Led Zeppelin were arguably the poster-boys of ‘70s rock music. With their music being as influential as it was loud, and with the writhing, gyrating antics of frontman Robert Plant, the band became idols of almost every music fan in the world. But what was even more legendary than their music and influence was their offstage lifestyles.
Gaining a reputation as one of the hardest-partying rock bands in the world, the stories of Led Zeppelin’s heyday are the stuff of legends, with half of it seeming so outlandish that it couldn’t even possibly be true.
Now, with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant returning to Australia next year to play Bluesfest with his Sensational Space Shifters, as well as a number of sideshows, we’ve decided to take a look back some of the wildest stories that come from when Led Zeppelin took partying a little – or much – too far.
Robert Plant brings the Zep classics and his new solo work to Australia next year
Appetite For (TV) Destruction
The very pinnacle of rock star excess, Led Zeppelin became known for their hotel destruction, and in particular, their fondness for destroying TVs by throwing them out the window. Famously, the band once used fake names to return to a hotel which they had been barred from earlier. Upon the manager finding out, he allowed them to stay, provided they behave themselves.
Upon checking out, the band’s tour manager Richard Cole, was told by a young front desk worker that he had to pay the $2,500 for the five TVs that the band had somehow managed to destroy during their stay. Like it was nothing, Cole slapped down the money, paying the bill without flinching.
The front desk worker was inspired to ask a now-legendary question. “I’ve heard that Led Zeppelin has a reputation for throwing TVs. But I thought it was BS. Can you tell me, what does it feel like to just toss a TV out of your window?” Cole responded by saying rather philosophically, “Kid, there are some things in life that you’ve got to experience for yourself.” Sliding the worker $500, he continued, ”Here you go, mate. Go toss a TV courtesy of Led Zeppelin.”
Born To Be Wild
As time went on, Led Zeppelin’s tendency to break things became almost legendary. In fact, guitarist Jimmy Page once had to be chained to a hotel toilet to keep him from ruining things. But one of the band’s most notable exploits happened in Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont hotel, when drummer John Bonham seemingly took it upon himself to top Page’s reputation.
Yes, during the band’s stay at the hotel, Bonham decided to ride a motorcycle though the lobby of the hotel, causing a lot less damage than one would expect after such a stunt. Not content with doing it just once, Bonham decided to attempt this stunt twice more during the same tour, truly earning himself a place in the history books.
The Infamous Whipped Cream Story
While guitarist Jimmy Page is better known for his talents wielding a six-string, it seems that that the legendary axeman had a rather creative streak when it came to accomplishing the first portion of the ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’ mantra. As the famous story goes, Jimmy Page and John Bonham once found themselves in a hotel room while on tour, apparently bored out of their minds. Then, inspiration struck.
To spice things up a little bit, Page decided to surprise the waiting horde of female fans by stripping naked, covering himself head to toe in whipped cream, and having a hotel employee wheel him into the room occupied by this group of fans. We’re not sure what happened next.
Led Zeppelin’s Starship
Years before Iron Maiden made headlines with their private jet Ed Force One, Led Zeppelin had the Starship. While it was technically owned by singer Bobby Sherman and rented out to a number of famous rock musos, Led Zeppelin became the plane’s most famous occupants.
Deep Purple’s Jon Lord once explained, “It has a lounge, a bedroom, a shower and a study. It’s supposed to look as little as a plane as possible,” but the plane also included a king-sized waterbed, a 30-foot bar with built-in electric organ, a video system stocked with everything from comedies to pornography, and two stewardesses that catered to the rock stars.
The live-in, party-hard nature of the plane meant that Led Zeppelin were no longer required to check in and out of hotels all the time, making it easier for the band to get back on the road after each show. Of course, the band’s use of the plane began to serve as the very image of excess for rock stars in the ’70s, with the band’s high-flying escapades being seen as something to aspire to for many young rock musicians.
John Bonham’s Last Stand
One of the most famous stories about the Led Zeppelin’s famous partying style comes at the very end of their career – in fact, it was what actually put an end to their career. On September 24th 1980, John Bonham was picked up to attend rehearsals for the band’s upcoming North American tour. On his way to meet the other members, Bonham decided to get a head start on the party and stopped for “breakfast”, which included four quadruple vodka Screwdrivers – the equivalent of 16 shots of vodka – and a sandwich, from which he took a single bite.
As the day progressed, Bonham continued his excessive drinking, eventually consuming approximately 40 shots of vodka, equivalent to an entire litre. Sadly, Led Zeppelin’s bassist, John Paul Jones, found the rocker’s body the next day, just over eight months since AC/DC’s Bon Scott had passed the same way.
Of course, some fans felt that this was arguably the most fitting way for a hard-living party animal like John Bonham to go out, while most would agree that this was probably the time that Led Zeppelin definitely took partying too far.
Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters Bluesfest sideshows
Monday March 26 & Tuesday March 27
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, NSW
Tickets: Sydney Opera House
Sunday April 1 & Monday April 2
Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Tickets: Ticketmaster | 136 100
Sunday April 8
Riverside Theatre, Perth, WA
Tickets: Ticketek | 13 28 49
Also playing Bluesfest Byron Bay 2018 on Friday March 30th