A rumbling was heard around the music scene in early November 2014. That deep bellowing ascended up from the grave of where Led Zeppelin reunion tour rumors were laid to rest years ago. Was this rumbling that of the mighty Zeppelin machine rising into the air once again from a graveyard, regenerating itself back into form that would invade cities as it soared over several radio stations “Getting the Led Out” around our country?
The success of 2012’s concert film Celebration Day of 2007’s Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at London’s O2 Arena accompanied with a 2007’s Mothership Greatest Hits Album, had critics and fans talking…and hoping.
The rumbling had quickly become groaning in that same instant when original word was that Robert Plant “had to sleep” on his decision and came with a NO, before rumors had him tearing up Virgin brainchild, Richard Branson’s lucrative 800 million dollar contract for a full blown Led Zeppelin reunion tour (Andrew Bonham filling in on drums for his father) for 35 dates in a three cities. This has all been dismissed as “rubbish” by many close to the deal and in the know.
With that being said, is it such a tragedy, no matter what the circumstances were behind the decision for Led Zeppelin to walk away on the closest thing to a reunion tour sans John Bonham? Word is guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones, were all hands on board. Is Zeppelin to become one of the 70’s bands that skeptics say are too old to carry on? Yet these same skeptics will ridicule and still pay to see the bands they mock with senility jest.
I have seen many aging acts and they have delivered. Bruce Dickinson lead Iron Maiden into a welcoming return in Dubai’s Media City in February 2009 despite the unforgiving desert heat, eye brow scorching pyro, and underarm aroma in close quarters from 15,000 fist pumping males of 200 different nationalities. The Rolling Stones were no different when I saw them in February 2014 rocking to a solid two hour set at the Du Arena in Abu Dhabi. Fifty years of touring the world, heated inner squabbles, and drug arrests, but yet they came out on the other end unscathed and delivered the goods despite their age. The showcase was proof as to why they are still one of the most legendary bands by impressing old, young and every fan in between from several nations with a strong 18 song set.
With the current trend of legendary acts hitting the road again, are they suiting up for one last hoorah, an astronomical payday, or an attempt to capture scene that has become memorable lore? Since the untimely death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, Zep fans have been grabbing at whatever recordings or video footage they get their hands on. Upon the news of Bonham’s death, the surviving trio saw it best to walk away from the band as it would never be the same without their loveable mate, Bonzo.
The camp posthumously released Coda in 1982 as their band’s farewell album to the fans and world. Robert Plant was quick to follow up the announcement with solo effort releases, Pictures at Eleven (1982), and Moments (1983), while John Paul Jones released Scream for Help (1985). Plant rejoined Jimmy Page for the 50’s and 60’s homage release of The Honeydrippers; Volume One (1984). Plant continued to turn out successful releases with Shaken ‘n’ Stirred (1985) and closing out the decade with Now and Zen (1988) while Page released collaborative efforts with Whatever Happened to Jugula? (1985), The Firm (1985), Mean Business (1986), and solo effort Outrider (1988). The 1990’s started off strong for Plant with Manic Nirvana (1990), Fate of Nations (1993), while Page was finding his niche in the new decade with a release and partnership that resembled much to what he was trying to recapture the synergy he had with Plant but this time with Whitesnake’s former front man, David Coverdale in Coverdale & Page (1993).
Nineteen Ninety was a big year of for the Zeppelin camp as TV waves were saturated day and night with the 4 disc box set released in September of that year. And then it happened, kinda. Page and Plant reunited without John Paul Jones on bass, he went on to release The Sporting Life (1994), as Page and Plant performed old classics with an middle eastern flair on MTV’s popular acoustic live show, Unplugged, and released a live cd of the show with No Quarter (Unledded). Tours were planned, shows were played, and hearts were won over once again. Walking into Clarksdale (1998) was released with new material by the duo, with a full tour and I was lucky to see Page and Plant three times in Philadelphia from 1995-1998 at the old Spectrum and the then CoreStates Center, now the Wells Fargo Center. Jones released Zooma (1999) and has become acknowledged as a top notch producer in the industry. What did the new Millennium hold in store for Zeppelin?
Page went on to release Live at the Greek (2000) with the Black Crowes as Jones followed suit with The Thunderthief (2001), and Plant with Dreamland (2002). Plant would flourish his new found freedom as a distinguished artist with Might ReArranger (2005), Band of Joy (2010), Sensational Shape Shifter (live in London July ’12), while Jones found success with Them Crooked Vultures (2009), and collaborated with Steve Seasick on You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (2011), and Hubcap Music (2013).
With enough new Zep music and solo efforts released music there to satisfy most tastes, countless documentaries, and endless hours of material one can find on the internet, is this not enough for fans? I am a loyal fan and know how it feels when you get your hands on any new material (good or dismal), each find is a treasure that you hold tight in your grasps as you scurry back to your safe haven and ceremoniously hover over the spinning black circle with your friends looking at each other life you found the answer to life from a mighty oracle. With that said, did Plant do the music world a favor with his decision to say no? We all know down deep inside that Zeppelin can still rock and Robert has showed countless times in recent outings that it has in fact not been “A Long Time Since He Rock n’ Rolled”, but when is enough, enough?
With the return of KISS, The Stones, The Who, and Aerosmith popping up for shows like a whack a mole in an arcade game of yesteryear in every major market place, maybe saying NO to a Zep Reunion was the right thing. In the name of honor as every die-hard fan are willing to fight to the death in a ticket line or mosh pit to the street cred of their sacred band, maybe Robert simply saved the legacy of Zeppelin and restored some of its mystique? Not that I think Zep would have had a bad show or there would be an explosion of ego between the gents as would every Van Halen reunion tour that seems to end up like a high school drama teacher’s nightmare, but it could happen. Are we fans nothing more but gluttonous savage consumers selfishly wanting more and more only to de be dissatisfied with what our bands have already given us? Less sometimes is indeed more.
Don’t get me wrong, if Zeppelin did a reunion, I would be the first in line to throw down some greenbacks to see them once again in hopes to capture the essence of a beloved band I missed in their heyday due to being born under a bad sign and a wrong year, 1979. Like we’ve seen and learned from effective horror movies, sometimes what we don’t see is more effective than what we do see. The unknown of “what if” leaves the mind to create a powerful image leading the imagination create a memorable feeling or phenomenon of satisfaction with the mystery of yearning for a bit more. 800 million dollars or not, Robert walking away from the cash and moving forward is honorable in my book. Maybe forging ahead and not becoming the status quo like other classic bands (even if momentarily), well isn’t that’s what Rock n’ Roll has taught us? Rock attitude is about principle and always looking to grab at the easy cash. If Plant did walk away for this reason, the fans need to respect his decision, take his advice and just simply… “Ramble On”.