[Read about my first encounter with Cameron Crowe in Part 1]
Fast forward to 1995. I’m in Seattle shooting a movie called “Georgia” starring Jennifer Jason Lee who also co-produced the movie. Famed director Ulu Grosbard was at the helm. I actually had a few good lines in the film and one major scene with Jennifer at the end of the film when everyone in our band has OD’d or left.
John C. Reilly was in it. He played the drummer Herman and was funny as shit in it. John Doe from X had a fairly large role and Mare Winningham was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress. For a small, indie film it made a bit of noise.
There were a lot of live music scenes in the movie and Ulu didn’t want us to lip sync to pre recorded tracks so every bit of music we did was played live to the scene of the movie on the set that day with cameras rolling. A bold, adventurous move on his part but a lot of fun. Here’s a clip:
Movie sets can be so boring but at least everyday we knew we would be playing and recording. They had a big old live remote recording truck and crew on the set everyday with all the latest and greatest gear. Of course, I soon got real close to those boys real fast as was my M.O. The crew always knew what was happening in town and how to get the best of anything you wanted.
As it happens, the crew chief comes up to me one day and says the band Heart, which is from Seattle, is recording an “Unplugged Live” record that night at a local club and they are using their remote truck. He asked if I’d like to go and I say, “Hell yes!”
I get to the club and it was packed. Unplugged recordings in the early 90’s were the rage and MTV would be playing them all the time. Being with the crew I managed to get up close and the band was sounding pretty good. I have to admit I was never much of a fan of Heart but they were nailing it that night.
John Paul Jones
At one point the singer Anne Wilson says she’d like to thank their producer of the record that night, Led Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones. I’m floored. I think JPJ is one of the best bass players ever. His tone and driving bass lines were as important to Led Zep’s success, in my opinion, as any other member of the group. Just a monster in my book. I turn to my buddy in the crew and say I’ve got to meet him tonight. He say’s no problem, we’ll go backstage after the show.
Now the bass player in Heart that night was really good but when they called John Paul Jones up for a few songs at the end of the set there was no comparison. The groove. The tone. The drive. As close to genius on the bass as you’re gonna get from the rock side of things. Great musician. I think they even played “Ramble On” which is the killer bass line of all time.
After the show we make our way backstage and it’s a chaotic party. A fairly large room and I’m scanning the crowd looking for Mr. Jones. Finally, I spot him and start to make my way over to him when I notice standing next to him is none other than Cameron Crowe. I had forgotten he had married the guitar player in Heart, Nancy Wilson. Fuck!!!
My friend and I hang back and watch as people are coming up to say hello to John Paul Jones and Cameron. I explain to my friend the situation with Cameron and me and he’s laughing when just about then the band’s road manager is yelling that they have to clear the backstage to take some photos. Everybody out now!!! There’s a big groan and slowly people are being herded out.
Damn!!! I really wanted to meet John Paul Jones. Finally, I say to myself, fuck it and walk up to them. I said, “Hey Cameron,” and his eyes get all wide and I turn to JPJ and I say really fast, “Hello Mr. Jones. My name is Jimmy Z and I’ve played harmonica and sax for Rod Stewart, Eurythmics and Tom Petty. I just wanted to say your bass playing is the best I’ve ever… ”
And that’s as far as I got because Cameron starts going off finally and really loud says, “This mother fucker locked me in a bathroom bus for over an hour!! And blah, blah, blah…!!!”. I just stood there and took it with a kinda of hang dog I can explain it all look on my face. Cameron was blustering but there was a good natured vibe in it like he was pissed off but still laughing about it. What a memory!! It’d only been 10 fucking years.
About this time John, who had been studying me says in a very eloquent British accent, “Jimmy Z…Jimmy Z… Eurythmics… Wembley Stadium? Nelson Mandela concert…”
I’m nodding yes that was me starting to feel pretty good about myself that he even knows who I am.
He continues,”… you played a harmonica solo…”
Now I’m on Cloud Nine as it’s one of my best solos ever and caught on tape, so I’m nodding yes, yes that was me.
JPJ continues, “…yes, yes the harmonica solo. It went on… and on… and on…”
With every “on” I swear it felt like I’d just shrunk 3ft. I felt like crawling under the carpet.
I look at him and say weakly, “Yeah, that was me.”
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Brilliant, mate. Fucking brilliant.”
I was stunned. In one fell swoop I’d gone from wanting slash my wrists and run with my tail between my legs to literally feeling like I was floating on thin air.
We shook hands and I told him it really meant a lot to me especially coming from him.
And it did.
Here’s the video of the solo (ya gotta love the haircut!):