Robert Plant: Insights from Rock’s 70-Year-Old “Golden God”
To honor his birthday, here are 13 nuggets of wisdom from the legendary front man.
Robert Plant’s stairway to rock ‘n’ roll heaven got a step added onto it today when the legendary Led Zeppelin frontman turned 70.
In Plant’s 70 years on earth, he has lived harder and done more things than most people could dream of accomplishing in centuries on the planet.
Up there with Freddy Mercury, Jim Morrison, and Roger Daltrey on the Mount Rushmore of rock ‘n’ roll frontmen, Plant is a legend. As with most legends, he’s the subject of many tales, both tall and otherwise. (Remember the mud shark?)
Also, he has a well-documented history of giving good quotes.
That being the case, we thought it’d be a jolly good time to share 13 of Plant’s best observations and insights from over the years in honor of his 70th.
Non-spoiler alert: Plant didn’t address the mud shark.
No. 1- On the groupie experience with the Girls Together Outrageously clique: “I was young when I first went to America. I was 19 years old, and I went crazy. I met The GTOs and my mind just snapped. I’m from a nowhere town in the Midlands and here were these girls with bare breasts blatantly coming on, and of course we went crazy.”
No. 2 – On why his hair is still in great shape: “Well, I don’t know. We could be quite serious about it. I just have been very lucky. My mother was a gypsy, and she had a lot of dark blood in her, and her hair was very, very thick—she couldn’t even get a brush through it. So I have been very fortunate. And every time I go to cut it off, hairdressers refuse to do it.”
No. 3 – On his favorite part of playing on Zeppelin’s private plane: “Oral sex during turbulence.”
No. 4 – On what he’d tell his 19-year-old self: “Well, my granddaughter is a 20-year-old and she’s making music on SoundCloud. It’s stunning. And what do I tell her? Don’t panic. Be good. Be truthful. And look at the exit sign when you’re singing. Don’t look at the fuckers in the front. Just look out ahead there, and kick ass.”
No. 5 – On the first time Led Zeppelin practiced together: “The first practice … well, it says it in all the publicity, but it’s right, you couldn’t just walk away and forget it. The sound was so great. It’s taken a long time to know each other properly, I think, because a lot of the time that we’ve spent together has been spent getting on with what’s in hand, rather than with getting to know each other. We’ve got to know each other more through playing than we’ve got to the playing through knowing each other, if you see what I mean.”
No. 6 – On that time the band ran into carpenters: “I can remember a stream of carpenters walking into a room as we were checking out. We’d be going out one way, and they’d be going in the other way, with a sign, CLOSED FOR REMODELING, being put on the door.”
No. 7 – On if making music is a craft or an art: “I think craft is the term I would use. You grow into what might initially be an infatuation with the idea of entering something very special, very daring … Being attracted to the footlights and the entertainment and the smell of a venue and the anticipation in a crowd, I loved that. I thought that was an amazing thing, you know. I’ve been a music fan and a fan of all things that are interesting and occasionally unique so I’m always a member of the audience and an entertainer really. So, yeah, it’s a craft.”
No. 8 – On Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s influence: “I saw the Lord of the Rings films, and I wasn’t crazy about them, mainly because they’re all about spectacle. But, you know, when I read the books, they kind of dissolved into me. I used them in songs, you know, like ‘The Battle of Evermore’ and ‘Ramble On,’ which, well, I just want to hold up my hand and say, ‘Okay, I was 21 when I wrote that.’ I think the real message of the books is lost in the movies. When I first came over to America and I saw ‘Frodo Lives’ painted on walls, I thought that was beautiful. I’ve yet to see The Hobbit, but my grandchildren love it. I’ve seen enough CGI battles; my life is already full of them.”
No. 9 – On if his career could have survived baldness: “I don’t think I could survive it. I’ve never had a nightmare about losing my hair but I did see a bit of our performance on Later… with Jools Holland and I thought, ‘F-ck me! I really need to get it cut!’ It’s a funny thing, hair. What to do with it? I always listened to David Crosby and I think he’s got the voice of an angel. It’s absolutely amazing despite all that freebasing but he persists with that hair of his. It’s like he sang on ‘Almost Cut My Hair’, “I feel like letting my freak flag fly” so I’m going to hang on to mine.”
No. 10 – On why “Kashmir” is the definitive Zeppelin song: “It’s the quest, the travels and explorations that Page and I went on to far climes well off the beaten track. Of course, we only touched the surface. We weren’t anthropologists. But we were allowed, because we were musicians, to be invited in societies that people don’t normally witness. It was quite a remarkable time, to open your eyes and see how Berber tribesmen lived in the northern Sahara. My interpretations lyrically are not that fantastic, they never have been. But that’s what it was like for me then. That, really, to me is the Zeppelin feel.”
No. 11 – On the meaning of life: “I can just say live it, be kind, do your best, don’t hurt anybody, and don’t fake orgasms. From a man’s viewpoint, that’s pretty impossible. But no, no. Skip the orgasms. Let sleeping dogs lie. Have you heard that? That was a great quotation from when the British were dominating the planet. Robert Walpole had a problem, and he said, ‘We have problems everywhere, but let sleeping dogs lie.’ Don’t let anybody bite ya. Don’t kick ’em, because they’ll bite ya. In Latin, it’s quieta non movere.”
No. 12 – On if he listens to music during sex: “I can’t handle music. It’s got to be Richard Burton quoting from Shakespeare.”
No. 13 – On why he won’t write a memoir: “Once upon a time we were social deviants, pushed out to the corners of society, quite often body searched in the street by cops. I remember walking through Dearborn with John Bonham in 1969, on a Sunday afternoon, when Detroit was in flames, and looking across the cityscape and seeing smoke and things like that, and some people went by in a big Lincoln Continental and they put the window down slowly and spat at us – because we were hippies. We were representing a challenge to the order. So do we want to chum up and cuddle up to the whole idea of going to a publisher and telling stories? I mean, what – who – for? Those stories are locked nicely between my two ever-growing ear holes. So fuck it. There’s a lot in there, and that’s where it’s staying.”