LED ZEPPELIN - How Could They Fail, Part 3

The abrupt termination of the group and the blunt decision by the surviving members not to countenance continuing with a replacement drummer added immensely to the brand integrity and legendary status that Led Zeppelin had built up during their 12 years together. In truth, it was difficult to imagine them continuing with another drummer. All four members of Led Zeppelin contributed crucial elements to the whole and, as is so often the case with groups that operate at the highest level, the absence of one of those members deprived the mothership of considerably more than 25% of its strength.
         This was born out by the inability of the three surviving members to achieve anything approaching the success of Led Zeppelin in the individual careers they pursued after 1980. Plant was the most determined to strike out on his own and change direction but he was frustrated by fans’ demands for more of the same. Nevertheless he fought against the tide, producing much satisfying work, and toured prodigiously, often content to be second on a bill. In 2006 he was amply rewarded by the huge critical and commercial acclaim that greeted his album Rising Sand, recorded with the country star Alison Krauss. Page, always more inclined than Plant to revisit the past, was hampered by his inability to find a satisfactory vocalist with whom to work and as a result his solo career tended to lack direction. Jones, not surprisingly, kept a low profile, picking up the odd choice arranging and production job, cropping up here and there as a guest performer and, eventually, releasing a pair of tasteful if idiosyncratic solo albums. Peter Grant, effectively retired, entered a long period of drug-induced withdrawal from which he emerged in the nineties as a much respected elder statesman of the music industry. He died in 1995.
         Meanwhile, the shadow of Led Zeppelin loomed large and the surviving trio were tempted back together for a couple of high profile special occasions in the eighties when they played brief sets with plenty of emotion but – due to lack of rehearsal - little distinction. Many books appeared including, in 1985, a biography entitled Hammer Of The Gods by the American writer Steven Davis which spared few blushes when it came to detailing Led Zeppelin’s indulgences on the road. Though the members of the group disdained the book and even claimed not to have read it, there can be no question that it enhanced their formidable reputation as intemperate pleasure-seekers, thus glorifying their mystique among more impressionable fans.
         More positively, in 1991 a four-CD box set sequenced by Page prompted an exceptionally favourable re-appraisal of their work and three years later he and Plant reunited without Jones for a prolonged period of recording and touring under the ‘Unledded’ banner, performing sets that included re-arranged Led Zeppelin songs and some new material. It wasn’t until 2006, however, that a full-scale reunion took place at London’s O2 Arena with John Bonham’s son Jason on drums. At last the conditions were right, rehearsals earnestly undertaken, and Led Zeppelin took flight once more.
         Tickets for the O2 show changed hands for sums in excess of £2,000. Fans flew in from all corners of the globe for what was, by a wide margin, the most anticipated reunion in the history of rock. Led Zeppelin, not unaware of the burden of expectation, triumphed again. How could they fail?

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