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Sensitive Plant pines for British soil
And occasionally New Jersey Shoulder to cry on by St. Laurent of Paris
Reporter: Lisa Robinson
Robert Plant was acting like he didn`t care.
But when I started to tell him what Mick Jagger had said about him, I detected a strong glimmer of interest in his eyes.
“Mick`s been so nice,” Robert said.
He brings you up all the time, I insisted, in a pleasant chiding way of course, things like “should I get a tambourine like Robert Plant.” And more in that vein.
“Actually,” says Plant, “I remember talking to Mick at the Plaza one night, about the sort of separatism, or lack of communication between one rock band and another.
“You know in the old days there was a constant sort of jousting for position, a definite ego number that was apparent all the way up to a certain point. I guess I realized talking to him that there isn`t all this clanship and unity between bands in this rock and roll scene.
“Then, when this accident happened, there was a giant rally round from a lot of people who I never think of that often, you know?
“Wishes and regards sent to Maureen, to us both. From people on all levels of the business, you know.
“It was a really great gesture, it brought a new validity to it somehow, just a great surge of energy. Just at the time that we were both pulling out of the worst of the accident. It was an enlightening thing.
“Maybe in times of need you do get this sort of camaraderie…”
It is obvious that the near fatal car accident suffered by Robert Plant and his family last summer in Greece has affected his life profoundly.
Whether he talks of Led Zeppelin, their new album “Presence”, possible plans for touring, or his wife and children, an awareness of what life means to him since that experience is always at the very front of his mind.
Discussing his “tax exile” status Plant was bitter. Then again, he related it to his situation.
“I really cannot believe the criticism that I`ve had hurled against me, the remarks made by people about leaving my wife when she was in hospital… all that. It`s a very sad situation, you know, to have to leave one`s own country for the sake of money.
“It makes good sense, obviously. That is the motivation for 99 1/2 per cent of the people who have done it. With me well, not only did I want to preserve some of the reward for what I`ve worked like hell for – what I sit racking my brains to try and create – but it was almost the principle of the thing.
“The government in England is almost saying, `Well, never mind, they`ll come back you know… they`re English and they`ll come home`.
“And the loneliest times… just to know that you`re a prisoner… it`s really more sad than any accident to be thrust out of your own country. If the government tried to work out a reasonable deal… but they`re adamant, and sure that `they`ll come back`. And they`re damn right… the number of times we have come so close to getting on a plane and going home. The spirit of Albion is really imbedded in everybody`s soul.”
Robert talked longingly of his farm: “That little farm is a lot of my life, and so are the two little seeds that run around it. So those are the saddening moments… but it really is the principle. If the government could lead a renovation, under reasonable terms I`d have no qualms about going back and saying okay, let`s make a deal. And I know everybody else feels the same. But it`s just this attitude of gotta get it all, gotta fill me pockets. Which is not where I`ve ever been at despite a few rather uneducated people commenting that that is all. So…I suppose when I do go home it`ll be Hallelujah and I shall kiss the soil again.”
The last time Led Zeppelin “performed” anywhere was in Jersey, at an impromptu gig egged on by Bonzo, and Plant says it was great.
“You see the possibility of playing and who can avoid it, you know? It was like rock and roll night at this dance hall that was like some place ten years gone by, in the best old English tradition.
“Guys with dickey bows and evening jackets ready to bang your head against a wall if you stepped out of line, and chairs and tables lined up in escalation. Chicks wearing suspenders and stockings and a lot of rock and roll.
“Bonzo said `C`mon man, let`s plan on going`. And I said, `look man, I can`t even walk for God`s sake, don`t embarass me. I can`t hobble across the dance floor and onto the stage.” He said we`d go through the side door and then up the back steps. And with amazing grace, that`s what I did and I found myself plunked on a stool. But I really was shy.
“Every time I went to hit a note, I stood up. Not putting any weight on my foot, but just sort of standing. Oh, there were some great photos.
“You know these guys in holiday areas with the cameras who come and take your photo and then you have to call midday the next day and show up at the pier where he will present you with whatever snaps he took the night before, and you find out how silly you looked or how drunk you in fact were for an extortionate price?
“I gave the guy a free hand to shoot like crazy, you know… shoot all these shots of Led Zeppelin in this antiquated ballroom, you know, backing this pianist. And we never even announced it. It was such an exciting experience, nobody even sat down. It was just rock and roll, but in the most basic sense of the word, it was great.
“Of course,” he continued, “I made sure that I sat almost behind Bonzo, wedged between the drums and the piano… but then I found myself edging forward just a little bit. Then, after the third number, I was wiggling the stool, past the drums and further out, you know. And it was like another flash of white light. It was great, really good. Except for we wouldn`t stop playing. They kept flashing the lights inside the place and really like, `Get them off the stage now, they`ve done enough`.
“I just talked to old Ralphsie – Mick from Bad Company – and they played the same gig.
“So this tiny weeny little dance hall is getting the pride of English musicianship for nothing. Just for the hell of playing, you know.”
Talking about how Zep came to do their new album in a mere (count `em) 18 days, Robert recalled: “I moved to Sunset Strip because the trek to rehearsals from Malibu was a bit long. And I got bored with the Hyatt (Hotel) in a shorter amount of time than it normally takes, so I knew I must be getting better.
“Then I hopped on a plane and went to Germany. After getting used to it, the studio turned out to be okay, and as soon as we came to an understanding with the machinery and the equipment, we were off.
“I think we only went out twice; we were really too tired to do anything but put our heads down. It was like 14 hours a night, 18 days.
“Jimmy worked like a Trojan, no two ways about it. It`s his energy that got this album together so quick. I mean I was not really in any physical condition to hop around with gusto inspiring the situation greatly… although I was surprised the vocals were so good. The lyrics were coming thick and fast, presenting no problems at all.
“I had no second thoughts about the lyrics, they were all reflections on the time near and before the accident and that time afterwards, that contemplative thing, so I was very determined lyrically and vocally, but Jimmy put his energy into it. He worked so hard, and the guitar playing on this album surpasses anything I`ve heard for ages and ages. Brilliant, so much life in it. It`s like hallelujah and we`re back.
“There`s one song called “Achilles Last Stand” – you know, immortal but for the heel, or for being a heel, I don`t know which. No, I mustn`t joke about it, because I am very proud of it.
“There`s one song I wrote when I was very sad and missing Maureen in Malibu, and it`s very personal. You know times go very slowly when you get up every day and you can`t even kick a ball… run and kick a roadie… even kick your drummer. So time has been the teacher and I`ve been the pupil.
“Whew, that was heavy, did I really say that?”
`Fraid so, Robert.
“It`s hard to find the words to say it, but the whole experience of doing that album was very inspiring. It`s come from a different corner altogether of us, I think it`s come from that corner called survival.
“The only time that I wondered that it might not be there anymore was because of the physical. Only because there was a time when my soul was so covered by that cloud that I really didn`t know… what`s the point… but that only lasted a few seconds every day until it finally wore off. I mean I believe that we could start another album right now. Three weeks is amazing to record and mix and walk away.”
We change the subject – the Zeppelin movie. Does Plant have aspirations to the silver screen? The next Roger Daltrey?
“To be quite honest, I don`t think that I could… I mean for us, with that movie, it was basically the gig that was filmed…”
But what about the other stuff? You riding around on a horse and all?
“How dare you… me riding around on a horse… what do you think I`m doing, advertising men`s hairdressing or something like that?”
“Well… if I act onstage, I mean it`s not a sort of dance macabre, it`s not something premeditated. It`s just an extension of me, you know. But the whole process of being involved in any sort of serious filming bores me to tears. I mean just seeing those clips, adverts for films here makes me think. When we deliver something, we do it with as much as we`ve got. If we sink to the floor after that next note, or get dizzy reaching such a high pitch, or all the dogs start barking in Brooklyn… you know, only they can hear it folks… But you know what I mean, just to sort of waddle around with a script in front of a camera, I couldn`t possibly do. The interjections between the music on the film are just enough to give it the relish it requires.”
As for future plans, Plant said that he didn`t think Zeppelin would be doing anything on our shores for at least twelve months once he was able to go back home.
“Well, as much as I can be on the road ad infinitum, I really can`t be without Maureen and the kids and the farm and that whole thing back there which I love. I`ve really got to go back. I`m not at the sort of desperation point, but it`s only fair to tour when you`ve had a lot of that which inspires you to lift yourself above… You`ve got to go home to get a little bit of fire in you to go back again. It`s like going back to your corner.”
“Well, who knows, you know. I mean I`d been away a year when I went home. I was so pleasantly thrilled and intoxicated by the atmosphere and everything. It must be the same for everybody, it must be the same for Mick, for Elton. You can only come out of your corner giving something wholesome and brilliant or good or whatever if you`ve been back in your corner to sort of shuffle around and sort of fire yourself up again.”
“Well, you can look at it two ways. You can say that, but then you can say is twelve months long enough to be at home after everything I`ve been through? I could do with just sitting down with my family and just thanking the gods that I`ve got one, that I`m part of one. That doesn`t mean that I`ve lost the grease at the bottom of my shoes, it means that I`ve got to go back to my corner for a little while.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Queen, Tony Iommi, The Fania All-Stars, David Bowie, Sailor, Gay and Terry Woods.
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