Saturday, March 16, 2002

Let it grow

On this day in 1988, Robert Plant twirled his long, golden locks and sang "Communication Breakdown" and a number of other Led Zeppelin staples publicly for the first time in years.

The concert marked the ex-Zep singer's triumphant return to a lot of things -- among them singing a handful of songs from the familiar past. The set list that night in Newport, Wales, included "Going to California" for the first time since 1977, "Nobody's Fault but Mine" and "Communication Breakdown" for the first time since 1980, and, most remarkably, "Immigrant Song" for the first time since 1973.

After Led Zeppelin had sputtered its last gasps in 1980, the singer reemerged a changed man. He cut his long hair in favor of a more dignified look, also replacing his flowery waistcoats with Oxford V-neck sweaters. And the music reflected his change in style; most of it was quite unlike Led Zeppelin.

But sometime in 1987, surrounded by a new group of young musicians, Plant became more accepting of his own past. His "Tall Cool One" single attempted to prove that the song remains the same, with its sampled snippets of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," "The Ocean," "Custard Pie" and "Whole Lotta Love."

It was during a concert on Dec. 17, 1987, that Plant first revived Led Zeppelin songs in his solo concert repertoire. During that show, he aired "In the Evening" and "Trampled Underfoot" for the first time since 1980, and "Misty Mountain Hop" for the first time since 1979.

The guitarist on the 1988 and 1990 tours was Doug Boyle. On drums for those tours was Chris Blackwell (same name as the founder of Island Records but not the same person). The 1988 tour also included the first appearance of bassist Charlie Jones in the lineup. Plant's studio bassist, Phil Scragg, was unavailable for touring, and so the young Jones joined the group. He remained Plant's bassist through 2003 and is married to Plant's only daughter, Carmen.

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