Briefly, for a few months one year ago, there was a reason to believe in a Led Zeppelin reunion. That reason has long since faded.
Last year, Plant was the only one with a steady gig. When Jimmy Page was asked on Jan. 29, 2008, what the chances would be of a Led Zeppelin tour later in the year, he blamed the fact that Plant was unavailable. All we know of what Page said during that day's Tokyo press conference is this: "Robert Plant also had a parallel project running and he's really busy with that project, certainly until September, so I can't give you any news."
Page himself was a bit busy at the time. He was in Tokyo making the rounds to help promote the release of Led Zeppelin's latest best-of repackaging, Mothership. Just days before, he had met for the first time with The Edge and Jack White, as filmed for the movie "It Might Get Loud."
He plays a piece in that movie, originally called "Domino" and now recast as "Embryo No. 2," a leftover from his 1999 rehearsals with drummer Michael Lee for an album they hoped to release with Robert Plant on vocals.
So, when Page spoke with David Cavanagh for Uncut magazine on March 10, 2008, the topic of his unreleased music was on the tip of Page's tongue. "I had some new material written for another album," he said. "I had about a dozen numbers, and some of them were really good, but Robert heard them and he wanted to go in another direction. He wanted to do another solo album. Fair enough."
As Page says, another album never happened back then. Walking into Clarksdale in 1998 was their last together, and Plant went on to release the solo albums Dreamland and Mighty ReArranger, followed by Raising Sand with Alison Krauss.
It's obvious from Page's comments early last year that he was still hoping for Plant to come around, nine years after they parted ways at the beginning of 1999. But he finally had reason to believe again in a productive working relationship with Plant.
They'd just played a single show together, as Led Zeppelin, and spent months and months planning it and rehearsing it beforehand. Page discussed with Uncut the commitment that was involved in making that concert the worldwide success it was, and the same commitment it would take to carry Led Zeppelin forward:
"Everybody had such a great commitment to it. Now, if you're talking about a tour -- other dates, maybe recording together -- there's only one thing that's going to be the common denominator with that. And that's commitment. That's how we did the O2."What a difference a year makes! When the calendar flipped to 2008, and the world was abuzz with cries for Led Zeppelin to reunite, Plant could not commit to the project.
Page also spoke during his interview on March 10, 2008, about any number of projects he had cooking. He wasn't forthcoming on the specifics, but "It Might Get Loud" was one; he'd be named an associate producer of the film. As the year proceeded, it became evident that Page had been in rehearsals with John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham.
But Page said in September of last year there needed to be four members. Evidently, there weren't.
As of this writing, a year and a month later, little has been disclosed about the nature of those rehearsals Page had with Jones and Bonham. All we know are that there were multiple candidates for singers who wanted to front their band, that the members never would have called their band Led Zeppelin if Robert Plant was not involved, that they were playing "loud music," and that rehearsals "fell by the wayside" after they "couldn't really agree on singers."
And if the anonymous tipster to England's The Sun tabloid is to be believed, there's this statement, which was printed in September of last year:
"Jimmy, Jason and John are determined a tour will go ahead next year. They've been rehearsing frequently in London and the band is really gelling. There's an American guy who has been standing in for Robert regularly and doing a great job. Obviously they want the original frontman to join them on the road but he still won't commit. They will be finalising plans for shows over the next couple of months and will tell Robert that if he doesn't want to be involved they will go ahead without him."The Sun reported that Plant was receiving "an ultimatum by his bandmates - join us on tour or we'll replace you." Them's fighting words!
By the time Page's manager, Peter Mensch, publicly said singer auditions failed, it was old news to him. Mensch told MusicRadar on Jan. 7, 2009:
"They tried out a few singers, but no one worked out. That was it. The whole thing is completely over now. There are absolutely no plans for them to continue. Zero. Frankly, I wish everybody would stop talking about it."Also by that time, other opportunities had opened themselves up to John Paul Jones, and he beckoned their calls. Jones spent part of this February producing the debut solo album by former Nickel Creek singer Sara Watkins. Once it was out, he joined her on a late-night TV slot and, eventually, a festival appearance. When the recently departed Merce Cunningham marked his 90th birthday with a ballet series in his honor, Jones teamed up with Takehisa Kosugi and the members of Sonic Youth to make some experimental music on the fly.
These commitments kept Jones busy in the opening months of this year, but all the while, he was keeping a huge secret from everybody: During his time away from the public eye, he was hiding away, intensely preparing a complete album of all new material with Josh Homme and Dave Grohl. Now, they have a single out this week, their resulting album is due in less than a month, and they'll be on tour straight on through January, hitting England, mainland Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Other dates are also expected.
Now, there is the rumor of a Led Zeppelin reunion taking place in June 2010 at the Glastonbury Festival in England -- all because Plant said he'd been talking to Michael Eavis about booking him in some shape or form but not being any more specific than that. Somehow, this makes many folks jump to the conclusion: He's finally getting Led Zeppelin back together! Celebrate!
I said it the other day, and I'll say it again: There just isn't any chance Plant would be volunteering eight months' advance notice of a Led Zeppelin gig. In my opinion, this isn't a Led Zeppelin gig. It just can't be. It has to be something else. Someday, what it is will be revealed. For right now, it's nothing more than Plant's cheap attempt to draw some attention to himself at a time when the only gigs he's playing are the ones he decides with no notice. (Last night in England, he played an impromptu set at a charity benefit, shortly following an unforeseen weekend of activity with Buddy Miller in California.)
Earlier this month, Jones commented on the longevity of his current group, Them Crooked Vultures. He told KUT 90.5 in Austin, Texas:
"Yeah, I think it's going to go for a while. Honestly, you know, their respective bands will call them back eventually, but I think we're going to get a good run of it before anything like that happens."Notice he said "their bands" and not "our bands." Jones didn't even allow for the possibility that Led Zeppelin would be calling him back. No splinter group either. There you have it: It wasn't on the back of his mind.
Wish for a Led Zeppelin reunion tour eventually? Hope for this Led Zeppelin gig next summer? Puh-leeeease.
If you have read this far and still believe in an imminent Led Zeppelin reunion, then please tell me what you know and I don't, or give me a hit of whatever that stuff is you're smoking.