Robert Plant recounted his struggle to continue working after the death of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and admitted he wound up “hurrying up my own rectum” when he became entranced by new studio technology.
Speaking in the fourth episode of his Digging Deep podcast – based around the song “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” from his 1982 debut solo album Pictures at Eleven – he addressed the challenge of finding someone to fill the gap left by Bonham.
“The whole of my previous 12 years had been in the warmth and occasionally tepid and very often freezing climate of Led Zeppelin,” Plant said. ‘When we all lost John there was only one thing to do, and that was to carry on, and try to carry on and distance myself, if I could, from the wondrous shadow of the past.”
You can listen to the episode below.
Plant noted he “needed a drummer that could kick ass, and because Phil Collins, his solo career had just taken off … we were put together.” While Collins expressed a desire to work on Plant’s album, Cozy Powell had already been signed up to play on “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” and “Slow Dancer.” “Cozy we knew very well from those days around the Midlands [of England].”
H explained that Powell “was a good guy – precocious, confident – and, like John, you could hear him yelling when he was playing in the sheer joy of actually pulling something off that actually shouldn’t have been possible. … We couldn’t get John back, and it wasn’t a case of replacing him or finding another Bonham; it was basically just taking the idiom into somewhere pretty powerful, pretty beautiful.”
Collins returned for Plant’s second album, 1983’s The Principle of Moments, but the LP also included contributions by former Jethro Tull drummer Barriemore Barlow, who brought the influence of emerging studio hardware into Plant’s world.
“I started hurrying swiftly up my own rectum because I could not get enough new technology,” the singer laughed. “I just really went, ‘Wow, so you can do that, and if you do that with that machine, that happens to your voice, and you can do that over there!’ … And I really did go off the track a little bit. It works all over the place; just that … it wasn’t appropriate, coming from Valhalla, that I should be doing anything apart from being that same old guy for the rest of my life.”
Last year, Plant detailed the moment he finally decided to move away from the Led Zeppelin approach and reboot his career. In the new podcast, he reflected, “Everybody’s got a back catalog, and you do tend as artists to only deal with the very front end of it. … If you play these pieces without any talk in between, they’re such a disjointed bunch of musical ventures.
“I’ve been in good company all the way through my time and that is the greatest gift I could wish for. It’s not always been a walk in the park, but the results have been something that I’m not hiding from.”