Sunday, February 19, 2006

How Many More Times: Robert Plant & Led Zeppelin

I've been doing a lot of bike riding as of late and it's made me virtually one with my iPod. As of this writing I have about 2,500 tunes on it with enough space for an equal amount to add -- cool. That said, my hours long foray on my bike in L.A. traffic have availed me of tunes and groups I've loaded on it and forgotten about and one of the latter is Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin. I've said before that the Rock'n Roll that everyone in the mainstream crowd came to know and love in the late 60s - early 70s (the harder edged stuff) was lifted by whites from Black American blues artists from the 30s-40s. Still do, but not all of them sucked, I must admit. One day about two months ago I was rifling through my 'Pod while waiting for the subway doors to close at the Pershing Square Station during my morning commute, when I came across some Led Zeppelin I, Latter Days and a Best of -- albums that I'd scooped months ago and forgotten. I already knew all the tunes, obviously or I wouldn't have stored them, I realized that I hadn't heard any of them in a minute (I don't listen to the radio for music anymore, yo), so I rolled my thumb around to the play button.

I got off the train at Wilshire Western and started rolling along when "How Many More Times" started pumpin' and let me tell you it was beautiful. By the time I started climbing the hill that leads to the intersection of Western/ Venice I'd sampled "Immigrant Song," "Kashmir," "When the Levee Breaks" and "Rock and Roll" -- a tune that Cadillac now uses in adverts but still rocks when absobed in it's entirety, nonetheless. Suffice to say that by the time I pulled up to the front gates of the studio lot I was born again hard on "the Zepp," magic, son. While I've never condoned the manner in which big music companies ran roughshod over blues and R&B artists in the early days (some still do), I've got to say that there's never been a finer "appropriation" of the blues idiom made -- and yes, I've heard Cream, the Yardbirds, Paul Butterfield and the like but none of those other acts could or did pull it off consistently like the Ledd and that's word, kid. At the front of the group was vocalst Robert Plant, a dude that, surprisingly, studied accounting in school before running down the halls of Rock's Valhalla and chugging down the remaining juices in the goblet of Thor...Good muic is GOOD MUSIC...In the past I've utilized that old coin that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."I don't know whether that's here or there in this instance but it felt right when I thought it. Anyway, here's a little bit about Plant/ LZ that you may/may not know...Like he used to screech in the chorus of the tune he wrote in homage to J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional character Bilbo Baggins, in the world of music we've got to remember to "Ramble on"...Laters, CP...

Robert Plant Timeline:

1968 Robert Plant joins Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham to form the blues rock ensemble Led Zeppelin.

1980 Following the death of drummer Jon Bonham, the remaining members of Led Zeppelin announce that the supergroup will part ways.

1982 Plant makes his solo debut with the LP "Pictures At Eleven" featuring the singles "Burning Down One Side" and "Pledge Pin" which both chart modestly at #64 and #74, respectively. The LP itself, released on the Swan Song label launched by Led Zeppelin, cracks the top ten on the US album 100 on which it peaks at #5 at the zenith of it's 12 month run.

1983 In the summer, Plant debuts on his newly launched Es Paranza label. His sophomore solo set, "The Principle Of Moments" yields the pop hits "Big Log"(#20) and "In The Mood"(#39) which push the album to #8-US.

1984 In the fall of the year, Plant's supergroup "The Honeydrippers" formed with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers release their sole LP together, "Volume One." The set, produced by Rodgers, parents the pop hit "Sea Of Love"(#3-pop).

1985 Early in the year, the Honeydrippers' " Rockin' At Midnight" reaches #25-pop which helps to push it's parent to #4-US at the peak of it's eight month run on the album 100. That summer, he and Page reform Led Zeppelin (backed by Phil Collins) to perform onstage for the Live Aid benefit concert in the US. Still later, Es Paranza releases Plant's new "Shaken 'N' Stirred" containing the cut "Little By Little" (#36-pop). The album goes to #20-US.

1988 In the summer, Led Zeppelin (with drummer Jason Bonham- John's son) plays Madison Square Garden for Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary Concert. Later, Plant's new "Now And Zen", that holds the Jimmy Page collaboration "Tall Cool One"(#25-pop) hits the album 100 where it peaks at #6.

1990 "Manic Nirvana", Plant's new record, enters the US top 100 and reaches #13 at the crest of it's six month run on the charts.

1993 "Fate Of Nations" reaches #34-US on the album charts.

1994 In the fall of the year, Plant reunites with Jimmy Page to record for MTV Unplugged. The videotaped sessions also yield the material for a new album, "No Quarter", which climbs to #4-US.

1995 At the beginning of the year Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1997 Plant forms the group Priory of Brion.

1999 "Most High" garners Page and Plant a Grammy Award: Best Hard Rock Performance, at the 41st annual ceremony. Additionally, the LP "Led Zeppelin IV", released in 1971, is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Mo' Plant Facts:
  • After years of playing with local blues-rock acts in Birmingham, England, Robert Plant joins a group called Band of Joy- the drummer for the band is John Bonham. Around 1968, guitarist Jimmy Page was winding up the final chapter of the fragmenting Yardbirds. Page attempted to form a "New Yardbirds" ensemble with bassist Chris Dreja but were unable to get a vocalist to commit to the new group. After joining with session man John Paul Jones, singer Terry Reid, suggested that Page take a look at Robert Plant to front his new act. Plant got the job and suggested that they hire John Bonham from Band of Joy and Led Zeppelin was born.

  • Just before he joined the Led Zeppelin fold, in early '68 Robert Plant had began recording with British bluesman Alexis Koerner but the project never saw the light of day for obvious reasons. Koerner, a huge fan of the black American music (most specifically Chicago blues), has proven to be a huge influence on the blues rock bands that were forming in London at that time. He worked with rising stars on the London scene who would go on to reshape the world of rock, among them; the Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton. In addition to the latter, Alexis Koerner is officially the first British act to record a full length blues LP ("R&B From The Marquee"-1962)- which was subsequently followed by the "British Invasion" precipitated by the releases from the many UK acts he'd influenced.

  • In the early 80's Plant began to collab with other artists to record blues and R&B covers, which he was unable to do while a member of Led Zeppelin resulting in the formation of a side project called the Honeydrippers. A side note: "Nugetre" who's credited as a producer on the Honeydrippers LP is actually a pseudonym/ nick name used by Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records.

  • Nile Rodgers, who played with Plant in the Honeydrippers was a member of Chic with whom he recorded dance hits like "Good Times" and "Le Freak." In addition to producing some of the biggest acts of the 80's, like Madonna, Duran Duran and David Bowie- he produced the Honeydrippers' sole outing as well.

  • Raphael Ravenscroft, who played saxophone on Plant's solo debut "After Eleven" in 1982, has backed a prolific list of artist
    throughout his career, among them; Marvin Gaye, Mike Oldenfield, Pink Floyd and even ABBA. He's also the saxophonist featured on Gerry Rafferty's '78 hit "Baker Street" (#2-pop) one of the most recognizeable sax hooks in popular music.

  • In 1988, Plant submitted the LP "Now & Zen" supported by a new band that held keyboardist Phil Johnstone. Together the two would pen practically every chart hit that the new ensemble over the next few years.

  • In a clear testament to the influence and staying power of the music recorded by Robert Plant's "other group", when 1994's "No Quarter" was released the album climbed into the top ten in the US (#4) - it was primarily comprised of new recordings of Led
    Zeppelin classics.


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