Life After Led Zeppelin: What Plant, Page + Jones Have Done Since ‘Celebration Day’
With every passing year, it becomes increasingly apparent that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin – Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones – are probably not going to perform together again. Still, the three men have kept plenty busy since their acclaimed Dec. 10, 2007 reunion concert. Read below to find out what each of them - and reunion show drummer Jason Bonham - have been up to since.
Jimmy Page, It Might Get Loud (2009)
Page sat down for a documentary movie discussing the guitar and personal attitudes to music along with the Edge of U2 and Jack White. The film showed him revisiting Headley Grange, where Led Zeppelin recorded, and explaining how the building was used to achieve the effect he wanted. He also discussed how the skiffle explosion of the mid-‘50s, along with the Beatles’ studio experimentation, inspired what became his trademark approach to music. The last part of the movie saw all three musicians talking about themselves and each other, and showing each other some of their techniques, before jamming a version of the Band classic “The Weight.” The film generated positive reviews for offering a rare insight into the artists’ creative processes.
Jason Bonham, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience / Evening (2009-)
As a drummer, Jason couldn’t hope to escape comparisons with his iconic father John Bonham. So, instead he chose to embrace them, developing a style and drum kit that looked and felt similar to Bonzo's. After having stood in his dad’s shoes with Led Zeppelin (or at least sat on his throne) the younger Bonham developed a touring show that included video footage of John, while a new band played Led Zeppelin music. The high point was a video-cued duet between the two Bonhams. In a separate tribute experience, Bonham joined Heart for a rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 2012, with Page, Plant and Jones present as guests of honor. He hadn’t told them he’d be there.
Robert Plant, Band of Joy (2010)
Resurrecting the name of his ‘60s pre-Zeppelin band, Plant developed the themes he’d established on Raising Sand with Alison Krauss three years earlier. He was joined by girlfriend Patti Griffin in a set that demonstrated he was so much more than the screamer he’d been known as. A mix of folk-rock and Zep covers gave him an opportunity to show off the softer elements of his vocal expression, still capable of expressing risk in “Monkey” and “Silver Rider.” He reminded listeners of the old days with “You Can’t Buy My Love.”
The band bowed out in 2011 but a concert DVD, Live From the Artists Den, was released the following year. In the sleeve notes, Plant summed up his experience by saying, “Some years back I was propelled by chance, with little planning or expectation into an American way … with a lean and pull into a new direction … voices and harmony, restraint and explosion, tight and loose, great joy in great company … in a blizzard in Nashville.”
John Paul Jones, Them Crooked Vultures (2010)
Always the most experimental musician in Led Zeppelin, and the chief arranger, there were no holds barred when Jones lined up with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, assisted by Homme collaborator Alain Johannes. Their self-titled album was as big and unashamedly rock as one might expect from such a lineup, but the expression of excitement they generated – along with a looseness and sense of humor that came with it – resulted in an album that was closer to Led Zeppelin than Plant's records. The strong-minded Grohl and Homme found themselves grateful that Jones had spent so long dealing with Plant and Page, and much of his role was to rein in their desires to go in more directions than single songs would allow. While “Elephants” was an example of too many ideas being forced into one piece, “Gunman” offered an example of unrelenting rock force.
Jason Bonham, Black Country Communion (2010-)
If Bonham had asked for a band that captured the spirit of Led Zeppelin without being them, Black Country Communion would surely have been on the shortlist. As it was, the supergroup of Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa and Derek Sherinian – guided by producer Kevin Shirley – came to him. They began writing songs that they felt could have been written in the ‘70s, and, under Shirley’s strong work ethic, recorded the instrumental tracks for each piece in less than a week. Hughes then took time to write lyrics inspired by the music, and the results were well-received as they released three studio albums in three years: their 2010 self-titled debut, Black Country Communion II in 2011 and Afterglow in 2012. Always in danger of boiling over as a result of Hughes and Bonamassa’s strong characters, the band collapsed as Afterglow hit the shelves. Bonham joined Hughes’s next band, the short-lived California Breed, before bowing out. As Shirley once predicted, they settled their differences and regrouped in 2016, delivering BCCIV the following year and even – cautiously – agreeing to play live.
John Paul Jones, You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (2011)
Jones stepped back towards Led Zeppelin' blues roots with his appearance on Seasick Steve’s album, playing bass on the title track and “Back in the Doghouse” and mandolin on “Long Long Way.” While it had been speculated that he’d join Steve’s band, he only played a handful of European festival shows with them. He’s returned on several occasions, however, to continue the collaboration.
Jimmy Page, Death Wish II (Collector’s Edition) (2011)
Page knew that, when he was approached by Michael Winner to contribute to the soundtrack of his 1981 movie, most of the material would only be heard for seconds. But he wrote complete songs anyway. Decades after the original release in 1982, he decided he “wanted it to be available again.” The limited-edition 2011 version included previously unheard material, written after Winner and Page’s manager Peter Grant agreed that the only way he’d get out of a “down period” was to go back to writing music. Winner recalled, “He saw the film, we spotted where the music was to go and then he said to me, 'I don’t want you anywhere near me. I’m going to do it all on my own.”
Jimmy Page, Lucifer Rising and Other Sound Tracks (2012)
Consisting of material he’d written for a 1971 movie that never made it into the production, Lucifer Rising and Other Sound Tracks was a limited-edition album containing six tracks, sold via Jimmy Page's website. It represented the sheer indulgence of his ‘70s occult fascinations – down to the detail of autographing the first 93 copies, because 93 was a significant number to occultist Aleister Crowley. Side A was one long track that demonstrated masses of his traditional flair and set a ritual tone for the following five pieces. Describing it as “experimenting with the theater of the avant garde” in the sleeve notes, Page added, “The fact that I got involved with [director] Kenneth Anger and Lucifer Rising was really just a step along the road of my interest in the extreme and alternative.”
Led Zeppelin, Celebration Day (2012)
If anything underlined just why so many people spent so much time demanding a reunion, the movie shot during the O2 show revealed their motivations. After the disappointments of the two previous one-off gatherings, Celebration Day was the triumph Led Zeppelin needed. They’d worked hard at it but it paid off; and with the internal disputes that had created the delay over its release, director Dick Carruthers had more time to refine his work. The result was something that felt both titanic and intimate from the standing-start opening moments of “Good Times Bad Times” to the splendor of “Kashmir,” plus encores “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll.”
Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin Deluxe Edition Reissues (2014-2015)
Denying that he was obsessed with his past, while acknowledging that he remained interested in its effects on the music world, Page spent over two years reworking Led Zeppelin’s catalog and preparing companions discs of unheard archive material. Attention to detail was his mantra, and he aimed to offer a long list of “treats” to those fans who wanted that detail.
The first set of releases arrived in June 2014. Led Zeppelin came with a live album and subtle differences to several of the original album tracks. Led Zeppelin II offered rough mixes of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Ramble On,” among others. Led Zeppelin III’s treats included alternative mixes of “The Immigrant Song” and “Celebration Day.”
Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy were released in October 2014. The first album came with different versions of “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll” and “Misty Mountain Hope,” while the second included tracks with additional instrumental tracks on some songs, and final tracks removed from others. Physical Graffiti returned in February 2015, presented with various early mixes. The last set, Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda, followed in July 2015, complete with reference and rough versions that included an early take of “When the Levee Breaks” entitled “If It Keeps on Raining.”
John Paul Jones, Minibus Pimps Cloud to Ground (2014)
In his collaboration with Norwegian producer Helge Sten (aka Deathprod), Jones gave no quarter in the pursuit of jam-powered experimentation. They’d worked on jazz improvisation as Supersilent, but on Minibus Pimps' Cloud to Ground they went more electronic. It was a live album because that’s where they believed it worked best. Opener “Aurora, Pt. 1-4” set the tone of dreamy, drone-y, ambient wandering which contained echoes of ‘70s European electronic prog such as Tangerine Dream. Reviews noted that it didn’t offer much new for fans of the ambient genre, but Jones was more excited about the challenge of having used two unconnected Kyma music computer systems as musical instruments. “We used them separately and we communicated on an audio and musical level,” he said. “Although, actually, connecting them together could be the next step.”
Robert Plant, Lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar (2014)
“I’ve been away a long time from these borders. … I’ve been away from them, even when I was in ‘em,” Robert Plant said in a trailer for an album that saw him returning to British inspirations (among others) without abandoning the lessons of his previous outings. First heard on a 2012 live album, Plant's new band the Sensational Space Shifters wrote every song on the LP except for “Little Maggie,” and the results featured African rhythms, modern hip-hop and examples of Plant performing more as a musical instrument and less as a human focus.
Robert Plant, Carry Fire (2017)
A decade after Raising Sand, Plant returned with the Space Shifters to illustrate that, not only had he warmed to a world-music approach, he’d now found themes that he wanted to stick with. This time he offered a few concessions to the rock fans with “New World” and the acoustic Zeppelin-esque “Season’s Song.” “I’m no longer a teenager," he said, "but I’m aware as time goes on, if you listen to singing about love, it’s usually broken love. It’s seldom you extoll the virtues of a life in successful love. Show me a happy writer, I’ll show you a rubbish writer! I see things going on around me; I see the rub of love, the energies, the electricity. I’m not giving up – I have a season ticket.”
Jimmy Page, Yardbirds ’68 (2017)
Jimmy Page stepped into his producer’s role when a series of recordings were rediscovered and cleaned up, and the result was a double-album harking back to his Yardbirds era with Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja and Keith Relf. Containing live tracks from 1968 alongside “studio sketches,” Yardbirds ’68 included an early version of the Led Zeppelin classic “Dazed and Confused,” then known as “I’m Confused.” McCarty noted that the record was of “great historical importance.”