Even the most legendary rock artists sometimes leave us shaking our heads and wondering what they were thinking. Jimmy Page had his turn in the late ’90s, when he not only gave Puff Daddy his blessing to sample Led Zeppelin‘s classic “Kashmir,” but decided to play guitar on it.
He then went a step further by appearing in the video and showing up to perform the song on the May 9, 1998, episode of Saturday Night Live.
Puff had already fashioned a recent string of hits for himself and other artists by building songs out of large, immediately obvious samples from other artists’ work. He drew from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” for his debut solo single, 1997’s “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” while using the melody from Matthew Wilder’s hit “Break My Stride” for the chorus. Ge doubled down later that year with “I’ll Be Missing You,” which was essentially the Police‘s “Every Breath You Take” with rapping on top.
Those hits, among others, made Puffy a natural choice for the producers of 1998’s Godzilla movie, which was being positioned as the blockbuster of the summer. The film was also given an appropriately star-studded soundtrack featuring contributions from Foo Fighters, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine and others.
Tasked with bridging the gap between rap and rock — and hopefully delivering a multi-format smash hit single — Puff Daddy set his sights on “Kashmir.”
Nothing really turned out the way anyone planned. Puffy’s track, titled “Come With Me,” mirrored Godzilla in the worst way: Both the single and its film were seen as crass, lumbering, bloated miscalculations that tried to trade on former glories for commercial gain.
Listen to Jimmy Page Perform ‘Come With Me’ With Puff Daddy
It all added up to a lot of fast-forgotten noise; the single and soundtrack were Top 5 hits that quickly cluttered cutout bins, while Godzilla the movie was poisoned by lukewarm word of mouth, grossing $136 million domestically against a reported $130 million budget.
None of that was for lack of promotion. Puffy and Page did their best to ramp up anticipation for the movie’s May 20 premiere by performing “Come With Me” on the Saturday Night Live stage with a band that included a 40-piece orchestra. But this spectacle couldn’t disguise the desperate futility at the heart of a collaboration that’s still widely derided today.
As Public Enemy leader Chuck D put it in a 2012 interview: “I like Jimmy Page and P. Diddy, but what they did to ‘Kashmir’ was a debacle. They are giants in their own way – and you can print this – but that was a fucking travesty.”
All that being said, as much as we might love our favorite songs, they aren’t really ours. They belong to the artists responsible for writing and recording them, who can do with the music whatever they like. Most of the time, it’s easy for us as fans to stand behind our favorite artists’ decisions, but every once in a while — as Jimmy Page reminded us in ’98 — it can hurt a little.
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