Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Thoughts On Led Zeppelin’s Live Aid Set In Real-Time

  • Do not watch this.
  • I did it for you so that you would not have to; do not watch this.
  • To set the scene: it is 1985 in Philadelphia.
  • Women’s hair is enormous; men’s shorts are tiny.
  • Led Zeppelin broke up five years previous, choosing not to soldier on after the death of drummer John Bonham.
  • It was a good decision, as every single reunion they’ve performed has been atrocious, starting with this one.
  • Which starts out with an introduction from Phil Collins.
  • Who is also playing drums.
  • Live Aid was like Phil Collins’ bar mitzvah.
  • Smiling little fucker was everywhere.
  • Okay, so Phil introduces Led Zeppelin because I guess Joe Piscopo refused to do it or something, and from the INSTANT they take the stage, it is obvious that this will be a debacle.
  • Remember Queen?
  • This is how they took the stage:
  • A little bit of energy, confidence, excitement.
  • Led Zeppelin wanders out, and Jimmy Page trips over a mic stand.
  • Then Robert Plant starts complaining about the monitors and doing the ol’ “One, two. One, two” bit and then his voice cracks.
  • His voice cracks while he’s speaking, not singing.
  • It’s gonna be a long 20 minutes.
  • Plus: Jimmy Page’s guitar is out-of-tune, and he’s shitfaced.
  • Aw, who cares: it’s Rock and Roll!
  • Which is a confusing song, honestly.
  • The narrator states quite plainly that it’s been a long time since he rocked and rolled.
  • And yet he makes this admission via a rock and roll song.
  • Perhaps the song’s true theme is self-abnegation, and the lies we tell ourselves.
  • Anyway, it’s a mess: literally every bar band in the world plays this song better than Led Zeppelin did at this performance.
  • Like I said, Phil Collins in involved.
  • This did not need to end up in tears: Phil Collins was (he fucked up his back and can’t play any more) a monster drummer, and could have filled the role had he rehearsed with the band.
  • But he didn’t, and didn’t even seem to know the songs that well, and plus there was another drummer.
  • Cuz that’s how badass John Bonham was: it took two guys to replace him.
  • Maaaaaaan.
  • The other guy was Tony Thompson, who drummed for Chic, and played on the sessions for about half of the great disco hits.
  • Two legitimately great drummers.
  • Who had never played together before.
  • And the band had not rehearsed.
  • In front of 100,000 people and for a global audience of 1.5 billion.
  • In a way, the arrogance of this performance is amazing: only a Rock Star could expect this to work.
  • It didn’t.
  • John Paul Jones–who Wikipedia says was there, but has received no close-ups yet–is playing with Tony Thompson on stage right; Jimmy Page is playing with Phil Collins on stage left; Robert Plant is in the middle wearing at outfit from Chess King and praying that he will wake up from this nightmare, and he is also singing an octave down from where he used to and it sounds like a boring man vomiting.
  • Oh, thank God it’s over because now we get to hear Robert Plant address the crowd: he asks if they have any requests, and–apparently enjoying his joke–asks the same thing three more times.
  • Robert Plant was always a dipshit, but he looked like this:
  • And you really don’t have to be witty when you look like that.
  • But in 1985, at Live Aid, he looked like this:
  • And the Golden God routine had a bit of tarnish on it.
  • So they start Whole Lotta Love, which is a dreadful song I’ve always hated, and Jimmy Page is still out of tune.
  • Did he only bring one guitar to Philadelphia?
  • I know he owns many.
  • Did he not want to pay to check them on the plane?
  • Jimmy Page is so out of tune that Garcia from 1971 was giving him the stink-eye.
  • And this is where the true train wreck begins: Rock and Roll is easy to fake your way through for a drummer, but Whole Lotta Love has a specific groove to it.
  • Phil Collins does not know the specific groove.
  • So he just plays straight time, with the backbeats on the two and the four.
  • That is not how Whole Lotta Love goes.
  • Y’know the part where the drums  go WHOMP WHOMP, and then Jimmy Page goes BADEEDLE DEEDLEWHEEDLEDEEDLE?
  • (They do that part two times.)
  • Well, Phil Collins did not know that part, and so he just kinda stopped playing for a bit and watched Tony Thompson (who did know how the song went) and then Phil Collins said to himself, “Hey: I’m Phil fucking Collins,” and commenced bashing on his kit without a care in the world.
  • When they all try to come back into the song, it’s hilarious.
  • Remember when the Dead would come back into the song from the Playing Jam?
  • Exactly like that, but the Dead were never surprised when it happened: they had lived through train wrecks before.
  • But Robert Plant was, like, ashen.
  • Utterly humiliated.
  • Jimmy Page is too high and/or drunk to care.
  • John Paul Jones may or may not be there.
  • John Bonham remains dead, and an asshole.
  • Yup, they’re both out of tune.
  • Ugh, Stairway to Heaven.
  • The worst Mott the Hoople song is better than Stairway.
  • Is it because I loved Led Zeppelin so as a 15-year-old that I despise them so now?
  • Jimmy Page plays without intent, or at least he did at this show: it’s not sloppy because that’s the choice he made, it’s sloppy because he’s failing to hit the right notes at the right time.
  • (I really don’t know if I want to do Thoughts on the Led Zep, but I do enjoy saying mean things about them; it might happen.)
  • It’s been years, maybe decades, since I actually listened to Stairway.
  • Have these always been the words?
  • They are not good words.
  • Even if sometimes they do have two meanings.
  • Oh, don’t say it, Robert.
  • Don’t.
  • Have your dignity.
  • “Does anyone remember laughter?”
  • Oh, sweetie.
  • (The crowd cheered. “HE SAID THE THING THAT HE SAID THAT TIME!”)
  • We have not seen Phil Collins since the camera caught him out looking confused and sheepish, and someone has handed Robert Plant a tambourine; he plays it not well; and now the shot is once again of Phil Collins because Live Aid is the First Church of the Infinite Phil Collins, and he is lost again; Jimmy Page’s hair is now out of tune, and John Paul Jones is reported by Wikipedia to be there.
  • And…
  • She’s…
  • Buy-ay-ing…
  • Oh, just get on with it, you preening prick.
  • A.
  • For fuck’s sake.
  • Stair-a-way.
  • Yes?
  • To…
  • SAY IT.
  • Hea-vuuuhhhhhhn.
  • Good night, Philadelphia; there will be no encore.
  • Phil Collins has left the building.


  1. Sorry, chief: I attended 07 at the 02 and it roared. You’re a funny man, entertaining too, but I stopped reading after … every reunion they ever did sucked….

  2. Sorry, chief: I attended 07 at the 02 and it roared. You’re a funny man, entertaining too, but I stopped reading after … every reunion they ever did sucked….

  3. There can be only one….

  4. Did you say someone handed Robert Plant a tambourine? Oooooooooooh……

  5. please please do thoughts on led zep. i love them and i hate them. i want it!

  6. Please please keep up Thoughts On Live Aid 1985

    Other terrible performances – Duran Duran, Black Sabbath, The Who & Jagger/Turner.

  7. Babyterp sounds like every Zep guy there is… “You’re a funny man when having fun at any other band’s expense… but if you make haha’s about Zeppelin, I’ll kill you.”

    Garcia just killed himself with drugs; Jimmy Page kidnapped, held, and repeatedly molested a 14 year old.

    Enjoyment of saying mean things be damned: Say no to ToLZ. They don’t deserve your derision. Back to your usual programming (one or two more LZ zingers would be OK).

  8. That wasn’t very zingy.

  9. I loved Zeppelin as a 9 year old when I became aware of Houses of the Holy in 74(the cover caught my attention. It looked satanic) & I still love them today though not as much as the two “metal” bands from Birmingham that played Live Aid. I would prefer Thoughts on the Sabbath or thoughts on the Priest. Ozzy alone seems more fertile ground and is altogether more interesting than Robert Plant. I love that Geezer was the lyricist of the early material(he wrote more interesting lyrics than Plant). Deadheads love to point Jerry’s lack of a middle finger on his right hand(it caused Jerry to develop his singular style of scalpel picking), but what about the Iommi’s chopped fingers on his fret hand? Imagine the pain this man must have felt before he found better prosthetic tips for those stubbed fingers. I’m seeing many tangential connections such as Sabbath has a drummer named Bill.

    My real question though is why was Children of the Grave ever allowed to be played at festival to prevent starvation? I guess they’re Black Sabbath after all-at least Ozzy didn’t say “We Love You” after it finished. Not sure why Zeppelin didn’t just use Bill Ward instead of Chic stalwart Tony Thompson or the Concorde opportunist Phil Collins. Bill Ward is from Birmingham after all and would have been much more appropriate except for the prissiness of Page & Plant would never have allowed for the lout such as Bill Ward to “replace” the deified Bonzo. I personally like Bill Ward better, but I am surely in the minority. It was that Volume IV record and Ward’s drumming on Supernaut. Zeppelin was certainly more clever and in all aspects better, but I just like Sabbath’s general level of ineptitude better. No Stairway from Sabbath-you get Changes instead.

    Judas Priest: I had forgotten that they ever played Live Aid. When I found the video, I was hoping for a killer version of Turbo Lover. Priest’s cover of The Green Manalishi cover is an odd choice for the Live Aid audience who probably never knew Peter Green or that he played in Fleetwood Mac. Must have been hard to be Living After Midnight at 11 AM or whenever they were hell they were playing it. It’s funny in retrospect that people never realized the overtly homoerotic iconography of the last years of Rob Halford being in Judas Priest. Do many people realize they named themselves after a Dylan song(The Ballad of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest from John Wesley Harding)?

    The thing I love about JP is they never created their own power ballad(they just named themselves after one). Turbo Lover is probably the closest they ever came. Though I don’t know the band as well as Sabbath, even their version of Diamonds & Rust was kind of mid tempo. I am just saying they never made a November Rain, Home Sweet Home or even Changes on their own which made JP cool in my book.

    Both bands fared better than Zeppelin did that day-then again that wasn’t Zeppelin. It was weird paint by numbers version of them with all members hating each other. Sabbath fully detested one another by this point and they did much better. Then again it was all four original members so that isn’t surprising.

    While “researching” this(if that means fucking off on YouTube! on bong hits, then there you go), I found this. It even ties back to Queen:

    Phil Collins is a great drummer, but he’s no match for the force that is Bill Ward. Weird version without Geezer’s killer bass playing(doesn’t sound like him on the track. Looks like Glenn Hughes playing bass, but the shot is too quick to tell). Queen appears on a kick drum for those that care.

    I put this on for you:

    I forgot that he added a horn section & female backing vocals for a short period. Thankfully that period ended quickly. Maybe a Hearbreakers on the Dead.

  10. So did anyone besides Queen play live aide well on either continent?

    • Thoughts On The Dead

      January 2, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      Judas Priest killed it.

    • Dire Straits. U2 became THE band after their Live Aid performance. Sade was good. So was Bowie, IIRC. Patti LaBelle. The Hall and Oates meets Motown thing was pretty solid. Tom Petty’s “Refugee” was damn good.

      • I saw Dire Straits twice that summer…and the Dead 4 times…had just graduated from HS.

        Met Jerry (very briefly) at the Columbia Inn and phoned his room the morning of the 2nd Merriweather show, to beg them to play Scarlet/Fire, which they did that night.

        Also saw Bob in the hotel lobby when they were checking in. He was wearing a spiffy pair of purple suede dress shoes. Wish I had a pic.

  11. Luther Von Baconson

    January 3, 2017 at 10:26 am


  12. Hysterical!
    I was there. It was my first concert, aged 15.
    Your take on this has me and my 19 year old son in stitches

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.