Why a Led Zeppelin Tour With Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler Never Happened

You can’t go into a Led Zeppelin performance without a ton of rehearsal. The band’s surviving members lived that reality during 1985’s Live Aid performance. Robert Plant later called the reunited Zep’s set “horrendous.” And Jimmy Page described a feeling of panic setting in that night in Philadelphia.

Things didn’t go much better in 1988 when Plant, Page, and John Paul Jones played with John Bonham’s son Jason at Atlantic Records’ 40th-anniversary bash in New York. Though it marked an improvement over Live Aid, the performance was light-years from Zeppelin’s heyday.

Zep’s surviving members (plus Bonham) planned to put all that behind them for the ’07 tribute to Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun at London’s O2. The quartet put in the time to rehearse and do a proper Zeppelin show. And the results, by most estimations, were spectacular.

Yet Page and Jones felt they’d been left hanging after the performance. Once Plant went back to his solo career, the band looked for a singer to keep the vibe going. During that period, the band even auditioned Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler sang with Led Zeppelin while it considered a reunion tour

Steven Tyler plays air guitar on stage with Aerosmith
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry perform live at Hyde Park Calling, early 2000s. | Neil Lupin/Redferns

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Without question, Page and Jones were juiced after the O2 performance. “I spoke to [Jimmy] just a few days afterward, and we both thought the same: that it felt like the first night of a tour,” Jones recalled in Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band. “You think, ‘Oh, I could do that a bit better or change something in that song.'”

For his part, Page also felt there would be more coming following the lengthy rehearsal process. And afterward, even Plant wouldn’t deny the power the four men on stage summoned that night. “That was really the best Led Zeppelin gig since 1975,” Plant said in the oral history.

But at the same time, Plant reminded everyone that it wasn’t Led Zeppelin. The band that went by that name featured John Bonham on drums. No substitute — not even a blood relation — would be adequate. And Plant didn’t want to go back to all that for a partial reunion.

So Page and Jones started a search for a replacement, and Zep superfan Tyler was among those who dropped by to jam. In interviews with Howard Stern, Tyler has recalled being blown away by the session with the Zep. Yet he had to pass on touring and recording with the band.

Tyler said he wouldn’t leave Aerosmith to join a reformed Zep

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin and Jason Bonham pose for a photo in 2012
John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Jason Bonham attend a Led Zeppelin ‘Celebration Day’ press conference in 2012. | Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Stern has brought up Tyler’s Zeppelin jam with the Aerosmith frontman on a few occasions over the years. And Tyler has told the same story. The jam went great; Page proposed a tour and/or album; and Tyler had to decline, citing allegiance to Aerosmith.

“[Page] is in the biggest band in the world, and I’m in a band like that,” Tyler told Stern (via Zep’s oral history) in ’11. “I have such an allegiance to my band and I love it so much.” In ’16, he reiterated that in a chat with Stern. “I’m in a band that’s as relevant as Led Zeppelin,” Tyler said.

Tyler added that he was one of the people angry at Plant for not going through with a Zeppelin reunion tour. Yet by ’16 Tyler had nothing but admiration for the Zep singer. “[Plant] is such a great artist,” Tyler said. “He’s taken his voice and gone in so many different directions. I love that.”

All things considered, if Tyler sang Zeppelin songs the way he did at the band’s 1995 induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, maybe it was best for everybody he didn’t replace Plant on a reunion tour.