Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the Live Aid concert for African famine relief and, just as significant, the 35th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s worst live performance.
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Tony Thompson and Phil Collins were unspeakably awful, and knew it. They refused to allow the set’s video and sound to be part of Live Aid repackaging. Plant called the performance "a ***king atrocity for us. It made us look like loonies."
It was the first time Page, Plant and Jones played together since the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980.
Collins’ presence was damaging: The Genesis singer/drummer was a huge pop star at the time, as evidenced by his top billing when Zep was introduced. He got shoehorned in on drums so he could play both halves of Live Aid, in London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium. Thompson (drummer for The Power Station and Chic) had rehearsed (very briefly) with Page, Plant and Jones. Collins hadn’t, and it showed.
Unless the Beatles showed up – they didn’t – Zeppelin should have been last on. But they weren’t an MTV product. Playing in the daylight was insulting.
You could tell right away that it would be a shambles: Some MTV douchebag talked over the intro to “Rock and Roll,” and Page basically forgot to play the solo.
Plant didn’t want to be there. That was easy to see. Plant didn’t want Jones there, either. (Most of Zeppelin’s post-1980 history can be summarized by frequently using the phrase, “Plant didn’t want…”)
Led Zeppelin bad is usually still great. Not this time.
For Rolling Stone’s look back at Led Zeppelin’s Live Aid performance, click HERE.
Thumbnail courtesy of Getty Images.