Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

Led Zeppelin’s Last Stand

News has just been released that the official DVD film of Led Zeppelin’s performance at the O2 Arena in December 2007 is to be available from mid-November. There will be cinema screenings of the two-hour film all over the world in mid-October. The release has been keenly anticipated by the Zeppelin fraternity for a number of years, and there have been periods when it has seemed that it might not appear. This was not of course Led Zeppelin mark 1, since mark 1 finished on the death of drummer John Bonham in September 1980. Mark 2 did however have another Bonham on the drum stool – namely, John’s son Jason – who acquitted himself extremely well.

Over the years the surviving members of Led Zeppelin have reunited on a handful of occasions, and the results have been often underwhelming – notably at Live Aid in 1985 and the Atlantic Records 40th Birthday concert in 1988. The O2 gig, properly planned and rehearsed, was leagues ahead of those earlier efforts. It was also the most over-subscribed concert in musical history with millions of people trying to get one of 18,000 tickets (nope, I didn’t get one either).

There was some hope that the O2 gig would be a curtain-raiser to a bit more activity by the band, but this petered out in 2008 when attempts to find a replacement singer for Robert Plant failed. Plant had made it clear he did not want to do anymore. For him, singing songs from 30 years or more ago was a tall order. About one-third of the songs performed were actually played in keys one tone below their original pitch.

It raises an interesting question about what a re-united Led Zeppelin mark 2 might have achieved. Could they have produced new material? Could they have brought the band’s undoubted power to bear on lyric subjects suitable for an ageing audience and 3 out of 4 members in their 60s? I found myself thinking of Dylan Thomas’ poem about death ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ with its refrain ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’. If ever there was a band that had the power to potentially rage against the dying of the light it was Zeppelin. Though much of their 70s output is a Dionysian celebration of the joys of the flesh, tracks like ‘When The Levee Breaks’, ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and ‘Kashmir’ ventured into more serious lyric territory. On that territory the age of the band would not matter. Sadly, it looks like we will never know.

I shall be writing some pieces about the O2 gig for a Tight But Loose special (Dave Lewis’ renowned Led Zep magazine) coming out at the end of the year. I’ve also recently written a couple of short pieces for guitarcoach, the downloadable guitar magazine for the iPad. Last week I taught my Beatles course once more at Rewley House in Oxford.

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