Thursday, December 23, 2004

Holiday greetings!

The edition of "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History" published Dec. 23, 2004, blurred the lines between Led Zeppelin history and news. This single edition contained information about the anniversaries on every day between Dec. 23 and 25. And as the site "Led Zeppelin News" did not yet exist, it also included information about album projects that were believed to be forthcoming from all three surviving members of Led Zeppelin.

Greetings, folks. It's the holiday season, and I thought I'd send out a special holiday message to one and all. I have some Led Zeppelin history to share, including a little fiction, and I would also like to provide an update on the latest with Robert Plant's new album project.
December 23: On this day in 1999, Robert Plant's band, Priory of Brion, topped off its first six months of touring with a special holiday show at Regis Hall in the British Midlands.

The group was booked in England's pubs, clubs and unorthodox venues with the intention of never using its famous singer's name to promote the group. Still, word caught on, and each venue was packed with fans who were impressed as much with Plant and the band as they were with their unlikely selection of music: The repertoire included mostly R&B cover songs from decades past.

And for one night only on Dec. 23, an annual run-through of "Santa Claus is Back in Town" concluded the concert.

The Priory was 30 years in the making, reuniting Plant with guitarist Carlisle Egypt in summer 1999 for their first musical collaboration since early 1968. Just a few months before the creation of Led Zeppelin, Plant and Egypt (a.k.a. Kevyn Gammond) both played for the Band of Joy, along with drummer John Bonham.

Playing concerts with the Priory of Brion in 1999 and also in 2000 was always nostalgic for Plant. Between songs, he took every opportunity to tell stories that would make everybody laugh, including himself. But the musical performances meant Plant could conjure up the songs that he grew up admiring and indeed played a major role in his own career development.

This stage was fully realized within two years when Plant formed another group, dubbed the Strange Sensation, to play larger venues, solidify a smoother yet more experimental sound, explore more exotic influences, and deliver originals conceived in the same vein.
Robert Plant new album news

This brings us to the latest chapter in Robert Plant's solo career. As announced in October, Plant and the Strange Sensation will have a new album out in the new year. The title of the record to be released in or around March 2005 will be Another Tribe, according to an interview for Mojo magazine summarized by Siarl Davies for Tight But Loose.

Plant's eighth solo effort since the breakup of Led Zeppelin has been described as "a mixture of Delta blues and North African stuff, with a nice fireside lute-driven ballad too."

These are the influences Plant spoke of in liner notes he wrote in August 2003 for Sixty Six to Timbuktu, his career-spanning double album. The singer from the British Midlands expounded on his admiration for a lifetime of influences, stating: "I heard the voices of the high Atlas and pre-Saharan Morocco, the sound from the last juke-joints of south-side Chicago and the buzz of after-hours backstreet Bombay, performances so beautiful, remote and contrasting that I was never to recover."

In that message, Plant also stated that more creative output was on the way. "With abundant new material developing rapidly and connections in Morocco and West Africa moving at a pace unimagined back in '71, the future is ahead - bright ahead," he wrote.

For that, he credits his diverse and powerful band, currently made up of Justin Adams and Liam "Skin" Tyson on guitars, Clive Deamer on drums, John Baggott on keyboards, and Billy Fuller on bass. "The musicians make this thing work," said Plant.

News about new albums from John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page

Also as recently announced, Robert Plant is not the only ex-member of Led Zeppelin hoping to release a new album in the new year. Both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are said to be working on separate recording projects.

A brief clip of a new, instrumental Jones opus can be heard in the Flash intro to his Web site,, where a Nov. 7 posting updates his progress. "I have now started to write and record for the new album," he said. "I'm sort of doing both things at the same time, a new approach that I am hoping will make for a more organic process."

After detailing a mandolin festival he'd taken time out to attend and participate in, Jones concluded his message: "So, all of my instruments have been restrung, no small matter, and I am writing / playing / practising / listening / singing / recording / walking, anything and everything necessary to get the music flowing!"

Meanwhile, as reported here before, sources say Page's project will pit the guitarist alongside several guest musicians with a different guitar for every song.

So, my dear friends, if everything goes as planned, there will be three new albums from the ex-members of Led Zeppelin this year. Many years have passed since the days that group walked this earth, and their music has evolved with that time. It would be impossible for them at this stage to try to recreate their earlier moments. However, as Robert Plant would attest, it is great fun to look back at it.
Friday, December 24: On this day in 1968, the members of Led Zeppelin left the comfort of home to board an airplane taking them to a strange land. The Christmas Eve trip from England to America was not an easy one, the four found out. For the next few weeks, it would be up to them, without their manager, to make a good first impression on the home of the brave and the land of the free.

"It was Christmas," Plant explained years later, "and Christmas away from home for the English is the end of the world." John Bonham, with his fear of flying, was doubly nervous when he realized that his 2-year-old son Jason would have to spend Christmas without his daddy.

The band's first show in America on Dec. 26 would be more than halfway across the United States from the East Coast, but Led Zeppelin's connecting flight landed nearly 2,000 miles away, in New York. It was Plant and Bonham's first time in the country, and everybody continued on to the West Coast except John Paul Jones. With his wife, he enjoyed the holiday in Newark, N.J. "I had an American friend, a singer called Madeline Bell," he said in 2001, "and my wife and I spent Christmas with her folks. We had a soul Christmas, and it was brilliant. And then we had to go see some other relatives. Wherever we went, there was another meal waiting for us. I've never eaten so much food in all my life. They were really wonderful people."

The band members hoped they would receive the same welcome at concerts, where they would be opening for the Vanilla Fudge, in place of the original opening act that had been booked, the Jeff Beck Group.
And ...
Saturday, December 25: To everyone celebrating Christmas this year, I hope you get what you wish for. On this day in 1960, a 12-year-old Robert Anthony Plant unwrapped presents to find his first record player and his first record, a 45-rpm single of Johnny Burnette's "Dreamin'," backed with "Cincinnati Fireball."
Finally, I promised one of my closest friends (hi, Jon!) that I would include my own fictional Led Zeppelin History story again this year, hypothesizing what might have happened on Dec. 25, 1975. (As far as I can tell, it's been three or four years since I've included this story in the newsletter.)
On this day in 1975, the members of Led Zeppelin celebrated the feast of Christmas in their own respective ways.

Robert Plant's wife, Maureen, refills some eggnog in the mugs for their children. Their father still in a wheelchair from the car accident in August, sits by his player piano singing carols with the family. His rendition of "Silent Night" ended with a "Whole Lotta Love" medley including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," and "Let's Have a Party."

John Paul Jones, meanwhile, reads in his ordinary fashion to his three daughters, Jacinda, Kiera, and Tamara: "Fe, fi, fo, fight! Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?" "Woah, Rudolph, woah," the youngest interjects. The proud father smiles and continues the storybook: "Fe, fi, fo, fight..."

John Bonham has to spend the first part of Christmas away from his wife Pat and son Jason, as this year he has forgotten to buy them Christmas presents. "Bloody hell, what am I going to buy for me family?" he mutters to himself as he pulls his hot rod into the parking lot convenience store and parks in one of the handicapped spaces closest to the store entrance. An off-duty officer eyes him down and asks, "Are you allowed to park there, mate?" "Dear sir," begins Bonham, "I just came from this blinding celebration at me house and realized I plumb left out the shopping this season, so I got to get some gifts for the kin. Besides, just check out the specs under me hood." Bonham spends a few minutes talking about horsepower. Changed, the officer says, "Be on your way then, mate." Bonham giggles as he goes into the store and emerges a few minutes later with a handful of wooden spoons. "The lad ought to enjoy these," he says, thinking of young Jason's percussive skills.

This leaves Jimmy Page, who spends Christmas watching his crystal-clear footage of Led Zeppelin's concerts seven months earlier at Earl's Court. He laughs to himself as he realizes that he will probably continue to hoard these precious tapes forever (or at least until 2002). The thought that he makes an awful Santa Claus makes him grin as he throws another gold record award into the fireplace.

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