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I have not, until this edition of NME, had a chance to print something with one of the biggest bands of the `70s. So when this article turned up I really had no choice but to transcribe it for you. The competition was fierce, as there were several interesting reads in this edition, but my final choice just had to be on one of the founders of hard rock. Have a nice read!
Gassin with ZEPPELIN
How Robert Plant stays fresh
By Roy Carr
The roar of the crowd still rings long and loud in the ears of Led Zeppelin. Record success continues to turn `em on but nothing stands against the motivation of this four-man crew to get out and make music.
Led`s larynx, Robert Plant, particularly exudes an enthusiasm for his vocation that one rarely encounters among the rock hierarchy.
Why, only the other afternoon I encountered the man himself and Zeppelin`s Master-at-Arms, Richard Coles, conducting a rip-off raid on Kinney Records` vast library of tapes and albums and the singer conceded that: “Music is serious…but let`s dig it.”
I took the opportunity to talk with him, and, like a wide-eyed kid having been given the freedom of Selfridge`s toy department, Planty carefully stashed his loot in a corner and placed an Arthur Alexander album on the office stereo.
“Arthur Alexander…now there`s a name to conjure with,” he smiled as the smooth voice of the almost-forgotten rhythm and blues singer filled the large room and obiliterated all near-by conversation.
Accepting a welcome drink, Plant removed the filter from a cigarette and confessed: “You know what? This record sounded much better then than it does now.”
He was of course referring to a time in the early sixties when the style and songs of Mr. Alexander and his contemporaries helped, in some small measure, to blue-print the format of those British groups who were to completely change the entire course of rock music.
In fact I have the strangest feeling that at one time or another a younger Robert Plant possibly offered his own interpretations of “Anna” or the like around the noisy Brummie club and ballroom circuits.
Plant may have gone on to much bigger things since those far-off days but I find it refreshingly to his credit that he still hangs on to that all-important sense of urgency that initially made him get up and sing. Today it safeguards him from complacency and stagnation.
“Whenever possible I really like to get out there with the kids,” he told me, at the same time taking the trouble not to give the impression of some kind of condescending anti-hero.
“Only in that way,” he continued, “can I get to know what the record buyers want. That`s how I make up my mind – from how the public makes up its mind.
“For me, in fact, the most successful concert is the one when everyone is up on their feet, smiling, yelling and getting into the music.
“Personally I don`t like things to be too straight-faced. The idea of people just sitting down and getting turned on without showing any signs of response – it`s just too melodramatic.”
Like the rest of Zeppelin, Plant laughs at persistant rumours that each and every album or concert is their farewell, although some of the stories he naturally finds irritating.
“The fact is, we don`t flog Zep to death. Just like John Lennon once said: `If you`re on the road too long it becomes painful`.”
Plant further echoes the sentiments of the band`s drummer, John Bonham, in pointing out that Zeppelin have set their own pace, one which allows them sufficient freedom and creativity.
With discretion the band face the public only when either (as a recording act or as an in-person attraction) they feel they have something new and exciting to offer.
He told me: “Speaking for myself I`ve always got the motivation to work, but like the rest of the band I don`t want to charge around the country every night. What`s the point?
“We only tour and bring out an album when we want to. But as most people realise, we`re always popping up all over the world to do concerts. Whenever possible we always return to those places.”
Plant is proud, and quite rightly so, of Led Zeppelin`s past achievements.
“We were the first band to take over and play the Empire Pool, Wembley, and present non-rock side features like circus acts – although the pigs didn`t quite manage to get it on,” he referred with a laugh to one of the interludes at the memorable Wembley bash.
Since they first became airborne Zeppelin have of course been the subject of a certain amount of controversy ranged from them being described as the definitive all-electric band, purveyors of cock rock, to the manifestation of Jimmy Page`s own personal ego trip.
I asked him about it but again, Plant didn`t show concern. He wrapped it up effectively:
“A lot of people draw their conclusions without seeing enough of the band. If we came over to them as being just a raw body, well, then it`s O.K.”
Of the four Led albums – all of which immediately turned gold – it was their fourth which for the first time minutely revealed the full spectrum of their collective talents.
“Music is very much like a kaleidoscope,” said Plant. “And I feel that particular album was just a case of us stretching out. It was a very natural development for us.
“I like people to lay down the truth.
“That`s what the feather in the circle was all about,” he pointed out, drawing my attention to one of the four symbols that went up to make the album`s title. A lot of the tracks on that album came from various moods where we just got together and started to contribute to various basic ideas.”
Undoubtedly a great deal of the success of the fourth album can be attributed to Robert Plant`s maturity as both singer and writer. Take into account, for instance, “Battle Of Evermore” and “Stairway To Heaven”.
He told me: “In the case of `Battle` I had been reading a book on the Scottish Wars immediately before. It was really more of a play-lette than a song, and after I wrote the lyrics I realised I needed another completely different voice, as well as my own, to give that song its full impact. So I asked Sandy Denny along to sing on that track.
“I found it very satisfying to sing with someone who has an entirely different style to my own.
“While I sang about the events of the song, Sandy answered back as if she was the pulse of the people on the battlements.
“Sandy was the town-crier – urging the people to throw down their weapons.
“`Stairway To Heaven` was the result of an evening when Jimmy and I just sat down in front of the fire. We came up with a song which was later developed by the rest of the band in the studio.”
Much of Zeppelin`s appeal has been by virtue of their consumate ability to produce material hanging on instant riffs…a characteristic they developed to great lengths on “Black Dog”, which to the annoyance of their plagiarists, includes instrumental passages which are almost impossible to copy.
“They`re really atuned to all those time skips,” Plant explained with devilish delight, “they” being the rest of the band. “These things aren`t intentional, just little whims which we`ll no doubt expand on the next album.
“When they`re doing these kind of time skip riffs in the studio, Jimmy, John and Bonzo suddenly come up with something like that passage on “Black Dog”; play it, fall about all over the place for about 10 minutes in fits of laughter; play it again; burst into laughter, then preserve it on tape.
“It`s as simple as that.”
Sessions for the new album are under-way and, without disclosing any secrets, Plant did say that it would include some things of interest.
Like all major acts Led Zeppelin have suffered from bootlegs and in return attempts have been made to cut a live album officially (the last being during a recent tour of Japan) but Plant told me the sound balance was just as bad as the bootleg. It was therefore rejected as unsuitable.
He added wryly:
“You know, we`ve recorded ourselves at the Farm on just an ordinary Revox, and achieved a far better sound.” There must be a moral in that statement.
And with that, he was up and off to grab another armful of albums.
A rather strange ad in the paper from comedy duo “Cheech and Chong”. Possibly targeting a Chinese audience?
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Marc Bolan, Dr. John, Deep Purple, Chuck Berry, Stephen Stills, Linda Lewis, Rolling Stones, Todd Rundgren, Fanny, Incredible String Band, Slade, Jerry Lee Lewis.
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