Celebrating seven decades of the legendary Led Zeppelin frontman and rock’s original Golden God
I think I was about 11 or 12 when I first truly heard Led Zeppelin. But ever since I was a little boy, my Uncle George would always play his acoustic guitar for me in the house, and one of the songs he’d always play was “Over the Hills and Far Away”. Those impromptu jam sessions upstairs in his bedroom, with the giant poster of In Through The Out Door-era Zep hanging on his wall above his Holstein cow couch looking back at me, would provide the seed to a lifelong affinity for the power of Robert Plant, his voice and charisma and abandon in performance. When I got my first box of tapes from the Columbia House “Get 12 Cassettes for a Penny” scheme, it was predominantly the entire Led Zeppelin catalog with I think maybe Ramones Mania and Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It was 1988, and I was just starting 9th grade. The group of kids I fell in with in high school were all diehard Zeppelin fans, and were all talking up how great Robert Plant’s fourth solo album, Now & Zen, was. Having been a fan of both songs I heard on the radio and MTV, “Heaven Knows” and particularly the Zep throwback jam “Tall Cool One”, I picked up the album on cassette at the record shop in the Newburgh Mall called Listening Booth and it remained in heavy rotation on my Sony Sports Walkman for much of that school year along with Physical Graffiti, which I had decided was the best Led Zeppelin album of the ones I received in the mail (a stance I still strongly uphold today). Two years later in 1990, he released one of that year’s best LP’s with Manic Nirvana, which would sadly be his last full-length recording with Doug Boyle, the guitar wunderkind who helped Plant find his inner rock titan again. I was too young to appreciate his earlier, more synth-driven solo work like 1982’s Pictures at Eleven and 1983’s The Principle of Moments, but these days both titles are my go-to’s when I want to dig into some solo Plant. And The Honeydrippers, Volume One as well, no doubt. So underrated.
In 1995, me and my buddy Darran went and saw Plant’s reunion tour with Jimmy Page. As a huge fan of The Cure, it was a thrill to see Pearl Thompson and Pagey cutting heads on the MSG stage that night, especially while in the throes of such thundering renditions of Zep faves like “The Wanton Song,” “Dazed & Confused” and “Four Sticks.” The studio album Page and Plant would put out in 1998, Walking Into Clarksdale, is very much worth revisiting if you chose to overlook it 20 years ago as well. Meanwhile, the music he would make in the new century, working alongside such talents as the aforementioned Ms. Thompson (back in the Porl days), Portishead/Radiohead drummer Clive Deamer, Americana greats Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller, Nashville session giant Darrell Scott and World Music guitar hero Justin Adams among others to keep that distinctive sound he’s been developing since the dissolution of Zeppelin as a studio band through impressive works like 2002’s Dreamland, 2005’s Mighty Re-Arranger, last year’s underrated Carry Fire and, of course, his Grammy Award-winning collaborative LP with Krauss, 2007’s Raising Sand.
Sure, we can talk about those half-assed Led Zeppelin reunions that were totally forced in feeling, but why bother?
Now at 70, we can only expect the Golden God of Staffordshire to continue to honor his legacy by expanding upon it as only Robert Plant can. And to honor this milestone, please enjoy this video mixtape of some of our favorite solo Plant live tapes through the years.
Happy Birthday, Percy!