Where do you even start with one of the greatest rock bands of all time? The quintessential stadium rock act. The most in-demand reunion. The mighty Zep.
By the time I first heard their name, Led Zeppelin had already reached a mythical status – a band spoken of with eternal reverence with an unapproachable prestige as near-literal rock gods. And that status has only grown with them. Decades of reunion whispers, rumours, deflections, and denials, have created a fervour.
This was most evident when the three surviving members reunited for what is likely the final time in 2007. Led Zeppelin’s reunion performance at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert holds the Guinness World Record for the ‘Highest Demand for Tickets for One Music Concert”.
It’s almost hard to imagine, for those of us who didn’t witness it firsthand, the time when Led Zeppelin were ‘just a band’ rather than this larger-than-life concept. But the reality is that even when they were actively recording and touring the world, Led Zeppelin were a leviathan. Enormous critical acclaim, immense commercial success, and record-breaking tours quickly became part of the Led Zep story.
Musically, they we’re incredibly innovative – in ways that simply can’t be comprehended in the modern day – and were so influential they pretty much wrote the rule book on how to be a rock band. Their psychedelic hard rock, which became increasingly experimental through their career, helped steer the hard rock sound of the 70s, 80s, and beyond, as well as having a hand in the nascent sound of heavy metal.
But the incredible part? This band, whose influence is almost unrivalled, who set in motion rock and roll for the countless bands that followed, sold millions of albums and produced some of the most iconic songs in history… all of this… in just twelve short years.
With the tragic death of John Bonham in 1980, Led Zeppelin famously announced “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” And, more or less, that is a word they’ve kept. Apart from a handful of one-off reunions for particular events, a Led Zeppelin reunion tour has remained elusive. Rumours have spread over the past 20 years about various attempts to get the band to reunite – including an infamous urban legend about a billion-dollar offer – but nothing has ever come to fruition.
For many years, Led Zeppelin were my white whale of gigs to attend. I always thought “one day…”, but in recent years I’ve come to accept that day likely won’t come. But that’s not to say the Led Zeppelin legend is over. Just look around at rock and roll today.
Every rock band today owes a debt to Led Zeppelin.