Monday I shared a theory from a couple of Led Zeppelin fans as to why the band refuses to reunite for a substantial reunion tour, Some thoughts on Led Zeppelin's current buzz. At the outset I said that I had not researched nor fact checked the points of the story but just wanyted to throw it out there for debate.
Well, I got quite a lengthy response from a reader who's truly a fan of the band. With all the time and effort he put into this rebuttal I thought it should be shared.
I read your recent post on "Celebration Day" and your thoughts on the
members of Led Zeppelin. I have to disagree with a few of the points
you made. Since Zep is one of my favorite bands dating back to my
childhood and I've read numerous books about them, I think I'm
qualified to chime in.
First of all, I'm not quite sure if I read your time line correctly.
The 1975 car crash in Greece was not where Plant's son Karac was
killed. It's where Plant severely injured his leg taking Zep off the
road for almost two years. During this time, he became addicted to
pain killers and accelerated a downward behavioral spiral that was
already well underway. It was during the 1977 North American tour that
Plant received notice that Karac had died of a respiratory infection
back home. You are correct that Bonham (his long time chum from
pre-zep days) was the only band member to attend the funeral. But
your opinion that the reason Zeppelin has not gotten back together is
because Plant has held a 30-some year grudge against the other members
for their lack of support just doesn't seem right to me.
From the reading I've done, Led Zeppelin was a contradiction-an
incredible successful band from the outside and an increasingly
disfunctional group of individuals that fed off of each other from the
inside. I know you well enough to know you have a lot of respect and
admiration for Robert Plant (although your dislike of Jimmy Page was a
new discovery). But I think you give him way too much credit for
being the reasonable one in the group. That role was filled by JPJ.
Page, Bonham and Plant were three damaged individuals. When they were
together, they brought out the worst in each other and it grew with
each recording/touring cycle. In Richard Cole's "Stairway To Heaven",
he sites numerous instances where each of them would return to almost
"normal" behavior in the down time when they were away from each
other. In my opinion, JPJ was the first to become aware of this
negative effect pulling away from the other members in the early 70's.
He was usually never to be found by the other members after concerts
and kept his studio involvement to a necessary minimum. Plant,
however, was just as guilty of embracing this destructive environment
as Page and Bonham. Cole's book, and others, detail Plant's terrible
behavior during this time period.
I do however give him credit for being the next person in the band to
"wake up" to this fact with Bonham's death. In my opinion, he views
the Zeppelin years as you and I do taking acid. We had some great
times in the past. But I don't want to open that Pandora's box...to
feel that type of energy ever again. I think Plant feels the same
way. The burden of being Led Zeppelin and the danger of falling back
into the archtypes is something he's afraid of and he refuses to allow
even the slightest chance of happening. It's like the constant
watchfulness a reformed alcoholic or drug addict must experience. They
can't even allow themselves to be in the company of the same people
when they were under the influence for fear of a relapse.
But to say that Plant is still grinding an axe after 30 years is
wrong. If you had seen Celebration Day, there are a couple of scenes
where Plant and Page are sharing a moment recognizing the energy of
what they once experienced on a daily basis. They smile at each other
in a heartwarming way. But it has a look of "that was amazing...but
just for tonight"...especially for Plant.
The Page/Plant reunion of the 90's also goes against your theory. I
think Plant was longing for some of the Zep energy but mitigated it by
having a large group of other musicians tagging along. He spent a few
years touring and recorded two albums with Page. I don't think that
points to a "see what you could have had" attitude as much as a guy
who'd love to go back there...but realizes it's not in his best
interests to do so without some sort of safety net. Kind of like
bringing a friend along when meeting up with an old flame to help keep
the situation in check. The old energy draws you to the meeting. But
self-preservation tells you to have a lifeline just in case.
I choose not to put Plant on a pedestal above Page or JPJ just because
he has continued making music since leaving Zeppelin. JPJ has done
that just as well in his producing and session gigs (just what he was
before hooking up with Page in the 60's). I believe that Page was
never able to recover which I think lends more credence to my
argument. I think he's just waking up to the fact that the most
important relationship in his life is also the most destructive.
Celebration Day gradually becomes Jimmy's movie through his powerful
playing and one can't help but feel he's wasted his talents searching
for another muse like Robert (can you say "Coverdale"). How cruel life
One final point, you feel that Page's perfectionist attitude is
keeping Led Zeppelin from being discovered by another generation of
fans. Perhaps that's true from a purely marketing standpoint. But
there was a time when marketing wasn't the most important thing in
music. One of the things that made Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd the
biggest bands in the world for a time is something that's missing in
today's pop culture-mystique. Both of the bands had a carefully
cultivated image that included a lot of mystery. The old joke that
"Styx worked for a year on the cover of their new album...but the
music should only take a few weeks to make" has become the standard of
the music industry today. Bands are created with marketability in
mind. They come and go almost daily. But Page still tries to create
an aura about his band by not taking the path that everyone else does.
They obviously don't need the money because this view is not going to
take them back to the top of the charts. But maybe that's not his
objective anymore. Maybe it's to avoid becoming a
destination-attraction at Las Vegas.
You cite Neil Young as a counter to this thinking and I agree. But
Neil has a 30-some year career that parallels this history of the
golden age of rock. His story is rock's story. But Led Zeppelin is
more of a "time and a place" and I think Page is trying to preserve
some of that mystique. It worked on me...and a theater full of people
that saw the movie last week. From the countdown teaser in Rolling
Stone a few months ago, an event was being created and I wanted to be
there. Led Zeppelin was working their old (black) magic on me again.
I don't think Green Day could have motivated me in the same way. It
was vintage Zeppelin and I'm so glad there are still a few performers
with that sense of the theatrical. It's the time before the stripper
takes off her last piece of clothing that's the most seductive-not the
naked woman herself.
Celebration Day was a great concert. They tore through the catalog
without the self-indulgent lengthy performances of "The Song Remains
The Same". Jimmy Page now bares a striking resemblance to Alastair
Sim in the 1950's version of "A Christmas Carol". All of them looked
like they were having a great time playing together...for that one
night. Taking it any further would be foolish and they probably all
knew it. No grinding resentment. Just the understanding that it was
a time and a place that can't be revisited for more than a few hours
without the dirty underside starting to creep back out.
That's my two cents...probably more like a nickle's worth.