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36 years on, can the mighty Zep be led back to Belfast?

By Eddie McIlwaine

Singer Robert Plant wants to bring legendary rockers Led Zeppelin back to Belfast - where the band first played their classic hit Stairway to Heaven in the spring of 1971.

The band, wich is playing a one-off gig in London in tribute to its mentor - Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun - will take advantage of the reunion to plan a trip to the Ulster Hall where fans first heard Stairway to Heaven 36 years ago.

Led Zeppelin, whose other big hits included Whole Lotta Love and The Immigrant Song, were in town in '71 for the late Jim Aiken when they first played Stairway to Heaven. It was the reaction here that persuaded them to record it for an album when they returned to London.

Plant is eager to persuade the other originals, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, to step back in time with him. The band split in 1980 after the tragic death of John Bonham, whose son Jason will take over on drums.

Plant knows that, on the 25th anniversary of the Stairway to Heaven date in March 1996, there was a reunion of fans at the Ulster Hall which attracted a huge crowd of the Zeppelin faithful.

"Zeppelin have always been favourites in Belfast since that memorable night in '71," said U105 presenter Ivan Martin. "And a return to Belfast for the band all these years later would be a smash hit. Aiken Promotions are the natural people to help Robert Plant make it happen."

It has even been suggested that, when the Ulster Hall reopens in November 2008 after refurbishment, a Led Zeppelin concert would be the natural curtain-raiser. Stairway to Heaven is one of the best-known rock anthems ever, although it was never released as a single. It was written by Plant (lyrics) and Page (melody) and there are cover versions by everyone from Dolly Parton to Rolf Harris.

Led Zeppelin's gig at the O2 Arena in London marks their first time together in 19 years.

Belfast Telegraph

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