Robert Plant: By Myself


Robert Plant: By Myself

Robert Plant discusses his musical journey from Stourbridge through the British blues boom, superstardom with Led Zeppelin in the 70s to the more recent Band of Joy album.


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# Hey, mamma, say the way you move gonna make you sweat

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# Gonna make you groove... #

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As frontman for the mighty Led Zeppelin,

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Robert Plant was the voice of rock for a generation of men and women.

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Fusing raw sexual power and mystical longing with his powerhouse vocals,

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long blonde main and strutting stage presence.

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# Oh, yeah, oh, yeah... #

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But what do you do next when the world's greatest rock band

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crashes and burns, how do you pick yourself up and move on, alone?

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CHEERING

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For the last 30 years, Robert Plant has been forging a solo career,

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sometimes struggling with the baggage of rock superstardom,

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revealing more selves in a number of unexpected collaborations.

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He has followed his muse wherever it has taken him.

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From the deserts of Africa to the hills of Tennessee.

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This is Robert Plant's story, in his own words.

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The cards fell very favourably for me. I went to a grammar school, which

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was part of Stourbridge town, which had a really creative and flamboyant art college.

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People actually got scholarships to come from around Europe to study and create.

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So there was a kind of great vibration in what would normally be

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a little old town on the edge of the Black Country.

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Folk clubs sprung up and jazz clubs. I was able to hang around on the edge of all these little societies.

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So I could hear John Coltrane or Woody Guthrie or Dixieland jazz, I could hear

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unaccompanied singing of beautiful Scottish Airs and all this

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while the foundries of the Black Country beat their great rhythm.

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As most towns in the early '60s had a town hall or similar,

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so through the town came The Pretty Things.

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The Walker Brothers.

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The Merseybeats rolled into Stourbridge in a

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blue and white American station wagon filled up with equipment.

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These renegade guys, who ran off with all our teen queens.

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There would be the boys fighting in Dudley to the rhythm of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.

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Bohemian meetings on the top of the hills, with people singing great Big Bill Broonzy pieces.

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There would be so many different things going on.

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Whatever's come my way as far as my own music dalliances,

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has come from having a keen ear and really wanting to explore...

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PHONE RINGS

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Oh, that will be the wife.

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Oh, I haven't got one, that's kind of neat.

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# You are my sunshine

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# My only sunshine

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# You make me happy... #

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Robert Plant didn't only listen to everything, he wanted to perform.

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If American rock'n'roll inspired many young kids to pick up a guitar or learn to play the drums,

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Plant was inspired by the strange power and sexual charge of its upfront vocal.

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# My sunshine... #

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When I first heard the rock'n'roll singers

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there was a swagger and a lurch in the voice, which was other worldly to me.

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# Kiss me, baby

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# Wooh, woo-oh

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# It feels good... #

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I suppose I was quite interested in my stamp collection and Romano-British history.

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I was a little grammar schoolboy, and I could hear this calling through the airwaves.

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# One night with you... #

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I could hear this voice transmuting into something completely different than the spoken word

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and way different to Dickie Valentine and all the British crooners who were just about to get their P45s.

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By 1962, the hippest audiences in Britain were enthralled to

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American blues artists, some of whom had begun touring the UK.

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They were the trailblazers of what would become, in the hands of young white kids, the British blues boom.

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# Got my mojo working but it just don't work on you... #

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The black music we listened to was sexy, alluring,

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it had great driving beats and rhythms, which we couldn't even get near.

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# I'm going down to Louisiana to

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# Get me a mojo hand... #

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You're there with every single breath of what the guy is doing.

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I suppose, really, I wouldn't have been able to put that into words at the time. I was just mesmerised.

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# I wanna

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# Tell everybody in the

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# Neighbourhood

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# But I get n-n-n-nervous

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# M-m-man

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# Do I get nervous... #

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If you go back to when I first started doing it, I was 14 and a half years old.

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# N-n-n, nervous man... #

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All I was doing was getting through the song and getting to the end.

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And getting away with it - it was great!

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Plant would later pay his dues at the school of British blues

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that centred around musician and impresario Alexis Corner,

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whose small basement club in Ealing became the mecca for every would-be blues performer in the UK.

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He was a fantastic catalyst. He was almost the home of

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all the dewy-eyed kids who wanted to play rhythm and blues.

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CHEERING AND SCREAMING

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Nurturing work with the Stones,

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Jimmy Page and myself.

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# I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be

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# You're gonna give your love to me... #

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So many people came by and through that school of British blues.

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There was something going on, but it was a hybrid.

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# Feeling funny in my mind, Lord

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# I believe I'm fixing to die... #

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At that period in time the great change was coming.

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# I don't mind dying

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# But I hate to leave my children crying... #

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You go from Gene Vincent and that precocious sexually-charged rock music,

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into the whole social commentary that was developing.

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# Look over yonder to that burial ground... #

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The first two or three Dylan albums, that was a whole different way of telling a story.

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By 1967, the stories and the storytellers were getting weirder

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and weirder, American psychedelic music, which synthesized rock, folk, blues and jazz for the stoned

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and socially conscious, showed Plant a world of possibilities.

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We were always looking west for musical form.

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The whole idea of a psychedelic movement in the UK was based on a drug experience to some degree,

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but there was no foundation for it, there was no train of thought, and a process that actually

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allowed the thing to grow out of the coffee bar folk scenes of Greenwich village and the Troubadour in LA.

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We didn't really have that, so sadly, the British psychedelic movement was

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almost trivial and some sort of novelty thing.

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# Close my eyes and drift away... #

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So after the various bands that had been in, I ended up with the Band Of Joy

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and with John Bonham and heading into a blues-based zone,

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but by that time incorporating the effects that Dylan had created in the American culture

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on the west coast.

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Band Of Joy combined blues and psychedelia, songs and extended musical workouts.

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A little taste of flower power, but with an emphasis on the power.

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# Something happening here

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# What it is ain't exactly clear... #

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Bonzo was totally and utterly devoted to getting it right.

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Everything he listened to he could go beyond.

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Not only could he recreate it but take it somewhere new.

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# Stop, yeah, what's that sound

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# Everybody look what's going down... #

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He knew that he was a powerhouse among drummers.

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# ..what's going down... #

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So he was pretty hard to deal with, and so was I,

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because I felt exactly the same about what I was doing.

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Even though we were obnoxious to everybody else, we seemed to have great affinity for each other.

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# Paranoia striking deep

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# To your mind... #

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There was a lot of edge to it. It meant neither of us could slacken off.

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So the Band of Joy was quite an energy centre.

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# Baby, baby, please come home, yeah... #

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I hear it and its effects in the early stuff that we did with Jimmy and John Paul,

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definitely because we pushed it and pushed it to try to make it so special,

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that it was earth-shattering, and we did it.

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We did it. I'm here on behalf of the two of us to say that at times we did it.

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1967, the Band of Joy joined a British underground club circuit, now dominated by

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blues rock, folk rock, jazz rock and progressive rock.

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We were really rotating around an amazing club scene.

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It was great. Because it was vibrant, it was really all you could

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have ever wished for as a musician, to be playing to people who got it.

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But they didn't get the Band Of Joy. Penniless, Bonham and Plant were forced, temporarily,

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to go their separate ways.

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# Come tomorrow

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# Would I be bolder

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# Than today... #

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But news of Plant's vocal power reached the ears of Jimmy Page, guitarist for The Yardbirds,

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with the departure of their vocalist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty,

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Page was looking to transform the band into something called The New Yardbirds,

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but with the addition of Plant and later his drummer pal John Bonham, the band was rechristened.

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Those guys were kicking it, but it had expired, so rebuild.

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Rebuild and see what it turns into.

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When something is as radically different as what it turned in to,

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obviously it is a new day entirely.

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And that old name is history.

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# Baby

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# How could you do it

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# Baby

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# How could you do it

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# I don't know what it is I like about you

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# But I like it a lot

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# Oh, let me hold you

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# Let me feel your loving

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# Communication breakdown

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# It's always the same

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# Having a total breakdown

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# Drive me insane

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# Oh-h-h-h... #

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We didn't really know the worth of what was coming round the corner.

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Everybody involved in that project,

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from Peter Grant through to everybody that was playing, and Jimmy and John Paul,

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who actually financed it in its early stages, were all just seeing, what is this thing all about?

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As you know a million times it's been said within five minutes we've got something,

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which was quite unusual.

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In a way almost

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so

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intense and

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on that it was overwhelming really.

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# See my baby coming down the track

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# Is my baby coming back

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# Some day she gets back to me

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# We're gonna raise a family... #

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Having John in the picture, my sort of

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inflammable pal,

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made it so much better and so much more realistic.

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There was nothing phoney about it at all, it was just, boom.

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It was coming from the era of virtuosity,

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it was about being good, and the

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chemistry and weave between greatness, to be knocked out.

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# You had an abuse

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# Telling all of your lies

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# Sweet little baby, baby

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# How you hypnotise... #

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I have always felt slightly remote and slightly...

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..yeah, not insular,

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but my role in all that really was peppering the musical moments on the more elongated pieces of music.

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I always think about it as being that little melody that runs through all middle of that great playing.

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But first, hear this...

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-It's cool, groovy, it's number one, the Led Zeppelin.

-The Led what?

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The Led Zeppelin, but I'm afraid and you and other dads like you may have never heard of them,

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but this British group has made musical history today.

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Readers of the Melody Maker have voted them the top world group.

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The significance is The Beatles held this for eight years.

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The year is 1970, only two years after their formation,

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Led Zeppelin have already become an international success story - the greatest rock band in the world.

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# Shake for me, girl

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# I wanna be your backdoor man... #

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Globe-trotting tours, chart-topping albums and scandalous stories

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of rock'n'roll excess, were already part of a growing

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Zeppelin mythology, made all the more tantalising by their increasing avoidance of the media.

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TV interviews were extremely rare.

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Do you think as musicians you can last as long as eight years? Will you be inventive enough?

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I remember when I first went to see The Beatles - we've mentioned them a few times -

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it was to look at them.

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You didn't bother what you were listening to. Today it is not what you are, it is what you are playing.

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You must be quite rich now, what is it like having money?

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To have money at last is just another figure in my mind of mass acceptance,

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which is what we all work for.

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Everybody, however much they like to deny the fact,

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really wants in the end, to be accepted by

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majority of people, for being either a talent or a commodity.

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So invincible were Led Zeppelin that they became band apart in a world where hugeness and greatness,

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record sales and artistic achievement become thoroughly confused.

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CHEERING

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There is a consensus of opinion that decides that greatness will survive.

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There are huge, vast pockets of other music, which are equally spectacular,

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but for marginally different reasons -

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they never quite got that huge acceptance and mass hysteria.

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CHEERING

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So a miss is as good as a mile in way.

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It's that great thing about Forever Changes, the Love album,

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how did that never be successful?

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And yet it continues forever to always be part of the soundtrack of millions of people's lives.

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Funny old game that.

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Zeppelin, and Robert Plant in particular, had cornered the market in raw rock'n'roll sexuality.

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Something that now sits uneasily with man who, back in the day, epitomised the rock god.

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The estimation of any group of people about any one person is always

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generally a million miles from where it's really at.

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So, therefore, if I have a surge in creativity and it sticks to the wall for a while,

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which is what's been happening recently,

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points of reference for the media are so cliched, it's frightening.

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You cannot judge anybody's work by just going to the spikes and saying,

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because my spikes are the bits that nobody really thinks about.

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My spikes were getting off the plane in 1972 and driving into the Atlas Mountains with a tape machine,

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exploring Berber singers in the fields, walking through farmers' markets

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in the middle of nowhere with a rattle of drums in the corner.

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RHYTHMIC DRUMBEAT PLAYS

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Those were the moments that are so far away from rock god, but they were spectacular.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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But with the unpredictable highs came unexpected lows.

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In 1977 Robert Plant lost his oldest son, Karac,

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to a virus at the age of five.

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Three years later, drummer John Bonham also died, aged 32.

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All of us individually had been thinking about what would happen next, no matter what.

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Because the illusion had run its course.

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I had already,

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as part of my beautiful family, lost my boy.

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And then you think, I really have to decide what to do.

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I applied to become a teacher...

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..in the Rudolf Steiner education system.

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I was accepted to go to teacher training college, this was in 1978.

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I was really quite keen to just walk,

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because as much as it was spectacular, it also wasn't spectacular.

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You know, you do change as the days go by, you have to get harder and tougher,

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but you still have this soft underbelly.

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John had lured me back in...

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not lured, that's wrong, John had

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been incredibly supportive to me.

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So to lose John was

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that was the end of any naivety.

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It was very, very evident that my last connection was severed, really.

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As far as

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strong affairs of the heart and a confederacy and stuff, it was gone.

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On the 4th December 1980, Led Zeppelin announced, with the death of their

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drummer, John Bonham, the band would split.

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We don't have to talk about it for too long, because it is such old ground.

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It was something that you come away from going I could never be as good as that

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in any other place, or any other moment than that, which just happened.

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You just find some way of getting home.

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Plant's long journey home began with a trip to Rockfield, a sales studio

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on the Welsh borders, to record two albums in quick succession.

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This was Robert Plant 1980s-style, suited, booted

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and ever so slightly sheared, this was Robert Plant out on his own.

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# Slipped through the window by the back door

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# Caught short in transit with my love... #

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If this is entertainment, if it was entertainment, then it was time to entertain, myself.

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So I decided to make two records really quickly, and start to embrace new ideas and new people.

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Really from that moment on I decided I would never let the grass

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grow under my feet, that I was a man of the world, as a player

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and as a player in every respect.

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I really wanted to see what was out there.

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Shit or bust, it was going to be exactly how I wanted it to be.

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# Just playing hooky with my heart... #

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Something Plant had to face, once he was back in the studio,

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was the absence of his old partner in crime, John Bonham.

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To have a drummer after working with John since I was 16, or whatever,

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to turn around and see somebody else there is

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a bit of a weird thing to be thinking about.

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Phil Collins turned up.

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He'd been such a huge fan of John's work, and he fired every session

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and blasted the room with butane and energy.

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He got on everybody's case if people were slack,

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if they weren't quite on it, he would stand up and make points

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with his drumstick and frowning that frown across the room,

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which gave me great confidence.

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I would still tiptoe in, I was 32 years old, my career had ended.

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Anything that came after that was

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my business entirely.

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When we saw him next in 1982, Robert Plant was a solo artist.

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Did it take a lot of courage on your part to make a solo album after 12 years?

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I guess so, it was a little uncomfortable to begin with, after being with

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Jimmy for so long and Jonesy and Bonzo,

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it's a little weird to walk on as a guest.

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You are so used to working in the confines of one set-up.

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Is it fair to say officially now to these people and the nation, that

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Led Zeppelin will not work together any more?

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No.

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It is not fair to say?

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No, they won't work together again, it's gone.

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# Have you heard the news... #

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Plant returned to his teens and his love of American rock'n'roll vocalists

0:25:290:25:33

for a third solo album in 1984, recorded with his short lived all-star band The Honeydrippers.

0:25:330:25:40

It is like, "Now what's he done?

0:25:400:25:43

"Plant has done it again." It's like a Just William book, or Jennings and Derbyshire.

0:25:430:25:49

# Pretty soon they had done it all

0:25:500:25:52

# Those fellas got drunk and they had a ball... #

0:25:520:25:55

Ahmet Ertegun had signed Zeppelin to Atlantic and also happened to sign Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin,

0:25:550:26:03

The Coasters, The Drifters, Modern Jazz Quartet, John Coltrane, the Iron Butterfly,

0:26:030:26:10

Crosby Stole The Stash.

0:26:100:26:12

I used to go out with him and Phil Spector in New York around clubs,

0:26:120:26:17

we would end up in a corner, inebriated, singing outros of Gene Vincent songs

0:26:170:26:22

and touching on a Gene Pitney classic.

0:26:220:26:25

He used to say all you do is you have all this stuff in your head, all this phrasing and vocal stuff,

0:26:260:26:32

you should do some songs like that.

0:26:320:26:35

# He can go... #

0:26:390:26:41

The Honeydrippers thing arrived, I think I called it Volume One,

0:26:410:26:45

because the idea of there being a volume two was a hoot.

0:26:450:26:50

# Do you remember when we met

0:26:580:27:02

# That's day I knew you were mine

0:27:040:27:08

# I want to tell you

0:27:080:27:11

# How much I love you... #

0:27:120:27:16

I know that people think some of the things that

0:27:180:27:20

I have done have been a bit sort of, "God, did you hear his '80s shit?"

0:27:200:27:24

First sampling, the first computerised technology, which sounds so awful now.

0:27:290:27:34

That '80s thing where we all want to walk the plank.

0:27:370:27:41

# What kind of fool am I?

0:27:410:27:44

# Why do you take an eye for an eye... #

0:27:460:27:49

In truth, I think it's great.

0:27:500:27:53

I was trying stuff out that you don't go near.

0:27:530:27:57

And you will never go near again because it was

0:27:570:27:59

quite horrendous, in a way, but at least it was worth a shot.

0:27:590:28:02

Throughout the '80s and early '90s, Plant worked with an ever-changing cast of musicians,

0:28:130:28:19

as part of an open-house policy.

0:28:190:28:21

No longer the isolated singer of his Led Zeppelin days, stranded in the middle of the music,

0:28:210:28:26

he was becoming a part of the play, not a stage-strutting front man, but a bona fide band leader.

0:28:260:28:33

I offer so many ideas and so much input to all the pieces I'm part of.

0:28:330:28:40

But it's not always a musician's approach to it, so I have to use humour, and I'm delicate.

0:28:400:28:47

INAUDIBLE

0:28:480:28:51

I'm not showing everybody how to do it on a beautiful...Martin,

0:28:560:29:00

And saying, "If you do this..."

0:29:000:29:03

Therefore I have to adopt and become this other personality.

0:29:030:29:08

A kind of

0:29:080:29:10

self-serving ringmaster.

0:29:100:29:12

# So throw it down, Cleveland rain

0:29:170:29:19

# The Queen of love has flown again

0:29:200:29:24

# Seek her daughter... #

0:29:240:29:26

After ten years apart, Plant and Page reunited in 1994,

0:29:290:29:34

to re-imagine parts of Led Zeppelin's valuable back catalogue.

0:29:340:29:38

This time working with an Egyptian orchestra

0:29:380:29:41

and travelling to Marrakesh to collaborate with the local Gnawa tribespeople and musicians.

0:29:410:29:46

Plant was at last coming to terms with a past that until now he had attempted to bury.

0:29:460:29:51

Personally speaking I have been wanting to work with Robert for a long time.

0:29:540:29:58

We both agreed that we would have to do something that was within a new light.

0:29:580:30:02

Maybe if we were to do the old numbers it would be like

0:30:020:30:05

possibly the same picture in a different frame.

0:30:050:30:09

It's quite consoling, I was worried about it being a cliche, but when you're doing it, it's great.

0:30:090:30:14

# Woman, baby

0:30:170:30:18

# Woman, my baby

0:30:190:30:21

# When I see, baby

0:30:270:30:28

# When I see the way you say... #

0:30:290:30:33

I spent time working with Jimmy in the mid-1990s and I was very, very happy with the results at that time,

0:30:370:30:46

working with this small Egyptian orchestra

0:30:460:30:50

and revisiting old songs without it being,

0:30:500:30:54

putting new life or a different life into those songs was fantastic.

0:30:540:30:58

# Let the sun beat down on my face

0:30:580:31:03

# Stars to full my dream

0:31:030:31:06

# I am a traveller of both time and space

0:31:080:31:12

# To be where I have been

0:31:120:31:15

# To sit with elders of a gentle race

0:31:190:31:26

# This world has seldom seen

0:31:260:31:28

# And talk of days for which they sit and wait

0:31:280:31:37

# All will be revealed. #

0:31:370:31:41

If you go to Marrakech and film and work with the Gnawa spectacular.

0:31:410:31:46

# Wah, wah, wah

0:31:460:31:48

# Wah, wah

0:31:480:31:50

# Give me peace of mind And let me dance

0:31:520:31:55

# And bury all my pain

0:31:550:31:57

# In years beneath the sand

0:31:590:32:02

# Oh, la, la

0:32:020:32:03

# Ya, ya. #

0:32:030:32:06

To actually change that Wah Wah song, from their traditional

0:32:060:32:11

wah wah, which is a north African top ten favourite for the last 1,000 years,

0:32:110:32:17

I wrote these lyrics about it,

0:32:170:32:19

which were substantial enough to work alongside.

0:32:190:32:22

We interacted, it was a great thing to do.

0:32:220:32:25

Great thing to do, and really quite dramatic.

0:32:250:32:29

And, at times quite beautiful.

0:32:290:32:31

But enough's enough. When Strange Sensation first appeared, we could fly by a new flag.

0:32:420:32:48

I could, you know. The wheeze inside me were all very pleased.

0:32:480:32:51

In 2002, Plant conducted a musical experiment of Frankenstein proportions.

0:32:590:33:05

The emerging creature was appropriately called The Strange Sensation.

0:33:050:33:09

It was almost like a brainstorm, every rehearsal.

0:33:110:33:16

Created from pieces of Portishead, Massive Attack, Jah Wobble and Cast,

0:33:180:33:23

the Strange Sensation reignited Plant's solo career

0:33:230:33:26

and earned him his best reviews since the now distant days of Led Zeppelin.

0:33:260:33:30

Five remarkable guys, fantastic melange of music.

0:33:340:33:39

Every member was coming from another great place.

0:33:390:33:43

# This is the land where I live

0:33:460:33:49

# Painted all over golden

0:33:490:33:51

# Take a little sunshine

0:33:510:33:54

# Spread it all around... #

0:33:540:33:55

I had never seen so many leads, jack plugs and good intentions in one room, ever.

0:33:580:34:04

It was a workshop for another world, really.

0:34:040:34:10

# This is the love that I give

0:34:100:34:13

# These are the arms for the holding

0:34:130:34:16

# Turn on your love light

0:34:160:34:17

# Shine it all around... #

0:34:170:34:19

It was that marriage of what I experienced in 1972 in the foothills of the Atlas mountains.

0:34:220:34:28

Suddenly that was there in that room.

0:34:280:34:30

I was such a fan of what we were doing.

0:34:300:34:33

# Shine it all around... #

0:34:330:34:40

That was probably where I was bound to go as a group member.

0:34:430:34:48

If anybody had given me the key to that, and said soon, one day,

0:34:480:34:54

this is what you're going to sound like, it would be been like...

0:34:540:34:58

Surprisingly, Plant's first album with the band was a collection

0:35:150:35:18

of mostly blues and folk remakes, more important intimate songs from the soundtrack of his own life.

0:35:180:35:24

The centrepiece of which was a cover of the Tim Buckley classic, Song To The Siren.

0:35:240:35:28

This cover's everywhere, Zeppelin I was Otis Rush.

0:35:280:35:32

Led Zeppelin II was Willie Dixon.

0:35:320:35:37

I guess with Dreamland I really wanted to touch that psychedelic nerve.

0:35:390:35:46

# Did I dream

0:35:460:35:48

# You dreamed about me

0:35:500:35:52

# Were you hare

0:35:550:35:58

# And I was fox

0:35:580:35:59

# Now my foolish boat is leaning

0:36:020:36:09

# Broken lovelorn on your rocks. #

0:36:120:36:16

To visit Song To The Siren, some songs you think you can't touch.

0:36:180:36:21

That particular song is spectacular.

0:36:210:36:23

I just saw so much of myself in there.

0:36:270:36:29

As I do in quite a lot of songs that I sing of other people's.

0:36:310:36:35

Mostly I've got to be in awe of the lyric.

0:36:350:36:38

I've got to think that I can't match that.

0:36:420:36:45

# Waiting to hold you. #

0:36:460:36:51

But Plant still had a strange unshakeable sensation of his own.

0:37:030:37:07

I was rockaday Johnny in the middle of it as well.

0:37:070:37:11

I think...

0:37:110:37:13

that...

0:37:130:37:15

I didn't need to be rockaday Johnny any more.

0:37:150:37:19

If we ever work again I shall definitely be playing a baritone ukulele.

0:37:190:37:24

Strange sensations are often felt more acutely in strange surroundings,

0:37:280:37:33

so Plant and his new band sought more exotic places to perform.

0:37:330:37:37

Taking that music into Tunisia and playing at night-time with the mosque and the minaret illuminated.

0:37:410:37:47

The show being opened by Lebanese speed metal bands,

0:37:500:37:55

it's like the world is opening up.

0:37:550:37:58

It got me further and further away from the kind of UK festival scene,

0:38:030:38:09

as we know it, and more and more into playing with all those people

0:38:090:38:16

who you get 45 minutes of absolute beauty.

0:38:160:38:19

By now Plant was venturing far from the well-trodden track

0:38:300:38:33

of the established attention-hungry rock star.

0:38:330:38:36

So far it might have seen like a flight from fame, a glorious self-imposed exile.

0:38:360:38:43

In 2005, along with members of Strange Sensation,

0:38:430:38:46

he journeyed to Mali to play at the Festival In The Desert, the most remote music festival in the world.

0:38:460:38:53

I went on a plane which was full of

0:38:550:38:58

crackpots and extremists.

0:38:580:39:00

There was sort of a plane that had come out of a comic,

0:39:000:39:03

where we loaded up and I realised that everybody was going to the same place.

0:39:030:39:08

We landed somewhere in southern Morocco,

0:39:130:39:17

and then made our way with a small team from Blue Peter.

0:39:170:39:21

We were doing a programme on the current educational situation in Mali.

0:39:210:39:26

They had a tiny plane that they got from some Christian zealots,

0:39:260:39:32

who ferried people around Africa for a sum of money.

0:39:320:39:35

So we got on board, we followed a river all the way up,

0:39:410:39:45

so it was desert, desert, desert, and one patch of green.

0:39:450:39:50

The patch of green was where Ali Farka Toure had taken his income from

0:39:500:39:55

the album he had made with Ry Cooder to some artesian wells in the desert

0:39:550:40:00

and created a garden of avocados and salads and tomatoes,

0:40:000:40:05

his contribution back to his people.

0:40:050:40:09

We landed and made our way up towards the festival.

0:40:110:40:16

60 kilometres north of Timbuktu, by no roads, nothing at all,

0:40:170:40:22

just guys driving by the occasional tree that they know.

0:40:220:40:26

The rhythms of the Mississippi Blues, the translike sounds of psychedelia

0:40:570:41:02

and the vocal expressions of a continent could all be heard in the darkness of the desert night.

0:41:020:41:08

Everything Robert Plant could ever have wished for.

0:41:080:41:11

# Hey! I believe he's out of love

0:41:240:41:29

# Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. #

0:41:290:41:33

To play with Umu Sangare,

0:41:340:41:37

an amazing singer and artist,

0:41:370:41:41

just out of this world,

0:41:410:41:43

for me to be able to find something in my back pocket

0:41:430:41:48

that would fit in amongst all that was serendipity. It was fantastic.

0:41:480:41:53

THEY PLAY "WHOLE LOTTA LOVE" ON LOCAL INSTRUMENTS

0:41:560:41:59

It was like one of those huge spikes of revelation in your life

0:42:030:42:08

in every respect, not just as a performer,

0:42:080:42:13

but as a man.

0:42:130:42:16

If the tunes of Led Zeppelin were never that far away, the rock god

0:42:280:42:31

image of its ex-frontman was being buried deep in the desert sands.

0:42:310:42:36

I learn every day. I learn that the rockaday Johnny thing has got to go

0:42:360:42:42

a bit further back in the box, keep the lid down on it a bit.

0:42:420:42:47

Look at people who change for their own stimulation.

0:42:490:42:53

Look at Peter Gabriel.

0:42:580:43:01

Peter reinvents on about a five-year turn around.

0:43:010:43:06

MUSIC: "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel

0:43:060:43:09

Look at Scott Walker.

0:43:090:43:11

MUSIC: "Make It Easy On Yourself" by The Walker Brothers

0:43:110:43:15

I used to open the show for the Walker Brothers when I was 15

0:43:170:43:20

at Kidderminster Town Hall, you couldn't hear them for the screams of the girls and Scott was elevated.

0:43:200:43:28

I'm sure there was at least nine inches between his feet and the stage.

0:43:280:43:33

He just drifted through this miasma of female want,

0:43:330:43:37

and meanwhile his van was being festooned with more and more lipstick

0:43:370:43:42

that Bonzo and I were so pissed off we got some lipstick and did our own van.

0:43:420:43:47

MUSIC: "Farmer In The City" by Scott Walker

0:43:470:43:50

Then Scott moves left and right through Jacques Brel to Farmer In The City to brilliant.

0:43:520:43:58

We'll make the record and never play it again and never listen to it, but he's done it.

0:44:000:44:05

Two or three times I played that,

0:44:110:44:14

without medical assistance, and I think it's...

0:44:140:44:18

Does he care?

0:44:180:44:19

Is chronology anything to do with it? Not at all.

0:44:190:44:22

It used to be said that the song remains the same,

0:44:270:44:30

but if Plant's music is now in a permanent state of reinvention,

0:44:300:44:34

we have to seek familiarity elsewhere.

0:44:340:44:36

Luckily, it seems we can always rely on the presence of those long blonde tresses.

0:44:360:44:42

-You've still got the hair?

-I put it on in the car park.

0:44:420:44:46

MUSIC: "When The Music's Over" by The Doors

0:44:460:44:49

I cancelled my subscription to the resurrection, who said that?

0:44:490:44:52

Jim Morrison, it's all about that great gang, once upon time,

0:44:520:44:57

when there were changes to be made and music was a catalyst for a lot of beautiful change.

0:44:570:45:04

That's why sad old hippies still keep their hair long,

0:45:080:45:12

because we were part of something that meant something more than just ego and income.

0:45:120:45:18

Sad hold hippies will also try anything in the spirit of exploration, musical or otherwise.

0:45:220:45:27

With the exception of one duet, sung with Sandy Denny in 1971,

0:45:270:45:33

Plant's voice had never been entwined with that of a woman.

0:45:330:45:36

Why not surprise everyone yet again,

0:45:360:45:39

and see what an unlikely partnership with bluegrass star Alison Krauss might produce.

0:45:390:45:45

I knew that she was a spectacular singer but I also knew that she was very delicate.

0:45:450:45:50

With performing and subscribing to a part of American music I didn't really get that much.

0:45:500:45:56

But we had a couple of phone calls which were very humorous,

0:45:560:46:01

and I realised she was also somebody who wanted to try something else out.

0:46:010:46:06

We shipped our shelves to Cleveland, Ohio, rehearsed a little bit

0:46:070:46:11

with Justin and I persuaded Los Lobos to bring their Mexican instruments.

0:46:110:46:16

# Black girl, black girl

0:46:200:46:23

# Don't lie to me

0:46:230:46:26

# Tell me where did you sleep last night. #

0:46:260:46:31

If I use the word "deep", it's all for the best reasons.

0:46:310:46:36

She's deep,

0:46:360:46:38

is what they say down there in Tennessee.

0:46:380:46:41

In November 2004, Plant and Krauss debuted their singing partnership at the Cleveland Symphony Hall

0:46:470:46:53

in a tribute to Leadbelly for the rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame museum.

0:46:530:46:58

It was an amazing night, because it's that thing where you suddenly

0:47:040:47:09

see all of the things that you have done flying before you,

0:47:090:47:14

and after you and round you like a cartoon of somebody being knocked out.

0:47:140:47:18

You see the spiral of stars and exclamation marks.

0:47:180:47:23

I'm next to a beautiful woman who can sing like an angel and knows exactly what she wants.

0:47:230:47:31

And, we did it.

0:47:310:47:35

# I'm going where the cold wind blows. #

0:47:350:47:41

I thought, Jeez, what is that?

0:47:430:47:45

That's got to come back again.

0:47:470:47:49

# You caused to me to leave my home. #

0:47:520:47:58

This serenity

0:47:590:48:02

of women, it should be the collective noun for those women down there,

0:48:020:48:08

a serenity, and you know damn well that's not true.

0:48:080:48:11

On paper it looked like the music industry's number one nomination for the odd couple category,

0:48:150:48:20

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, the hills of the Black Country and the hills of Tennessee.

0:48:200:48:26

Lemon squeezing in Louisiana, whatever next?

0:48:260:48:31

# I got a woman with plenty of money

0:48:330:48:37

# She got the money and I got the honey.

0:48:410:48:45

She nurtured me through this thing,

0:48:450:48:48

she liked the idea of my voice and hers.

0:48:480:48:51

We obviously knew it worked tonally, and personality wise, the two voices really did blend great.

0:48:510:48:58

But I got a lot to learn, hey presto, I was born again.

0:48:580:49:03

-MAKING SOUNDS INTO MIC:

-Tss! Tss! Do you hear it?

0:49:030:49:08

-It's working right now.

-OK.

0:49:080:49:09

I want whatever she tried to get rid of.

0:49:090:49:11

'It was incredibly nerve-wracking,

0:49:130:49:19

because the challenge is,

0:49:190:49:22

can an old dog ever learn a new trick?

0:49:220:49:25

# Some sunny day, baby

0:49:340:49:37

# When everything seems OK, baby

0:49:370:49:39

# You'll wake up and find that you're alone

0:49:390:49:43

# Cos I'll be gone Gone, gone, gone

0:49:440:49:48

# Really gone Gone, gone, gone

0:49:490:49:54

# Because you could be wrong. #

0:49:540:49:55

Over an eight-month period, Plant, Krauss and their producer, guitarist T-Bone Burnett,

0:49:570:50:01

assembled a delicate mix of country songs, lesser known R&B numbers, blues and folk,

0:50:010:50:07

for what became a Grammy-gobbling album.

0:50:070:50:10

Every night we discussed more and more music, and more and more and more and more,

0:50:100:50:14

and the doors kept opening and CDs kept flying out and the downloads kept coming in.

0:50:140:50:20

Bollocks!

0:50:230:50:24

Because I knew about American music but I didn't know about mountain music.

0:50:240:50:28

# Oh sister, let's go down Down to the river to pray... #

0:50:280:50:36

I didn't know about the hills of Tennessee,

0:50:360:50:38

about the whole twang and the sourness of their harmonies.

0:50:380:50:42

# But I don't worry, honey

0:50:420:50:45

# Let them say what they will

0:50:450:50:49

# Come on and stick with me baby

0:50:510:50:56

# We'll find a way. #

0:50:580:51:01

-OVER-THE TOP SOUTHERN US ACCENTS:

-You did a real good job.

-And I love you, honey.

0:51:010:51:06

Will you work with me again?

0:51:060:51:09

No sooner had a country star Robert Plant arrived in the autumn of 2007,

0:51:090:51:14

than Led Zeppelin reformed for a one-off tribute concert to mark the passing

0:51:140:51:19

of Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun in December.

0:51:190:51:22

The world now had many Plants to contend with.

0:51:220:51:25

For me, it's kind of like that Christmas feeling.

0:51:250:51:28

Santa Claus is coming and you're like a child waiting for the biggest present

0:51:280:51:33

you have ever waited for in your whole life.

0:51:330:51:36

Having not played publicly for over two decades,

0:51:390:51:41

Zeppelin took to the stage, albeit without John Bonham, but behind the drums sat his only son, Jason.

0:51:410:51:48

This was one of the most coveted tickets in rock history.

0:51:480:51:52

# Eyes that shine burning red... #

0:51:520:51:56

Zeppelin stormed the O2,

0:52:080:52:10

and the 64,000 question started to rear its ugly head again.

0:52:100:52:14

Robert Plant came here thinking we were gonna ask him the same question everyone is asking,

0:52:140:52:19

but we're gonna ask him anyway.

0:52:190:52:21

Can we dim the lights and have some appropriate music.

0:52:210:52:24

MUSIC: Theme from "Mastermind"

0:52:240:52:25

Thank you very much. Name Robert Plant, occupation, rock God.

0:52:250:52:28

Are Led Zeppelin going to go on tour?

0:52:280:52:30

Steve Bull is now the manager of Stafford Rangers.

0:52:300:52:32

His first home game is on Saturday. Please turn up.

0:52:320:52:35

They say there's going to be 3,000 or 4,000 and he's buying a striker.

0:52:350:52:40

-Is that a yes or a no?

-I feel a funny feeling coming on!

0:52:400:52:46

That was a "no".

0:52:460:52:49

You should have been a politician with the inability to answer a direct question.

0:52:490:52:54

Plant and Alison Krauss have yet to repeat their run away success together.

0:52:590:53:04

Krauss returned to her bluegrass roots, but Plant was on a roll.

0:53:040:53:08

He returned to Tennessee and created an entirely new band.

0:53:080:53:11

This time in collaboration with Emmylou Harris's guitarist,

0:53:110:53:15

Buddy Miller and featuring guest singer/songwriter, Pattie Griffin.

0:53:150:53:18

Plant christened them The Band of Joy.

0:53:180:53:22

His nod to a pre-Led Zeppelin past while restlessly moving on...again.

0:53:220:53:26

Two hours ago when I started talking to you, I said we were in it, shit or bust.

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The Band of Joy was no matter what we believed.

0:53:360:53:40

Therefore, we played accordingly, with great extravagance and aplomb and indulge and "baaaah"!

0:53:400:53:47

I really felt, as we started to develop this record,

0:53:470:53:51

in a more mature way I was doing the same thing again in a way.

0:53:510:53:55

# Tonight you will be mine

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# Tonight the monkey dies. #

0:54:040:54:10

The subtlety in this is the counterpoint

0:54:120:54:17

to the bravado in the original Band of Joy.

0:54:170:54:22

It's the same deal, but it's a bit more internal.

0:54:220:54:26

Since going to Tennessee, I've heard the most spectacular songwriters,

0:54:380:54:42

and I was kind of fishing out beautiful little pieces of other people's work,

0:54:420:54:48

and twisting them around a bit with such remarkable musical company.

0:54:480:54:54

# Tonight the monkey dies. #

0:54:540:55:01

I played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival twice in the last three years.

0:55:010:55:05

A three-day event which is open to everyone.

0:55:050:55:10

They say 750,000 people move through it.

0:55:100:55:13

There are five stages and you have pure bluegrass, country,

0:55:130:55:18

rockabilly, singer-songwriters, it's just amazing.

0:55:180:55:23

In the middle of it all stands Ralph Stanley singing, Oh Death.

0:55:230:55:26

You go, how did I miss that for all those years? It's amazing.

0:55:260:55:32

# Oh, death

0:55:320:55:39

# Whoa, death

0:55:410:55:48

# Won't you spare me over to another year... #

0:55:480:55:55

30 years ago, Led Zeppelin crashed and burned.

0:55:560:55:59

Since then Robert Plant has wrestled the singular image of a stage straddling rock god

0:55:590:56:04

to emerge as a man of many selves, hell bent on exploring all of them.

0:56:040:56:09

Now it has to be right, and right in a very casual and easy way.

0:56:110:56:15

Meanwhile that over there was fine, but this is serious stuff.

0:56:150:56:20

I'm pretty intense,

0:56:200:56:23

so I have to unhitch some of that stuff and get it spot on in 2010.

0:56:230:56:30

When I was a kid I thought that Robert Johnson had the whole world sewn up with the lyrics,

0:56:340:56:39

the kind of sexual innuendo and stuff like that, because it was a hoot,

0:56:390:56:43

it was funny but very clever. It was fine, all fine, all fine, all fine,

0:56:430:56:49

but to actually make those work later in life, I think you have

0:56:490:56:54

to either have to be prepared to go into character, or in many respects, shelve it.

0:56:540:57:00

My grandfather was a musician, my great-grandfather was a musician.

0:57:040:57:08

They formed really important Black Country brass bands.

0:57:080:57:12

Which had posh names, but were usually known as the Dudley Port Drinking Band.

0:57:120:57:18

It goes on and on and on.

0:57:180:57:21

The only difference was they were playing Sousa marches,

0:57:210:57:24

and there was no squeeze my lemon involved, you know.

0:57:240:57:26

The only thing they had to change was their tunics as their portage increased.

0:57:260:57:31

We have to make sure we change our mind enough to make it worthwhile.

0:57:310:57:36

# Ah-ah

0:57:410:57:43

-# Ah-ah CROWD:

-# Ah-ah

0:57:450:57:48

# Ah-ah

0:57:480:57:50

# Ah-ah

0:57:500:57:51

# Ahhhhh... #

0:57:510:57:53

Whether it's an incredibly dreadful performance at Live Aid,

0:57:560:58:00

or an evening in Mali, or country music awards on CMT,

0:58:000:58:06

whatever it is they are moments.

0:58:060:58:08

If I like the idea of it and I can talk myself into these positions,

0:58:080:58:12

I'm going to do it because it's just crazy.

0:58:120:58:15

How many mes are there?

0:58:160:58:18

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:300:58:32

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:320:58:34

Robert Plant discusses his musical journey from Stourbridge, the British blues boom, superstardom with Led Zeppelin in the 70s, to the Band of Joy album. He also looks at his work with the Honeydrippers and North African musicians, his reunion with Jimmy Page and his pairing with Alison Krauss.


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