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Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin: "We are older and wiser..."

Sometimes the paths of great musicians diverge: everyone wants to realize their full potential, and the band doesn't always allow it. This is what happened with Led Zeppelin. But why did the musicians get together again in the mid-90s and what came of it?

Led Zeppelin Reunion Story: 'No Quarter' and 'Walking into Clarksdale'

Journalists and fans, assertive managers and producers - each of them has long pestered Page and Plant with requests for reunion their legendary band - Led Zeppelin. But the dawn of the 90s eloquently showed that the dazzling procession of the ingenious duo remained behind.

Nevertheless, in 1993 the public received a small clearance hope. Plant was invited to perform in the popular MTV Unplugged series of concerts, in which world-class artists Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan performed their immortal hits in acoustic versions.

Robert Plant (left) and Jimmy Page (right) of Led Zeppelin at a concert in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Jim Sammaria
Robert Plant (left) and Jimmy Page (right) of Led Zeppelin at a concert in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Jim Sammaria

Joint performance on MTV

MTV insisted that the former Zeppelin vocalist performed famous hits from the group's song box, but Plant could not do it without the help of Jimmy Page. That period turned out to be very suitable, and, having crossed the past omissions that arose between the participants in the last weeks of the existence of Led Zeppelin, Plant and Page gave the public a stunning joint number.

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page performing in Philadelphia, 1985
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page performing in Philadelphia, 1985

Page later shared:

“At that time I had a Japanese tour scheduled and I was just leaving for Los Angeles to rehearse the program with David Coverdale. And then Robert's manager called me and asked me to stop by on the way to Boston, they say, Rob wants to see me. Plant later shared with me that he was invited to MTV Unplugged and would like to do a number with me. I agreed, because I really liked the idea: this performance could be a great experience not only in my career, but also in my life, because it allowed me to take a fresh look at some of our old songs and, perhaps, turn our relationship with Plant from a different angle. ".

There was always a sense of creativity between them. chemistryand it would be foolish to argue with that. In the 80s, as solo artists, Page and Plant did amazing things, though far from the splendor that their tandem created in Led Zeppelin. As soon as they combine their efforts, their musical vision increases dozens, if not hundreds of times.

While most of the artists invited to MTV Unplugged saw the concert as an opportunity present their most amazing hits in interesting arrangements, Page and Plant, in a very characteristic style for themselves, decided to approach the performance much more boldly. Their reunion was hardly a blissful nostalgic evening - it was a real show. Former colleagues have collected a whole virtual battalion of the best musicians and multi-instrumentalists from all over the world.

So they sought to reimagine the legacy of Led Zeppelin in a completely different way. new angle. The idea, in general terms, was to dilute the band's catalog of old work with interesting chords of Celtic, Middle Eastern, North African and African American styles. In addition, there was added a folk group of seven members, an Egyptian quartet of eleven, and about thirty musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

As a final extravaganza, the signs were filmed fragments live performances in Marrakech and Snowdia, where Page and Plant once composed the acclaimed acoustic tracks included in Led Zeppelin III.

After MTV Unplugged 

For Page, all of this has been an incredibly inspiring process. Especially Moroccan performance, where he and Plant performed a couple of things together on the streets of Marrakesh, accompanied by local musicians in the gnava style. Local passers-by watched with surprise, but not without admiration, as the two icons of their time performed the North African-infused tracks "City Don't Cry", "Yallah" and "Wha Wha".

Jimmy Page said:

“The experience with gnawa musicians was very inspiring for Robert and me. They play at all kinds of holidays and weddings, and as soon as they enter the house, all evil spirits are expelled from there. In fact, their role is very important not only in terms of culture, but also in terms of the spiritual side of life. These people are completely unfamiliar with the music that we play, but they did not care at all. Our goal was to recreate creative unity, and we did it pretty damn well. In our joint work there were no confrontations or anything like that. We will always remember how we played with the guys in the gnawa style. And they, in turn, - how they played with rockers from England. I think it was great and interesting."

Page and Plant. Photo: Gachi Kojima
Page and Plant. Photo: Gachi Kojima

Within a couple of weeks, Page and Plant, accompanied by over forty musicians, moved to TV Studios to resume work on what would become No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded.

Even a couple of months before the recording, keyboardist Ed Shearmur and percussionist Hossam Ramsay stood up a task: they needed to work out the orchestration and arrangement, uniting the opposite styles of music into a single whole. Hossam Ramsay said in an interview:

“We spent an incredible amount of time to fuse together a lot of different ideas, sounds, rhythms, grooves. After testing the result, we presented it to Robert and Jimmy. If they liked something, then we involved Egyptian artists and in the process of rehearsals we watched how it came out.

During the rehearsals, it was decided not to impose different styles on each other, but to harmoniously unite them by placing them side by side. To realize this idea, I had to find the most optimal points of contact between all these chords. The greatest effect without loss of power in any of the interpretations turned out achieve on tracks such as "Four Sticks", "Kashmir" and "Friends".

The result of hard efforts was the brilliant one and a half hour show "No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded", which was released on American MTV in the fall of 1994.

Almost immediately, the work became the most discussed sensation, and not only in terms of criticism, but also in terms of ratings. The show produced in the States such the furorthat everyone forgot about the hype that surrounded his return with a concert Eric Clapton.

Sequel: collaborative album

Such a triumphal procession of the duo required continuationwhich followed. In 1998, Page and Plant released a new joint album called Walking into Clarksdale.

Cover of Walking into Clarksdale
Cover of Walking into Clarksdale

In this work, touching on the Zeppelin era with its famous "In Through the Out Door", only new compositions were collected. Surely every fan of Led Zeppelin knows how the group was proud the fact that he knows how to produce very unexpected and extravagant things. And Paige could not bypass these traditions.

To record the album that surprised the world of rock music, invited unprejudiced punk rock producer Steve Albini.

Albini became famous in the music business as a producer of simple but very relevant bands like Nirvana, Pixies, Jesus Lizard. And, although at first glance he might seem like a very unusual choice for hardened rock classics like Jimmy and Robert, the thinking of all three developed in one direction.

Very reminiscent of Page in the early 70s, Albini did not like to spend a lot of time and money on recording a record. In many ways, if not all, the producer relied on the undeniable talent performer. He believed that all required for a great album - that the band plays the material to perfection, and the sound engineer knows how to place microphones.

Steve Albini
Steve Albini

Steve Albini explained in an interview with Guitar World:

“In general, my style of work is very similar to what Page and Plant have been doing throughout their careers. In the past, when so much depended on the quality and uniqueness of record production technology, of course, many singled out the personal contribution to each recorded piece. I was obliged to adopt this style, the approach to work ... It became very relevant among underground rock bands who could not get a wallet full of bills and throw it on the record director's desk. And this style was exactly what Jimmy and Robert were stubbornly looking for in their time.

Jimmy Page later commented:

“Walking into Clarksdale” has always been presented in my eyes as a sort of collection of tracks and moods that, I would like to believe in it, created a single musical landscape ... The composition “Shining in the Light” is something like a portal to a world where high mountainous peaks and misty meadows. In general, this album is very atmospheric, large-scale... And this despite the fact that we tried to create something very minimalistic. Minimalism is the direction we wanted to take after No Quarter. There were a huge number of musicians in this project! All this fusion of styles, genres, manners of performance… All this made it very difficult to feel the subtleties that I used to put into my work.”

Outrider cover
Outrider cover

Jimmy has always stuck to more rectilinear approach, which can be seen by comparing two works: "Outrider" and "Clarksdale". On the first record, as well as in a joint project with Coverdale, guitarist plunged in search of the limitless possibilities of multitrack recording and modern digital technology.

As for Clarksdale, here Page chose to return to the source of his power. Even the name of the disc clearly refers to the roots. Clarksdale is a small town in Mississippi where many famous artists such as Robert Johnson, Son House and Muddy Waters found their creative calling.

Because of this, for many, Clarksdale is epicenter rooted black blues, the music that became the inspiration for a generation of British rock musicians.

In many ways, Jimmy wanted his new work "Clarksdale" to be literally "live". Each note had to occupy its own a place and have special meaning. In this case, any embellishments would be redundant.

Page & Plant: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Photo: Mike Hutson
Page & Plant: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Photo: Mike Hutson

Regarding the relationship with Robert during the period of work on this record, Jimmy expressed with genuine sincerity tenderness to an old colleague:

“We are some source of inspiration for each other… To be honest, I have always missed his trademark vocals and these time-consuming creative relationships and advice. And Robert obviously missed my riffs too. We are very lucky, because we can still recreate that atmosphere of friendly warmth even after so many years! Probably, we just got older and wiser ... There is instant chemistry between us.

The chemistry between Page and Plant was indeed instant, though short-lived. Much of their history recalls development of events "Firm". Having released a couple of very interesting and unusual works to the delight of loyal fans, having organized several tours, they disappeared without a trace, and also suddenlyas they materialized.

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