When talking about John Paul Jones Led Zeppelin may be the highest profile work he has done in his career, but it certainly does not represent the majority of his musical life. Jones was the bassist and keyboard player for the group, a role he almost missed due to the intervention of Cliff Richards, who had him on the shortlist for his own band The Shadows in the late 1960’s. A session player like Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, it was while recording work for one of The Yardbirds albums that Page and Jones first got the chance to sit down and get to know each other. When Jones later heard that the talented guitarist was putting together a band, he got in touch with Page and for John Paul Jones Led Zeppelin would dominate the next 12 years of his life.
In addition to his bass work, Jones was adept at contributing unique sonic touches to the band’s work through the use of Mellotrons, synthesizers and other keyboard instruments. He enjoyed adding this layer to the heavy metal sound the band was creating, as it helped to set them apart from most of the other guitar-oriented groups crowding the charts, and it enabled him to escape the bass guitar prison he had constructed for himself. He also enjoyed playing keyboards on stage, and since bass solos are fairly rare in the world of rock, he would often choose the organ for his flights of improvisational fancy.
Jones found the work of touring with the band to be very stressful on his family, and he considered leaving the band more than once, not out of disdain for its members, whom he care deeply for, but out of the desire to once again have a normal lifestyle. After the breakup of Led Zeppelin, he assumed what became his second life, positioning himself behind the mixing desk and producing music for an incredibly diverse range of acts – Ben E. King, R.E.M., Foo Fighters and Brian Eno to name but a few. It is often said that John Paul Jones became the most successful member of the group, post-Zeppelin, but that the nature of his role and how he chose to employ his talent obscured his achievements from the general public. Jones did not completely restrict himself to collaborating with other artists, and he released a scattering of solo albums in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.