“I don’t want to die and have somebody else do it."
After two and a half years of combing through the band's archives, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page discovered previously unheard recordings of the legendary rock group and knew immediately that they had to be released.
"It deserves to be heard," Page said because "it's performance art."
Led Zeppelin's first three albums will be reissued on June 3 with companion discs including alternate versions of songs, works in progress, live performances, outtakes, and two new tracks that were recorded during the time of the original albums.
The companion disc to Led Zeppelin II features an early version of the hit "Whole Lotta Love," which is missing the first chorus and middle section but includes new vocals and a slide guitar.
"You realise just how important all of those additional layers and the filigree work is," said Page. "There's all manner of bells and whistles to make it the song 'Whole Lotta Love' as we all know it."
The companion disc to Led Zeppelin III features a brand new song which was recorded in 1970 at the Olympic Studios in south-west London: "Keys to the Highway/Trouble in Mind."
"It was a particularly prolific time," said lead 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."
But unlike Page, Plant has some critique of the recordings.
"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."
The companion disc for the band's debut album, Led Zeppelin, will feature a 9-song set recorded in 1969 at Olympia Theatre in Paris, including a 15-minute version of "Dazed and Confused."
Excerpts from all three albums will be available on the BBC website before June 3.
Plant, 65, gave some advice to fans for listening to the reissues and companion discs.
"These things aren't to study," he said. "They're to turn up very loud and say, hey, once upon at time, everything was just as easy as this."
Despite all the interest and excitement in Led Zeppelin, which broke up in 1980, the band (with only three of the four original members remaining) will most likely not ever be recording new material together.
"I'm sure people would love to hear it," Page said. "I'm not the one to be asking, I don't sing."
But Plant told BBC that the chances of that happening are "zero."
Image via Wikimedia Commons