A Six-Pack of Robert Plant

I‘m advised that Robert Plant was the lead singer in a band called Led Zeppelin but you know, I’d never even fucking heard of them. And what a silly name for a band! So I’ll fake my way through their history. 

Wikipedia: Robert Anthony Plant was born on 20 August 1948, in the Black Country town of West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, Plant gained an interest in singing and rock and roll music at an early age. In an interview, Plant stated his desire, as a ten-year-old, to be like Elvis Presley:

“When I was a kid I used to hide behind the curtains at home at Christmas and I used to try and be Elvis. There was a certain ambiance between the curtains and the French windows, there was a certain sound there for a ten-year-old. That was all the ambiance I got at ten years old … And I always wanted to be … a bit similar to that.”

Plant (along with his friend drummer John Bonham) was performing in bands in the English Midlands. One day ex-Yardbirds, ex-session guitarist Jimmy Page showed up to hear him sing. He’d initially wanted singer Terry Reid. Reid passed and recommended Plant. Page, impressed by Plant’s vocal prowess, convinced Plant (and eventually Bonham) to join him in his band, The New Yardbirds.

The Yardbirds became Led Zeppelin then yadda, yadda, yadda and by 1980 – with Bonham’s untimely death -it was all over. So now what? Plant could spend the rest of his life endlessly re-mastering and re-releasing the Zep catalog but that eventually became just about Page’s entire post-Zep career. And bassist John Paul Jones did some solo stuff, some session work, and the like but mostly stayed in the background where I think he likes it.

So it was left to the Plant-meister to become the Paul McCartney of Led Balloon. I don’t mean that necessarily in terms of the same level of songwriting but in terms of having a successful solo career.

His debut album, Pictures at Eleven, was released in 1982 and made it to number 5 on the US charts. It was just nice to hear something Zeppy again.

This song is called “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” with the late Cozy Powell on drums. Phil Collins plays drums on this album as well. Collins would play with Zep at Live Aid. To this day, Jimmy Page blames Collins for his own sloppy, unrehearsed dismal performance. I like Pagey but he doesn’t seem to be a very self-reflective guy.

Spotify link

Little Robert Anthony is nothing if not eclectic. Atlantic Records honcho Ahmet Ertegun wanted to record an album of his favorite 50’s songs. Plant was all over that because that is the shit he grew up on. So a band was pulled together and they made an album called The Honeydrippers: Volume One. (We await Volume Two.)

The album not only reunited Plant with Jimmy Page but also included Jeff Beck, Nile Rogers, and David Letterman’s keyboardist, Paul Shaffer. I love this tune “Rockin’ at Midnight.” which, as it happens, neither Plant nor Page plays on.

Spotify link

“Big Log” – another pot song per El Roberto – comes from his 1983 album The Principle of Moments. You can still hear this one all over the radio. Phil Collins on drums here. (Side note -Barriemore Barlow, Jethro Tull’s drummer – is on this album. Zep and Tull toured together quite a bit back in the day.)

Spotify link

“Oh man,” you are by now certainly whining, “why can’t I hear Page and Plant back together again?” From 1988’s Now and Zen, the singularly un-Zep-like “Tall Cool One.”

Spotify link

Going back to the ZoSo album, recall that Plant sang “Battle of Evermore” with the late Sandy Denny (a star in her own right but also as it happens an old mate of Jimmy Page’s.)

Cut forward to 2007 and the equally unlikely pairing of Plant and bluegrass queen Alison Krauss. (She is the most awarded singer and the most awarded female artist in Grammy history.) Their album Raising Sand won Album of the Year at the 2008 Americana Music Honors & Awards and at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

The songs, all covers, were “handpicked by producer T Bone Burnett.” Here’s the Everly Brothers’ “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On).” It’s the harmonies folks:

Spotify link

Last but not least, Plant released an album in 1990 called Manic Nirvana. No big A-list names on this one but here’s a good tune called “Hurting Kind (I’ve Got My Eyes On You.” (From Italian TV with a bunch of ladies dancing in the background.)

Spotify link

In 2008, Rolling Stone editors ranked Robert Plant number 15 on their list of the 100 best singers of all time. Then In 2011, Rolling Stone readers ranked Plant the greatest of all lead singers. In 2006, Hit Parader magazine named Plant the “Greatest Metal Vocalist of All Time. In 2009, Plant was voted “the greatest voice in rock” in a poll conducted by Planet Rock.

37 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Robert Plant

    1. Ironically, as much as I’m a Zep fan, I haven’t really been a big solo Plant fun. It just so happened I was reading a magazine about Zep. Near the end they listed a bunch of good solo tunes by Plant, Jones, Page. I started to make a playlist out of them and there were so many Plant ones I decided to do just this post.

      As to the band name, yeah I know that one. I actually did a multi-part series on Zep a while back. The most quoted version seems to be Moon (not Entwistle) saying Led Balloon. You might know that “Beck’s Bolero” had a band that might have evolved into Zep (Page, Jones, Moon, Nicky Hopkins) but Townshend reportedly would have killed Moon.

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  1. Turns out El Roberto and I have something in common: We both used to try and be Elvis! The difference? I wasn’t hiding behind the curtains. Oh, and minor additional detail: I didn’t become a rock star!😆

    On a more serious note, while it took me some time to embrace Zep, today, they are among my top favorite bands. At the same time, perhaps somewhat strangely, I nearly haven’t paid any attention to the solo work of Robert Plant – or any other of the band’s surviving members, for that matter.

    I like all of the tunes you highlighted. “Big Log” was – well – quite big in Germany. From The Honeydrippers it was “Sea of Love”.

    Are you familiar with the two collaboration albums Plant did with Jimmy the Page, or any of his more recent solo releases?

    BTW, I have to agree it’s rather lame from Page to keep blaming Phil Collins for the Live Aid debacle. The fact that Jimmy’s guitar was horribly out of tune during “Stairway to Heaven”, making it sound more like “Stairway to Hell” had nothing to do with Collins!

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    1. I read that Plant wasn’t really keen on “Sea of Love” being the single preferring “Rockin’.” I’m with him on that.

      I know the Page/Plant stuff but precious little is on Spotify! Haven’t heard Plant’s recent stuff. His solo stuff is more of a radio thing for me. Speaking of Page, you probably know he’s got a live album with the Black Crowes.

      I think everybody pretty much knows Page was being a dick on the Live Aid thing. But in the last interview I read he was totally dismissive. That said, Bonzo is a hard act to follow.

      Jones has got some nice instrumental stuff. And why the hell does Page just keep recycling Zeppelin? Out of gas?

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      1. I actually have “Live at the Greek”, the live album Page did with The Black Crowes, on CD, but haven’t listened to it in ages. From what I recall, it’s pretty good!

        As for John Paul Jones, not sure. Most of his post-Zep stuff is as a sideman. Apparently, he did two solo albums (1999 and 2001), but haven’t heard any of them.

        He also was part of Them Crooked Vultures, the “supergroup” with Dave Grohl and Josh Homme. Technically, they never officially disbanded but have been on hiatus since 2010. Over the years since there have been rumors about another (second) album.

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        1. Vultures, yeah. Wow, 2010. That ain’t happening again I bet. I have this memory of listening to some of Jones’ stuff a while back. Mixed bag. He’s probably known as much as an arranger/composer now like in his studio days.

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        2. BTW, contractual problems kept Crowes songs off of “Greek.” But it turns out Chris Robinson wasn’t particularly jazzed.

          “I didn’t really have that much fun doing it,” grumbled singer Chris Robinson. “It was alright, and Jimmy’s a phenomenal guitarist, but to me it was just a job. I’m not a big fan of Robert Plant’s lyrics or his singing, so that part of it was a little boring for me.

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        3. Right. How stupid. Competitiveness too. The Brit bands are notorious for that. Brits never have anything nice to say about each other anyway. Then when they hear a guy’s accent, thanks to their stupid class system they slot him. And then the ego shit happens. For the record I got that when I went to LA. Who am I right? I got some praise for the tune we played with Chuck Leavell. I mentioned it to one of the other guitar players and he immediately went into disparaging my playing. After one guy approached me coming off the stage. And yet the guy who disparaged me is an excellent player. So I guess he didn’t get his dose of love. If anything marred that LA trip, it was that kind of bullshit.

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        4. Oh, man, don’t let that bother you. That’s just silly and immature behavior from that other guitar player, even if he would have been Clapton or Hendrix. Isn’t jamming supposed to be about fun?

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        5. It did at first because it was unexpected. I should know better. But it’s a fucking roller coaster ride. Later that night we were riding in a van to play out. Two people behind me were talking and one said, “Yeah he was really good.” They were talking about me! He lived in Hawaii and I jokingly asked if he could put me up. He said he would if I would teach him guitar. Then after the gig I jammed with friend’s son who is a virtuoso. Totally destroyed me. So, up, down, up, down. It’s also not just about ego it’s about our own – or my own – insecurities.

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  2. I’m all over Plant Doc. Been exploring is later solo stuff. So much good music. The guy doesnt stand still or on his laurels. Seen him on Austin City a few years ago. He tore the show up. He just keeps doing really good stuff and working with all sorts of good musicians who aren’t household names. I was on ajag a while ago and will return to it. I love the cut ‘Wreckless Love’ off of ‘Principlles’ (Love that record). Robbie Blunt plays some mean axe.

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    1. I was telling somebody, Christian maybe, that I was reading a really good in-depth Zep history in Classic Rock magazine. At the end they had a list of solo Zep. I was just gonna do a compilation of Jones, Page, Plant. But I liked Plant’s stuff so much I decided instead to do this post.

      As a solo artist though, he’s pretty much a radio guy for me. Never bought any of his solo stuff. But I’m sure there’s more to add to the list. “Wreckless” is a good tune. And why the fuck isn’t Pagey doing this kind of working with good musicians stuff. Like he did with Black Crowes.

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        1. That’s right You Canucks are kinda quasi-Brits, right? Hell, you live practically next door to Elvis Costello. Next time Pagey stops in for a cup of tea maybe cuff him around a little bit, tell him to get off his arse.

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        2. It is kind of a weird one. You would think he would have lots of cool musical ideas still. “Come on Jimbo, you were in Led Zeppelin”. Maybe a little power trio somewhere witha twist.

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        3. You know what I think? He peaked, he’ll never do anything as great, he’ll always be compared to it – and he knows it. So jam with the Crowes (or whatever), do this, that and the other thing. Probably ran out of song ideas too. Hey, I don’t have a problem with that. I’d rather see a guy who admits his best days are behind him than go out there and suck.

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        4. I have a Firm album. Some good cuts. Time to revisit some of Jims solo work. Outrider is solid. Yeah Graffiti is a good one. I listen to it and the first one a lot still. I can think of some off the wall combos for Jim. I’ll call him.
          Forgot to mention ‘In The Mood’ by Plant, love that one too.

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        5. True, but a great producer as well. The mag I was reading had tributes to him from a bunch of well-regarded blokes. The overall sound of those albums, mic placement and all, is due quite a bit to him and his session background.

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        6. No doubt, aye – he’s obviously spot on when it comes to the technical side. I was looking at it from the “why doesn’t he record new music?” angle.

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        7. Ah. I had that exact discussion with CB. My take? “You know what I think? He peaked, he’ll never do anything as great, he’ll always be compared to it – and he knows it. So jam with the Crowes (or whatever), do this, that and the other thing. Probably ran out of song ideas too. Hey, I don’t have a problem with that. I’d rather see a guy who admits his best days are behind him than go out there and suck.”

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        8. Yeah, I was responding to that in a way. His peak was appropriating other songs. Fair degree of talent in that… reshaping them, etc. but I don’t think Page was as creative as he was / is a talented player. I’m not saying that he lifted everything (and that there aren’t loads of lifting going on out there), but there’s case that a lot of his best stuff was (largely) written by others.

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        9. Yes, much of it was lifted. And he and the band together morphed. And I’ve said for years that all he had to do was put the correct people’s fucking names on those songs from the get-go and problem solved. Everyone would know who the writers were, those people would get credit (and money), problem solved. But he couldn’t or wouldn’t.

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    2. Also, beware the rabbit hole. I’m listening to Zep albums from ‘Houses of the Holy’ onward. My favorite in that era is ‘Physical Graffiti’ which is kinda their ‘Exile on Main Street.’ When I first moved to Boston I used to drive around and listen to it all the time.

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        1. Just got done listening to ‘Graffiti.’ First time I’ve listened to it all the way through in a long time. Massive, massive sound. It’s like when I rediscovered ‘Exile.” My favorite Zep is the first but I would put this one up there with IV and II. The others, for me, are a mixed bag to choose tunes from.

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      1. I’ve had the Krauss record for years – I like how they cover two Gene Clark songs from the same obscure album. Dillard and Clark’s 1969 record Through the Morning Through the Night.

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  3. I’m not a huge fan of Led Zeppelin, but I like Plant quite a bit. His solo over the last 15 years or so has been really strong (I prefer it to Led Zep).

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