Freelance Story Analyst at HBO (2018–present)Jun 4
Led Zeppelin’s immediate plan was to tour North America. They were deep in rehearsals. Bonham actually died during the night after they’d been rehearsing that day. Opinions on the state of the band at that point vary. The general consensus is that the 1980 European tour had helped solidify the morale of the band after the tumultuous few years had taken their toll. Page was certainly raring to go. Bonham on the other hand, did not want to tour, and felt pressured. According to Jones in an interview, the rehearsals had been going great, and Page, Plant & Jones were enthused. Reports state they’d worked up Carouselambra from the latest album, In Through The Out Door, which probably would have been an amazing live addition, and also probably have boosted that song in the public consciousness. But Jones states that Bonham came to that last rehearsal already drunk, and kept on drinking. They quit early since they obviously weren’t productive. Bonham was reportedly upset at having to leave home for such a long period. What would have happened if Bonham had survived the night is one of the big What If’s of rock. Would a triumphant American tour have turned Bonham’s mood around?
Page has stated in several interviews that he and Bonham discussed the next album, and both agreed that it should be heavier and more riff-based, since they both felt In Through The Out Door was a little soft. A lot has been said about the precarious state of Page during this period when he was addicted to heroin. But, he did produce and mix In Through The Out Door, even if Jones composed much more of it than Page did. And, Page was never a liability on tour during this period. The quality of his playing varied, but not by as much as a lot of people claim. So Page likely would have kept functioning the way Keith Richards was always able to function, until he finally kicked his habit. It’s hard to imagine Page showing much interest in side projects, since he was so fiercely loyal to his band, and seemed to get everything he wanted musically in that context.
Plant has gone on record as starting to feel seriously disenchanted with the whole Zeppelin thing in it’s last few years. It’s anyone’s guess how much he really meant it. He certainly threw his heart and soul into the lyrics of In Through The Out Door. With the band still intact and functioning, it’s easy to imagine that Plant would have just stayed in the machine and kept cranking out the albums and tours. Alternatively, it’s possible that he would have branched out into solo projects. But unless he and Page finally had a serious falling-out, these probably would have just been side projects, unless he got a taste of being the sole boss and decided he didn’t want to go back to a partnership.
Jones was a professional who was in it for the music and avoided drama. I imagine he would have been there if the other three were there as well. It’s easy to imagine that he would have branched out into producing or arranging on the side as well.
Bonham was the real wild card. Like Page, he was fiercely loyal to the band, and was instrumental in talking Plant into coming back after the death of his son. But then Bonham was so upset about leaving home to tour America. Would he have gotten over that and stayed with the band for the rest of his life? Would he have finally called time on it, and maybe even retired from music altogether? We’ll never know.
So, we would have gotten an American tour, and likely one more album that was heavier and more riff-oriented, if Bonham had survived that night.