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From Guitar World 12/93 Communication Breakdown ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ By Gary Graff -- Led is dead. Or so says ex-Zeppelin lemon squeezer ROBERT PLANT -- So you're Robert Plant. You made your name with Led Zeppelin. And you've spend much of your time since 1980 doing your best not to get sucked back into that bulbous vehicle--even if it meant refusing to perform "Stairway to Heaven" during the Zep reunion at Atlantic Records' 40th birthday bash in 1988. But you have also got the 14 year old son. That is Zeppelin's core demographic--teenage, male, hormonally countershifting. Who better to request some new Led Zeppelin Music? "Oh yeah, he spent about five years saying, 'Dad, why don't you do it again?'," Plant says with a laugh. "So I kept banging him over the head with Blind Lemon Jefferson. Made him listen to Howlin' Wolf, tied to a chair so he couldn't change the stereo. Now he's got it, he understands it." "I think he wanted his father to be famous again. I said, 'Look, that's not what it's all about, kid.' " At 45, Plant is simply a true believer, an ardent hippie who hasn't lost the ideals of peace, love charity and enrichment. In other words, it's not just "Tie Dye on The Highway" to him. His new album, _Fate of Nations_, is his seventh solo effort since Led Zep disbanded, and it flaunts the influence of late-Sixties California rock on his consciousness and his music. His music. This far into his solo career, Plant has a new home--much to the frustration of Jimmy Page, who has tried hard to lure the singer back to the fold and has only succeeded with a handful of one-off reunions and a Plant-sung track on Outrider (Geffen, 1988), Page's lone solo album. In fact, Plant generally eschews talking about Zeppelin or his former bandmates' activities at all. But during a break between his European tour--which found him opening for protege-of-sorts Lenny Kravitz--and his American concerts, Plant was in a mood to muse about the current status of the Zeppelin crew, reflecting thoughts that were kind and charitable but nonetheless uncompromising. GW: After so many years of headlining, what was it like to ba an opening act? RP: It was a great exercise in sanity, really, because it could've been a huge mistake. We were taking into account that a lot of Lenny's audience is comprised of 14- and 15-year old girls who don't even know about retro. They're into it as a whole new period of their lives and style and fashion of music--though we did pull in a lot of people on our own accord, on the strength and power of what we do. What was nice was that everyone who was coming to the show was in there and waiting at eight oclock. We had never even thought about the disastrous effect of me being a warm-up act and people just walking in with their popcorn. It worked out great. GW: Besides Lenny Kravitz, you also played some dates with the Black Crowes--quite a retro twosome. RP: I talk with Chris [Robinson] of the Black Crowes. I think he's the most eloquent stylistic singer in the mainstream of pop. They really enjoy what we do. If we can, we spend time together as we go along, just sharing music. They're pretty sincere retro-men, really into their music strongly. They don't just look at Otis Redding and say, "That's it." They'll tell you about James Carr, Tyrone Davis. They're into the music for real. I think that's much more eloquent than Lenny. Lenny takes a pop pastiche, weaves it together and calls it original. Okay, who cares; I can't imagine Howlin' Wolf enjoying a couple of the Led Zeppelin songs. GW: Where do you hear Led Zeppelin in Lenny's pastiche? RP: Mainly in the guitar work. You can hear some of the phrasing in "Are You Gonna Go My Way" coming out of "The Wanton Song." Don't get me wrong; he's a good guy. He's a bit serious... maybe a little too conscientious for his own good. GW: You seem to have learned to take yourself less seriously in the days since Led Zeppelin. RP: Oh, yeah, I mean, I believe implicitly in what I'm doing, wholeheartedly in the way it should be done. So I am serious. I also know when to laugh at myself and when to sort of take a little bit of a football swerve and say, "Nuh uh." It's not the most relaxing of careers, if you like, but I'm in the middle of it now. No matter what I might have wanted in the great sort of picture of totality, I'm blessed with fate. Fate dictates I must work really hard and try my best to have a good time. If I could pin everyone down and make them listen to "Great Spirit" and say "This is how everything should go. My music is the answer to everything," that would be fine. There's not a lot of point in that, even though I believe it. GW: So what do you listen to now? RP: I listen to the crowds [laughs]... I like Blind Melon very much; I got their album in June and took it away to the Mediterranean and played the hell out of it. It sounded like the most realistic and honest collection of songs I'd heard in a long time. And Neil Young; I saw him play in Spain and he was wonderful. GW: Did you catch John Paul Jones playing with Lenny on the MTV awards? RP: I didn't, but I hear it was good. Good old Jonesy. John has a very dignified and discreet way of going about his career. He's quietly achieved a lot more than people could imagine -- I mean, he's worked with R.E.M., a lot of independent bands and stuff. He's done a lot of work in Spain with contemporary Spanish classical musicians. He does what he wants to do, which is great. I mean, what the hell is the point of going to prison? Why go to jail and go around the world singing "Black Dog?" GW: It would be an awfully lucrative prison, though. It's pretty gutsy to turn that kind of opportunity down. RP: What else could I have done, really? I mean, Gary, I could have done the "Sea Of Love" trip a few times, but what does it give me? It gives me dollars in the bank. But it doesn't give me my dignity. When I watch a guy like Neil Young, I am totally in empathy and in sympathy with the way he goes about his work. All you have got to do is do what you did in the beginning. Don't ever compromise. GW: And don't ever stop changing? RP: Right. I'm always changing. It's quite obvious there is no point in a singer coming out with the same theme and the same idea and the same stance time after time. Otherwise it becomes a hideous job. If you get the right vibe, you can end up being incredibly successful just churning it out. But I don't think in my career, in Led Zeppelin or outside of it, I have gone to that as a signpost for my music or my career. Each time out I think it's time to go some new place. GW: Is part of what's at work here a lingering sense that Jimmy has generally gotten more credit than you for what Zeppelin accomplished? RP: I think Jimmys influence was strong in the beginning of the Led Zeppelin period. I wouldn't say it was eclipsed, but artistic input is artistic input; you've either got some or you haven't. As for mine, I just continued to contribute until my contribution was really, really strong by _Led Zeppelin IV_, even by _III_. My contribution was really, really strong. But you can't go running around saying, "Listen guys," or call a press conference to say, "I did this." You just get on with it. GW: Do you pay attention to the boxed sets and reissues when they come out? RP: I get them. I don't play them all the way through. I play the songs. I do acknowledge the fact that they had to be improved, but I'm a little skeptical as to whether or not it should be such a commercial adventure. And I do find Jimmy's constant sort of commenting about the lack of Led Zeppelin in the major sort of festival auditoriums in the country a bit boring. GW: Well, he certainly tried to fill the niche with Coverdale/Page. That kind of follows a Zeppelin blueprint. RP: You mean a quasi-Zeppelin. He's done his best. It is a bit limiting, artistically, to think that's the way it is and that's what is needed. GW: Have you ever gotten to talk about this with Jimmy, to share artistic viewpoints? RP: I don't know. I don't know the guy anymore. To me, the Crawling King Snakes or the Band of Joy or Led Zep or the Honeydrippers are all just things you do on the way. There are moments of greatness in everything, in every project. You go, "Yeah, this is great," or you kill it quickly. I think a musician must look at his career or his life like that. You can't say "Hey, this is great. Let's keep doing it." Or, "Let's just call it the Count Basie Orchestra and keep going without the Count." Apart from being unnecessary, it's also unhealthy. I guess that's the difference between myself and the whole Led Zeppelin myth as it is now and the need for it to be there. It's still there in each of us; we should just continue in the best possible way to bring it out. I do it my way. Jimmy does it in his. And Jonesy in his own way is showing his prowess and getting on with his life. Rather than being some roller coaster money machine, all gauche and vulgar, I give you _The Fate Of Nations_. GW: And for the undetermined future? RP: In 12 years I'll be running a hotel in the Caribbean, playing ska music on Thursday nights for the punters.

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