It’s been a long time since Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones have spent much quality time together, but in recent weeks, they seem like a band again. Although they haven’t performed together, they have made appearances to promote Led Zeppelin‘s 2007 one-off reunion concert album/film Celebration Day with press conferences in the U.K. and the U.S.. Sunday night, they got together again, as Heart, Lenny Kravitz, the Foo Fighters and Kid Rock paid tribute to them at The Kennedy Center Honors ceremony in Washington, D.C. And on Monday night, the trio were together once again, to hang out with fellow Kennedy Center honoree David Letterman on Late Show With David Letterman.
Letterman’s opening monologue saw him poking fun at himself, saying that the Republicans tried to block him for getting the award, quipping that he is now 17th in line to be President (“right behind Queen Latifah”). He joked that he received the award thanks to a book keeping error and that George Clooney and Daryl Hannah led a protest against him being named an honoree.
He also sincerely thanked the people who have been working on the show for years, and also the people who presented him – Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel and Ray Romano for their tributes at the Kennedy Center Honors, and Stephen Colbert for his speech about Dave at a reception at the State Department the night before. He said “I was very touched, thank you all.”
Then, Plant, Page and Jones came out as Paul Shaffer and the band played a rockabilly take on “Rock And Roll.” Letterman asked if they’d received “Comparable awards in your own country,” to which Jones replied, “No.” ”Oh well!” Dave responded. They also discussed the influence of fellow Kennedy Center honoree Buddy Guy. Page said, “Jeff Beck and myself were probably teenagers when we first heard Buddy Guy,” and noted that they used to listen to a record called Folk Festival Of The Blues, where Guy backs up Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, but also sings two songs. ”The guitar was just out of this world.”
Shaffer added that, although all of the blues legends like Waters and Wolf were American, it was British bands like Zeppelin who brought them to the attention of a younger American audience. Plant noted that the band Canned Heat in particular brought a number of legendary, but mostly forgotten, blues artists back into the limelight by performing with them at the Newport Folk Festival.
Plant also recalled the band’s famous meeting with Elvis Presley. Letterman asked, “How was that?” Plant’s response: “He had a lot of chicks!”
Dave laughed, “So you had that in common!”
When asking about the other artists on the British scene in the ’60s, Letterman said “Did you know each other, did you hang out together, did you gig together?” Jones responded “How many ‘no’s’ do you want?” Letterman was clearly unaware of Page and Jones’ histories as session musicians before they formed Zeppelin, so Plant pointed that they’d both played on a lot of records, and joked that during that time he was working “on the blacktop” and John Bonham was stealing cars. Letterman’s response: “And had you mentioned the part about stealing cars to the Kennedy Center people?”
Letterman asked if the band ever considered staying together after Bonham’s death, and Page said that with the amount of improvising that went on when the band performed, and the rapport that the four had over the years, that replacing Bonham “Just wouldn’t work.”
Letterman asked them about Jack Black’s speech about them the prior night, where he said that Zeppelin’s songs are about “vikings, sex and vikings having sex.” When asked if that was accurate, Plant claimed not to remember, while Jones deadpanned “He forgot the Hobbits” (a reference to the Tolkien-influenced “Misty Mountain Hop”).
In the second segment, Letterman showed them photos of themselves: one from the prior evening with President Obama and one iconic photo of the band in front of the infamous Led Zeppelin airplane. “You’ve got your own airplane and you didn’t have to button your shirts for takeoff!” They spoke about the musical tributes from the night before, which Page called “Exhilarating.” Letterman then asked if, after spending so much time together over the weekend, “Doesn’t it feel like I should be in the band?”
Jones’ response: “No.”
Watch the entire episode here.
The Kennedy Center Honors, featuring tributes to Led Zeppelin and David Letterman, as well as Buddy Guy, Dustin Hoffman and ballerina Natalia Makarova, airs on CBS on December 26 at 9 pm ET.
– Brian Ives, CBS Local