [1969’s self-titled], start to finish.
“And they do ‘Moby Dick’ and [John] Bonham does his drum solo, Jimmy Page is a playing a Fender Telecaster through a couple of Rickenbacker amplifiers. I’ll never forget this. Because when you’re growing up seeing this, you don’t tend to forget it, you remember what you’re seeing. And IRON BUTTERFLY comes on, and they kind of suck, but it didn’t matter because I got five pounds of weed, I’m pretty roasted.
“Years later, I’m telling the story to Robert Plant, I said, ‘Man, don’t take this any disrespectfully…’ We recorded one of our albums in Jimmy Page‘s house. So I’m saying, ‘Don’t take this offensively, but I didn’t go to the show to see you guys. In fact, your album probably didn’t come out for another month, and it didn’t matter.’
“In fact, I remember Robert doing a song in which the whole band stopped playing and he took the microphone away from his mouth and sang a verse into the audience, no microphone. And I’m front row, I’m smoking so much dope that looks like Chernobyl in the front row, so I’m telling the story, and he goes, ‘You’re the guy with the weed? There was so much pot I couldn’t see!’
“We had a laugh about that. And then they came back six months later when the second album came out [in 1969] because in those days they released albums like every six months. The second album comes out in May, I had four seats for that, I saw them there, so you know, you can become a fanboy when these things happen — because these guys matter to you, they matter to your DNA.
“I saw Hendrix at the Garden, and he was terrible that night,” Jay Jay added. “There was a riot, he walked off after like seven songs, and I’m like, ‘That’s Jimi Hendrix?!’ And then I saw him again a year later at the Filmore when he played Band of Gypsys, I had a tenth-row seat for that, that was one of the greatest nights of my life.
“Watching Jimi that night was probably the greatest single night of guitar playing I’ve ever witnessed in my life, but again, these things were not necessarily special [at the time].