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Why Robert Plant Won’t Stop ‘Pissing’ on Led Zep Reunion Rumours. And Why He Should.

January 17, 2011
Robert Plant

Who's afraid of the big, bad Zep?

Rock journalists just don’t seem interested in writing the deeper story behind Robert Plant’s refusal to participate in a full-fledged Led Zeppelin reunion tour. They’d rather puff up a few quotes from a frustrated Plant about the ever-present spectre of his old band into a story that proposes that Plant sees reunion rumours and questions about his days as a “golden god” as nothing but a “pain in the pisser.”

According to most reports, ole Percy simply has other things to do besides chasing old glories on old legs. He’ll do a reunion show here or there when he feels its warranted or that they can do it up right, like the one-off 2007 O2 Arena show in tribute to Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun (RIP).

But, he’s not going to do what the fans want, what greedy promoters want, or what Jimmy Page wants, for that matter. He’s going to do what he wants to do. Other spirits move him. Lately, they keep moving him in interesting directions: headlong into contempo folk with Alison Krauss for example, or back to his pre-Zep preoccupations in the resurrected (if in name only) Band of Joy.

I’ve always been a fan of Plant’s iconoclasm and his eclecticism, and I admire his musical scholarship and restlessness. I certainly don’t want a reformed Led Zeppelin if it’s a desperate grab at cash, if they are underrehearsed or at odds (as with the 1988 Atlantic Records’ 40th Anniversary gig). But it’s disappointing that he’s playing into the heavy hands of writers and critics who want to create pageview-grabbing contentiousness and sustain a shallow dynamic. The Plant vs. Zep/Page story has grown as old and as inaccurate as that of Mick vs. Keef.

The truth of the matter is far less exciting than name-calling and sarcasm and dismissive criticism. Aside from wanting to do his own thing, Plant is afraid of no longer measuring up:

“The disappointment that could be there once you commit to that and the comparisons to something that was basically fired by youth and a different kind of exuberance to now, it’s very hard to go back and meet that head on and do it justice.”

At face value, Plant seems disinterested and critical. But, under the surface, he hesitates because he feels he can’t recapture what he once had. That’s pretty understandable.

My problem with Plant’s comments is that he reinforces that Zeppelin could only continue as a nostalgia act, that they’d have to recreate what they did as kids in order for it to be successful. While I’d love to see Jones, Plant, and Page play under the old banner, and feel that Jason Bonham is finally up to snuff when it comes to filling his dad’s drum throne, I simply wouldn’t be that interested in only hearing them play the old hits.

Who says that they can’t write fresh material and tour behind that? Their sets used to be famously long, filled with acoustic sets and drum solos and sonic experimentalism. Why can’t they put energy and effort into creating new shows that draw on their strengths such as they are now, rather than wasting it by worrying too much about something that simply can’t be recaptured? To hell with thoughts of tours–why not just put out a new record, something that builds on their reputation for adventurousness and innovation?

Plant can’t sing like a 20-year old, and I know that plays into his reluctance, but recent performances still show him to be a fine vocalist and craftsman who knows how to capitalize on his strengths. For a man who’s so utterly confident in himself, it’s surprising to realize just how afraid he is to confront his younger self.

Buried under comments like the “pisser” one and others like it, you find that Plant is actually still interested in future Led Zeppelin projects, even if he’ll only undertake them on his terms. Maybe if he realized that not all fans want it to be 1971 again, that some of us would love to hear new material informed by all the members’ experiences since John Bonham’s death, the weight of all that expectation would be lifted and he’d feel unencumbered enough to have another go.  Will he heed the Master’s call if the lead balloon beckons him again?

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6 Comments
  1. heath hawkins permalink
    January 18, 2011 1:45 am

    Amen, my friend. Amen.

  2. T. Stump permalink
    January 19, 2011 7:19 pm

    I’m conflicted about this one.
    The jokester in me wants to see ’em only play tunes from “The Principle of Moments”, “Outrider”, the Page/Chris Squire/Alan White project discussed on “YesYears”, “Zooma” and that Bonham record. They could start each song with an actual Zep intro, then midway through the second time through the riff for “Heartbreaker”, cut it off for a faithful reading of “Big Log”…(“Leading me on…”)

    I’m trying to picture the tweeted bile that would result after a truncated “Black Dog” gives way to “Wait for You”. It would be one of the all-time greatest moments in live-show history (speaking of Yes, yes, that’s Trevor Rabin on backup vocals).

    But then, in all seriousness, what if they made it a mission to bring to life all of those quasi-forgotten Zep tunes? A set of “That’s the Way”, “The Wanton Song”, “Darlene”, “Houses of the Holy”, “Carouselambra”, and other non-Mothership-type songs would be quite rousing, especially if they added some of their best moments from solo records, or even Page/Plant or the Honeydrippers?

    (ducks)

  3. July 6, 2011 6:25 pm

    Their new stuff would suck and everyone would be pissed. He’s afraid to mess with the legend. And it is a legend.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    July 21, 2011 9:51 am

    I dont know how anyone can say tha any fresh Zeppelin music would suck.
    By the way i have the Page/Black Crowes Vinyl Lp, THAT TRULY ROCKED!!!
    Plant is simply worried that he cannot convey the energy he once did and that by hearing his newer stuff bears the truth to that.

  5. Zepsmacked permalink
    May 19, 2014 4:10 pm

    I’d have fully agreed with this article, up until the other day when I heard it was announced that Plant, after stating on 60 Minutes (Australia or N.Z.) that “he was free in 2014”, after putting that “out there” to the other members of the group, he instead goes and fills up his schedule so that it currently can’t possibly happen. Jimmy Page says he’s fed up with Robert’s ‘antics’ now, and seems genuinely pissed off that Robert did such a thing. I, personally, after 40 years of being a big fan of the group, I now feel I have no choice but to jump the Plant side of the airship. In 2007 they proved that they still have a huge fan-base with the record sell-out and extreme price for tickets. For Plant to now do this, to disappoint millions of people with an almost reckless disregard for everyone, shows a person quite opposite of what he’s led us all to believe him to be over the years. Senility? I don’t think so, he seems in full mental capacity. Doesn’t he think that Zeppelin fans have had enough kicks in the face over the decades to last their lifetimes? I find his actions to be cruel and disrespectful, and for the first time in my life, I can honestly say,.. I don’t like Robert Plant.

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