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Remembering November 1978: Zeppelin’s future – No Geriatrics required

19 November 2006 4,858 views No Comment

28 years ago this month, I was a man on a mission.
I needed to know just what the state of play was inside Led Zeppelin.

The past few months for all Zep fans had been an unsettling time. After Robert’s tragedy and the silence that followed, there was still more than an air of doubt as to how they would face the future. There had been some recent positive signs – notably the band get together at Clearwell Castle in the May and sightings of Robert on stage with Dr Feelgood in Ibiza and with Dave Edmunds in Birmingham.

My summer of ’78 had been taken up with working relentlessly on a major Led Zeppelin Ten year History special with Geoff Barton for Sounds magazine. This was published over four weeks in the September to very good reaction (many fans over the years have told me how they cut out the discography/bootleg guide and constantly referred to it before the likes of Robert Godwin’s superb Guide To Collecting books came out in the late 80’s). It was to be the kick-start to publishing the first Tight But Loose.

Fed up with rumours and counter rumours, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I made it my single-minded aim to find out what the future held from Robert Plant himself.

The opportunity to do so came when I saw a minor news item in the NME that Robert would be taking part in a five a side football tournament at Wembley’s Empire Pool on November 5.
On a cold November afternoon I took it upon myself to make a swift exit from playing an away match in Bedfordshire for my soccer team (the infamous Wallbangers) and sped down on the train to London. The matter of no ticket was not of prime importance – but timing was with the first match at 4pm. From St. Pancras station I hailed cab to whisk me across to North London (cost me £3.50 not cheap in those days!).
I touted a ticket outside for double the price and hey there I was high up behind one of the goals watching our man in the Wolves colours playing for his team Geriatric Rowdies.

In search of the Geriatric Rowdies

Despite an R. Plant goal against The Stranglers team, said Geriatrics did not progress to the next phrase and I could see Robert down the sidelines with Maureen and Carmen.
With a bit of wrangling at the door down by the main pitch, I was soon directly in front of the much-changed singer in the best band in the world. No sign of the trademark golden ringlets and hair shorter than I’d ever seen it. Gone too was the swagger that had been so apparent when I was last in his company at Heathrow Airport the previous year when I saw them fly out to America.

He was in fantastic spirits though that afternoon. Laughing and jeering from the side at Rod and Elton’s team and the all girls matches, hailing the prowess of Ralph Coates (a Spurs man!), chatting to team mate big Ron Atkinson. He was also incredibly friendly and gracious to me – the only fan in the vicinity.

Although any serious Zep chat was out, he did tell me the heartwarming news that the band were leaving for Sweden the very next week to record a new album. On the subject of future gigs, he smiled that crooked smile and mysteriously stated ”it’s all the wind but it will come.”

Next Stop Sweeden

Looking around the arena, Robert also chatted about the last time he had been at this venue with Zeppelin in 1971 and the performing pigs that didn’t. All in all it was a real thrill to hear what I needed to hear from the main man himself.

Led Zeppelin wasn’t over by any means – and soon they were about to find the not so hardest way back in.
”The new songs” he said to me…. ”Well you’ll see….”

Enigmatic, upbeat, friendly and with family in tow, he left the arena for the trip back to the Midlands shortly to step back to his day job. Nine days later Robert Plant would be ensconced in Polar Studios in Stockholm with Jimmy, Jonesy and Bonzo ripping through Ozone Baby.

DL & RP Laughing at Ron and Elton’s Lot

Going back on the train, life felt a whole lot better and I was able to go to work the next day safe in the knowledge that I knew there were good times ahead for Led Zeppelin.
Very good times indeed.

Little did any of us realise that there was just so little time left to enjoy them.

Recent Inspirations:
Spurs epic win against Chelsea, the BBC2 Paul Weller profile, The Royle Family one off return (Zeppelin? My arse!) Hunter Davis memoirs The Beatles Football And Me (not keen on autobiographies but this one from the prolific 60’s/ 70’s writer is like someone telling their anecdotes in a cozy pub) … Robert’s Soundstage new DVD with the great Top of the Pops extras … Scott Walker Video Anthology (thank you John C) … while on the ipod and deck its been Bob Dylan Modern Times, Bob Dylan Essential compilation, Free Live At The BBC (fantastic set -what a great little band they were) Dory Previn Mythical Kings And Iguanas (early 70’s female singer songwriter’s lost gem) ,Paul Weller Hit Parade, Ronnie Lane Ain’t No One Like (another TV highlight of recent weeks was the moving documentary of Ronnie’s life) Led Zeppelin Presence plus Coda (can it really be 24 years ago – blimey that release coincided with the start of a romance that is still going strong! ) and Revelations/Glastonbury back in my collection at last – just got the superb vinyl reissue – thank you Andrew Ricci!

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