When guitar player Jimmy Page formed Led Zeppelin in 1968, he was scrambling to get a new group together after his band, The Yardbirds, dissolved. Initially, this new band were called The New Yardbirds, and it was intended to fulfil contractual obligations to complete a tour.
Page, along with the original Yardbirds, including Eric Clapton, were major session players in London at the time. From these various sessions, Page was keen on creating this new version of The Yardbirds into a supergroup with Jeff Beck, Keith Moon, and John Entwistle – Led Zeppelin would have looked and sounded very different had it indeed evolved with this line-up.
This particular roster of musicians would not be available as it turned out, and instead, less experienced but skilled musicians John Bonham and John Paul Jones would join Page’s ranks. The last piece of the puzzle remained; they needed a vocalist.
Singer Terry Reid was momentarily considered for the job and was approached by Page to sing for the band. Reid, however, had prior engagements and was due to go on tour with the Rolling Stones in America. Reid recommended Robert Plant and introduced the brilliant singer to the black magic guitarist. Page was instantly enamoured by Plant’s ability and was completely dumbfounded by the fact that he hadn’t already become successful, let alone a singer of another band.
The New Yardbirds would complete the tour and proceed to go into a studio, completely funded by Page, and as a result, it was independent of any label’s bureaucracy. This culminated in Zeppelin’s 1969 eponymous debut, and the record was a huge success which got the band in a prime position to call the shots with potential labels knocking on the band’s door.
After a long run of successful records which pioneered early examples of hard-rock and metal music; by 1980, drummer John Bonham passed away and the band had to consider its future.
While Page had driven the band’s early success with his innovative songwriting, the band did eventually mature into a group effort in regards to writing its material, in particular the rhythm section between Bonham’s drumming and Page’s rhythm playing. It is no wonder, then, that the Zep were hesitant to continue after Bonham died.
The band did reunite a handful of times, however. The first one happened in 1981, with the formation of The Honeydrippers which featured original members, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. The Honeydrippers had a different musical vision which probably reconciled the risk of continuing a disingenuous version of Zeppelin. This group only released one album.
The next two reunions would happen first in 1985 with all three surviving members rejoining with Phil Collins, Tony Thompson and Paul Martinez. In 1988, the band reunited once again, but this time with John Bonham’s son, Jason on drums; the group decided that both reunions were very disjointed and unsatisfactory.
In 2007, this line-up with Jason Bonham on drums happened again; the show was called ‘Celebration Day’ at London’s O2 Arena. Unbeknownst to them at the time, it would be the last time Page and Plant performed together on stage. There were plans to go on tour following this performance, but Plant expressed other ideas.
In an interview with NME, Page expressed his frustration with Plant’s ambiguity. According to Page, one minute, Plant would agree, the next minute he would say he was too busy with his solo project. “I was told last year that Robert Plant said he is doing nothing in 2014, and what do the other two guys think? Well, he knows what the other guys think,” he said. “Everyone would love to play more concerts for the band. He’s just playing games, and I’m fed up with it, to be honest with you. I don’t sing, so I can’t do much about it.”
While Plant responded, “I told them I was busy and they’d simply have to wait,” he recalled in 2014. “I would come around eventually, which they were fine with – at least to my knowledge. But it turns out they weren’t. And what’s even more disheartening, Jimmy used it against me.”
While plans for a reunion seem more distant than ever, at least we can enjoy their last concert together at London’s O2 Arena. See footage, below.