The Runaways Lita Ford Was About To Play Bass In Led Zeppelin
It may seem unfathomable to imagine Led Zeppelin without John Paul Jones, but with The Runaways Lita Ford, but by 1973, after five albums and constant traveling, Jones desired a break from the band. “We were all exhausted and under pressure, and it simply came to a head,” he explained to Mojo in 2007. “I didn’t want to cause harm to the group, but I also didn’t want my family to come apart.”
During this period, Robert Plant pondered replacing Jones with Lita Ford, lead guitarist for The Runaways. Ford stated in a 2013 interview with BraveWords: “They came to the Starwood Nightclub. They shook everyone’s hands, and a large crowd formed around us while we took photos. We gave them a Runaways t-shirt, which they wore. And Robert Plant compliments me on my guitar skills. Would you like to be a bass player for Led Zeppelin?’
Ford also revealed Plant’s offer in her novel, Living Like a Runaway. “He asked if I could play the bass guitar.” ‘Who is it for?’ I inquired. ‘Led Zeppelin.’ He could have been drunk or pulled my leg, but he seemed dead serious then.”
Despite accepting Plant’s offer, The Runaways Ford hesitated to follow through on the invitation. “I didn’t even bother,” she admitted. “I’m a massive fan of John Paul Jones, one of my favorite bassists.
I couldn’t see myself replacing him, but the fact that they considered having a female in their band was quite extraordinary.”
Despite rumors that he had obtained a new position as choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral, Jones chose to continue with Led Zeppelin. “It was a joke,” he explained later. “‘Do you like being on the road?’ remarked someone.” I replied, ‘No… I spotted an ad for an organist job near the cathedral, and I will apply for it.’ It was one of those occurrences.”
Jones also communicated with Zeppelin manager Peter Grant at the time. “It was the pressure,” Grant said in his book From A Whisper to a Scream, according to author David Lewis. “Jonesy, he was a family man. By that point, the security situation in the United States had become absurd. We began receiving death threats.”
Jones was instructed to take a few weeks off while Grant spread rumors about his illness. That appeared to work, and Jones finally returned when work on Physical Graffiti began.
Living Like a Runaway, Lita Ford’s 2016 memoir, Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, and From A Whisper to a Scream by Dave Lewis are all available for download from Amazon.