The year is lost in the forest of time’s misty mountains, but I can still recall the moment Led Zeppelin thundered into my life.
It was in the kitchen at home. The radio was emitting what charitably could be called a bridge of noise (or interlude as it is described in the sheet music). It ended with a pounding of drums as if to say stop, enough, get back on the rails. And then it erupted: the shrieking firing of a guitar solo. Staccato phrases, like short bursts from a machine gun, shot from a tinny transistor, and its tiny speaker. I forgot why I was in the kitchen. What. Is. That?
It was Whole Lotta Love. But I wasn’t wounded by the assault. I was energised, captivated, captured, and, in a corny Almost Famous kind of way, set free. I had not heard anything like it.
You couldn’t go back to where you were after that. I didn’t. Not that I became a Zeppelin diehard fan. They lost me after Physical Graffiti. Indeed, they probably lost themselves around the same time. But in that kitchen a door opened, and I walked into the realisation that music was without boundaries, that it could be whatever it wanted to be. Of course, at the time it seemed more magical than the blood, sweat and tears that actually make up most of creation. In the case of Whole Lotta Love, it also included a borrowing from a Willie Dixon song You Need Love, recorded by Muddy Waters.
The memory of a young McFadyen being held hostage to Whole Lotta Love in his parents’ kitchen in suburban Newcastle popped into the musical inbox this week on reading yet again of the remote chance, that Led Zeppelin could, quite possibly, if the wind blows from the right direction and the moon casts its light with a certain degree of inclination on the horizon, reunite on the occasion of the band’s 50thanniversary of its formation. Oh yes, and if resurrection were possible.
This flower of a rumour is, if not a hardy annual then a constant bloomer. Rolling Stone once marked out a timeline of reunion denials by singer Robert Plant: 1982, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1995, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2018. Each year, the song pretty much remained the same. No.
The band broke up in 1980. They were about to begin a tour of the US when drummer John Bonham, drinking enough alcohol to support a distillery on his own, died. He was 32. The remaining members Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones issued a statement: “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”.
Talk of a reunion after almost 40 years is, as it is with almost any group, more wishful thinking by fans than by the players themselves. Plant, Page and Jones did do one charity concert more than a decade ago in London, and in the mid-nineties, Page and Plant did a couple of albums together and toured for them. But anything more is a stairway to heaven too far. As Plant said in 2007, “The conveyor belt of expectation is bullshit”.
Some may say anything other than all the original members, or those who were original in a certain era, of a band can’t possibly be a true reunion. They have a point. Bonham’s son Jason plays the drums, but it was the dad on the classic albums. Could Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr haul in Sean or Julian Lennon and Dhani Harrison and be reunited for a Beatles tour?
As it is Page has other things on his mind, such as his neighbour, one Robbie Williams, who wants to do major work under his house for a basement/gym complex that Page contends will damage his architecturally significant “Tower House”. A report in The Guardian said such was the house’s sensitivities to vibration, that shock, horror, Page only played acoustic guitar in it. The matter is subject to appeal to the local council.
Plant, Page and Jones are, however, going to publish a pictorial anniversary book about the band this year.
Perhaps they’ll do a book launch instead.
As it is, all this talk of a reunion has taken me back to their second album from which Whole Lotta Love resides. Well, all the way back except for Moby Dick. Sorry Bonham, but that’s a bridge too far.
And if nothing else it reminds one of the first instant of an encounter that divides the before and after you. It takes you back and it moves you forward.