Biography of Robert Plant – the late years
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After Led Zeppelin absolved – in the spring of 1981 – Robert Plant started performing live with Honeydrippers, a rhytm and blues band which included his friend Robbie Blunt. Soon Plant and Blunt started collaborating on songwriting, and later brought in Paul Martinez on bass and Jezz Woodroffe on keyboards. To complete the line-up for recording, they added ace artists Phil Collins and Cozy Powell as drummers.
Robert produced his first solo album himself. The album, titled ‘Pictures at Eleven’, was released in June 1982, and became a success. The best song was Like I’ve Never Been Gone, a song in the spirit of Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant became separated from his wife Maureen at this time, and he later divorced her.
At the beginning Robert Plant wanted to separate his solo career from his links with Led Zeppelin. He didn’t sing any Led Zeppelin numbers for a long time. But as a postscript to the Zeppelin era, however, a collection of tracks left over from earlier recording sessions was released in November 1982 under the apt title Coda. The album had some interesting tracks, but it was relevant mainly to die-hard fans.
In January 1983 Robert Plant recorded the second solo album, The Principle of Moments. Phil Collins joined the regular members of the band. They even went on a North American tour. Big Log, a single taken from the album, became a hit in both the US and the UK. Plant even got to appear on Top Of The Pop for the first time. !He also appeared on BBC TV in Pop Quiz.
In 1984 Plant joined up again with Jimmy Page in a line-up which also included Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers. Plant kept the name Honeydrippers for this venture, recording a five-track EP called Volume One, where they played covers of other artists’ songs. One of these, Sea of Love, became a big hit single.
Plant continued his one a year releases and in 1985 he tried to experiment a little on his third, Shaken ‘n’ Stirred, but this was not so successful, neither musically, nor commercially. The best track, Little By Little, was also released as a single. The tour went reasonably well, but the band broke up in October after a disagreement.
The musical highlight of 1985 was the Live Aid concert, where Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones came together again on stage in Philadelphia, with Paul Martinez on bass, and Phil Collins and Tony Thompson on drums. Early in 1986 the three of them and Tony Thompson made a tentative start on a Led Zeppelin revival, but Thompson was injured in a car crash and the idea went no further. Maybe they were jinxed?!
Robert spent much of 1986 and 1987 putting together a new band. His regulars were Doug Boyle on guitar, Chris Blackwell on drums, and Phil Johnstone on keyboards. They were later joined by Charlie Jones on bass, succeeding Phil Scragg. Charlie Jones joined up with Plant in more ways than one by marrying his daughter Carmen.
Their first album was Now and Zen, released in February 1988. It met with some success, in part due to the song Tall Cool One and its association with Coca Cola! Jimmy Page played guitar on two of the tracks. The album sleeve features a wolf motif which bears a resemblance to the badge of Plant’s beloved football team, Wolverhampton Wanderers!
As said earlier Plant did not want to perform Led Zeppelin songs at this time. But now he had a change of mind, and started to include numbers like Trampled Under Foot in his stage act. In May 1988 they went one step further: “Led Zeppelin” reformed for Atlantic Records 40th anniversary concert, with Jason Bonham, Johns son, on drums. Robert Plant also performed as a solo artist at the concert.
Roberts next album was released in March 1990. The ‘Manic Nirvana‘ title came from a nic-name applied to Robert Plant by Bill Curbishley. The tour which accompanied it was well received by critics and public alike. In June 1990 Plant performed in the award winners’ show for the Silver Clef at Knebworth, where Jimmy Page joined the band on stage to perform a few Led Zeppelin songs, including the tune Wearing & Tearing.
Now there was a long gap to the next new album by Robert Plant. Preparation and recording proceeded at a slow pace throughout 1991 and 1992, with no major tour. In April 1992, however, Robert performed with the surviving members of Queen at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert.
The next album – Fate Of Nations – was finally released in June 1993. On this album Plant used not only his regular band but many guest musicians, including Máire Brennan, Nigel Kennedy and Richard Thompson. Guitarist Kevin Scott MacMichael also played a significant part. The album featured a variety of styles and influences. Two hit singles, 29 Palms and If I Were A Carpenter, was a result and the band went on a world tour, including a gig at Montreux and ending in South America in January 1994.
Robert Plant was one of three vocalists on Jimmy Page’s Outrider album, and Page had guested on Now And Zen. But these were all one-offs rather than long-term, and their careers had taken separate paths. Jimmy Page had worked with Paul Rodgers in The Firm, and had supervised the re-mastering of the Led Zeppelin back catalogue.
In 1994 MTV approached Plant and Page with proposals for a Led Zeppelin show in the Unplugged series. Accounts vary as to whether John Paul Jones was not invited or not interested, but Page and Plant started to develop a partnership of their own. The results were heard on No Quarter, released both as an album and as a video. The MTV show was broadcast on October 12th. The normal rock band line-up was augmented by a mandolin and a hurdy-gurdy, a sixteen-piece Egyptian ensemble, and a string orchestra. The result was a new treatment of many Zeppelin classics such as Kashmir, Thank You and Gallows Pole. Najma Akhtar guested as the second vocalist on The Battle of Evermore. There were also four new songs which drew heavily on the music of Marrakesh, where three of them were recorded. This started a new cooperation between the two ex Zeppelin icons.
In January 1995 Led Zeppelin were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, and the three surviving members of the band made another of their rare appearances together. Page and Plant were on tour more or less continuously for a year from February 1995, taking in the US, Europe, America again, Japan and Australia. As the tour progressed, they included more and more Zeppelin songs in their stage set.
In 1998 Page and Plant were back in action. A tour of Eastern Europe started in February, featuring Led Zeppelin classics but also introducing some new songs. The sound was also classic Led Zeppelin, with Charlie Jones on bass and Michael Lee on drums. A new single, Most High, was launched at the end of March with concerts in London and Paris and a number of TV appearances.
Next came a new album, Walking Into Clarksdale, released in April, which where liked by most critics. This included several strong tracks, such as When the World Was Young, Shining in the Light, Heart in Your Hand and Burning Up. In May 1998 Page and Plant embarked on a major North American tour. They continued to tour for most of that year, flying between Europe and America.
After refusing to trade on the Zeppelin reputation in the 1980s, Robert Plant took a more relaxed approach in the 1990s, attempting new styles but remembering his musical roots. Plant’s 1998 incarnation with Jimmy Page was true to the spirit of Led Zeppelin, with the Zeppelin talent for innovation which kept it new and fresh. But they ended their cooperation that year, unclear of why.
Although 1999 started out quietly for Robert, it soon led to another change of direction with a new band. This developed from a reunion between Robert and his old friend Kevyn Gammond from the Band of Joy. The idea took some time to crystallize, but ‘The Priory of Brion‘ eventually took to the road in July 1999.
They played cover versions of songs which influenced Robert and Kevyn in the early days. Songs like Gloria by Them. Another major influence was Arthur Lee, Buffalo Springfield and James Brown. At first the band performed only in the UK, usually visiting small venues with little publicity. In the spring of 2000 the “tour” went to Norway and then to Ireland, and during the summer they made several festival appearances in the UK and in continental Europe. More UK and continental dates followed in the autumn, ending in Wolverhampton just before Christmas.
At the start of 2001 Robert formed another new band, again involving Charlie Jones and Porl Thompson, and with Justin Adams on guitar, John Baggott on keyboards and Clive Deamer on drums. Originally billed as Robert Plant and his Strange Sensations on a visit to Scandinavia, they toured in North America as Strange Sensation. There were several additions to the setlist, including some Led Zeppelin classics, and the venues were regular theaters rather than small clubs. However, many of the songs from the Priory of Brion era were retained.
In 2001 Robert joined Jimmy again in a tribute to Sun Records. As part of the celebrations they played a concert in Montreux on 7th July. Robert and the Strange Sensation line-up spent some time in a recording studio late in 2001. The album that resulted was called Dreamland, released in June 2002. Tunes like Hey Joe, Darkness Darkness, In the light, Song to the Siren and Morning Dew were included. Robert and the band appeared in a charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall in February 2002, and they toured the US with The Who from July to September. October saw a UK leg of the tour, and some European dates followed the next month.
Meanwhile Robert Plant continued his solo career with an appearance at the Festival in the Desert held in Mali. Then followed another summer season of concert bookings with the Strange Sensation. In November 2003 Robert’s career as a solo artist was reflected in a major compilation album called Sixty Six to Timbuktu. This 2-CD collection includes well-known hits and rare recordings, some previously unreleased.
A new album, called Mighty Rearranger, with Strange Sensation was released in May 2005. Only Shine It All Around and The Enchanter, also released as singles, stand out. The songs were all original. The band had a full schedule of concert dates in 2005, with a short tour of the US in March followed by another in the UK and Europe. Longer visits to North America took place in summer and autumn, then more dates in Europe at the end of the year. The band also made live recordings for BBC radio and television and for the Soundstage TV series in the US.
On the 22nd of May 2006 Led Zeppelin received the Swedish Polar Music Prize from the hands of the King of Sweden. To pay tribute to Led Zeppelin, Nina Persson from The Cardigans sung “Whole Lotta Love” in a fantastic version and Maja Ivarsson from The Sounds gave her interpretation of “Rock and Roll”. The prize-giving ceremony ended with a performance from The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and their charismatic singer Ebbot of “Babe I’m gonna leave you now” by Led Zeppelin.
Jon Lord, former member of Deep Purple, read the tribute to Led Zeppelin:
“The 2006 Polar Music Prize is awarded to the British group Led Zeppelin, one of the great pioneers of rock. Their playful and experimental music combined with highly eclectic elements has two essential themes: mysticism and primal energy. These are features that have come to define the genre “hard rock”.“
In 2006 Strange Sesation were again active in Europe, with a spring tour on the continent and summer festival bookings. Remastered and expanded editions of Robert’s nine solo albums were packaged together as a boxed set with the title Nine Lives. These expanded editions became available for purchase individually in early 2007.
After a short summer tour of Europe, in the autumn of 2007 the focus was again on record company releases. A collaboration in the studio between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss resulted in an album called Raising Sand. It features the two singers and backing musicians in a variety of vocal and instrumental surroundings and moods, some of which work better than others. Rock and Roll it isn’t, but live they play some Led Zeppelin tunes, like Battle of Evermore and Black Dog in interesting versions, as well.
Robert Plant has seldom strayed far from his roots, nor musically or geographically. He has lived on a farm near Kidderminster through much of his career. His lyrics are often drawn on his longstanding interest in Celtic legends and his music is still faithful to his boyhood idols – even as his musical taste has grown and widened a great deal. But what sets him apart from every other singer is his phenomenal voice! Robert Plant is not just a singer. He uses his voice as a musical instrument in an unique way. Everybody can recognize his voice after just a few bars. It’s as unique as his long career. May it always continue!
The three surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited in the London O2 Arena amid massive publicity, for a concert tribute to Atlantic’s Ahmet Ertegun in 2007. Like at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary concert Jason Bonham, Johns son, sat in on drums. The tickets to the concert where sold in a kind of internet lottery, where only about one in a hundred fans got drawn. As always there where of course rumors about the band coming together for a longer period of time again.
But Led Zeppelin is something from the past. We should be very happy and content with that the music still exists and can be played and enjoyed over and over again. And that Robert Plant is still active and going strong. Both as a vocalist and musician and as a supporter and Vice President of the club in his heart – Wolverhampton Wanderers.
* If you want to read a biography of Robert Plant before Led Zeppelin – click HERE
* If you want to read a biography of Led Zeppelin – click HERE
* If you want to go back to the Robert Plant & Led Zeppelin main page – click HERE