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Plant--The Hardy Perennial of Heavy Metal

June 12, 1988|DENNIS HUNT

Plant and Page worked together on a different kind of project in 1984. When he was still in flight from Zeppelin, Plant sang pop-rock versions of R&B classics in a group called the Honeydrippers, featuring Page and Jeff Beck. The big hit on the mini-LP "The Honeydrippers, Volume One" was the remake of "Sea of Love."

Will there be a Volume II?

"Maybe," Plant replied. "I like to think the Honeydrippers are alive and well somewhere in a lounge in a Ramada Inn in Wisconsin. But if I actually did it again it would have to be much more earthy--maybe with somebody like Brian Setzer (formerly of the Stray Cats). But if the Honeydrippers do come back, it won't be for many a moon."

Zeppelin's legacy is contemporary heavy metal. Talk to any of today's metal musicians about their roots and you'll most likely get a discourse on how Zeppelin influenced their music.

Lately, the echoes of Zeppelin have been as deafening as the quartet's music. Even those rowdy rappers, the Beastie Boys, ripped off Zeppelin riffs for one of their tunes. Leading the list of bands that have borrowed from Zeppelin are Whitesnake, the Cult, Jane's Addiction, Mission U.K. and, of course, newcomer Kingdom Come.

From Plant's sarcasm at the mention of Kingdom Come, it was evident that he has nothing but scorn for this new Zeppelin knockoff. "A bit of stealing is OK, everybody does that," Plant said. "But mimicry is horrible and absurd. It's a joke. It's both funny and sad in a way, that they have to do that. But it's a bit of Americana."

Regarding the rumor that Plant was considering recruiting that band's guitarist, Danny Stag, for his band before Kingdom Come made it big, Plant replied, "Him, are you kidding? He's too old for my band. Besides, he has no hair."

The same way that Zeppelin is inspiring hordes of rockers today, Ray Charles inspired legions of singers, Plant included, in the '60s. Recalling his days as a fledgling singer in Britain, Plant said reverentially, "I just wanted to be Ray Charles. I wanted to sing 'Yes, Indeed' and 'Drown in My Own Tears' the way he could. There was this unique blend of church, soul and sex in his style. People don't mention the sex too much in his style."

Plant tempered his bluesy style with shades of the psychedelic rock flowing out of San Francisco in the late '60s. "I was affected by what people like Arthur Lee and Moby Grape were doing on the West Coast," he said. "I diluted the blues approach lyrically and emotionally with that West Coast sound. My vocal style was Anglicized.

"Blues didn't reflect what was going on in contemporary society. There were more comments to be made on a social level. In my music, that's what I wanted to do."

After Plant joined up with Page, Jones and Bonham in 1968, he blossomed into the greatest blues-rock screamer of that era. "I used to just holler like crazy," Plant said. "I had to get my voice out there above the sound of Page and the rumble of the rhythm section. I sing differently now. I don't yell anymore. I don't have to."

Age is creeping up on Plant, who'll be 40 in August. Is this scary for someone who grew up thinking that just turning 30 was tantamount to becoming senile? Plant is philosophical about it all.

"So I'm a little older and I have a few more lines on my face," he said matter-of-factly. "That doesn't matter. I can hold my own sexually better than I could when I was 20.

"Besides I know where I'm going in my life now. When I was younger I didn't know who I was. Half the time I didn't even know where I was."

Even touring, which is supposedly more of a chore as you get older, doesn't turn Plant off. In fact it's just the opposite. "I don't mind going from hotel to hotel,' he said. "There's the comforting thought that there will always be a lobby full of smiling, beautiful young ladies. It's not all downhill from now on, you know."

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