I have unscientifically determined that not enough people know about this (I mentioned it to someone I assumed would own a copy and she said “WHAAAAAT?”), so off we go: in 1994, Mute records released The Sporting Life, a fantastic collaboration between Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and the amazing avant-garde/operatic vocalist Diamanda Galas. The result was an album too underground for the casual Zeppelin-head, for whom lyrics like “Husband/With this knife/I do you adore” were probably a bit much (plus that crowd was occupied with drooling over Page & Plant around then anyway), yet tamer and more straightforwardly rock than Gala’s fans were used to. But goddamn if the thing doesn’t SMOKE—and the booklet photos of Jones and Galas cavorting in a convertible with a pretty intimidating knife are good fun, too. Per AllMusic’s Ned Raggett:
Having explored sheer extremity throughout her fascinating range of solo efforts, Galas takes a turn to the slightly more accessible with her collaboration with Jones on The Sporting Life. Her vocal approach is still something which will freak out the unfamiliar listener, so anyone expecting some VH1-friendly switchover needs to think again. Keyboards are once again her other main instrument of choice, with both Hammond organ and piano used. Meanwhile, the Led Zeppelin bassist and arranger handles production as well as guitar and bass, while one Pete Thomas—apparently the Attractions’ drummer on an interesting side effort indeed—handles percussion. While it’s inaccurate to say the results are Galas fronting Led Zeppelin, Thomas does put in some heavy pounding with a hint of John Bonham’s massive stomp.
The album is noteworthy for reasons beyond its unexpected combination of principals. Jones’ playing on the album really doesn’t recall Zeppelin all that much. It actually sounds as though he’d been taking some cues from the Jesus Lizard’s bassist David Sims, and it definitely plays like a product of its time as opposed to a ‘70s throwback, which isn’t too much of a surprise—I’d always sensed that Jones was a more musically adventurous Zep than Jimmy Page, who himself was hardly a slouch in that department. Check out the opening track, “Skótoseme” (the title is Greek for “kill me”).