With Led Zeppelin‘s 2012 concert film, Celebration Day, being screened on their YouTube channel for three days starting Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, here’s what led up to that historic night in 2007.
December 14th, 2006: Ahmet Ertegun, the co-founder of Atlantic Records — Zeppelin’s label — died from complications following a fall at a Rolling Stones show in New York two months earlier.
September 12th, 2007: Rumors of a Led Zeppelin reunion were finally realized when it was announced that Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant, with Jason Bonham on drums, would come together for a benefit concert in memory of Ertegun.
“Ahmet never really lost his energy and his love of music and of the musicians that he’d gotten to know. So, everybody wanted to do something to recognize how much we loved the guy. Ahmet was a personality as well as an absolute music lover.”
Originally scheduled for November 26th, 2007 at London’s O2 Arena, the show was moved to December 10th after Page broke a finger on his left hand following a fall in his garden on November 1st.
The 20,000 tickets were made available through a lottery system and the demand was through the roof, with more than 20-million requests. All the money raised went to the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which pays for university scholarships in the U.S., U.K. and his native Turkey.
In addition to Zeppelin, the bill also included appearances from Bill Wyman‘s Rhythm Kings, Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke of Bad Company, Chris Squire and Alan White from Yes, Mick Jones of Foreigner, and Keith Emerson.
It was Zeppelin’s first public performance since 1988 at the 40th anniversary concert for Atlantic Records, and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
“I think if we had the opportunity to get together again, which is what we had there to do the O2, with those, you know, things that left us a little uncomfortable like the Live Aid and Atlantic 40th, etc., that we just really wanted to get it right and go out there to play to people who maybe never heard us — who had heard about this reputation and what we were about — and basically go out there, stand up and be counted.”
“In the ’70s when we were touring the sets would sort of be a reflection of what we’d done in the past and then what was there on that latest album. On this we had a chance to have a real retrospective of the career and so that’s why we arrived at the first number being ‘Good Times Bad Times,’ which is the first track of the first album and then let’s see what goes on from there. I think we made a pretty good choice right across the board in the time that we had. You know, we paid good attention to it. And, the pacing of the set was interesting because with no warm-up gig we had to get it right and I think it went well.”
“That night, we were just hanging on for dear life, watching each other. And those expressions of working together — we were so happy that we were actually getting it right and really enjoying it and taking it beyond what we thought we were about that night. There were moments in it where we just took off and pushed off into some place.”
The reunion was filmed and recorded, but we didn’t see and hear the results until five years later with the 2012 release of the Celebration Day film — first in theaters in October 2012 — and then on several video and audio formats in November 2012.
The album won the Grammy for Best Rock Album in January 2014.
Among those in the audience that night at the O2 were Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Brian May, David Gilmour, Joe Elliott, Chad Smith, Dave Grohl,Ann Wilson, James “JY” Young from Styx, The Edge, Peter Gabrieland Warren Haynes (as was Premiere Radio’s Sal Cirrincione).
Jimmy Page hoped that the show would lead to a reunion album or tour, but Robert Plant wanted nothing to do with it. So Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham tried to move forward, rehearsing with different singers, including Steven Tyler and Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge, but nothing ever came of it.
John Bonham would have been 72 this Sunday, May 31st.