After Jimmy Page failed to reunite Led Zeppelin in the early 1990s, he needed to find a new venture and, coincidentally, so did Whitesnake member David Coverdale. As if perfect timing, the duo went on to form Coverdale-Page, much to the irritation of Robert Plant.
Before embarking on their joint project, they were acquaintances who’d only met each other in passing, and it was a label executive at Geffen Records who proposed the idea. Whitesnake had just split up, and Robert Plant had just rebuffed Page’s plans to bring back Led Zeppelin; therefore, it made perfect sense to settle for his doppelganger.
When Whitesnake gained commercial success in 1987, it was much to the furore of Robert Plant, who let everybody know his feelings towards their frontman. Repeatedly in interviews, the Led Zeppelin singer referred to Coverdale as ‘David Cover-version’, and his relentless taunts made his rival reach boiling point.
During a conversation with the Chicago Tribune in 1998, Plant said: “I find him a good man, but I feel that his integrity is now questionable. If Whitesnake was a real young band who had just seen The Song Remains the Same and decided, ‘OK, this is it, let’s imitate them,’ I could understand it.”
Adding: “There was a time, years ago, that I tried to mimic Elvis Presley. That’s quite acceptable. But David Coverdale’s nearly my age. He is of my genre, even if he was in a lot of substandard groups. Really, you shouldn’t do it to your own gang, you know. When I aped somebody, they were so remote, it was like they were millions of miles away.”
In response to the various critiques Plant made about his artistry, Coverdale finally snapped, and he blurted out: “There’s certainly no love lost between myself and Robert. I wouldn’t send him cat food if he was starving.”
Coverdale’s decision to creatively get into bed with Page confirmed to Plant that he was right to dismiss the Whitesnake singer as his imitator. Furthermore, the album that the duo created together failed to capture the chemistry of Led Zeppelin, and it’s the nadir of the guitarist’s career.
Despite once being friends, the two have never been able to recover from the vicious remarks they threw in each other’s direction. In 2013, Coverdale opened up about his wishes to make amends with Plant and his regret about the whole sorry situation. “My last words to Jimmy in London were: ‘I’d love to buy Robert a drink,'” Coverdale told Uncut. “I said, ‘When you speak to him, offer my sincere regrets for any negative things I’ve ever said, which were mostly defensive.’
“I hold him [Plant] in the highest esteem as a human being, and as an artist, and I really would like to, you know, sit down, buy him a drink, shake hands and say: ‘I’m really sorry,’ you know, ‘Can we be friends again?'”.
He added, “I don’t hold any animosity, just disappointment in myself that I took the bait and ran with some ugly things. Because it’s not appropriate for somebody I respect so much.”
The hostility between the pair has been brewing for decades, and in truth, the chances of them ending their feud are virtually zero. After everything that both culprits have said, it feels like Plant and Coverdale have both now gone too far for potential reconciliation.