There are probably not many classic rock fans that realize that a monster supergroup was being formed in the early 1980s between members of Led Zeppelin and Yes called XYZ. This has nothing to do with the glam metal band XYZ which was formed in the mid-1980s and started releasing albums after having a successful run at The Whisky a Go-Go in Hollywood California. No, this XYZ was a supergroup that was formed by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin along with Chris Squire and Alan White of Yes. Now that my friends is a power trio. However, the band added a keyboardist named Dave Lawson who had been a member of the progressive rock group Greenslade. The band was called XYZ as a reference to X- members of Yes and Led Zeppelin. This was actually a serious group that has started rehearsing and writing the songs for a new album.
As the band began rehearsing mostly instrumental numbers written by all four members of the band, the idea came up of finding a lead singer for the group. The band had just started rehearsing at the end of 1980 and the start of 1981. Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham had died just a few months earlier in September of 1980. It seemed the fate of Led Zeppelin had also ended with the death of John Bonham, although no one was really sure yet was the band was going to do. Led Zeppelin had lost the heartbeat of their group and most of them, especially Robert Plant, recognized that they would not be able to go on without John Bonham.
Jimmy Page was pushing to find a lead singer for his new band with the members of Yes. Of course, without a doubt, he would want to keep working with Robert Plant who he had made some of the greatest rock and roll music of all time with Led Zeppelin. The band invited Robert Plant to join XYZ. Robert Plant actually accepted the invitation and began rehearsing with the band. Now think about the possibilities here. A new group formed called XYZ with Robert Plant on lead vocals, Jimmy Page on lead guitar, Chris Squire on bass, Alan White on drums and Dave Lawson on keyboards. You would have canceled your wedding to go see a concert featuring this band. What a dream band! A group just too good to be true. Unfortunately, it never did become true.
Robert Plant decided not to join the group. It had only been a few months since the passing of his close friend John Bonham. He had also just lost his son three years earlier. Robert Plant was definitely at a crossroads in his life. He was even considering becoming a teacher. Nonetheless, Robert Plant decided that for multiple reasons joining a new band that seemed tilted towards progressive rock music was just not something he was interested in at the time.
While the possibility of launching a huge new powerhouse rock and roll supergroup had to have been incredibly exciting among the musicians, the lack of a lead singer and the failure to convince Robert Plant to join put the group on hold. In the meantime, Chris Squire and Alan White would start to form another new group they would call Cinema. The two ex-members of Yes would invite Trevor Rabin to play guitar and Tony Kaye to play keyboards. Steve Howe had already formed the band Asia with Carl Palmer of Emerson Lake & Palmer, John Wetton of King Crimson and Geoff Downes of The Buggles and Yes. Once again, the musicians found themselves needing a lead singer. This time the group was successful in convincing another legendary lead vocalist to join the band. The band recruited ex-Yes lead vocalist Jon Anderson to join the group. However, with three former members of Yes all working together again, it made more sense to the musicians to just reform a new lineup of Yes.
The band Cinema never recorded under that name. Instead, the group took some of the material that they had been working with as both XYZ and Cinema and recorded the songs for a new album that would be called 90125 under the name Yes. That’s right, that famous album by Yes came out of this entire mess. Jimmy Page would actually take some of the material that he had come up with in XYZ and use it in his new band later on called The Firm.
The rock and roll world would never get to embrace what could have been an amazing new supergroup in the band XYZ. Instead, a reformed Yes band minus Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman would go on to have a huge decade of success with the albums 90125 and Big Generator. Not all Yes fans were happy with the band’s new sound and lineup, but that’s the way it was. Led Zeppelin and Bad Company fans got to enjoy a two-album run by the band The Firm in the mid-1980s with Jimmy Page on guitar, Paul Rodgers on lead vocals, Tony Franklin on bass, and Chris Slade on drums. Of course, Robert Plant would begin his own solo career that some have loved and others have not.
One man’s decision to not join a band might have completely altered the next decade of music. That’s classic rock history!
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XYZ- When Led Zeppelin Met Yes: The Supergroup That Fell Apart article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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