Jimmy Page says that Led Zeppelin's first album of the 1980's was to be a much harder set than 1979's In Through The Out Door. With John Bonham's death on September 25th, 1980 and the band's decision to then call it quits, fans were forever deprived of hearing what the band would've morphed into during its third decade.
Page explained that after the heavy guitar bombast of 1976's Presence, he was comfortable letting bassist John Paul Jones experiment with keyboards on In Through The Out Door as a way to showcase all the colors of Zeppelin's paint box, telling Rolling Stone: “Presence was a guitar album. After that record, John Paul Jones had acquired a 'Dream Machine,' a Yamaha (synthesizer). Stevie Wonder also had one. So it had given him a lot of inspiration.”
Page went on to recall, “He suddenly actually wrote whole numbers, which he hadn’t done before, and I thought the way to go with this is to feature John Paul Jones on the keyboard. He’d written some stuff with Robert (Plant). I thought, 'Well, that’s great.' Obviously, at that time, I thought I knew how this album is shaping up, but the next album is going to be a departure from the keyboard album.”
Jimmy Page spoke frankly about how Led Zeppelin was planning for the 1980's, recalling, “After the sessions for In Through The Out Door, John Bonham and I were discussing how we wanted to do a sort of more riff-based entity, and harder and trickier. And then, of course, I know what sort of drums he liked to play. He liked to play, like, really hard; he liked to play stuff that people heard it, they’d go, 'Wow, what’s that?' I like to do that as well with the guitar parts. We had a bit of an idea of what we might do, but basically, it was not going to be a keyboard album. There would be keyboards on it maybe, but it was going to go more into another vein. It would be different to anything that had been there before. We didn’t get a chance to do that, obviously, because we lost John.”
We asked Jimmy Page the question that everyone has wondered since drummer Bonham's death — what would Zeppelin's first studio set of the 1980's have sounded like: “John Bonham and I had discussions about what was coming next, and it was going to be. . . He loved all that riff playing, all that — you only have to listen to ‘Bonzo’s Montreux’ to hear how he liked to play the drums. He liked to be able to flex his musical muscles, like he had done through everything. He loved the guitar riffs I came up with. So we would’ve had some pretty intricate, sort of riffs, y’know? ‘Cause he loved that sort of stuff. He loved the, sort of, spacing and the timing of it all. Y’know, it was cool. But that, that’s the way it more likely would’ve gone.”