Jimmy Page and Robert Plant

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Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
Years active 1994 - 1999
Status Defunct
Origin London, England
Music genre(s) World music, Blues rock, Rock
Members Jimmy Page
Robert Plant
Charlie Jones
Michael Lee
Ed Shearmur

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, both formerly of English rock band Led Zeppelin, recorded and toured in the mid-1990s under the title Jimmy Page & Robert Plant. The pair re-united in 1994 and, after recording a highly successful first album, they embarked on a world tour. They then recorded a second album before disbanding shortly after.

Overview

After years of persistent rumours, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant finally reunited. In 1994 MTV approached Plant with proposals for an acoustic show in the Unplugged series. Earlier there had been initial plans for a reunion which made in 1993, with talk between the two of collaborating emerging from casual small talk and then an invitation to perform on MTV Unplugged. Music producer Bill Curbishley, who had been managing Plant since the 1980s and who assumed management of Page in 1994, was integral in the reuniting of Page and Plant. Despite failed attempts by others to reunite the pair, Curbishley was able to persuade the previously reluctant Plant into working with Page again.[1] Accounts vary as to whether John Paul Jones was not invited or not interested, but Page and Plant started to develop a partnership of their own. In an interview he gave in 2004, Page recounted the background:

I was going to play in Japan with David [Coverdale], the only time we played live, and I had a call from Robert's management to pop in and see Robert in Boston on the way to LA to rehearse. Robert said, 'I've been approached by MTV to do an Unplugged and I'd really like to do it with you, so I said OK. It gave us a chance to revisit some numbers and use that same picture with a very, very different frame.[2]

Plant's recollection of the reunion was:

By that time I didn't feel like I was even a rock singer anymore ... Then I was approached by MTV to do an Unplugged session. But I knew that I couldn't be seen to be holding the flag for the Zeppelin legacy on TV. Then mysteriously Jimmy turned up at a gig I was playing in Boston and it was like those difficult last days of Led Zep had vanished. We had this understanding again without doing or saying anything. We talked about the MTV thing and decided to see where we could take it.[3]

Unledded

Led Zeppelin's main songwriters reformed on 17 April 1994, as a part of the Alexis Korner Memorial Concert at Buxton, England. On 25 and 26 August, they taped performances in London, Wales, and Morocco with Egyptian and Moroccan orchestration of several Led Zeppelin tunes along with four new songs. The performances aired on October 12, and were so successful commercially and artistically that the two coordinated a tour which kicked off in February 1995. The Unplugged performance was released as an album in November 1994 as No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded.

Their tour took them across the world with a lineup including Charlie Jones playing bass and percussion, Michael Lee on drums, Porl Thompson temporarily performing guitar and banjo, Najma Akhtar providing backup vocals, Jim Sutherland on mandolin and bodhrán, Nigel Eaton hurdy gurdy, and Ed Shearmur playing Hammond organ with orchestral arrangements. Page:

It was heroic to take something like that around the world, because it was using two orchestras: one Western, one Arab orchestra, with a hurdy-gurdy. It was great going around the world to turn people on to sounds they hadn't heard. It wasn't an easy thing to do, but it was worth it.[4]

Page and Plant were on tour more or less continuously for a year from February 1995, taking in the US, Europe, America again, Japan and Australia. As the tour progressed, they included more and more Led Zeppelin songs in their stage set.

Walking Into Clarksdale

In 1997, they hired indie rock producer Steve Albini to work on their collection of new original songs. It was the first time Page chose to work with an outside producer. Page and Plant with their core touring band entered the studio to record Walking into Clarksdale, an album of updated AOR rock. Despite excellent reviews, this album was not as commercially successful as Unledded had been, and the Page and Plant reunion slowly dissolved, with both members going on to perform with other side projects. Their final tour concert was at the Concert for Amnesty International on 10 December 1998, Paris, France.

In an interview he gave to Uncut magazine in 2005 Plant recounted:

We had some good songs [on Walking into Clarksdale], but I wasn't sure about the production. I felt kind of marooned. We were still surrounded by the protective shield of who we were, and it meant we were playing big arenas around the world. And I realised once again there had to be another way... I knew I had to get back to playing clubs and remember what pulse was all about. To say goodbye to those large arenas that I played with Jimmy was a very purposeful move.[5]

Page and Michael Lee tried to interest Plant into continuing with the partnership, by going into the recording studio for much of early 1999 with new material recorded. As Page explained:

There could have been a follow-up [to Walking into Clarksdale]. I certainly had about a dozen numbers written for a third album. Robert heard them and said that some of them were really good, but he just wanted to go in another direction. That's fair enough.[6]

They briefly reunited once more in July 2001 for the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Notes

  1. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4.
  2. Charles Shaar Murray, 'The Guv'ors', Mojo, August 2004, p. 75.
  3. Nigel Williamson, 'Good Times...Bad Times', Uncut, May 2005, p. 64.
  4. Charles Shaar Murray, 'The Guv'nors', Mojo, August 2004, p. 75.
  5. Nigel Williamson, 'Good Times...Bad Times', Uncut, May 2005, p. 64.
  6. 'I first met Jimmy on Tolworth Broadway, holding a bag of exotic fish...', Uncut, January 2009, p. 48.