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Disclaimer: This is by no means, 100% accurate. Some of what was said was impossible to pick up on tape, so it’s a rough recount of the discussion that took place between Robert and journalist and MTV Networks Bill Flanagan.
RP: It’s over 37 years since the first Led Zeppelin song was heard on American radio and in September, 25 years since the passing of Jon Bonham. These days go very quickly. I can’t really remember much about what happened in this point in time. I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say that, but it’s quite true. I do know that there was a lot of high points and a lot of great enthusiasm and industry in the heart of Led Zeppelin and it’s been a major part of my creative life. And I have enjoyed it so thank you (applause). You’ve got to fix the monitors here (Robert sits down next to Bill) as well.
BF: They’re serving you like a supoena, tracking you wherever you go.
RP: It’s not the first time.
BF: Thank you for doing this. This is fantastic. My son said he would never respect me again if my first question wasn’t ‘did you really come from the land of the ice and snow.’
RP: There was a cultural exchange back in 19 something and Led Zeppelin was chosen by the Icelandic government and they wanted us to represent popular British culture. They didn’t have a hint as to what they were getting themselves into. It was a fantastic time and one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever been to in my life, and such enthusiasm for the people. Page and I sat down and the Hammer of the Gods was sort of conceived, in valor and punity.
BF: I have to do a little ass-kissing and get it out of the way. I have to give you tremendous credit that you have spent the last 25 years minimum escaping from all the things people run toward. You seem to be the guy who went down to the crossroads and somehow managed to leave with your soul in tact and I think that’s the greatest tribute of all. Aside from everything you’ve accomplished is the fact you’ve worked so desperately to keep moving away from the weight of what you’ve accomplished.
RP: That is a a very nice thing to say and I’m flattered to hear that. In truth, i’ve never seen what i’m doing as being obstructed for some kind of great monolith for truth. I mean, I did go to the crossroads. I think it was just outside London somewhere. I think someone did hang in a guitar in the dark and never tuned it properly. But I think the marriage of the original intent of the sort of combination of Jimmy and myself and Jonesy and Bonzo was to keep pushing, keep opening new avenues. To enjoy the excitement of discovery and I don’t think that music can even stand still. It can’t always be left to new musicians to create the future and I really have such a dynamic, can’t call it a career but an exploration of music that whether it takes me to Clarksdale, Mississippi or to Timbuktu. Wherever it is, I hear something that makes me realize how limited I am and how little I really know about my gift and where I can take it, so long as I can keep on locking myself out or with the help of Strange Sensation now, to keep opening up this new laid truth, then I shall continue to do that. But I hate the idea of the jukebox being just about mass acceptance of four or five songs and a generalization of an entire life of music being based on that. I’m proud today of Mighty Rearranger as a new album. As a new collection of songs because the intention is as strong as it was on Physical Graffiti and that is a blessing for me because if it’s any less than that, I wouldn’t even deserve that award or even be a part of it. So that was the deal with Led Zeppelin and that’s the deal now. Always open it up and see what you can find. It exposes my naivety which I really like.
BF: That’s interesting. You have to stay in touch with the part of yourself that was a 15 year old boy getting excited in the dark by the radio (laughter).
RP: And now I put my reading glasses on (laughter) and I get excited very quickly.
BF: I really want to talk about Mighty Rearranger. It’s a very exciting album but before, you just made me think if I can put you on the spot. Would you mind telling the story you told me at dinner last night about the radio station you heard and why you pledged money to it?
RP: Oh God, if this gets abroad…
BF: This is just between us.
RP: I don’t know if I can do this without severing relationships of a lifetime. I thought that there’s got to be a place in America which rains as much as my home on the Welsh borders. That place is Portland, OR. I was driving to Lincoln City which is on the way down to Eureka, exploring the beautiful land and as I was leaving Portland, I heard a radio station and a guy came on and said if, ‘if you want this radio station to continue, please sponsor us.’ It was an NPR station (guy walks in front of the platform and trips). Steady. What’d you do last night (laughter). He promised to never play Stairway to Heaven (huge laughter) so I pulled over the car using my telephone credit card, called KBOO and a very dour woman said, ‘your name.’ I said R. Plant care of Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records. Ahmet kept getting these reports after that from KBOO saying it was going well and still no Stairway to Heaven. I didn’t tell my old partners. I thought they’d had enough of me already. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I’ve heard it before (laughter, applause).
BF: As you folks were coming in, they were playing Robert’s new album Mighty Rearranger and I may even occasionally stop the interview to ask for a little bit of it. But I do want to even beyond the obvious flattery that is mandatory, this is a really fantastic record. One of the things that was such a delight and surprise when I got it in the mail a while ago was that I remember a few years ago when you did Dreamland, a very beautiful album of songs that had influenced you coming up. I think we talked then and you said you kind of felt you wanted to go back to the well to perform but as a writer, you had written what you wanted to write but you really weren’t sure you cared to write anymore. And now, a couple of years go by and suddenly there’s some of the strongest and most vivid writing you’ve ever done. Something kicked that door open.
RP: I think they’re in row 10. Strange Sensation, can you stand up (applause as the band stands).
All the sages of rock and roll when they start droning on and on and I don’t even get a free meal out of this, but the truth of the matter is the music is so compulsive. We traveled it. We’d been to the desert. We had an opinion of where the music was becoming. This awful sort of mesh of, I mean, even the term rhythm and blues is gone into some type of cabaret area now. The whole idea of it being either incredibly alternative or you know, some kind of path, there’s got to be middle ground where you take all t hose influences and create again new. My band have got such amazing influences from Portishead, Ronny Size, Jah Wobble, Cast. There’s so much music in there already. There’s so many personalities that it’s very very strong, cohesive unit and when I had 10 tracks that sounded like the tracks I’d wanted to hear somebody else do, or anybody do, I just suddenly went, my god, it’s coming back. You know, a lot of people busk (?) it. I don’t know whether it’s a chronological thing or whether it comes, you know, you can hear people busk in the music, getting away with it. Just putting it out. Major labels say yeah this is great, we got it. But it’s like, if it’s not committed, t here’s no point in showing up, because i’m way too far down the line now in my life to waste a second. So when I heard these tracks developing in a garage on a laptop and a couple of microphones with drum sounds, I mean, on one track, it’s mono drums and it’s just like, how can you replace that and make it smooth or whatever it is. We were off on a mission and I’m here promoting the hell out of it (applause).
BF: As you should.
RP: So far it’s a good day.
BF: If they’d throw in breakfast or included lunch…Is this your first Grammy?
RP: I’ve got one for, no Jimmy and I got one for Kashmir on Unledded.
BF: But Led Zeppelin never got one.
RP: Never Led Zeppelin. I can’t blame you, it’s the people in your position when I was 20, and 30, and 40, and 50, and 55 (much laughter). None of them were around anyways. Dropping acid somewhere around the corner (laughter).
BF: Listening to Kashmir. Bob Dylan said once, as so many conversations start…
RP: To no one in particular (laughter).
BF: He said the job people misunderstand the notion of protest, of social commentary. He said that the job of the artist is not just to say, this stinks, the job of the artist is also to present the possibility of an alternative and one of the things about this album that strikes me is that it has some of your most pointed political writing ever, as in Another Tribe and Freedom Fries. And yet at the same time, it has real songs of beauty and possibility and that sort of transcend light at the end of the tunnel. I think that balance which I suppose was always suggested in Led Zeppelin. The darkness and the light.
RP: A song of hope is a song of hope. You know, you don’t even have to paint a picture, it’s all there. There is some resolutions.
BF: Is it, and i’m really putting someone on the spot now, is it possible, is the cd here? Could we hear just a little bit of Shine It All Around?
RP: Loud please. It’s track (couldn’t hear) and it’s 3 minutes 40 seconds. Sorry, 4. That’s it (laughter, applause - song is played in its entirety).
BF: it’s so much better than magazine interviews because I realized as I was talking I can actually stop trying to hopelessly describe it and you can hear it. Okay, it’s got Zeppelin and it’s got Portishead, Timbuktu, it’s got it all. Those elements seamlessly woven together but the other thing right at the heart of it is it almost turns into what is the soul of a man. It almost goes back to the blues roots of it and which was always there and present in your work. No matter how many tangents you go on, it always seems to go back to that blues chord. Let’s talk about what got you into it and what keeps you going back to it.
RP: I don’t know, I think maybe we’re all in this room we had a moment where music suddenly became the absolutely only thing in your imagination and minds. And for me as a kid I lived in England and the whole radio center, the whole exposure to music was really very muted. The post war Britain was a very dour and sort of understated, and there wasn’t a lot of dynamism. And as kid who didn’t know what was going on, and hanging out, I once wrote a song White, Clean and Neat about hanging on to my mum’s skirts and just being in the walks of my mother’s care and attention, but having no idea what was going on and then I heard Elvis. And you know, I was about 9 or so and this voice came across in amongst Pat Boone and Johnny Mathis and all t his stuff that was part of the barium that is still going on today. Elvis came straight through and he had the blue note. H e was listening to Sleepy John Epstein, the guy that did That’s All Right Mama (someone yells his name out). Thank you, I get like that now (laughter). You got all this stuff, Mystery Train, Jr. Parker’s Blue Set, I didn’t know anything about these records or what I know now or where it came from, but I know that voice and no matter how it was maligned or how it ended up, when I met Elvis with Led Zeppelin, one evening in L.A., we could do this all night. Elvis wanted to know, he’d adopted a kid when he was in the forces in 1959. Some sort of pen pal, or whatever it was, and this kid was younger than the king himself and was into Zeppelin. And we were involved with some people around that time who were booking Elvis too and he wanted to know who that bunch of guys were selling tickets quicker than him. And they told him it’s Led Zeppelin. We went to see him 2 or 3 times. He made mistakes and I remember that night at the Forum he was doing Reconsider Baby or whatever it was, and he stopped it and said, ‘wait a minute, wait a minute, we’ve got Led Zeppelin in here tonight, we’ve gotta get this right.’ And I went (makes noise, audience laughter), I mean, so I mopped the tears away and we’d got the nod that we were gonna meet him afterwards and we went to the hotel. They had the entire top floor. No motorbikes or snakes (laughter). They did have these trestle tables with these beat guys and they ushered us to a suite down the hall. It was a tacky place. It was great, all purple and brown.
BF: So you carry that with you?
RP: Yeah, well, there’s nothing wrong with that (laughter). The room was filling up with sort of second hand Ann Margarets (laughter). Nothing wrong with that (more laughter). Stella Stevens over the other side of the room. Salivation. It was fantastic, that build up. And at the end of this huge suite, which was almost as big as this room, the door kept opening and someone kept popping through waiting for the temperature of the room and the cosmetic to join the atmosphere, so it was getting sort of ferile and then the door opened and this guy came through the door. I just jumped and thought, look at the way he moves. I mean, he was going around chairs (Robert gets up and demonstrates a bit - laughter). He was so cool. He wasn’t supposed to be cool. Kind of like me. And he came over to us and we stood in a circle for about 2-3 hours talking and people kept coming by from his entourage thinking he had enough and he’d going, ‘no, no.” We had a great conversation and our manager, Peter Grant, who was quite well known, probably as well known as John Paul Jones. Big guy had a great presence about him. And Peter was going past us on the way taking a seat somewhere in the Hobbit area.
BF: The second circle (laughter).
RP: And he’d lost his foot a bit like our friend there (who tripped earlier) and he’s 350 pounds of joy that ended up on Vernon Presley’s lap (laughter). Elvis’ dad is really frail with this white safari suit on and this look on his face and Peter Grant on his lap. We talked with Elvis about 3 1/2 hours on and on and we were talking about the root and your question about where did it come from and it came from him. He still got it. It still goes into that whole Delta thing. You know, Good Rocking Tonight and all that stuff that got him going in the first place. But he also knew and he had a great sense of humor and he knew that he was locked in this self-parody. I mean, when the songs dried up, when that whole era of creative writing started to wane and things changed, I didn’t want to hear Elvis do the Neil Diamond songs. I wanted, I mean, it was bad enough he was coming out of the army and doing Are You Lonesome Tonight. You know, I wanted him to stay wild and give me all those edges that kind of howl that he had. But you know, he was just amazing and spectacular. It was, he really opened the door to my whole love of music and because of him, because of the choice of this material, I found Smiley Louis and all those great singers. And now all these box sets have come out and some of the stuff he did in the 60’s and was so well crafted. His head guitar player, stuff on RCA Nashville, the recording of it, and his humor in t he middle of it, is great. So it was a dream come true ot meet him. It was also just by chance I heard him on the radio the way I did. And from Elvis straight to the Tuareg guys in Timbuktu, it’s a straight line. It curves a bit now and then but the blue note is there all the way through my life.
BF: How important Elvis’ role was and because there’s always the feeling of not giving enough credit to Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard, which is true, but Elvis brought it to the mainstream. If Elvis hadn’t taken it from How Much Is That Doggie In The Window and brought his music to the mainstream, than Little Richard and Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get through.
RP: And he was also white, which was so crucial because he got his foot in the door that maybe Alan Freed was trying to do. He was a great looking guy. That physical representation by the time it got to England, guys would like, hit themselves on the head with ‘what’s going on. Who is this human being.’ It was happening in the middle of all that crap. He was one shining star and of course you then get exposed to Bo Diddley and all that stuff, and I was just, as you say, in the dark with my radio (laughter).
BF: What’s interesting is you’re out in the province, you’re not in swinging London. You’re following this trail as best you can. I think you said once that the Beatles had the great advantage of being in a port city where records were easy to get and you were not. But what’s interesting is that when you were a very young man, just in your early teens, there was this great explosion of the Mercey Beat and Beat groups and all that . And one would think that would actually open a door for you, but you didn’t want to be a part of that. You were looking for something else.
RP: The thing is about that translation really, if you get the tense of a verb wrong in your writing of the new testament, or Chuck Berry, anything really, you can be in real trouble and a lot of the English Beat groups were in real trouble. You could readily tell the difference. I defy 90% of the white bands that try to play Chuck Berry music that don’t get the rhythms and the way it winds and twirls around and all t he sorts of that back beat thing. Last night, Hubert Somulet had a couple of amazing moments where he dragged his fingers down the bottom of the E string and gave us all that Howlin’ Wolf backbeat thing and that’s what I wanted and I wanted to get as close ot Son House and Charlie Patton and that sort of feel. And of course my parents were horrified. First of all, it sounds weird, and secondly, it’s for people that don’t live around the corner. So they cut the plug off my record player (laughter).
BF: Did they really?
RP: Yeah, they did.
BF: And they stopped you from taking guitar lessons.
RP: I had one lesson (laughter). I know it’s silly. Now that I think about it, it’s really silly. I learned to play one song by the Shadows. One lesson and then it was all over (laughter).
BF: Good thing the singing thing worked out for you.
RP: And I met a couple of decent guitarists along the way (laughter). They don’t have my sort of blues finesse, but (laughter)…
BF: Primitive intruders (laughter). As a young man, you began playing with different groups and supporting some of the Mercey Beat groups. How old were you when you opened for Gene Vincent.
RP: Yeah, Established Owl in the Black Country. I mean such a beautiful voice. We were talking last night monitors, these things here and how did people preserve their voices. I mean, when we first came to America in December, 68, there were no monitors. A P.A. amp was used to stop Bonzo’s bass drum from moving down the stage (laughter). That’s how old I am. Used maximum treble, maximum presence, that was it. Vincent was in the same boat, only ten years prior to that, and he had the most beautiful voice. He didn’t do any of that wah wah, he just had this sweet, beautiful, beautiful voice. In those days, it was a big miracle to preserve that voice and he was always good. He wasn’t very happy, he had a rough time, but he was a great, great, singer. For me, to be opening a show like for a guy like that, I mean I was just all over the place. I was still really, when I saw Pinetop Perkins last night, I sat in the middle of those two guys, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist and Muddy Waters’ piano player (pause), and the Golden God (laughter). I thought how the bloody hell can I get in here (laughter). It was quite a thing really, I mean, yeah, I was a fan of that dark blues. That was where I went and sort of kept away from the beat groups.
BF: Another thing that I’m a little unclear on, I assume that like here in America, the folk scene and the blues scene were the same scene at the time.
BF: I think people because of everything that happened with the electrification and rockification of the blues, people don’t always understand that now. It was kind of a beatnik thing to get into.
RP: It was defnitely a sort of intellligenicia or some kind of i’d say caste system based on folk music or country blues or acoustic blues was definitely where it was at if you were part of the bohemian culture. And I remember the stories about when Muddy Waters first came to England and when I worked with Alexis Korner, he told me Muddy was booed off the stage for actually amplifying the guitar. So the general public and the media had decided blues was only pure if it was brought to England with an acoustic. The fact that it actually ended up in some kind of hallowed environment, a bit of a juke joint where people were actually getting down, that was already folk, but it was great to behold it and at that time two German promoters haddled around Europe with huge blues packets from 62-66 I think so we were able to in provincial England, see Skip James, Sleepy John Estes, Bukka White, Son House and the younger guys like Muddy Waters. To see some of these guys who really were pushing out these notes. I mean John Estes voice when we were doing things like Custard Pie on Physical Graffiti, all those sort of tunes, I was trying to get that real high whine Estes had got. If you go to blindsville, take the right hand road…Amazing. But it was, the electric blues boom was yet to come around the corner. But the arrival of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Captain’s famous album with John Mayhall. All that was coming around the corner and it was becoming the emphasizing of blues was just about to begin and sure enough it did. The Yardbirds were there, and Pretty Things, it was all this kind of. I suppose the lighter side of blues, the Jimmy Reed stuff, the John Lee Hooker stuff, it’s amazing the adrenaline, and I think the old uglier guys stayed with the country blues (laughter). The good looking guys moved straight into whoring themselves for the rest of their life (laughter).
BF: That’s the trouble with good looks.
BF: So you’re playing a gig, you’re doing pretty well and of course, I also don’t want to underestimate that by 66 or 67, Tim Buckley, The Youngbloods and other things, other threads that we still hear in your music are coming in and you were in the Band of Joy I guess, and Jimmy Page appears in the back of the room, or so the myth goes. I’ve heard Page tell the story how he couldn’t believe this guy was so great, he sang so well, and looked great, I figured he must be a real jerk if nobody had already made a star out of him. And point in fact, you turned out to be a good guy. So what’s your memory, when, here comes swinging London, here comes the big time walking into my bar.
RP: Well, I got a couple of telegrams that if you’d like to join the Yardbirds, please call (number) and I thought, someone’s taking the piss, this can’t be right. The Yardbirds are all washed up anyways, who’d want to join them, they’re old folks (laughter).
BF: And you were 18 or 19 then.
RP: I was 19.
BF: And they were old at 24.
RP: I really thought that I was on a mission with Bonzo. He’d just got off the Tim Rose tour, to do Morning Dew forever and I thought, no no, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, I’m going that way. My music is going to last forever. And then I got a second telegram and I thought hmmm. So they came to see me, Page and Chris Dreja and Peter Grant. They came up to me and looked at me and said, are you the roadie, we’re looking for Robert Plant. I’m everything (laughter). I drive the van, I load gear out, I steal from them, I go back to my room. They said, well, he’s pretty good, we’ll give you a call. And Terry Reid said you should do this man because you’re never going to get anywhere doing what you’re doing. I said well if it’s that good, why don’t you do it. And he said, no, no, I’m self-sufficient. I got the call and I went down to Page’s place in Pangbourne. He said, bring down some music of your choice. And I’d been living rough for a while and I was living at Terry Reid’s house at the time. I packed a suitcase, knocked on the door and the door opened and this girl who was part of Dr. John’s night-trippers backing group was dressed in a net curtain (laughter). She opened the door, my suitcase fell out of my hand and I loved the Yardbirds (laughter). And it was still daylight (laughter). So I went in and we both accessed similar songs, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and You Shook Me and we talked about Otis Rush. He wasn’t that keen on Moby Grape and I kept pushing it back to the front of the pile. Listen to that voice. And that was it. But it was so stylistically we were both into the same stuff but obviously Jimmy was much further down the line. He was a seasoned guy already doing the Dick Clark road show. I mean two months in a bus with the Shirells has got to be quite a thing (laughter). Especially that time in life.
BF: Jimmy Page was already in the Yardbirds, was already a superstar musician was playing on all the hit records in London. And John Paul Jones was also a very well respected and well seasoned session musician. So in a way, Led Zeppelin was a marriage of two well-off London pros going out with beautiful girls wearing curtains and two buddies
RP: Who were happy to drive a van for 50 bucks a week (laughter). We didn’t have much of a choice or we’d have a long walk home. But yeah, we were really quite niaive. We were also very bunctious. People crossed the road to avoid us. Bonzo and I would be walking along and you’d see people go, oh Christ, they’re over there (laughter). And where we’d lived in the Midlands we really used to give other bands some stick. When Black Sabbath finally got their record deal, they used to play clubs around Birmingham and Bonzo used to say, they’re so shit (laughter). And later on down the line when Bonzo got big boy liquid (laughter), we went to see somebody in New York and he called them Deep Sabbath which is a generic (much laughter - BF comments or Black Purple). When you think about it, our reputation has been labeled a lot along with that sort of mindset in general media terms for such a long time. It’s horrific to think that all the bits and pieces we did, you know, wandering across the mountains in Morocco with tape machines and then to end up in the same pile (BF comments heavy metal) as Paranoid [Black Sabbath tune], yeah (laughter), um, it’s done a lot of good for Scandal (laughter), I know that. I’ve nothing against them, I know the guys really well, when they come out of the room (laughter). But anyway, that tag was yeah, we were in Birmingham and we were very very pleased with ourselves.
BF: And it goes without saying that when you got in the room together, it wasn’t the Yardbirds anymore.
RP: No, it was a kind of, I mean we did, Bonzo and I stretched a lot of stuff with the Band of Joy. We were doing Moby Grape stuff, some Arthur Lee stuff. We were touching on blues but it was, I suppose not the very heavy progressive rock type of thing. So it made absolute sense if you think about the way the Yardbirds had moved. They were still quite experimental and very interesting. So it was unbelievable. Bonzo and I couldn’t believe that we were in the presence of these guys who could extend musical parts for such a long time and it would be really creative and interesting. And I hear it now, and although it’s got a timeset to it, because of the musicality of the time, our musical references changed as the years went on. You know, it went from Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran through to Alfronse Blues and Vernon Purdy (?) and James Brown in the powder period and all that sort of thing. Yeah, but it was actually amazing to think you could open up music like that. Later on down the line the songs got longer and longer and I was able to pick up a few new languages (laughter, BF says during the solos). Yeah, thank god for them. I took the Berlitz course in early Welsh (much laughter). And I’d come back on and then the drum solos would carry on for quite a while (laughter). We had a guy called Johnny Lark who used to be in a group called the Gladiators, a beat group who’s only job was to run down the corridors of these huge stadiums and you hear his feet go clap clap clap clap and he’d come through the door and go, sticks chaps, which meant that Bonzo had finally left his hand work on the drum, so Moby Dick was going to end any week now (much laughter). And then we’d have to finish whatever we were doing, you know (laughter), get dressed (more laughter) and leg it back to the stage (much laughter).
BF: During those iconic moments, where you and Jimmy were sort of leaning back in the spotlight and you’re howling and he’s winding it, and apparently you’d be exchanging secrets of the universe to each other, what were you actually saying.
RP: I think Jimmy spotted a female in the crowd (much laughter). We were the original boy band, I think. So many guys come in and go, I don’t know how they do it here (hand gestures rock fist in air) and every now and again it was a female and that was really pleasant and I was saying, we’re so pretty. All these guys were (makes rah noise). Then everyone felt all right in the end, I think.
BF: What was also interesting is that at times you got in hot water, purists who had just discovered Willie Dixon the week before would suddenly write a piece for every underground newspaper and say, hey, those lines aren’t original and then someone from the publishing of that guy would come and issue a writ. It always seemed to me, and tell me, maybe you were just ripping them off, but it seemed to me that you were trying to make that writ back. You were saying to people, no matter how crazy and psychedelic the middle part of Whole Lotta Love is, it actually connects back to You Need Love.
RP: Yeah. It’s like When the Levee Breaks, we always credited it to be a good composition and an adaptation of a Memphis Minny song. Now of course we put that on the label, and the royalties when to Memphis Minny who was at the time, was channeled to, she was in hospitals so we were told that’s where the money was going. But it was years later that it was Kansas Joe McCoy, her husband who sang it, so it’d been going the wrong way anyway (BF - either way it wasn’t going where it was supposed to). Well it’s tru some artistic license has actually taken place along the line (laughter). It wasn’t my fault (laughter). It’s just ironic that all the nicks were the actual lyrics, not the music. There were one or two moments that flicker and yeah, I now know that there are one or two boys that pour through the Led Zeppelin catalogue looking for another bit of Drop Down Blues by Sleepy John Epstein. Here it is! (laughter). The Wolf you know, you could go back to Charlie Patton. There it is again, you know Crosscut Sword from Albert King back to Charlie McLennan 1941 on RCA/Bluebird. So you’ve got all this stuff that goes back back back in time and great moments. For me, I keep going, look it goes back to 1915. And of course it goes right the way back to Shake It One Time For Me, you know. It’s everywhere. It’s all the way through that beautiful dotted history of the blue note. It’s come forward again. The Black Keys are doing an admirable job of taking Skip James’ stuff in another form forwarding it and it’s quite vital to hear that. It’s really good. So there is no end to plagarism really (laughter).
BF: You’re own writing, I was looking at the first Zeppelin album the other day, knowing we’d be talking and I noticed you hardly wrote at all on the first album. By the time you get down the line to All My Love, Page didn’t write one whole album, it was kind of you and Jones (RP - imagine that). Some pretty good stuff. Finding your voice as a writer happened in a very very public way.
RP: And very naively too. Because I was quite young to start lyricalizing around those great structures is like talking about Mighty Rearranger. I was compelled by the power of the music to say something. To actually have an opinion and say something is more than just dribbling along. And in Zep, I was 20 years old, 21 and I was, my contribution to songs was about Gollum and the Misty Mountains (laughter). That doesn’t help me. I never thought, I lived on the Welsh borders and that’s where Tolkien wrote the book. I was immersed in Welsh history and I thought it was quite a lovely place to go to. But look, suddenly there’s loads of bands 10 years later with double bladed axes on their t-shirts and sort of helmets and they’re all coming out of the horizons in longboats (laughter - BF - goes back to my first question). And that was not my fault. The naievity of lyric and it’s cute, but sometimes I go oh God, that’s so many years ago, couldn’t I have said something else (laughter). Because in America, there was a social commentary here, there was a reason to create lyric that was done to tribute to a mindset of a youth culture. That’s why I was into Buffalo Springfield and all that. The English wave about who was a really good player. Who was big, who was proficient, who was excellent. And the kind of bombast of British music was after the English invasion, when it got more and more bombastic and the lyrical element, there was nothing there really. America was the place where it was happening. Listening to Jesse Colin Young writing or Steven Stills or David Crosby or whatever all that sort of stuff, which could be all that pound away hippy shit but in truth what it was doing was creating a blueprint for writers in the future to defer to. Say you’ve got more to do as a musician than just get dressed in the drum solo (laughter, applause).
BF: What a fantastic opportunity and I know we’re out of time and I don’t want to stop necessarily to play another song, I don’t know if this is corny or not, but I printed out the lyrics to Tin Pan Valley because I thought they were relavant. You care to read them or should I.
RP: I haven’t got me glasses. (BF says should I give a recitation) Have you got glasses?
BF: I’ve got these glasses you buy at the counter (RP - they’re under my pillow). I’ll read. I think relative to this event, and I’ll read it as quickly as I can (reads part of the lyrics). And it goes on for more.
RP: Can you do the next verse (laughter. BF - by all means). My favorite.
BF: If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow (huge laughter, including from Robert).
The tape ran out but that was pretty much the end of the speech. There were thank yous and they put Robert’s cd back on as the crowd left the auditorium.
Posted in tr2005 |