Performer: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Original Release: No Quarter
Definitive Version: None, although I prefer the one on the Unledded video
Given the title and the day, this really should be a story that has a little religion attached to it. I have a couple of those, but they mostly involve either paganism, which would be more appropriate on a different day of the year, or Beth, which was long before this song existed. In other words, it doesn’t really work out.
But one story that does is New Year’s Eve 1996. This song was a huge song when Debbie and I got serious in 1994, so it’s appropriate here.
As I mentioned, I had decided that I was going to ask Debbie to marry me with the full knowledge that even though she would say yes, we never would go through with it because of her agreement with her ex-husband.
Debbie had a rather rough year in 1996, although I don’t remember specific reasons as to why it was so bad. I decided I wanted to get 1997 off to a good start by asking her to marry me just after midnight on New Year’s Eve.
I wrote a poem about myself that I wanted to use as a segueway into the proposal, but I didn’t get Debbie a ring. That was on purpose. I didn’t feel competent enough to shop on my own, so I decided we’d do it afterward, together, and she could get exactly what she wanted. I suppose I did this, because, well, we weren’t kids and this certainly wasn’t her first rodeo. It was less of a formal proposal.
It also was less romantic than it otherwise might have been—and certainly should have been. I suppose the fact that this would be something of a less real proposal had something to do with that sentiment.
Anyway, Debbie and I never went out on New Year’s Eve, and this year was no different. We went out to dinner somewhere—I don’t remember where—and then went back to the apartment in Gahanna before the partiers hit the streets to ring in the New Year at home.
After the ball dropped in New York, I excused myself to go upstairs. I said I had something for her. I then read the poem I composed and was shaking like a leaf the whole time from nerves. Debbie knew something was up, she said later, but she didn’t know what.
I then reached the end of the poem, and … I choked. I had meant to go right from the final line to asking Debbie to marry me, and I couldn’t get the words out. Debbie began to compliment me on the poem, and the timing was lost. It was only after a couple of minutes where I said what I really wanted to do was to ask her to marry me.
Except I didn’t really say “do you want to marry me” even though the intention was clear. Only when she repeated the words herself did she understood what just happened. It was in fact history’s lamest proposal, and, all things considered, it should come as no surprise that even though she accepted, our relationship didn’t work out in the end. In all honesty, sometimes I’m surprised that she accepted at all.
So, the actual proposal night was embarrassing, but we went shopping for her ring with relish. She knew where she wanted to shop—The Diamond Cellar—and I blanched only once when I realized how much I would be spending on her engagement ring. She ended up creating her own design, using a teardrop diamond of about a carat, which still was big back in those days, and a white gold band.
I remember how proud I was about the ring when we went to pick it up, and I put it on Debbie’s finger. She was happy, and at that moment, I considered myself married in all respects but legally. The lameness of the proposal itself was set aside, and we moved forward with vigor and happiness.
Instead of a ceremony, the next step was a house.