Monday, May 12, 2008

Do Jimmy and Jonesy realize...?

Robert Plant's entire professional career has been one of constant evolution. When Led Zeppelin evolved as a band, Robert evolved as a singer. When Led Zeppelin broke up, Robert found new ways to branch out. When he made peace with his past, he discovered ways to redevelop the music of his past while never failing to forge new territory ahead.

Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones must be cognizant of this; after all, they're in the middle of it all. They're more aware of it than is any hack who's typing up opinions on a BlackBerry after a day's work in Washington, D.C., right?

But exactly how deep is their appreciation for how far Robert has come in the 28 years since Led Zeppelin ceased functioning as a creative force?

How many times do you think they have spun Robert's album with Alison Krauss to know what Raising Sand is all about? How many shows have they caught on their tour, which went to the United Kingdom last week?

Think either has watched enough Strange Sensation videos over the past eight years to understand Robert's passion in the Dreamland and Mighty ReArranger albums?

I don't think it's appropriate to consider the possibility of any future Led Zeppelin activity without fully comprehending the disparate personalities involved and the places in which those people must find themselves, and each other.

Any modern-day, full-length Led Zeppelin concert would, by all expectations, necessarily have to be more like that concert in London last December than any show before it. It's just natural and proper to assume this.

That means the inevitable numbers cannot be pulled. And we all know which ones those are. The band would be forever maligned if any of the following five did not make it into the set list of a 2008/2009 show: "Black Dog," "Since I've Been Loving You," "Dazed and Confused," "Stairway to Heaven" and "Whole Lotta Love."

Dare to put on a Led Zeppelin concert without those at this time, and nothing would be closer to professional suicide. Somebody, somewhere, would paint Led Zeppelin as irrelevant old folks who don't know how to pander to the masses when that's what they should be doing.

So, half your set list has already been dictated by popular demand. That much is set in stone.

Sure, save for "Dazed," these songs never dropped from Zep set lists once they made it into the live act. And Page, Plant, Jones and Jason Bonham had no problem playing them back then. They were in charge.

Someone at or near age 60 deserves better than to be told what to do. It must be frustrating when that happens.

On top of that, it's probably true that there are many songs a modern-day Led Zeppelin concert should ignore. Basically, anything not performed by Led Zeppelin by 1980 falls into that category.

Plant, Page and Jones have been fond of working cover songs into their own live sets and onto their solo albums since then. But it would be seen as heresy for Page to insist on adding Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" to a Zep set, or for Jones to demand "Down to the River to Pray" stuck in between a couple of acoustic songs.

This is especially more challenging to Plant, who has never shied away from a good cover.

I mean, you can play "We're Gonna Groove" and "Gallows Pole" and "In My Time of Dying" at a Led Zeppelin concert. Even though they're (basically) covers, they're fair game because the original Zeppelin touched them.

But two of Plant's three most recent albums have been almost entirely made up of covers. Led Zeppelin never played songs by Gene Clark, Arthur Lee, the Everly Brothers, Stephen Stills or Skip Spence, so there are an awful lot of cover songs he favors that wouldn't quite fit into a Zep show.

Not only that, but it's also natural that Led Zeppelin shows would force the band members to ignore performing any songs from their outside projects. Who stands to suffer the most from this? Again, it's Plant, who since 1980 has taken part in eight albums of new material.

Imagine a Led Zeppelin concert that ignores Page's unremarkable solo album, Outrider, and any of the work by his other bands, the Firm and Coverdale/Page. Totally believable and appropriate, isn't it?

What are you giving up by ignoring JPJ's solo work? Mostly some great instrumentals spread across three albums.

Ignore Robert's post-Zep career in a concert, and there's a whole lot more auspiciously missing.

He went out and played some shows like that in 1998, playing to the big houses with Jimmy Page, and note how Plant ended up pulling the plug by the end of the year.

Tell Robert he isn't free to reproduce certain material onstage, and you may have yourself a dealbreaker, folks.

It is these factors that make a Led Zeppelin show seem restrictive to the creative process and to future evolution.

Fans who argue Page, Plant and Jones ought to write new material are kidding themselves if they think new songs will be given a fighting chance in a live setting. No matter how good it is, it would still be deemed a bathroom break. There's no room for a bathroom break in the Led Zeppelin legacy.

All in all, the band's own legacy is the hindrance that may keep the group from reforming yet again. It stands to be tainted.

The uneducated rumor mill says Led Zeppelin will be touring soon. And further, Whitesnake is opening for them. I'm going to laugh myself silly. There's absolutely no way this story has any credibility today.

And the money? Please. That won't change Robert's mind. Not now, not ever. "Tour" is a bad word. Maybe Led Zeppelin would agree to play a few charity events, but probably not more than about eight. He definitely isn't interested in the "T" word. It's just not about the money.

Personally, I don't see how a Led Zeppelin reunion could be anything more than just a few charity benefits and a huge commitment.


  1. I totally disagree with you. real Zep fans don't give a damn about Stairway or Whole Lotta Love! I thought it was awesome when P&P played Calling to You and Shake My Tree when I saw them. Anyone who really knows Zep and knows music, would not be opposed to Zep doing a couple of covers. The beauty of a live show is the anticipation of what's next? Especially if it's something totally unexpected. playing to the masses, they don't have to worry about catering to any of that! They are The Mighty Led Zeppelin, they can play whatever they want!!!!

  2. No, not Jimmy. The other thing that irks me about your article, is the whole "do they realize..." Are you kidding me? Are you aware of the intelligence level of Jimmy Page? beyond being a musician, the man is highly intelligent and well versed. Jonesy too... and again Plant doing a bunch of covers is hardly new and interesting or progressive....its only interesting to him, but sadly that may be all he cares about at this point.

  3. Does Robert ever realise? that he owes the other two a little respect,the fact is he teases and is willing to talk up zep related stuff when he has a project to sell or when it suits him. If he no longer wishes to perform as zeppelin, then say so conclusively,in my opinion Robert has had no interest in zeppelin since 1980, a pity since nothing he has done since matches upto those 12 years from 68-80.PS. Steve you are doing a great job with this site cheers from across the pond.

  4. There are a couple songs in the Zep canon that I'd like to see performed. Carouselumbra (sp?), Fool In The Rain, Wearing & Tearing... late material which was denied its day on stage.


  5. Hi Steve,

    Have to disagree with you about people missing Black Dog, Stairway, WLL etc. Well there might be a few wives and younger people who would want to hear them, but typical(not fanatical) LZ fan has heard these songs overplayed on the classic rock stations over the last 20 years.
    LZ live has always been based on performance rather than songs. Whatever songs they chose would be welcome by most as long as the performance is there.

    I think new material would be welcome as long as it does justice to the legacy.

  6. Plant's argument against a Zeppelin mega-tour has always been the following: We were a phenomenal band that never played it safe, in other words we were never stagnant. We took chances musically and therefore constantly evolved. And oh by the way, we are now without the greatest rock drummer that ever lived. If Plant's heart was in it, then he, Page, and Jones should sit down and take their time and come up with a new album. If they have a tenth of the creative spark they had in the past, it would be spectacular. It would give Robert his ever onward fix of new material and make it possible for a Led Zeppelin tour. (I should say 75% of Zeppelin out of respect for Bonzo)

  7. Gonna toss in one more comment here for the person who said, "Plant doing a bunch of covers is hardly new and interesting or progressive....its only interesting to him, but sadly that may be all he cares about at this point."

    Well, then I guess it wasn't progressive or interesting when Led Zeppelin's live material consisted of Tiny Bradshaw/The Yardbirds' "Train Kept A Rollin'," Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters's "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "You Shook Me," Jake Holmes/The Yardbirds' "Dazed and Confused," Willie Dixon/Howlin' Wolf's "How Many More Years," Albert King's "The Hunter" and "Killing Floor," Willie Dixon/The Small Faces' "You Need Loving," Garnet Mimms' "As Long As I Have You," Spirit's "Fresh Garbage," Traffic's "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush," Ben E. King's "We're Gonna Groove," Willie Dixon/Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It On Home," Bert Jansch's "Black Water Side," John Renbourne's "She Moves Through the Fair," Anne Bredon/Joan Baez's "Baby I'm Gonna Leave You," etc.

    After all, who wants to sit around and listen to a bunch of reworked covers? That's neither progressive nor interesting.

  8. Your right, its not interesting, I'd rather listen to any songs Zep wrote than any of the covers they did! Although I like your site, you are either A. In love w/ Robert or B. The devils advocate type of person. Either way, I don't agree with you and i don't think most Zep fans do either.

  9. Bottom line for me is, I have seen all of them live, Robert the most times, and none of it compares to Zep. Both P&P shows I saw blew every Plant performance I have seen out of the water. I would'nt pay a dime For Raising Sand or to see it, because I would fall asleep. Not that its not well done, it's just not for me. I like all types of music, but I only pay to see music I love, not just like. You can't call many of the songs you mentioned covers, because you can't even tell what the original was from the Zep version.I will never agree w/ Roberts opinion on Zep and doing more Zep, so this is the last comment from me on this

  10. While a surprise hit it may be, Abraising Sand just is not my cup of tea. I wholely support Robert in all his endeavors as none of them are *musical* disasters. All feature exceptional musicianship and production. But certainly does not mean that I have to love them. I have to admit, alot of that support comes solely from my adulation of his career within Led Zeppelin. I bet alot of his fans are there because of that reason as well. It is just not by coincidence that the greatest applause comes for former Zeppelin numbers. Even as permutated are they get. ; )

  11. I like what Robert did with Zep better what he's done on his own. I like what Alison did with Union Station way better than what she's done with Robert. It's not that I don't like RS, just that I like what the artists did previous much better. No judgement, just my taste.

  12. I've seen Zep & I've seen Robert in concert. Loved both. I'd adore it if Robert got together with the J's again, but I also have really enjoyed his solo career. He's done so much varied stuff, played with so many different people - I can only wish Jimmy'd done that! At least JPJ did :D
    As for cover songs, well what's wrong with that? Raising Sand is beautiful and I'm looking forward to seeing them live in Asheville. And Dreamland - well, I had it on my CD player as I went to sleep for a solid year. So, no problem with covers at all.


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