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The Return of Led Zeppelin

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Page claims there was no way forward after Bonham's death. "There had been discussions about the next album," Page says. "I'd been talking about it with John, of something more rift-based, hard-hitting. It wasn't a creed, but every album had to be a move on from what had been done before." The music Zeppelin would have made in the Eighties, Page declares, "wasn't going to get softer." Ironically, the December 10th reunion falls almost exactly on the anniversary of the press release, issued December 4th, 1980, in which Page, Plant and Jones announced they were breaking up.

They have all since played Zeppelin songs on their own, in a variety of settings. Page and Plant collaborated on the 1994 MTV special Unledded, then spent most of the late Nineties touring together. "It was not Led Zeppelin," Page insists. "It was two members of Led Zeppelin. "Jones was not invited to Unledded and only found out about it when he saw the show on TV while touring in Germany. He says he's long over the hurt: "It's a long time ago." In fact, he points out, "Next year, it will be forty years since we got together. That's unbelievable."

"It doesn't surprise me that we can get together like this now," says Page. "That's how we always were. You have nothing one minute. The next, boom, you have that. The great tragedy for me would be if! didn't have that ability in me anymore. To be able to get to this place, to work with the others -- it's a gift, and I respect and cherish it."

I
n one important way, the return of Led Zeppelin is not a true reunion: There is no Bonzo.

Jason speaks frankly about the emotional complications of succeeding his father, whose nicknames – Bonzo, the Beast – referred equally to his drumming, extreme drinking and legendary raging-animal behavior offstage. Jason says that after his first practice with Page, Plant and Jones last June, his mother, Pat, asked him how it went. "I didn't want to say it was too good. I didn't want to take anything away from Dad. 'It's great,' I said, 'but it's not as great as Dad.' I was trying to be politically correct."

"John had this amazing technique," Page says, "but he also had the imagination to go with it. You hear the pattern he comes up with in 'Good Times Bad Times,' from the first album" – an opening combination of thunder-stick beats, cutting, staccato accents and stampeding rolls – "that still perplexes drummers. Nobody else can do that. Nobody else had that imagination."

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