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Robert Plant Pressbook » Blog Archive » Cash for Questions


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Cash for Questions

filed on August 5th, 2002 by Press Officer

Originally published in Q Magazine (UK)

Looking as if he might have just handed his broadsword in at reception and with his blonde locks billowing, Robert Plant is very much the Viking abroad in Birmingham’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. He claims to have just stepped off a plane from the Hebrides, but one still expects to see a longboat with freshly ravished maidens draped over its hull moored up alongside the Peugeot 205’s in the hotel car park.

Long LegsNow 53 years old, the ravages of time may have added ballast to his face and prompted the use of a pair of “four quid glasses from Boots”, but the years haven’t dulled his passion: for either Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, whose team scarf he’s carrying, or music. Following his collaborations with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, Plant’s made another solo record, Dreamland, that exchanges Zepp style thunder for gentler Tim Buckley and Bob Dylan covers, given, in his own words, “a new lifespan”.

After a cup of milky tea, Plant is ready for a probing. Peering out the hotel’s window he tries to pinpoint the location of Henry’s Blues House, the venue where he first saw Black Sabbath, before rifling through Q’s readers letters (”Stairway to Heaven? Oh gawd”) and finding one he insists on reading out: “Dear Robert, why does Jimmy Page dribble so much on stage?”
“I never noticed that he did,” he claims, unconvincingly. “Probably cos I didn’t have me glasses on.”

But enough frivolity, there is serious business to discuss…

How old is too old for ladies hair?
“You’re never too old. I’ve just got back from the Hebrides where I was looking at an old Iron Age Fort. When the wind starts blowing you’ve got to have long hair. You need something to flutter in a gale.”

Will you ever tour and record again with Jimmy Page?
“We’re up in the air at the moment. We’ve got some sorting out to do. Yes, it’s like a marriage. Though we’re more like Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in The Odd Couple. Except I don’t know which one os clearing snow off the drive and which one is looking at the girl walking up the street. But yes, there’s every chance we could do something again.”

Have you heard Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes’ Live At The Greek album ? If so, what did you think of their versions of Zed Zeppelin songs?
“It was good. When he joined them, Chris and Rich Robinson (Black Crowes’ vocalist and guitarist) didn’t know him that well and were very respectful. So they gave him his space and I think that’s why his playing was so focused and eloquent. With me, I’m in Jimmy’s face every day going ‘Let’s try it this way.’ And he’s like, ‘No, we’ve got it like it ought to be.’ And I’m like ‘No, no, no, let’s change it.’”

I’d like to hear, from your own mouth, just how mental you and the band were during Led “Zeppelin’s heyday. I’ve read ‘Hammer of the Gods’ (Notorious band biog.) and the tales of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll are legendary. Were you really that excessive?
“It was a very exaggerated time. People were bowled over by Led Zeppelin and so boundaries collapsed in front of us. You’re 20, 21 years old, walking into The Whiskey in Los Angeles with Jimi Hendrix - and the old adrenaline’s going. But over the years the stories have been given this sinister spin, made out to be something darker than they were. It wasn’t like that. I was there, in and around the wildness, but sometimes I was off doing other stuff - like visiting Phil Spector’s studio.”

YikeTime to own up. Did Led Zeppelin really stick a live shark - or a red snapper - up a groupie?
“No, it wasn’t us. It was Vanilla Fudge. We were in he room when it happened. In facet, we were allowed to bring our wives in to take a look and everybody was having a good time, including the shark, but after a while we left because it was all a bit unsavoury and it was time to go to the bar…or fishing.”

Have you read any of the books about Led Zeppelin and, if so, how close to what really happened are they? Especially Stairway to Heaven by Richard Cole (the bands former manager).
“I haven’t read any of those books. Richard Cole was not a happy camper and had a few drug problems when he was with Zeppelin, so he started subsidising his habit by telling these stories. He was amalgamating and condensing all the stuff with all the bands he’d worked with and putting them all down to Led Zeppelin - because he knew our name would sell ‘em rather than Vanilla Fudge or - god help ‘em - Herman’s Hermits.”

I went to see a Led Zeppelin covers band called Letz Zep in Camden last year and saw you turn up at the door before legging it. Why didn’t you come in?
“Christ! That was in The Dublin Castle, wasn’t it ? Somebody told me about this band and I knew how ridiculous I looked then - I mean, I look ridiculous now - but I wanted to see how other people saw me. They’ve moved the entrance to the pub and you have to go down this step and everyone can see who’s coming in. They were playing The Ocean and they all looked up from the stage and I was like ‘god, I’ve been sussed!’ I thought, ‘What do I do now ? Do I have to get up and do The Battle of Evermore with this guy?’ so I turned and fled. I found it hysterical that they were so straightfaced about it.”

ProtestI once saw a picture of you at a Legalise Pot rally when you were a teenager. Were you a big pro-cannabis campaigner?
“That was when I was 18. I think one of the underground papers like International Times was trying to get a debate about legalising dope going. The police had just brought the breathalyser in, but everybody was smoking dope because the Old Bill didn’t know what it was. You could walk around with a spliff 18 inches long past the boys in blue and they’d hear the crackle and think it was a bonfire in the next garden. That picture ended up on the back of the Daily Mirror.”

Being a Brummie, have you been watching The Osbournes? Is he a mate of yours?
“I’ve met Ozzy a few times over the years. I remember me and Bonzo had just got back off our first American Tour and went to see Sabbath at Henry’s Blues House. Bonzo had on his ostrich feather bomber jacket and I had beads everywhere - and he turned to me halfway through the gig and said ‘This is crap!’ I said, ‘I know!’ We were being very outspoken.”

Do you ever see ex-Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones these days?
“No, never. Jimmy and Jonesy got together a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t around.”

Who is your all-time favourite Wolverhampton Wanderers player?
“Steve Bull…and Kenny Hibbitt.”

Is it true your father cut the plug off your record player when you were a kid because he didn’t approve of the music you were playing?
“Yes. Although he swears he thought the thing was faulty. I was 14 and playing Ooh Poo Pah Doo by Jessie Hil. My mum was into Johnny Mathis and my dad was into brass bands, and there I was bringing Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Black Snake Moan No 2 into the house. My parents had high hopes for me academically, but I was just drawn to this black guy wailing.”

My uncle says you worked in a road gang in the ’60s and helped tarmac West Bromwich High Street. Fact or fiction?
“Yes, it was 1967. My old group, The Band Of Joy, had run out of steam and I needed some money. I got the piss taken out of me because of me barnet and because I kept telling everyone ‘Hey, this is just an interim thing, because I’m going to be incredibly successful.’ One of the guys from the tarmac gang contacted me recently and asked if I would contribute towards their school’s brass band. So I sent him a cheque with a note saying ‘I said I was going to do it.’”

Do you still take drugs?
“I stopped taking everything on the same day in 1977 (when Plant’s son Karac died, aged 6, from a viral infection). The most important thing to me is my family and when I got off my face, I found it difficult to be all things to the people that meant a lot to me. I still drink and I’d probably be better off having a spliff than a drink, but I get really busy and don’t want to wait around for an altered state.”

Have you ever taken Viagra?
“No. My girlfriend wouldn’t like it - and everything’s working fine as it is.”

Considering the JRR Tolkien references on Led Zeppelin II, what did you think of the film adaptation of Lord of the Rings?
“I enjoyed it. But my next door neighbour’s son is pals with my little boy and after they’d seen it, I was being very excited going ‘what did you think? what did you think?’ And the ten year old looked at me, blinked, and said ‘I thought it was a bit predictable.’ I was like ‘why?’ he says, ‘Well, it’s just one battle leading to another battle…’”

Song titles : Hip To Hoo, Kallalou Kallalou, Doo Doo A Do Do…what planet were you on with your 1985 solo album, Shaken n’ Stirred?
“ha ha! I still stand by that record. At the time I was astounded by poodle-rock - Bon Jovi, Motley Crue - and I thought, ‘Oh fuck it! I can’t play that!’ So I decided to go off into the land of spook. OUr guitarist, Robbie Blunt, didn’t like it at all when I told him there’d be no solos. But I was inspired by what Peter Gabriel was doing and wanted to have a crack at something different.”

Congratulations, you’ve won a trolley dash around a huge record store. You’ve only got a minute. What are you going to grab?
“All the old Ace and Flipside B-sides. Anything by any Presley imitators from the 50’s. A fantastic Larry Williams CD with Johnny Guitar Watson, the Charley Patton box set, the new David Holmes, the new DJ SHadow…”

As one of the enemy of the time, what’s your opinion of punk 30 years on?
“Well, I still think The Damned singing ‘I gotta new rose, I gotta new rose’, sounds fantastic. I understand why it happened. When you have an audience all over the world like Led Zeppelin did, back home, you’re not playing The Red Lion in Fulham anymore, so you become more and more remote and you’re a generation removed from the average kid on the street.”

What did you think when you first heard Led Zeppelin being sampled on The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill?
“Flabbergasted and impressed. When Jimmy and I talked about it, we figured nothing was sacred as we’d been nicking old blues stuff since the beginning of time. Then it got a bit preposterous when Michael Jackson did Bad - which is the riff to Zeppelin’s Heartbreaker with one note changed . So it’s a nick.”

Why didn’t you bother to learn all the words for your version of Innuendo with Queen at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert? Maybe you could have avoided that awful performance.
“I went to Morocco one Easter with my girlfriend and I had the lyrics taped to the dashboard of my car trying to memorise them. Freddie had said they’d written it as a tribute to Zeppelin, but I couldn’t get my head around the words. I ended up with a huge lyric sheet taped to the stage and I think they cut my performance out of the video.”

When Chris Evans interviewed you on TFI Friday in 1998, did you think he was a tosser when he referred to you as Robert Page and Jimmy Plant of Led Zeppelin?
“He didn’t call us that (actually he did). It was fun but it was a bit of trashy TV, and I normally avoid that sort of thing. That’s something I have to think about now, cos I don’t know if I’d want to sell records by going on a chat show and having to talk about how to have tantric sex for eight hours without touching your missus.”

Are you still in touch with John Bonham’s drumming son Jason?
“No, not now. He used to call me Uncle Robert and every time I saw him I’d be telling him to chill out, so maybe he thought I was trying to restrict him. But I’ve heard he’s doing well.”

ZeppelinConsidering everything that was going on around you in the 70’s, how come you seem to have escaped with all your faculties intact, unlike some of your contemporaries?
“Well, flirtations were flirtations, but I never wanted to get out of my face for the rest of my life. It was certainly an illuminating time, but I always felt like I needed a shower for a week after. I remember Jimmy and I being in Morocco in he early 70’s and I don’t think we knew where we were from one camel market to the next. One morning we came round in a very unattractive place called Gulamine, to the sound of camels spitting, with me on a camp bed and Jim groaning in the corner. It was like, ‘What do we do now?’ so we drove to Torremolinos and ended up having a pint of lager in a Spanish disco, thinking, ‘Thank God, we’re here.’ After a while, you need to get away from all the excess.”

So Robert, the million-dollar question : Would you ever re-form Led Zeppelin?
“Hang on (looks at Q’s tape recorder), haven’t your batteries run out? Oh, it must be my batteries…You grow out of some things. Led Zeppelin is preserved in aspic - and that’s the best place for it.”

Posted in a2002 |