Drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham's sudden death also represented the abrupt end of Led Zeppelin. The remaining members of the band -- Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones -- issued a statement that said, in part, "the loss of our dear friend and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."
And so it was that on a December day in 1980, one of the most successful and influential rock bands in history ended a 12 year run, its surviving original members going their separate ways.
A quarter of a century later, with almost clockwork regularity, rumors fly higher than a stairway to Heaven that this time there's really going to be a reunion of the band's surviving members.
Some Rumors Live Again
In early 2007, with bands like Genesis, The Police and The Who embarking on reunion tours, a blogger concocted a minor variation of a rumor that had been circulated by a British tabloid several years earlier. That's the one in which John Paul Jones supposedly told Toronto radio station CILQ that band members were discussing a possible reunion.
It didn't seem to matter that the radio station and Jones quickly denied it. The lifespan of a rumor on the Web is considerable.
That rumor had barely laid its head down to sleep (they never die, you see) when the next one suggested that the band would perform at a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, the late Atlantic Records founder. Although initially denied by Robert Plant, it later turned out to be true.
As for the possibility of a reunion tour Plant said, "If there was [a reunion] then there wouldn't be enough doctors to support it." It isn't clear whether he was referring to the band members' ages (Plant is 58, Jones is 61, Page is 63) or the effect that a reunion would have on Zep fans, or something else entirely. What is clear is that he denied that there would be anything more than another one-off performance.
Reasons to Believe
Once in a great while, the three surviving members have gotten together for short, one time only performances. At Live Aid in 1985, Phil Collins (ex-Genesis) and Tony Thompson (ex-CHIC) sat in on drums. In 1988, at an Atlantic Records anniversary party and in 1995, when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Page, Plant and Jones were joined by Bonham's son, Jason, drummer for Foreigner and UFO.
That Jason Bonham has come into his own as a drummer has, in part, been responsible for raising the hopes of Led Zeppelin fans anxious for a reunion tour. After Bonzo Bonham's death, the band reportedly considered several well known replacements -- Carmen Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart), Cozy Powell (Rainbow, Jeff Beck Group), Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company), Bev Bevan (ELO, Black Sabbath) -- but finally determined that, in effect, Led Zeppelin just wouldn't be Led Zeppelin without Bonzo.
Jason Bonham having earned his props, and having played the one-time-only Led Zeppelin performances, seems to be the closest thing to what the surviving members might consider an acceptable replacement. But Bonham is currently touring with Foreigner, and the fact that he reportedly talked band founder Mick Jones into doing the tour makes it seem that Bonham's long term allegiance, at least for the immediate future, would not be to his late father's band mates.
Could it happen? Sure. Anything's possible. Will it happen? To date, nobody in the band is suggesting that it will. But it isn't likely that will stop the rumors from resurfacing, or stop diehard Zep fans from wanting desperately to believe them.