Why Steven Tyler turned down the chance to replace Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin

Red carpet shots of Jimmy Page and Steven Tyler
Jimmy Page and Steven Tyler in 2008 (Image credit: Jimmy Page: DPA Picture Alliance Archive / Alamy Stock Photo | Steven Tyler: Tsuni / USA / Alamy Stock Photo)

For a while back then, before Aerosmith released their 2012 album Music from Another Dimension!, the band found themselves swamped by every rumour imaginable: Lenny Kravitz was their new singer; everybody was high; everybody was sober; the band had broken up; the band were back together again. 

One of the more interesting whispers doing the rounds suggested that Steven Tyler had been asked by Jimmy Page to join Led Zeppelin for a tour and possibly an album.  The rumour gained credence after the Celebration Day show in 2007, when Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham were said to be ready for more shows. But Robert Plant? Not so much. They'd need a new singer. 

The rumour wasn't entirely true, Tyler told Classic Rock. But sorta. 

“I went over and played with Jimmy and the rest of them [in summer 2008]," he told Classic Rock. "It wasn’t an audition to be in Zeppelin, it was an audition to play with Zeppelin. We were gonna do a couple of stadiums. And then while I was there, Jimmy spoke to me about maybe doing an album. I went home and thought about it for a couple days, and i got back to him and said: ‘Look, Jimmy, you’re in an iconic band and so am I. I can’t, in good faith, leave my band and be in your band.’ 

“We played all day for a week. every time we took a break I smoked a cigar and Jimmy smoked a cigarette. We went out back and I spoke with Jimmy about everything on the planet. it started out with: ‘Jimmy, you have no idea how grateful I am to have the chance to come over and jam with you guys.’ And he goes: ‘Well, maybe we can play some shows together.’ And I said: ‘Stop right there. I’m playing in a band with John Paul Jones?’ 

“They let me sing every song I wanted – Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven. But it was just a week. And yeah, Jimmy asked me to do some stuff with him. But I didn’t want to be Coverdale/Page. Plus I figured in the time it would take to do that, I could rally my own band together. 

“So, was I gonna be in Jimmy’s band? No. But what an honour."

Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry told a different version of the story in 2010, telling The Pulse Of Radio that Tyler's audition had been "shambolic" and that he'd "fumbled" his way through the songs, forgetting some of the lyrics. "Page felt really awkward about the audition," said Perry, "but ultimately it was a group decision."

Another singer who auditioned for the role was Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy, who joined rehearsals in June and September of 2008, but ultimately it all came to nothing.

"They were just trying to figure out what was going on with all the Led Zeppelin stuff, and trying to see if the whole situation was appropriate,” Kennedy told Classic Rock in 2016. “I heard back from their managers a few months later, and they’d decided not to do it.”

Ken McIntyre

Classic Rock contributor since 2003. Twenty Five years in music industry (40 if you count teenage xerox fanzines). Bylines for Metal Hammer, Decibel. AOR, Hitlist, Carbon 14, The Noise, Boston Phoenix, and spurious publications of increasing obscurity. Award-winning television producer, radio host, and podcaster. Voted “Best Rock Critic” in Boston twice. Last time was 2002, but still. Has been in over four music videos. True story. 

With contributions from