Page and Plant are keen to pick up where Led Zeppelin left off, but, as Pierre Perrone found out, the past sometimes weighs too heavily on their shoulders.
What do you do when you‘ve been hailed as one of the most influential bands of all time‘.’ You can either embrace your legacy with open artns or run away front it like the plague. For a long time. Roben Plant did the latter. Whenever anybody mentioned Led Zeppelin. the singer admits. he ‘didn‘t want to know. My attitude was: I've already done that. I don't want the responsibility of living up to people‘s idyllic idea ofthe past. I can't carry that baggage around my neck. Fuck Led Zeppelin!‘
Indeed. whenever he did get together with guitarist Jimmy Page (Live Aid. Atlantic Records‘ 40th anniversary. the Now And Zen album). ‘the expectations were too much. It always seemed to happen quickly. for a good cause or for a specific track. but we never had any chance to take it further. We were always stuck with doing “Stairway To
‘The Welsh were a different tribe from what’s left of central England . . . They were a pulsating society which was built on a whole different wavelength.’
Heaven" or something instead ofexploring other avenues.‘ So when MTV asked Plant to appear on Unplugged as a solo artist. the legendary vocalist was puzzled as to what was expected of him. ‘I knew they wanted me to do some Led Zeppelin stuff. and the only way I could think of being up to it was to team up with the one guy who knew where l was coming from.‘ he confesses.
Page picks up the story: ‘The MTV thing was the catalyst which forced us to think about things and talk constructively about working together. We were aware of the traps and also of the possibilities.‘ quips the guitarist. usually the quiet one. He confirms that the two musicians instantaneously knew they couldn't trot out old favourites like ‘Rock And Roll'. ‘lmmigrant Song' and ‘Whole Lotta Love'. ‘We had to try and write together again. to see ifwe still had that creative spark between us. That was the real incentive for getting back together again.‘
French musician Martin Meissonier had given Page and Plant some drum loops and they set about constructing new material around those. As Plant. always the more voluble of the pair. explains. ‘Led Zeppelin was always about exploring music from other cultures. From 1971. we travelled a lot. to Asia and India in particular. At the time. we even did an impromptu session in Bombay with an orchestra. which is on a great bootleg. and Morocco has always fascinated me. I‘ve been going there a lot since l98()
and I find their music hypnotic. enthralling. It‘s not really because it‘s exotic. it‘s more because there‘s no commercial side to it. They make music to celebrate events like weddings. circutncisions. life in general. These musical occasions become part of their social calendar.‘
Moving from creating new music with the help of foreign musicians in a London TV studio to actually recording on location in front of cameras transformed the original (“tip/rigged format into something of a travelogue and a musical quest for the band’s soul and roots. The duo and accompanying players seemed at case. whether they were in the middle of a Marrakesh souk or on the side of a Welsh hill.
Page is quick to point out that. ‘Robert has had an affinity with Wales for many years. As with Morocco. it’s a place we‘d been to in the past together and written material there. I mean. it’s pretty well documented that we wrote a lot of the third and fourth album in a cottage there. all that “Thank You". “Friends” and “Battle Of livermore" stuff.‘
Indeed. Plant is keen to play up the ‘Celtic connection'. ‘()riginally. the Welsh were a different tribe from what's left of central lingland and they have a different past. a different poetry. their gods were different. They were a pulsating society which was built on a whole different wavelength and sometimes._iust sometimes. you can still feel it there.‘ liar out. man!
He confirms that the duo relished 'the opportunity to enlarge the arrangement of the old songs by bringing in extra personnel. Once you open one area ofthe musical box. all kinds of things can happen. The Egyptian musicians had never played this kind
of material. and really illuminated our songs. The
violinist on “Kashmir” brings a lump to my throat
Page and Plant: seeking out new civilisations
This renewed confidence and creativity has obviously helped the duo come to terms with Led Zeppelin‘s inlluence on the music oftoday. Still. Page cringes w hen you mention soundalikc bands like Kingdom (‘ome and \‘v'hitesnake because Plant teases him mercilessly about working with David (‘overdale. the screaming. prcening frontman of the latter. He gets out of embarrassing himself further by falling back on ‘John Honham‘s drum parts that get sampled all over the place. from Frankie Goes To Hollywood to The Beastie Boys.‘
Plant is much happier acknowledging the bands ‘who transcend the inlluence of Led Zeppelin'. but it's Page who boasts about the hold Led Zeppelin still have over rock music. The guitarist serves as the band‘s archivist. and oversaw the release of the two L/ep boxed-sets currently on the market. ‘l)oing the remastering. you realise that our stuff is timeless. There is an incredible variety of styles. and most of it wouldn't be out of place on the radio today.’ he claims.
The lz'm'mnum covers album. featuring Stone Temple Pilots. Tori .-\tttos, J, Non-Blondes and a host ofothers paying tribute to the Yep oeuvre. is only the last link in a musical chain which traces all the way from The Yardbirds to. believe it or not. John Lydon. Page can‘t resist a smile when talking about the former Johnny Rotten. ,
‘In the Sex Pistols. he used to tnake fun of us. To the punks. we were the dinosaurs. but a few years ago he seemed to have come round to our way of thinking and Public Image opened their live shows with “Kashmir”, It all goes around. The song remains the same.‘ lndeed. gentlemen. indeed.
Page and I’lmil play the 5/11 '. Glasgow ()Il Wed /2.
The List 30 Jun-l3 Jul I995 37