CARMICHAEL MAN DELVES INTO LED ZEPPELIN STAR’S PAST
SACRAMENTO BEE, THE (CA), METRO FINAL, Sec. ENCORE, p EN6 24-05-1987
By David Barton Jimmy Page, the guitarist and producer who piloted Led Zeppelin to the status of most popular rock group of the ’70s, has long had an interest in the occult.
One form that interest took was Page’s work on the sound track to the film ”Lucifer Rising” by Kenneth Anger. Page worked for three years on the sound track, coming up with 23 minutes of music, which had not been captured on vinyl.
Until now, that is. Christopher Dietler of Carmichael has taken the sound track off an original print of the Anger film and has pressed a record that he is selling through the mail and at small area record stores. This move has earned him some notoriety, including the disapproval of the O.T.O.
The what? The Ordus Templar Orientis — Order of the Templars of the East, a small esoteric order of magi…
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. This story begins more than a decade ago and involves some mysterious and even notorious characters.
In fact, the story of how the film and music were made and how it all ended up in Carmichael, Calif., is more interesting than the music itself.
Page’s interest in the esoteric focused on Aleister Crowley, the English magician who dubbed himself “the Beast 666” and reveled in contemporary newspaper descriptions of himself as “the wickedest man alive.” After his death in 1947, two dozen of his followers (who call themselves Thelemites) continued to espouse Crowley’s philosophy as expressed in creeds such as “The key to joy is disobedience” and “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Many Thelemites were members of the O.T.O., a group of occult adepts formed in 1902, which Crowley took over late in his life.
The most famous of Crowley’s disciples is Page, though Sting is also reportedly interested and even the Beatles included his picture on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Page at one time owned Crowley’s Equinox Bookstore in London, owns the second largest Crowley book collection in the world and to this day owns and occupies Boleskine House, Crowley’s home/temple on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland. Trivia fans will note that Crowley’s admonition “Do What Thou Wilt” is engraved in the inner groove of “Led Zeppelin III.”
So when filmmaker Kenneth Anger, best known as writer of the lurid expose ”Hollywood Babylon,” asked Page in 1973 to create a sound track for a film based on Crowley’s poem “Hymn to Lucifer”, Page jumped at the chance.
But in 1973, Led Zeppelin was at the height of its considerable fame.
Page’s work for “Lucifer Rising” dragged on and on, until Anger finally fired him when Page delivered only 23 minutes of music in 1976.
The soundtrack was heard by the film buffs who have seen the film, but few of Page’s fans have heard the music.
Dietler hopes to change that by making the sound track more widely available. But how did a state worker who lives in Carmichael with his wife and two kids end up releasing a legendary recording by one of the giants of contemporary music?
As a Zeppelin fan, Dietler had heard of the sound track and contacted Anger. According to Dietler, Anger told him he had lost the original master tapes. So Dietler got the filmmaker to sell him one of what are ostensibly the only four prints of “Lucifer Rising”. Dietler had a friend remaster the sound track from the film and had it pressed onto vinyl.
The first 1,000 copies of the EP are pressed on blue vinyl, have a cover that features a gallery of Page and Crowley photos and is given an issue number, all of which Dietler says justifies the record’s $20 price tag.
But even at that whopping price, Dietler said he has sold more than 300 copies in a month, including one to producer and Zeppelin fanatic Rick Rubin. Dietler says that future pressings will be offered at a lower price.
The record’s music is its least interesting aspect, which perhaps explains why Page never bothered to bring it out himself. On it, he plays a guitar run through an early ARP synthesizer, the precursor to the contemporary guitar synthesizer. The music is a series of drones, a few chants, all of it murky, something like the sounds from “In the Light” or “Kashmir” from the Led Zeppelin album “Physical Graffiti”, but not as well orchestrated. It is not Led Zeppelin.
But it matches the film well. In “Lucifer Rising”, images linger and blend as actors playing Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris signal to each other across the Valley of the Kings, while other scenes show Lilith (played by singer Marianne Faithfull) climbing through ancient ruins as occult symbols flash on the screen. Later, Anger himself does a dance to summon Lucifer, who appears wearing a satin tour jacket with his name emblazoned across his back.
Page also appears for a split second in the film, holding an ancient stone tablet called the Stele of Revealing and looking at a wreathed photograph of Crowley. The still appears on the cover of Dietler’s record.
Page’s label, Atlantic Records, didn’t know about Dietler’s records, and issued a simple “no comment”. Page’s management in London also declined to comment.
Dietler hasn’t heard from Page, but he has heard from the O.T.O. The Order has expelled Dietler and dissolved the dozen-member Carmichael chapter. “They were afraid of Page,” said Dietler, “They were afraid that I had left them in a libelous situation by advertising the record” in the O.T.O.’s newsletter.
O.T.O. Treasurer Bill Heidrick, of the Berkeley chapter (the Order has 800 members in 17 countries) agrees with that, but puts the onus on Dietler. “He’s not much of a business man,” said Heidrick. Heidrick says that Dietler has no written permission from either Page or Anger, though he once claimed he did.
Instead, Heidrick said, Anger sold Dietler the film on the condition that he not use the sound track. Dietler denied this, saying that had read that Page wouldn’t mind if Anger put out a sound track. Heidrick noted that this hardly constitutes permission.
Anger has been unavailable for comment.
Complicating the issue is Mystic Fire Video, a company co-owned by the head of the O.T.O. (who Heidrick would not name). Mystic Fire recently acquired the rights to the Anger films on video. So, according to Heidrick, Dietler is not only using the music without Page’s permission, he also has a potential copyright conflict with the head of the O.T.O.
But while Dietler’s esoteric activities have been nipped in the bud by the O.T.O., and copyright problems are still a threat, he has more plans for Zeppelin products. An avid collector of Zeppelin bootlegs, memorabilia and concert videotapes, Dietler plans to make a historical compilation of Zeppelin footage culled from tapes that include Scandinavian television performances from the group’s first tour in ’68, as well as promotional videos of everything from “Communication Breakdown” on, wary of selling a “bootlegged” product.
The album does not work as a piece of music, but that won’t matter to many Page fans, who are notorious collectors on the level of Beatles or Grateful Dead fans. In the meantime, Dietler also has no plans to release the sound track to “Lucifer Rising, Part Two” (1980), a 45-minute film with sound track by a group under the direction of another famous personality: the Freedom Orchestra, recorded in Tracy Prison under the leadership of Charles Manson’s lieutenant Bobby Beausoleil.