Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The NEW Adventures of Led Zeppelin

Robert Plant scowled through his grizzly lion's whiskers as he rapped for a second time on the door with his walking staff. The door popped open, revealing the beaming face of John Paul Jones.

"Ah, here we are! 'ello, Robert."

"That's Mr. Plant, to you." Robert bustled into the house, brushing imaginary snow from his shoulder before shimmying from his coat and handing it to Jones.

"Come on, Percy. We're old mates."

Plant turned his narrow eyes to John Paul, frowning more deeply. "No." He reconsidered for a moment, then repeated himself, shaking his head emphatically. "No."

John Paul gave a sheepish shrug. "Well, all the same, I still consider you a mate, mate." Jones glanced down the long hallway. "Jimmy said for you to come on in. He's in the study."

Plant raised his eyebrows at Jones with amusement. "Are you his butler, now?"

Jones laughed nervously. "It's not like that, really."

"Houseboy, then?"

Jones's face melted into shame. He stared as he fumbled with Robert's coat, trying to avoid meeting the old lion's eyes. "I'll just take care of this. Jimmy's in the study. He's expecting you."

Jones shuffled off as Robert sauntered down the dark hallway and swung open massive doors of what had once been Alister Crowley's study--a room not much changed since it's former tenant had vacated the premises. Stacks of leather bibles, flickering candles, and ebony carvings of pagan gods littered every open inch of floor space. Across the room, a figure stepped from behind a black desk, his wrinkled face and silver hair coming into the light as though materializing from the shadows themselves.

Jimmy Page smiled at his old friend. "Ah, Percy!" Plant's face creased from a look of measured disappointment to somber weariness. He was happy to see his old friend. Plant crossed the room, but Page warned him, "Mind the pentagram."

Plant looked down, side-stepping the crude circle of sawdust, wax, and blood that had been dripped onto the rug. "Hello, James. What's this all about?"

"Well, to be honest, I was wondering if you'd thought any more about the possibility of touring? I mean, nothing extravagant, maybe just a few odd dates in New York and the UK."

Plant's frown returned. "I told you. I'm not sure if I want to rock and roll again with my country music career just beginning to take root."

Jimmy nodded sympathetically. "Yes. I understand all that. You see it's just..."


Page glanced around, as though spirits of the damned might be listening to his every word. "The man at the morgue raised his delivery fee since we did the show. And you know I can't stave off arthritis without cutting up the bodies and draining them into the tub."

Plant searched his memory. "Which show?"

"The one a month and a half ago. The only one we've done in the past decade."

"I see." Plant stroked his beard. "Money trouble."

"Yes. At least Jonesy still helps around the house for free." Page looked up with a twinkle in his eye. "Poor chap doesn't realize Ron Wood's called dibs if we go out for a world tour." Percy let a chuckle slip before quickly stifling it into a cough. Page started again, "I was wondering..."


"The night of the show--the one a month and a half ago. Do you remember when we did 'Living Loving Maid'?"


"I mean, you know I can play it as well as ever. All I've done these past twenty some years--besides writing 'Come With Me' for that nice black fellow--the only thing I've done is go down to the dungeon and play our songs over and over and over again. But the night of the show, you insisted we bring out gypsy musicians and slow everything down to sound like a funeral dirge."

"Yes. It's accurate to say I do not enjoy the fast guitar music."

Page nodded. "Yes, yes. I understand all that. I was just wondering. Is it only that you don't enjoy rocking out, or is there something wrong with the pipes these days?"

Plant turned indignant. "I get my pipes worked on eight or nine times a day, minimum. In fact I've got a girl waiting in the car right now in case I should require--"

Page shook his head. "No, not those. I mean your diaphragm."

"Never used one in my life. A gentleman never does."

"Your voice, mate. Your lungs! Have you lost some of the old oomph with your instrument?"

"My instrument is capable of producing as much pleasure as ever."

Page nodded. "Yes. I suppose so. Quite right." He winced and stared at the pentagram, lost in a fog of regret. "Still, I do wish you felt up to having another go at some shows for old times' sake."

"Don't be so glum, James. Our master told us there would always be a hunger we could never satisfy. It was part of the bargain. For me, it's a sexual appetite. For you, it's something vaguely to do with music. We knew this would happen when we signed our names into the book of the damned."

Jimmy nodded. "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't fret over it. Things aren't really so bad as I make them out to be. When it comes to good times, I know we've had our share." The lines around his face seemed to soften a little. He broke out from his brooding, into a smile again. "Dear me. What kind of host am I, anyhow? Can you stay for some marmalade muffins and a spot of tea? I can ring for Jonesy."

"No. I'm afraid I'm joining the Opry tonight, old man. I have to take the Starship to Nashville straight away."

Jimmy smiled. "Yes, of course. Of course. Well, give us a hug before you're off."

Plant shook his head. "No, James. Ours is not that kind of friendship."

"Oh. Quite right. I see."