Keith Moon, as the infamous (and apparently true) legend has it, accidentally gave Led Zeppelin their name when, as he and Who bandmate John Entwistle grew fed up with how Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were getting all the attention in that outfit, they considered pairing up in a band with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. (This was several years pre-Zeppelin.) Moon joked that it would go down like a lead zeppelin, and Page remembered the comment several years later when naming his new outfit.
But while the story passed into legend, (recently verified in Mick Wall’s excellent new Zeppelin bio – more on that when I finish the book), the band that never was remained an unsatisfied legend. Sure, The Who and Led Zeppelin became two of the best bands in history, but still…any real classic rock fan has to wonder what could have been, even if just for one album. Moon, Entwistle, Page, and Beck – would it have worked? Could it have worked?
There are two huge questions here. First, could Page and Beck, great friends and yet occasionally bitter rivals around this time, have co-existed in their own band? (Yardbirds aside, since they were more of a pop outfit at that point – had Page and Beck went out on their own, the focus would have been MUCH more on the guitars, a la Zep and The Jeff Beck Group).
But let’s remove Beck from the equation for a moment, and look at the remaining trio. Consider how Pete Townshend became one of the greatest guitarists in rock by figuring out how to fill the not-exactly-plentiful spaces Moon and Entwistle left open; a rare six-string legend defined by the situational nuance required by his rhythm section. Then consider how John Bonham and John Paul Jones, while certainly explosive (especially Bonham), were far less a rhythm section devoted to the pure flurry of music, the endless cavalcade of notes and beats, as Moon and Entwistle were. In a sense, Moon and Entwistle were their respective instrument’s versions of Jimmy Page. So taking all this into account – would Moon, Entwistle and Page have created an explosive outfit a la The Jimi Hendrix Experince, all guns blazing and pushing each other to amazing feats of instrumental daring ‘do…or would they have simply overwhelmed each other, beats stepping on notes stepping on riffs until Moon finally exploded in rage, shaking the life out of the rail thin Page and wringing him out in frustration like a sopping wet rag?
We’ll never know, of course. But still, the lingering question of what might have been makes this clip all the more special, if only for the novelty. And this appearance from 1977, when Moon joined Zeppelin on stage in Los Angeles, is only for the novelty. The clip is one of many taken from 8mm fan footage for Led Zeppelin’s official YouTube channel, and for reasons unknown (but probably having to do with copyright or legalities of some sort), the powers-that-be took the annoying step on many of these clips of hacking all this exquisite footage into bits so that it jumps after 10 or 20 seconds to a different section of music – basically, it’s a Zeppelin medley where the reel-to-reel master tape was edited by Edward Scissorhands.
But still, the bits themselves are wonderful, and the moment at 6:07 when Moonie hits the stage is still pretty thrilling. He then joins John Bohnam on percussion for “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll,” including the slamming drum bit at the end of that song. Like I said, the quality – both audio and video – makes it appreciable as little more than a novelty. But still, with Zeppelin and Moon on stage together, what a novelty it is. Enjoy.