As The Yardbirds bowed out in 1968, a new force emerged from the shadows, poised to challenge the dominance of bands like The Rolling Stones and The Who in the post-Beatles era. Led Zeppelin burst onto the scene with a heavier blues sound, fueled by the thunderous beats of John Bonham and the electrifying guitar wizardry of Jimmy Page, all complemented by the dynamic vocals of Robert Plant.
Page, the sole ex-Yardbird willing to soldier on, embarked on a quest to assemble the ultimate heavy rock ensemble. Hearing whispers of a remarkable vocalist from Birmingham, Page sought out Plant, then fronting the Band of Joy. Recalling their initial encounter, Plant reminisced, “I was performing at this college when [manager Peter Grant] and Jimmy showed up and asked if I wanted to join the Yardbirds.” Intrigued by the prospect of reaching American audiences, Plant seized the opportunity.
Their collaboration began with Plant belting out Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love” during an audition. Page was initially skeptical, wondering why a talent like Plant hadn’t already achieved fame. However, upon spending time together, any doubts vanished, and Led Zeppelin was born.
Led Zeppelin’s heyday was marked by a delicate balance of camaraderie and excess, epitomizing the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. However, as the 1970s drew to a close, cracks began to appear. Internal tensions simmered, culminating in Bonham’s tragic demise in 1980.
The band’s final albums, Presence and In Through The Out Door, bore the scars of this discord. Page and Bonham’s wild antics clashed with Plant and Jones’s more disciplined approach, leading to friction both on and off stage. Late-night recording sessions became emblematic of their divided dynamic.
Songs like ‘Hots On for Nowhere’ and ‘Carouselambra’ reflected this turbulent period. ‘Hots On for Nowhere’ captured Plant’s frustration following a 1975 car accident and his ongoing clashes with Page, while ‘Carouselambra’ echoed the band’s sense of disillusionment and internal strife.
Reflecting on ‘Carouselambra’ years later, Plant acknowledged its portrayal of Led Zeppelin’s twilight years. Despite his regrets about the song’s lyrics, Plant recognized the darker, introspective elements crafted by Page. Yet, even he confessed, “And I can’t hear the words!” – a testament to the tumultuous era that defined Led Zeppelin’s later years.