8 Cool And/Or Crazy Obscure Led Zeppelin Offshoots + Side Projects

How Charles Bronson, Tom Thumb, and Dracula figure into Led Zep history.

Rock fans in general and Led Zeppelin devotees in particular are well familiar with the group member’s high-profile post-break-up projects.

In the ’80s, those stints included Jimmy Page playing guitar alongside vocalist Paul Rodgers in the Firm and Robert Plant singing lead for rock-and-roll revivalists the Honeydrippers, with some hot-licking help from Page.

Come the following decade, Page teamed with David Coverdale for the bluntly monikered Coverdale-Page, which had its moments. He also played his “Kashmir” riff on “Come With Me,” Puff Daddy’s flop single from the 1998 big-screen Godzilla remake. That one did not have its moments.

In more recent years, Plant has hooked up with collaborators such as Alison Krauss, Band of Joy, and Sensational Space Shifters to create a top-notch 21st century career chapter. John Paul Jones achieved similar cool success joining Dave Grohl and Josh Homme in Them Crooked Vultures.

All these endeavors are, of course, just a portion of Led Zeppelin’s non-Zep efforts. The quartet of rock titans explored outside undertakings from the band’s earliest days onward, often working in various combinations with one another. They continued that practice well into the post-Zep years, too.

Here now are eight lesser-known musical doings by Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. Some rock, some don’t, all are worth checking out—because, come on, it’s Zeppelin!

  1. Scream for Help (1985) – John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page

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    Death Wish director Michael Winner, who had previously tapped a Led Zeppelin member for soundtrack work (more on that further up the list), hit up bassist and keyboard player John Paul Jones to provide the score for Scream for Help, his enjoyably off-the-wall hybrid of domestic thriller and slasher flick.

    In the film, snoopy teen Christie Cromwell (Rachel Kelly) believes her stepfather is trying to murder her and her mother. The plot thickens (and, for some, will sicken) with bloody loss of virginity and a violent home invasion while. Throughout it all, John Paul Jones’ insanely ’80s soundtrack bombards the action.

    Adding further oddness is that JPJ is backed by none other than Jimmy Page and Jon Anderson of Yes among other top-tier musicians. Selections that must be heard to be believed include the cooing love theme “Here I Am,” the synth-driven “Spaghetti Junction,” and the dance track, “Take It or Leave It.” Lest this come off as a knock on the music, rest assured: JPJ’s work matches the movie to perfection.

  2. A Way of Life by The Family Dogg (1969) – Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham

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    As a lilting, ethereal vocal group, The Family Dogg sound akin to the Bee Gees or the Fifth Dimension or even “sunshine pop” combos such as the Free Design.

    Remarkably, then, this airy, folky group stacked the recording of its 1969 debut, A Way of Life, with studio musicians and about-to-be superstars on the order of Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, and John Bonham on drums. An uncredited Elton John even plays keyboards!

    Family Dogg leader Albert Hammond would go on to score an enduring 1972 solo hit with “It Never Rains in Southern California.” He also fathered a Stroke.

  3. The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993) – John Paul Jones

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    As a soundtrack opportunity, the wild, artful, often unsettling, but always beguiling stop-motion-animation fantasy The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb seems far better suited for Tom Jones than did his previous effort, Scream for Help.

    The visionary Bolex Brothers mount the film as a dark saga of an impeccable, six-inch-high hero made of clay. Its tone is both cartoonishly ebullient and Eraserhead-like disorienting. As commissioned by the BBC, it’s also very, very British.

    John Paul Jones’ original songs, along with the atmospheric score by synth-jazz provocateurs Startled Insects, adds immensely to Tom Thumb’s one-of-a-kind sight and sound experience.

  4. Son of Dracula (1974) – John Bonham

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    Harry Nilsson’s off-the-rails (and on everything else) big-screen star vehicle Son of Dracula stars the singer-songwriter as Count Downe, vampiric scion of the more famous bloodsucker. Ringo Starr co-headlines as Merlin the Magician.

    Son of Dracula is an utter waste made by and for the utterly wasted. No more proof is necessary beyond that the film squanders an on-camera appearance of a supergroup consisting of Peter Frampton, Leon Russell, Klaus Voormann, the Rolling Stones’ horn players and—brace yourself—John Bonham and Keith Moon switching on and off behind a drum kit!

  5. The Sporting Life (1994)– John Paul Jones

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    Perhaps because, death, tragedy, “curses,” and/or occult associations never seemed to follow John Paul Jones, he’s always come off as the most mysterious member of Led Zeppelin.

    In addition, Jones tends to be soft-spoken and unassuming, and he seems to shine brightest when just to the side of the spotlight.

    All that factored extra freakiness into The Sporting Life, JPJ’s 1994 collaborative album with operatic goth-demon and boundary-pulverizing performance artist, Diamanda Galas.

    The Sporting Life showcases the friends’ eerily enmeshed talents across a variety of menacing musical genres, including scarily heavy blues (“You’re Mine”), age-old soul (“At the Dark End of the Street”), and all-out freak metal (“Do You Take This Man”).

  6. Lucifer Rising (1972) – Jimmy Page

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    Avant-garde filmmaking pioneer Kenneth Anger revolutionized cinema with groundbreaking, taboo-shattering art efforts such as Fireworks (1947) and Scorpio Rising (1963).

    As an out-and-proud homosexual during times when such a thing could (and did) get you arrested, Anger embraced his outlaw status to the point of practicing occult rituals and becoming a blatant Satanist and one of this dimension’s foremost experts on magician Aleister Crowley.

    Jimmy Page, famously, fixated on the occult as well, to the point that the guitarist bought Aleister Crowley’s castle on Loch Ness. Such shared passions made Page a perfect candidate to score Anger’s 1972 opus Lucifer Rising.

    Anger rejected Page’s final score though, choosing instead to go with music by Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil.

  7. Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends by Screaming Lord Sutch (1970) – Jimmy Page, John Bonham

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    British shock rock god(less)father Screaming Lord Sutch beat Arthur Brown and Alice Cooper by the few years in his use of black-and-white face paint, horror lyrics, and bloody stage theatrics. His 1963 single “Jack the Ripper” was a hair-raising UK novelty hit, and it remains a garage rock touchstone.

    The Lord was a gregarious music biz figure and political gadfly (running repeatedly for Parliament) and, as such, he ran in rock’s top tier social circles, which explains the “how is this possible?” assemblage of talent that plays on his proper 1970 long-player debut, Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends.

    Jimmy Page, who also produced, shares guitar duties with Jeff Back. John Bonham mans the drums. Noel Redding, of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, handles bass. Frequent Rolling Stones sideman and full-time Jeff Beck Group member Nicky Hopkins plays keyboards.

    The resulting album, unfortunately, actually does go over like “the lead balloon” of the quip from either Keith Moon or John Entwistle (accounts vary) that resulted in the name Led Zeppelin.

  8. Death Wish II (1982) – Jimmy Page

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    When mounting Death Wish II, director Michael Winner, who’d made the acclaimed 1974 original, simply walked over to the home of his neighbor Jimmy Page and asked him if he’d be up to score the film.

    Page, somewhat surprisingly, said yes. That Death Wish II ultimately turned out to be one of the sleaziest, most savage, and most berserk brain-boilers in the entire history of exploitation cinema—well, that turned out to be the real surprise.

    It’s also unexpected, however, how lackluster Page’s soundtrack comes off so often, particularly in contrast to the way Herbie Hancock’s blistering jazz score powers the first Death Wish.

    Still, Death Wish II is a feast of fans of urban barbarian slaughter-fests and it does provide the opportunity to witness Charles Bronson blowing away lowlife scum while accompanied by Jimmy Page on multiple instruments.

    Death Wish III recycles DWII’s music—and gets even crazier.

Mike McPadden is the author of the book "HEAVY METAL MOVIES: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever!" (Bazillion Points, 2014).