The Day Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Launched Their ‘No Quarter’ Tour
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant shocked fans when they reunited for MTV's Unledded special in October 1994 — and sent them into a state of bliss when they decided to take their renewed partnership on the road for a lengthy world tour, starting Feb. 26, 1995, in Pensacola, Fla.
As they'd made clear by dissolving the band after drummer John Bonham's death in 1980, Page and Plant weren't interested in suggesting a Led Zeppelin reunion, and they drew a further line between their new project and the past by neglecting to invite former Zep bassist John Paul Jones. Still, for those who'd been hoping for updated yet still recognizable takes on Zeppelin classics, the 1995 tour's configuration — featuring a six-piece rock band, 29 British classical string players and 11 Egyptian folk musicians — still had to come as something of a surprise.
"I suppose we were trying to reinvent our musical personality," explained Plant during a press conference before the tour launched. "Jimmy and I have always had this leaning to the East. We went to India in 1971, you know, and recorded an orchestra in Bombay. There's a very good bootleg out in Japan of that recording, highly recommended. Then in 1973 we went to Morocco, and I've been back there a lot. I'm just a little bit Moroccan!"
While certainly not without precedent in the Zeppelin catalog — or Plant's own solo outings — the Eastern lean of the Page & Plant project also represented a way for the duo to carry the partnership forward without being suffocated under the baggage of their old band's tremendous legacy. And although a few of the longtime faithful may have cringed at the notion that the whole thing got started thanks to a phone call from MTV, both men took pains to point out that there was absolutely nothing cynical about their reunion.
"I've been looking forward to working with Robert for so long, and have been looking in that interim period for someone I could have the same rapport with as I had with Robert," Page admitted to Mojo. "And it's certainly come back."
"The main thing is we haven't had to compromise anything to make it exciting, exhilarating and very refreshing," added Plant. "I've found as I've gone along, I've denied Led Zeppelin's existence because I didn't want to end up like a f---ing fat mouse in a trap. I'm still denying Led Zeppelin as coinage on which to feast, but this situation, mentally and physically, is the best thing that could possibly happen. ... We've got so much we already know, where we meet with other music."
The result was a tour that replaced the over-the-top Zeppelin concert experience with excess of a different kind: a massive collection of musicians, brought together across cultural lines, uniting in pursuit of a common goal. Like many of the best live music experiences, it occasionally threatened to come unglued.
"The hurdy-gurdy player had an incredible sex drive that was never really satisfied, because he used to drive the women away with his powers of conversation," Plant recalled during a 1998 Rolling Stone interview. "You'd know when he was desperate to do well with a member of the audience because the solo would go on for so long that I would throw the tambourine along the floor — with a bit of backspin so it would go past him and roll back towards us — so he'd know we'd soon be striding up and unplugging him."
"It was an incredible extravaganza to take rolling around the world, with these Egyptians who had no camaraderie amongst themselves whatsoever and who were all willing to stab each other in the back," laughed Page. "And offer marriage to anybody who might make them Americans or Canadians!" Plant added. "All those incidents make drugs completely obsolete. There was so much laughing and groaning — and the occasional fornication. The spirit we had by the end of the tour ... I wish we could have cut the tour short and done another album then."
Far from being cut short, Page and Plant's road commitments stretched on throughout much of 1995, bringing fans worldwide an eclectic assortment of solo cuts, covers and Zeppelin classics. And as unlikely as it once would have seemed, after all those years apart, the exhausting tour didn't snuff out their creative spark — in fact, they'd reunite again for a new studio album, Walking Into Clarksdale, in 1998.
Extending their second act was always in the cards, who pointed out in the Rolling Stone interview that wrestling with their past — and leading that unwieldy band across a crowded stage — brought them closer than they'd been in years. "At the end Jimmy and I were able to hug each other farewell," he recalled. "Knowing there would be another time."
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