A 1992 Interview with Led Zeppelin’s Tour Manager Richard Cole
by Rick Barrett
After the release of
Stairway to Heaven, I had the opportunity to speak with author and Led Zeppelin Tour Manager Richard Cole a few times. I was curious to find out more about the man behind the book and enjoyed the time he spent reliving some of his Zeppelin memories. He was very open and positive, and genuinely interested in talking. He also inquired as well about some of the fans, and asked about their feelings about the book. Here's highlights of our conversations:
WHY DID YOU WRITE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN?
I didn't intend to write this book. I was working on a music book covering the '60's to the '90's and my editor suggested we go with just the Zeppelin information.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE A FAN WILL COME AWAY WITH AFTER READING STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN?
I have insight to what Zeppelin did and all the hard work that was put into the band. They were very meticulous in their work, yet we had a lot of fun. That's how they've maintained the status that they have.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THE OTHER BOOKS THAT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT LED ZEPPELIN?
I haven't read them really. Of all the other authors, most have never met Zeppelin, they didn't know them, and (frankly) weren't allowed around. They had to go with some of their own imagination. I did read Howard Mylett's book early on; he used to see Jimmy at the odd recording session. I looked at Heaven and Hell last year; and saw Hammer of the Gods, but that was all negative.
WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO SEE YOUR BOOK AS NEGATIVE?
Some ideas to some people aren't negative. . .I was telling the positive and the negative as well. But some people read the reviews and only the negative comes out. I spoke to Carmine Appice the other day and he thought it was great. He said it gave him a lot of inspiration, as he's going out on the road now, and he forgot just how much fun it used to be! You see, we didn't see anything wrong with what we were doing. No one from the record company did anything; no one said anything at all. . .
ONCE THE BOOK WENT TO PRESS, DID YOU THINK OF ANYTHING THAT YOU LEFT OUT THAT YOU'D LIKE TO ADD?
Oh, a lot was left out. So much stuff. Mostly incidents about the band. You know, I just got an advance on the new book about Bill Graham, and they went into more detail about some things than I did. I didn't put everything into it, but they talk about things that weren't true.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY FEEDBACK FROM FRIENDS OR CO-WORKERS FROM THE OLD DAYS?
I haven't really heard from them in years. Phil Carson thought it was great.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR MEMORIES ABOUT A SPECIFIC LED ZEPPELIN SHOW THAT MADE IT YOUR FAVORITE?
Not really; they were all good! I remember in Boston once when they did seven or eight encores around the time things first started. My job was to put the band on stage. Then I left and did whatever business that had to be done and took them off stage. I saw them when the lights went on and the roar of the crowd went up. . .you judge a great show by the audience reaction.
DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT ROBERT AND JIMMY'S ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN MUSICAL RELATIONSHIP?
Well, I can't see them doing anything really. Jimmy's got an album coming out with David Coverdale and Robert's making a record. They'll both be touring, and. . .maybe two years from now. . .who knows. John Paul Jones said it in a interview, and I feel the same way. . .None of them would ever make another Led Zeppelin. No one could ever recreate Zeppelin; it took the four of them.
THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO COLLECT ZEPPELIN MEMORABILIA. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT CRAZE?
Memorabilia is great; it's wonderful that people still look for it. Unfortunately there wasn't that much around when we first started. When Zeppelin came along there were posters; there weren't programs like today. The business has changed so much. Led Zeppelin wasn't a media band. . .no one thought of marketing them like they do today.
ARE YOU A COLLECTOR; DO YOU HAVE SOME MEMENTOS?
I've got more memorabilia in my head than anyone! Yeah I've got some gold records, though I've let some of them go; I've got ten left. There's one in the Hard Rock Café in Houston and I sold some of my platinum records awhile back. I still have an Elvis Presley autograph with Led Zeppelin when the band met him, and some autographs of state senators and the like.
SUM UP YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH LED ZEPPELIN...
I had a great time for twelve years!
1992 U.S. Hardcover version: Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored, HarperCollins,
2003 U.S. Paperback version: Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored, Harper Paperbacks,
1993 U.K. Hardcover version: Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored, Simon & Schuster Ltd.
2004 U.K. Softcover version, revised: Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored, Pocket Books
Since the cessation of his involvement with Led Zeppelin, Richard Cole has served as the Tour Manager for Eric Clapton, Black Sabbath, Lita Ford, Ozzy Osborne and Three Dog Night, managed Fem 2 Fem and, most recently, toured with Gipsy Kings, Crazy Town and Fu Manchu. According to his publisher HarperCollins, he now divides his time between Venice, California, and London.
If you have any questions about Led Zeppelin memorabilia or would like to contact Rick Barrett, just email him at