For a musical legend like Neil Young, who has traversed the realms of folk, rock, and beyond, it’s hard to imagine him being profoundly moved by his contemporaries. Having shared stages with icons like Bob Dylan and The Beatles, Young’s encounters have been nothing short of extraordinary. Yet, when it comes to Led Zeppelin, the equation changes significantly.
Encountering the likes of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, along with the rest of Led Zeppelin, was a pivotal moment for Young. This interaction, more than just an ordinary meet-and-greet, deeply impacted him, propelling him to express his overwhelming emotions through his music.
In a rare event in 1995, Young got the chance of a lifetime – to stand in as a temporary member of Led Zeppelin, a dream for any guitarist. Despite the underlying tensions among the surviving members of this rock powerhouse, Young found himself in his element, completely immersed in the experience.
Young’s takeaway from that evening sharply contrasted with the internal dynamics of Led Zeppelin. Fueled by the adrenaline of the performance, Young harbored aspirations of bringing Led Zeppelin back together, even contemplating a collaborative album with the group.
The atmosphere within Led Zeppelin was complex, especially after Robert Plant and Jimmy Page’s prior reunion, which notably excluded John Paul Jones. Jones, expressing his feelings of being overlooked, famously addressed this during their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Despite these tensions, the group’s performance, particularly with Neil Young on ‘When The Levee Breaks’, was a high point of the evening. The performance was so stirring that Plant even integrated a part of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ as a tribute to Young.
For Young, playing alongside guitarist Jimmy Page was both humbling and inspiring. Admitting his own limitations in comparison to Page’s prowess, this experience nonetheless sparked Young’s creativity, influencing his track ‘Downtown’ from his 23rd album, ‘Mirror Ball’, a project created with Pearl Jam. This track, later nominated for a Grammy, encapsulated Young’s imaginative journey back to the 60s, with references to Led Zeppelin and a vibrant music scene.
This collaboration with Led Zeppelin reignited Young’s passion for the band and marked a period of creative exploration for him, evident in his work with Pearl Jam. While the idea of a new Led Zeppelin album remained a dream, this intersection of musical giants preserved their enduring legacy in a unique way.