What Is, And What Should Never Be

What Is, and What Should Never Be

According to a report in Britain;s “The Sun”, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (along with the correctly-named son of John Bonham, Jason) are considering offers to mount a US tour under the name Led Zeppelin. While no mention was made of any plans for the reunited supergroup to record, the article did mention the huge financial payoff that such a venture would bring. Which is understandable. Zeppelin remains one of the titans of the recording industry, selling millions of albums a year since they ended in 1980 after the death of John Bonham, and while the members solo works (as well as the Page/Plant collaboration of a few years ago) have garnered fair sales and kind reviews, the allure of a ticket with the Led Zeppelin name on it is arguably the hottest item on a promoters wish list. The band has legions of fans that weren’t even born when the group ended, who never had the chance to see Zeppelin live. Should these people be deprived of the experience?

In a word, yes.

I saw Led Zeppelin in 1978, paid the then astronomical price of $50 (the face value was under $10, I think), had the highest seat in arena and generally saw a blurry, distorted version of The Song Remains the Same. I was too far away, and the band was sloppy and playing in a shed. Am I glad I went? Sure. At the time — my sophomore year in high school — Jimmy Page was my idol. Zeppelin was my last metal holdout, as I was more inclined to listen to The Ramones or The Clash by that point. But something about Page and that low-slung Les Paul was perfect for high school male hero worship. Hell, I even liked In Thru the Out Door. Years later I got a free ticket to see Plant and Page on the “Clarksville” tour, enjoyed it quite well, although Jimmy did look a little… fatigued? They played Zep songs, Plant tossed his hair, la de dah. It was as close as I wanted to get to Led Zeppelin, a band that died with John Bonham.

Twenty-two years later somebody has seemingly tossed enough carrots on the table for the band to actually get together in a room and discuss playing together again. Page and Plant never asked Jones to join up on their early ’90s collaboration, leaving the talented bassist and producer rightly cuffed, and while rumors have floated around for years about a reunion, and this latest version may well be so much hot air, it wouldn’t be surprising if the amount of money is just too tempting to ignore. With the astronomical payoffs people like The Rolling Stones or The “Damn, we’re nearly all dead” Who have gotten recently, it would take a strong will for the remaining members to refuse such a payday.

But they should. Hopefully the band has good enough managers and accountants to preserve a good chunk of the royalties they get, even with living in England and paying gross amounts of tax. I have no problem with anyone earning a buck, but I always respected Led Zeppelin for respecting the fact that without the mighty right foot of John Bonham, there was no Zep. Granted, other than what I hear in passing, I don’t listen to the group anymore, but one hardly needs to anymore. The drumming of Bonham has been sampled on thousands of records — hell, people like Ink 19‘s favorite deadbeat, Martin Atkins, (Public Image Limited, The Damage Manual) have built a career on what “John Bonham, John Henry Bonham!” achieved on the opening to “The Ocean” alone. The sound that Jimmy Page crafted has formed the template of everything from grunge to stoner rock, and you know, if I want to hear live Zeppelin music, there are dozens of tribute bands making the rounds, all of which are at least 30 to 40 years younger than the originals.

While I appreciate the arguments of those younger than me, that they never got to see the band, that’s just life. I never got to see Pink Floyd with Gilmour and Waters together (or Syd Barrett, for that matter), never saw Uncle Tupelo, etc. The rest of my heroes are dead. No reforming Weather Report with Jaco, or The Beach Boys with Carl and Dennis, or The Beatles. No, I am content to enjoy what is left of these performers, their music. Because in the end, that is what remains, and what really matters anyway. Watching balding, bloated retirement-age men creak around stages of arenas is not rock and roll, it’s a wax museum with a sound system. If the remaining members of Led Zeppelin have any respect for the legacy they created, they will opt to remain at home, or to pursue their own careers on their own merits, instead of milking a cash cow.

Because if they go back on the road, instead of just singing about whores (“Living Loving Maid”), they’ll become them.

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