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20 Times Robert Plant Shot Down a Led Zeppelin Reunion

Kevin Winter / Matt Roberts / Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter / Matt Roberts / Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Robert Plant is making the interview rounds to promote his new Carry Fire LP, and you know what that means: another barrage of questions about if or when he’d ever consider getting back together with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin. It’s the kind of thing an interviewer almost can’t help but ask about when speaking with someone like Plant, even if everyone already knows the answer; in fact, he’s been telling anyone who’ll listen the same thing for more than 30 years. In honor of this latest chapter in Plant’s endless ordeal, here’s an exhaustive — yet far from comprehensive — look back at the many times he’s rejected the idea of a Zeppelin reunion.

1) 1982: “Impossible” Without Bonham

In a conversation billed as his first solo interview, Plant was confronted with a question about starting up Zeppelin again — and issued among the earliest of what would be many rejections. Asked to state “just for the record” that the band was “dead and buried,” he firmly obliged.

“After we lost John, we issued a statement to that effect, but everybody read it as being ambiguous. I can’t even remember the wording of it now. But no, there’s absolutely no point. No point at all,” he insisted. There’s certain people you don’t do without in life, you don’t keep things going for the sake of it. There’s no functional purpose for keeping things going. For whose convenience? Nobody’s, really. … For all the s— that hit the fan those many times … we all sort of rose out of it together going, ‘We don’t care – take this!’ And you don’t start carrying on with people who weren’t a part of that. Impossible.”

 

2) 1985: “A Distortion of Reality”

Okay, so maybe he asked for this one. Plant did, after all, deign to reunite with John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page for a Live Aid set. But that was for a great cause and didn’t involve new music — and as he took pains to point out to the Los Angeles Times, there’s a big difference between taking the stage with your old bandmates for an afternoon and honestly attempting a full-scale reunion. And anyway, at this point, Plant professed to have grown fond of being a solo artist — not least because of the smaller scale and lowered expectations.

“Being in Zeppelin was like living in a goldfish bowl,” Plant insisted. “Things were done on such a grand scale. The band was a perpetual-motion machine that didn’t allow me to stop and consider the values of the whole thing. My values were kind of in chaos for a while. That experience was a distortion of reality. My perspective on reality and hard work was out of line.”

 

3) 1988: “I Don’t Need the Money”

Of course, what people say in public isn’t always what they mean. After brushing off the idea of a Zeppelin reunion during the hubbub surrounding their Live Aid gig, Plant actually did get back together with Jones and Page in early 1986, with the trio enlisting drummer Tony Thompson for a brief stab at figuring out what they might have to offer one another nearly a decade after the band’s dissolution. As it turned out, the answer turned out to be “not much.”

“The whole thing dematerialized,” he told Rolling Stone. “Jimmy had to change the battery on his wah-wah pedal every one and a half songs. And I said, ‘I’m going home.’ Jonesy said, ‘Why?’ ‘Because I can’t put up with this.’ ‘But you lived with it before.’ I said, ‘Look, man, I don’t need the money. I’m off.’ For it to succeed I would have had to have been far more patient than I have been for years.”

 4-11) Robert Plant Says ‘No’ To Zeppelin Reunion Over and Over

12) 1990: “I Don’t Know the Guy Who Sang in Led Zeppelin”

Plant’s late-’80s output begged the question of a Zeppelin reunion. With 1988’s Now and Zen and 1990’s Manic Nirvana, he reclaimed elements of the band’s sound while forging ahead by putting a more modern spin on it — even recruiting Page to play guitar on a couple of Zen cuts. But even if he was no longer interested in running from his past, that didn’t mean Plant was necessarily eager to return to it. As he insisted in a 1990 interview, he no longer felt a connection with the artist he’d been in Led Zeppelin, and couldn’t get back to that person even if he wanted to.

“I couldn’t go on and reinvent the spirit of the huge monster that was, because I couldn’t feel comfortable,” said Plant. “I don’t know the guy who sang in Led Zeppelin. I see some very funny pictures of him, then I see rock’s vile offspring trotting behind in Lurex pants and leather gloves with the fingers cut off.”

 

13) 1993: “What is Valuable in Life?”

By the early ’90s, it seems safe to assume the Zeppelin survivors had been offered outrageous sums of money more than once to reunite. But with a steady stream of royalties still pouring in from their catalog, money wasn’t really a concern — and as Plant told The Guardian while promoting his Fate of Nations LP, no amount of dough would be enough to cover up for the fact that, in his eyes, their creative chemistry had run its course.

“We were great when we were great. I was part of something magnificent which broke the Guinness Book of Records, but in the end, what are you going to get out of it? Who are you doing it for? You have to ask these questions,” Plant pointed out. “Who pays the piper, and what is valuable in this life? I don’t want to scream ‘Immigrant Song’ every night for the rest of my life, and I’m not sure I could.”

 

14) 2002: “Surely Now We’re Way Too Old for This?”

It’s undeniable that Plant has spent years patiently rejecting fans’ cries for new music from a latter-day Led Zeppelin lineup, but it’s also obvious that he’s flirted with that idea often enough to further stoke those hopes. For instance, there are the two albums he recorded with Jimmy Page in the ’90s — a project that ended up driving a wedge between Plant and Jones when Plant quipped that Jones was “parking the car” while he and Page staged their big reunion.

“That was it. No cards, no hellos,” Plant admitted. “I apologized and went to one meeting and got on one knee as he was walking out, to tie my shoelace as well, and said, ‘John, surely now we’re way too old for this?’ But he just sidestepped me and walked out. But I love him and want you to know, John, that if you have me back, we can go back to the one card a year.”

 

15) 2011: How Explosive Passion Can End Up as Cabaret

Any true partnership requires compromise — and it’s the tension between creative visions that makes the best bands more than the sum of their parts. It’s very difficult for a group of artists to stay together while continuing to evolve over the long haul, however, as Plant acknowledged in 2011 when he contrasted the wanderlust he’s enjoyed over his solo career against the constraints he inevitably would have felt if Zeppelin had stayed together.

“Most people have told me to do the obvious thing as far as my career goes. Which would have sent me tottering into the abyss,” said Plant. “I mean, some people get into a groove and they stay with it indefinitely. And what starts off as a great moment of explosive passion can end up as cabaret 25, 30 years later. It just depends on whether you go and find the right habitat to extend yourself.”

At that point, that habitat most definitely didn’t include Led Zeppelin. After rejecting the idea of a highly lucrative tour following their one-off performance at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert in 2007, he shrugged off a number of follow-up offers, including one to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

16) 2012: “Schmuck!”

 

17) 2012: “Moving Forward”

At this point, any Zep vet who releases anything new knows he’ll have to face the question of a reunion — and that goes at least double for the release of any new Zeppelin product, as was definitely the case in 2012, when Jones, Page and Plant did press to promote Celebration Day, the package commemorating their 2007 reunion set. After spending years politely demurring and trying to explain his reasons for needing to move on, Plant took a blunter approach during the Celebration press tour, expressing disdain for the idea of a greatest-hits tour — and for the press that kept nagging at the question.

“You have to be creative and imaginative and move on. And I think the great essence of Led Zeppelin is the creativity and imagination that developed with each project. And a project is a project, it’s not just going back and revisiting the past, it’s moving forward,” Plant argued in a joint interview with Jones and Page. “I don’t see us being a stadium act … going round and round making everyone feel great playing the hits.”

Confronted with the reunion question at the Celebration Day press conference, Plant pointed out that if anything ever did happen, it would only be because all three surviving members wanted it to. “If we’re capable of doing something, in our own time, that will be what will happen,” he told reporters. “So any inane questions from people who are from syndicated outlets, you should just really think about what it takes to answer a question like that in one second. We know what we’ve got, you know.”

18) 2014: “You’ve Just Got To Pick Up and Move On”

 

19) 2014: “I’m Not Part of a Jukebox!”

Plant returned in 2014 with his lullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar solo outing, once again making the rounds to promote a new release — and once again facing the same old questions about a Led Zeppelin reunion. Rolling Stone wondered why all the chatter of a tour after the Ertegun tribute didn’t come to anything, and Plant had a strongly worded response that amounted to a more emphatic version of what he’d been saying for years: He was interested in making art that moved him, not cashing in.

“A tour would have been an absolute menagerie of vested interests and the very essence of everything that’s s—ty about about big-time stadium rock,” Plant retorted. “We were surrounded by a circus of people that would have had our souls on the fire. I’m not part of a jukebox!”

At the time, it was fairly evident that Page and Jones would have been happy to give it a shot, and Page in particular had intimated as much in the press — putting a burden of rejection on Plant that seemed to leave the singer a little grumpy. Revealing that he’d offered to get together over “anything acoustic” Page might have in his stockpile, Plant mused that the “weight of expectation” was simply too heavy to allow for any new music between the former bandmates. “I feel for the guy. He knows he’s got the headlines if he wants them. But I don’t know what he’s trying to do,” he added. “So I feel slightly disappointed and baffled.”

As if that weren’t clear enough, Plant offered a brutally succinct answer when asked the same year to weigh in on the chances of another Zeppelin concert: “zero.”

 

20) 2017: “You Can’t Ever Really Go Back”

Rightly proud of his efforts on Carry Fire, Plant has done his best to steer the conversation toward the present while sitting for interviews about the new LP — but once again, questions about a Led Zeppelin reunion are impossible to avoid, as a recent conversation with the Daily Telegraph proved yet again. In case anyone was wondering whether his attitude toward putting together some sort of project with Jones and Page has softened over the last few years, surprise — it hasn’t.

“You can’t ever really go back. It’s tough enough repeating yourself with something that’s a year old, never mind 49 years old,” said Plant. “I’ve got to keep moving.”

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