Drummer Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin’s John, is planning a multimedia extravaganza tour which will seek to tell the entire Zep story from beginning to end.
Plans are at an early stage for Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, but it’s thought he’ll gather a group of musicians to recreate the band’s sound while elaborate video presentations provide historical narrative to the iconic outfit’s history.
His plans come just months after he realised a long-held ambition to perform the Moby Dick drum solo alongside his father, who died in 1980, using modern multimedia techniques.
And the move may clash with plans to release an album recorded with Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), Joe Bonamassa and Derek Sherinian (Kiss, Alice Cooper, Dream Theater.)
LedZeppelinNews.com reports: “For Led Zeppelin fans, Bonham’s sudden announcement marks a sharp turnaround, as the drummer’s primary focus so far this year has been readying new music created with a supergroup that was to be called Black Country.”
Producer Kevin Shirley, who recently completed work on the album, last week revealed that management arguments were a threat to the possibility of the album’s release. It’s already been heard by Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, both of whom are said to have been “blown away” by the experience. But now it’s suggested that Bonham’s plans could be part of the problem.
LedZeppelinNews continues: “Bonham was asked to rehearse with Led Zeppelin’s surviving members in 2007 as the others were planning a reunion concert. This led, of course, to a single show as a tribute to the late Ahmet Ertegun.
“Following this were some expectations that a full-fledged tour would follow. Bonham even said recently that his mother warned him not to get his hopes up. She was right – Robert Plant eventually made known his intention not to revive Led Zeppelin again. By that time, Bonham had quit his touring gig with Foreigner and been replaced. Rehearsals with Page and Jones, and eventually singer Myles Kennedy, ended fruitlessly.
“Apparently, Bonham is seeing to it that his desire to bring Led Zeppelin’s songs to a wide American audience in the concert setting will not to suffer the same fate.”
There is another Led Zeppelin reunion rumor. This one is based on a lot of speculation but their 2007 reunion came to pass after similar speculation. While we don’t put much faith in the current speculation because Robert Plant making plans doesn’t equal Led Zeppelin making plans, especially when you consider John Paul Jones involvement in Them Crooked Vultures, we are running this report just in case there is a slimmer of truth in it BUT we advise you to read with very skeptical eyes while you hope for the best. SleazeRoxx reports: Led Zeppelin fans’ dreams of seeing the rock supergroup back onstage together have been given a boost by confirmation frontman Robert Plant is considering a slot at next year’s Glastonbury festival in England. Plant could be considering another one-off at Glastonbury, after confirming he has had talks with festival boss Michael Eavis. He tells the BBC, “There’s place for me there, but I have no idea who with.”
Forty years ago today, Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin II just nine months after unleashing their historic debut. Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page, II laid the groundwork for heavy metal with its classic “Whole Lotta Love” and firmly established Zeppelin as one of the loudest and greatest bands in rock at the time. II also boasts Robert Plant’s unparalleled vocal prowess on hits like “Ramble On” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” and John Bonham’s still-unmatched drum solo on “Moby Dick.”
When the album came out 40 years ago, Rolling Stone critic John Mendelsohn wasn’t exactly glowing in his 1969 review of the album, writing tongue-in-cheekily, “I’ll concede that until you’ve listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it’s just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides. But, hey! You’ve got to admit that the Zeppelin has their distinctive and enchanting formula down stone-cold, man.” Of course, Mendelsohn’s opinion turned out to be the small, small minority. So bust out your old II vinyl or eight-track or CD, crank up your stereo volume high and celebrate the album’s fortieth birthday.
While members of Led Zeppelin have seldom allowed their works to be licensed for films or commercials, in recent years, their position has softened. The songs of Led Zeppelin can be heard in movies such as Shrek the Third, One Day in September, School of Rock (“Immigrant Song” in all three), Dogtown and Z-Boys (“Achilles Last Stand”, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, and “Hots On for Nowhere”), Almost Famous (“That’s the Way”, “The Rain Song”, “Misty Mountain Hop”, “Bron-Yr-Aur”, and “Tangerine”), “Stairway to Heaven” was in a part of the movie, but later on it was taken out, due to the length. It Might Get Loud (” The Rain Song”, “Ramble On”, “How Many More Times”, “When The Levee Breaks”, “Battle of Evermore”, “Over the Hills and Far Away”, “Whole Lotta Love”, “White Summer”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “In My Time of Dying”, and “Ten Years Gone”.) Fast Times at Ridgemont High (“Kashmir”), and Small Soldiers (“Communication Breakdown”). The television series One Tree Hill featured the song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”. The band has denied frequent requests by developers of popular music video games to use their songs. As with other forms of media, the band seeks to protect the integrity of their work. Specifically, “the band isn’t comfortable with the prospect of granting outsiders access to its master tapes, a necessary step in creating the games.”
Also noteworthy is Cadillac’s use of “Rock and Roll” in their US TV advertising campaign. Recently, Led Zeppelin have agreed to allow Apple to sell their music in Apple’s iTunes Store, with the greatest hits collection Mothership as the marquee offering.
In April 2007, Hard Rock Park (now Freestyle Music Park) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, announced it had secured an agreement with the band to create “Led Zeppelin – The Ride”, a roller coaster built by Bolliger & Mabillard, synchronised to the music of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. The coaster stands 155 feet (47 m) tall, features six inversions, and spirals over a lagoon. The ride officially opened with the park on May 9, 2008. The ride is currently “Standing but not operating” (SBNO) due to Hard Rock Park filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In January 2009, the park filed for Chapter 7. In February 2009, the park was sold to new owners FPI MB Entertainment, who plan to reopen by Memorial Day 2009. On May 4, 2009, the ride was renamed “The Time Machine,” with hit songs from five decades replacing Led Zeppelin.
- Studio albums
- Led Zeppelin (1969)
- Led Zeppelin II (1969)
- Led Zeppelin III (1970)
- Led Zeppelin IV (1971) (unofficial title)
- Houses of the Holy (1973)
- Physical Graffiti (1975)
- Presence (1976)
- In Through the Out Door (1979)
- Coda (1982)
- The Song Remains the Same (1976)
- Led Zeppelin (DVD) (2003)
- Mothership (DVD) (2007)
The New Yardbirds (1968)
The beginning of Led Zeppelin can be traced back to the English blues-influenced rock band The Yardbirds. Jimmy Page joined The Yardbirds in 1966 to play bass guitar after the original bassist, Paul Samwell-Smith, left the group. Shortly after, Page switched from bass to lead guitar, creating a dual-lead guitar line up with Jeff Beck. Following the departure of Beck from the group in October 1966, The Yardbirds, tired from constant touring and recording, were beginning to wind down. Page wanted to form a supergroup with himself and Beck on guitars, and The Who’s rhythm section—drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. Vocalists Donovan, Steve Winwood and Steve Marriott were also considered for the project. The group never formed, although Page, Beck and Moon did record a song together in 1966, “Beck’s Bolero”, which is featured on Beck’s 1968 album, Truth. The recording session also included bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones, who told Page that he would be interested in collaborating with him on future projects.
The Yardbirds played their final gig in July 1968. However, they were still committed to performing several concerts in Scandinavia, so drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf authorised Page and bassist Chris Dreja to use the Yardbirds name to fulfil the band’s obligations. Page and Dreja began putting a new line-up together. Page’s first choice for lead singer, Terry Reid, declined the offer, but suggested Robert Plant, a West Bromwich singer. Plant eventually accepted the position, recommending a drummer, John Bonham from nearby Redditch. When Dreja dropped out of the project to become a photographer (he would later take the photograph that appeared on the back of Led Zeppelin’s debut album), John Paul Jones, at the suggestion of his wife, contacted Page about the vacant position. Being familiar with Jones’ credentials, Page agreed to bring in Jones as the final piece.
The group came together for the first time in a room below a record store on Gerrard Street in London. Page suggested that they try playing “Train Kept A-Rollin'”, a rockabilly song popularised by Johnny Burnette that had been given new life by the Yardbirds. “As soon as I heard John Bonham play,” recalled Jones, “I knew this was going to be great… We locked together as a team immediately.” Shortly afterwards, the group played together on the final day of sessions for the P. J. Proby album, Three Week Hero. The album’s song “Jim’s Blues” was the first studio track to feature all four members of the future Led Zeppelin. Proby recalled, “Come the last day we found we had some studio time, so I just asked the band to play while I just came up with the words. … They weren’t Led Zeppelin at the time, they were the New Yardbirds and they were going to be my band.”
The band completed the Scandinavian tour as The New Yardbirds, playing together for the first time in front of a live audience at Gladsaxe Teen Clubs in Gladsaxe, Denmark on 7 September 1968. However, it was clear to the band that performing under the old Yardbirds tag was akin to working under false pretences, and upon returning from Scandinavia they decided to change their name. One account of the band’s naming, which has become almost legendary, has it that Keith Moon and John Entwistle, drummer and bassist for The Who, respectively, suggested that a possible supergroup containing themselves, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck would go over like a lead zeppelin, a term Entwistle used to describe a bad gig. The group deliberately dropped the ‘a’ in Lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, to prevent “thick Americans” from pronouncing it “leed”.
Grant also secured for the new band an advance deal of $200,000 from Atlantic Records in November 1968, then the biggest deal of its kind for a new band. Atlantic was a label known for a catalogue of blues, soul and jazz artists, but in the late 1960s it began to take an interest in progressive British rock acts, and signed Led Zeppelin without having ever seen them, largely on the recommendation of singer Dusty Springfield. Under the terms of the contract secured by Grant, the band alone would decide when they would release albums and tour, and had final say over the contents and design of each album. They also would decide how to promote each release and which (if any) tracks to release as singles, and formed their own company, Superhype, to handle all publishing rights.
Early days (1968–1970)
With their first album not yet released, the band made their live debut under the name “Led Zeppelin” at the University of Surrey, Guildford on 25 October 1968. This was followed by a US concert debut on 26 December 1968 (when promoter Barry Fey added them to a bill in Denver, Colorado) before moving on to the west coast for dates in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities. Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut album was released on 12 January 1969, during their first US tour. The album’s blend of blues, folk and eastern influences with distorted amplification made it one of the pivotal records in the creation of heavy metal music. However, Plant has commented that it is unfair for people to typecast the band as heavy metal, since about a third of their music was acoustic. On their first album Plant receives no credit for his contributions to the songwriting, a result of his previous association with CBS Records.
In an interview for the Led Zeppelin Profiled radio promo CD (1990) Page said that the album took about 36 hours of studio time to create (including mixing), and stated that he knows this because of the amount charged on the studio bill. Peter Grant claimed the album cost £1,750 to produce (including artwork). By 1975, the album had grossed $7,000,000. Led Zeppelin’s album cover met an interesting protest when, at a 28 February 1970 gig in Copenhagen, the band were billed as “The Nobs” as the result of a threat of legal action from Countess Eva von Zeppelin (granddaughter of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the creator of the Zeppelin airships), who, upon seeing the logo of the Hindenburg crashing in flames, threatened to have the show pulled off the air. She is reported to have said: “They may be world famous, but a couple of shrieking monkeys are not going to use a privileged family name without permission”.
In their first year, Led Zeppelin managed to complete four US and four UK concert tours, and also released their second album, entitled Led Zeppelin II. Recorded almost entirely on the road at various North American recording studios, the second album was an even greater success than the first and reached the number one chart position in the US and the UK. Here the band further developed ideas established on their debut album, creating a work which became even more widely acclaimed and arguably more influential. It has been suggested that Led Zeppelin II largely wrote the blueprint for heavy metal bands that followed it.
Following the album’s release, Led Zeppelin completed several more tours of the United States. They played often, initially in clubs and ballrooms, then in larger auditoriums and eventually stadiums as their popularity grew. Led Zeppelin concerts could last more than four hours, with expanded, improvised live versions of their song repertoire. Many of these shows have been preserved as Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings. It was also during this period of intensive concert touring that the band developed a reputation for off-stage excess. One alleged example of such extravagance was the shark episode, or red snapper incident, which is said to have taken place at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle, Washington, on 28 July 1969.
Led Zeppelin’s popularity in the early years was dwarfed by their triumphant mid-seventies successes and it is this period that continues to define the band. The band’s image also changed as members began to wear elaborate, flamboyant clothing. Led Zeppelin began travelling in a private jet airliner (nicknamed The Starship), rented out entire sections of hotels (most notably the Continental Hyatt House in Los Angeles, known colloquially as the “Riot House”), and became the subject of many of rock’s most famous stories of debauchery. One escapade involved John Bonham riding a motorcycle through a rented floor of the Riot House, while another involved the destruction of a room in the Tokyo Hilton, leading to the band being banned from that establishment for life. However, although Led Zeppelin developed a reputation for trashing their hotel suites and throwing television sets out of the windows, some suggest that these tales have been somewhat exaggerated. Music journalist Chris Welch argues that “[Led Zeppelin’s] travels spawned many stories, but it was a myth that were constantly engaged in acts of wanton destruction and lewd behaviour.”
For the composition of their third album, Led Zeppelin III, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant retired to Bron-Yr-Aur, a remote cottage in Wales, in 1970. The result was a more acoustic sound (and a song, “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp”, misspelt as “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” on the album cover), which was strongly influenced by folk and Celtic music, and revealed the band’s versatility.
The album’s rich acoustic sound initially received mixed reactions, with many critics and fans surprised at the turn taken away from the primarily electric compositions of the first two albums. Over time, however, its reputation has improved and Led Zeppelin III is now generally praised. It has a unique album cover featuring a wheel which, when rotated, displays various images through cut outs in the main jacket sleeve. The album’s opening track, “Immigrant Song”, was released in November 1970 by Atlantic Records as a single against the band’s wishes. It included their only non-album b-side, “Hey Hey What Can I Do”. Even though the band saw their albums as indivisible, whole listening experiences—and their manager, Peter Grant, maintained an aggressive pro-album stance—some singles were released without their consent. The group also increasingly resisted television appearances, enforcing their preference that their fans hear and see them in live concerts.
“The biggest band in the world” (1971–1977)
Led Zeppelin’s fourth album was released on 8 November 1971. There was no indication of a title or a band name on the original cover, but on the LP label four symbols were printed. The band took this decision because of their disdain for the music press, which tended to label them as hyped and overrated. In response, they released the album with no indication of who they were in order to prove that the music could sell itself. The album is variously referred to as Four Symbols and The Fourth Album (both titles were used in the Atlantic Records catalogue), and also IV, Untitled, Zoso, Runes, Sticks, Man With Sticks, and Four. It is still officially untitled and most commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2005, Plant said that it is simply called The Fourth Album.
further refined the band’s unique formula of combining earthy, acoustic elements with heavy metal and blues emphases. The album included examples of hard rock, such as “Black Dog” and an acoustic track, “Going to California” (a tribute to Joni Mitchell). “Rock and Roll” is a tribute to the early rock music of the 1950s. In 2007, the song was used prominently in Cadillac automobile commercials—one of the few instances of Led Zeppelin’s surviving members licensing songs.
The album is one of the best-selling albums in history and its massive popularity cemented Led Zeppelin’s superstardom in the 1970s. To date it has sold 23 million copies in the United States. The track “Stairway to Heaven”, although never released as a single, is sometimes quoted as being the most requested, and most played album-oriented rock FM radio song. In 2005, the magazine Guitar World held a poll of readers in which “Stairway to Heaven” was voted as having the greatest guitar solo of all time.
Led Zeppelin’s next album, Houses of the Holy, was released in 1973. It featured further experimentation, with longer tracks and expanded use of synthesisers and mellotron orchestration. The song “Houses of the Holy” does not appear on its namesake album, even though it was recorded at the same time as other songs on the album; it eventually made its way onto the 1975 album Physical Graffiti. The orange album cover of Houses of the Holy depicts images of nude children climbing up the Giant’s Causeway (in County Antrim, Northern Ireland). Although the children are not depicted from the front, this was controversial at the time of the album’s release, and in some areas, such as the “Bible Belt” and Spain, the record was banned.
The album topped the charts, and Led Zeppelin’s subsequent concert tour of the United States in 1973 broke records for attendance, as they consistently filled large auditoriums and stadiums. At Tampa Stadium, Florida, they played to 56,800 fans (breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965), and grossed $309,000. Three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York were filmed for a motion picture, but the theatrical release of this project (The Song Remains the Same) would be delayed until 1976. Before the final night’s performance, $180,000 of the band’s money from gate receipts was stolen from a safety deposit box at the Drake Hotel. It was never recovered.
In 1974, Led Zeppelin took a break from touring and launched their own record label, Swan Song, named after one of only five Led Zeppelin songs which the band never released commercially (Page later re-worked the song with his band,
The Firm, and it appears as “Midnight Moonlight” on their first album). The record label’s logo, based on a drawing called Evening: Fall of Day (1869) by William Rimmer, features a picture of Apollo. The logo can be found on much Led Zeppelin memorabilia, especially t-shirts. In addition to using Swan Song as a vehicle to promote their own albums, the band expanded the label’s roster, signing artists such as Bad Company, Pretty Things, Maggie Bell, Detective, Dave Edmunds, Midnight Flyer, Sad Café and Wildlife. The label was successful while Led Zeppelin existed, but folded less than three years after they disbanded.
24 February 1975 saw the release of Led Zeppelin’s first double album, Physical Graffiti, which was their first release on the Swan Song Records label. It consisted of fifteen songs, eight of which were recorded at Headley Grange in 1974, and the remainder being tracks previously recorded but not released on earlier albums. A review in Rolling Stone magazine referred to Physical Graffiti as Led Zeppelin’s “bid for artistic respectability,” adding that the only competition the band had for the title of ‘World’s Best Rock Band’ were The Rolling Stones and The Who. The album was a massive fiscal and critical success. Shortly after the release of Physical Graffiti, all previous Led Zeppelin albums simultaneously re-entered the top-200 album chart, and the band embarked on another U.S. tour, again playing to record-breaking crowds. In May 1975, Led Zeppelin played five highly successful, sold-out nights at the Earls Court Arena in London, footage of which was released in 2003, on the Led Zeppelin DVD.
Following these triumphant Earls Court appearances Led Zeppelin took a holiday and planned a series of outdoor summer concerts in America, scheduled to open with two dates in San Francisco. These plans were thwarted in August 1975 when Robert Plant and his wife Maureen were involved in a serious car crash while on holiday in Rhodes, Greece. Robert suffered a broken ankle and Maureen was badly injured; a blood transfusion saved her life. Unable to tour, Plant headed to the channel island of Jersey to spend August and September recuperating, with Bonham and Page in tow. The band then reconvened in Malibu, California. It was during this forced hiatus that much of the material for their next album, Presence, was written.
By this time, Led Zeppelin were the world’s number one rock attraction, having outsold most bands of the time, including the Rolling Stones. Presence, released in March 1976, marked a change in the Led Zeppelin sound towards more straightforward, guitar-based jams, departing from the acoustic ballads and intricate arrangements featured on their previous albums. Though it was a platinum seller, Presence received mixed responses from critics and fans and some speculated the band’s legendary excesses may have caught up with them. The recording of Presence coincided with the beginning of Page’s heroin use, which may have interfered with Led Zeppelin’s later live shows and studio recordings, although Page has denied this. Despite the original criticisms, Jimmy Page has called Presence his favourite album, and its opening track “Achilles Last Stand” his favourite Led Zeppelin song. In an interview with a Swedish TV program, Plant stated that Presence is the album that sounds the most “Led Zeppelin” of all their LPs.
Plant’s injuries prevented Led Zeppelin from touring in 1976. Instead, the band finally completed the concert film The Song Remains The Same, and the soundtrack album of the film. The recording had taken place during three nights of concerts at Madison Square Garden in July 1973, during the band’s concert tour of the United States. The film premiered in New York on 20 October 1976, but was given a lukewarm reception by critics and fans. The film was particularly unsuccessful in the UK, where, after being unwilling to tour since 1975 due to a taxation exile, Led Zeppelin were facing an uphill battle to recapture the public spotlight at home.
In 1977, Led Zeppelin embarked on another major concert tour of North America. Here the band set another attendance record, with 76,229 people attending their Pontiac Silverdome concert on 30 April. It was, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest attendance to date for a single act show. However, though the tour was financially profitable it was beset with off-stage problems. On 3 June a concert at Tampa Stadium was cut short because of a severe thunderstorm, despite tickets printed with “Rain or Shine”. A riot broke out amongst the audience, resulting in several arrests and injuries. After a 23 July show at the “Day on the Green” festival at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California, John Bonham and members of the band’s support staff (including manager Peter Grant and security coordinator John Bindon) were arrested after a member of promoter Bill Graham’s staff was badly beaten during the performance. A member of the staff had allegedly slapped Grant’s son when he was taking down a dressing room sign. This was seen by John Bonham, who came over and kicked the man. Then, when Grant heard about this, he went into the trailer, along with Bindon and assaulted the man while tour manager Richard Cole stood outside and guarded the trailer. The following day’s second Oakland concert would prove to be the band’s final live appearance in the United States. Two days later, as the band checked in at a French Quarter hotel for their 30 July performance at the Louisiana Superdome, news came that Plant’s five year old son, Karac, had died from a stomach virus. The rest of the tour was immediately cancelled, prompting widespread speculation about the band’s future.
Bonham’s death and breakup (1978–1980)
November 1978 saw the group recording again, this time at Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. The resultant album was In Through the Out Door, which exhibited a degree of sonic experimentation that again drew mixed reactions from critics. Nevertheless, the band still commanded legions of loyal fans, and the album easily reached #1 in the UK and the U.S. in just its second week on the Billboard album chart. As a result of this album’s release, Led Zeppelin’s entire catalogue made the Billboard Top 200 between the weeks of 27 October and 3 November 1979.
In August 1979, after two warm-up shows in Copenhagen, Denmark, Led Zeppelin headlined two concerts at the Knebworth Music Festival, where crowds of close to 120,000 witnessed the return of the band. However, Plant was not eager to tour full-time again, and even considered leaving Led Zeppelin. He was persuaded to stay by Peter Grant. A brief, low-key European tour was undertaken in June and July 1980, featuring a stripped-down set without the usual lengthy jams and solos. At one show on 27 June, in Nuremberg, Germany, the concert came to an abrupt end in the middle of the third song when John Bonham collapsed on stage and was rushed to a hospital. Press speculation arose that Bonham’s problem was caused by an excess of alcohol and drugs, but the band claimed that he had simply overeaten, and they completed the European tour on 7 July, at Berlin.
On 24 September 1980, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studios for the upcoming tour of the United States, the band’s first since 1977, scheduled to commence on 17 October. During the journey Bonham had asked to stop for breakfast, where he downed four quadruple vodkas (450 ml), with a ham roll. After taking a bite of the ham roll he said to his assistant, “Breakfast”. He continued to drink heavily when he arrived at the studio. A halt was called to the rehearsals late in the evening and the band retired to Page’s house — The Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor. After midnight, Bonham had fallen asleep and was taken to bed and placed on his side. At 1:45 pm the next day Benji LeFevre (who had replaced Richard Cole as Led Zeppelin’s tour manager) and John Paul Jones found him dead. Bonham was 32 years old. The cause of death was asphyxiation from vomit, and a verdict of accidental death was returned at an inquest held on 27 October. An autopsy found no other drugs in Bonham’s body. Bonham was cremated on 10 October 1980, and his ashes buried at Rushock parish church in Droitwich, Worcestershire, England.
Despite rumours that Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Barriemore Barlow, Simon Kirke or Bev Bevan would join the group as his replacement, the remaining members decided to disband after Bonham’s death. They issued a press statement on 4 December 1980 confirming that the band would not continue without Bonham. “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.”
Post-Led Zeppelin (1981–2007)
In 1982, the surviving members of the group released a collection of out-takes from various sessions during Led Zeppelin’s career, entitled Coda. It included two tracks taken from the band’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970, one each from the Led Zeppelin III and Houses of the Holy sessions, and three from the In Through the Out Door sessions. It also featured a 1976 John Bonham drum instrumental with electronic effects added by Jimmy Page, called “Bonzo’s Montreux”.
On 13 July 1985, Page, Plant and Jones reunited for the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, playing a short set featuring drummers Tony Thompson and Phil Collins and bassist Paul Martinez. Collins had contributed to Plant’s first two solo albums while Martinez was a member of Plant’s current solo band. However, the performance was marred by the lack of rehearsal with the two drummers, Page’s struggles with an out-of-tune Les Paul and poorly-functioning monitors, and by Plant’s hoarse voice. Page himself has described the performance as “pretty shambolic”, while Plant was even less charitable, characterising it as an “atrocity”. When Live Aid footage was released on a four-DVD set in late 2004 to raise money for Sudan, the group unanimously agreed not to allow footage from their performance to be used, asserting that it was not up to their standard. However, to demonstrate their ongoing support for the campaign Page and Plant pledged proceeds from their forthcoming Page and Plant DVD release and John Paul Jones pledged the proceeds of his then-current US tour with Mutual Admiration Society to the project.
The three members reunited again in May 1988, for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert, with Bonham’s son, Jason Bonham, on drums. However, the reunion was again compromised by a disjointed performance, particularly by Plant and Page (the two having argued immediately prior to coming on stage about whether to play “Stairway to Heaven”), and by the complete loss of Jones’ keyboards on the live television feed. Page later described the performance as “one big disappointment”, and Plant said unambiguously that “the gig was foul”.
The first Led Zeppelin box set of the nineties, featuring tracks remastered under the personal supervision of Jimmy Page, introduced the band’s music to many new fans, thus stimulating something of a renaissance for Led Zeppelin. This set also included four previously unreleased tracks, including the Robert Johnson tribute “Travelling Riverside Blues”, which was released as a single in the US. The song was a huge hit, with the video in heavy rotation on MTV. 1992 saw the release of the “Immigrant Song” b/w “Hey Hey What Can I Do” (the original b-side) as a CD single in the United States. The second box set was released in 1993; the two box sets together containing all known studio recordings, as well as some rare live tracks.
In 1994, Page and Plant reunited in the form of a 90 minute “UnLedded” MTV project. They later released an album called No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, which featured some reworked Led Zeppelin songs, and embarked on a world tour the following year. This is said to be the beginning of the inner rift between the band members, as Jones was not even told of the reunion. When asked where Jones was, Plant had replied that he was out “parking the car”.
On 12 January 1995, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the United States Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Aerosmith’s vocalist, Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry. Jason and Zoe Bonham also attended, representing their late father. At the induction ceremony, the band’s inner rift became apparent when Jones joked upon accepting his award, “Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number”, causing consternation and awkward looks from Page and Plant. Afterwards, they played a brief set with Tyler and Perry (featuring Jason Bonham on drums), and with Neil Young and Michael Lee replacing Bonham.
On 29 August 1997, Atlantic released a single edit of “Whole Lotta Love” in the U.S. and the UK, making it the only Led Zeppelin UK CD single. Additional tracks on this CD-single are “Baby Come On Home” and “Travelling Riverside Blues”. It is the only single the band ever released in the UK. It peaked at #21. 11 November 1997 saw the release of Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions, the first Led Zeppelin album in fifteen years. The two-disc set included almost all of the band’s recordings for the BBC. Page and Plant released another album called Walking into Clarksdale in 1998, featuring all new material. However, the album wasn’t as successful as No Quarter, and the band slowly dissolved.
On 29 November 1999 the RIAA announced that the band were only the third act in music history to achieve four or more Diamond albums. In 2002, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones reconciled after years of strife that kept the band apart. This was followed by rumours of reunion, quickly quashed by individual members’ representatives. 2003 saw the release of a triple live album, How the West Was Won, and a video collection, Led Zeppelin DVD, both featuring material from the band’s heyday. By the end of the year, the DVD had sold more than 520,000 copies.
Led Zeppelin were ranked #14 on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, and the following year the band received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In November 2005, it was announced that Led Zeppelin and Russian conductor Valery Gergiev were the winners of the 2006 Polar Music Prize. The King of Sweden presented the prize to Plant, Page, and Jones, along with John Bonham’s daughter, in Stockholm in May 2006. In November 2006, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. The television broadcasting of the event consisted of an introduction to the band by various famous admirers, a presentation of an award to Jimmy Page and then a short speech by the guitarist. After this, rock group Wolfmother played a tribute to Led Zeppelin, performing the song “Communication Breakdown”. Despite having gained a reputation with the band for “raising hell” in the 1970s, Robert Plant was awarded a CBE by Prince Charles for “Services to Music” in July 2009, which followed Jimmy Page’s OBE four years previously.
On 27 July 2007, Atlantic/Rhino, & Warner Home Video announced three new Led Zeppelin titles to be released in November, 2007. Released first was Mothership on 13 November, a 24-track best-of spanning the band’s career, followed by a reissue of the soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same on 20 November which includes previously unreleased material, and a new DVD. On 15 October 2007, it was reported that Led Zeppelin were expected to announce a new series of agreements that make the band’s songs available as legal digital downloads, first as ringtones through Verizon Wireless then as digital downloads of the band’s eight studio albums and other recordings on 13 November. The offerings will be available through both Verizon Wireless and iTunes. On 3 November 2007, a UK newspaper the Daily Mirror announced that it had world exclusive rights to stream six previously unreleased tracks via its website. On 8 November 2007, XM Satellite Radio launched XM LED, the network’s first artist-exclusive channel dedicated to Led Zeppelin. On 13 November 2007, Led Zeppelin’s complete works were published on iTunes.
On 10 December 2007 the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited for a one-off benefit concert held in memory of music executive Ahmet Ertegün, with Jason Bonham taking up his late father’s place on drums. It was announced on 12 September 2007 by promoter Harvey Goldsmith in a press conference. The concert was to help raise money for the Ahmet
Ertegün Education Fund, which pays for university scholarships in the UK, US and Turkey. Music critics praised the band’s performance. Hamish MacBain of NME proclaimed, “What they have done here tonight is proof they can still perform to the level that originally earned them their legendary reputation…We can only hope this isn’t the last we see of them.” Page suggested the band may start work on new material, and stated that a world tour may be in the works. Meanwhile, Plant made his reluctance regarding a reunion tour known to The Sunday Times, stating: “having to live up to something is terribly serious.” However, he also made it known that he could be in favour of more one-off shows in the near future: “It wouldn’t be such a bad idea to play together from time to time.”