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7 November 2010 16,901 views 27 Comments

Photo by Krys Jantzen

The Robert Plant series of programmes aired on BBC2 last night offered a feast of visual delights that spread into the early hours of the morning.

The newly commissioned documentary Robert Plant By Myself proved to be a compelling study of his life in music. Mark Radcliffe’s commentary was concise and to the point, leaving Robert to chronicle his remarkable journey through a series of perceptive interview segments told with his usual integrity and wit.

The documentary began with a scene setting focus on Robert’s early musical inspirations and Midland’s activity. It was great to see that Swedish TV mime to Communication Breakdown that ushered in the Zep era. Robert’s words here unfolded the sheer wonderment of being a part of this band and the creative highs they achieved –and his deep friendship with John Bonham that was such an  integral part to that.

Whilst there was little new Zep footage, the editing of clips from the Albert Hall, Danish TV and Madison Square Garden etc was slick and effective. It was good to see the 1970 Nationwide BBC TV interviews in very clear quality and there was also some rarely seen footage of them off stage travelling across Germany in the same year from journalist Chris Welch’s cine film. Robert cleverly side stepped the whole golden god rock image by noting that as far back as 1972 his quest for music discovery had taken him the edge of the Atlas mountains. For all the bravado and road fever capers, this was a man who was serious about his role in taking the Zep musical rip as far as it could possibly travel– which in the company of Page, Jones and Bonham he more than accomplished.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a lump in my throat when he talked about the death of his son Karac and his intention to move into a teaching role – which may well have happened had it not been for John Bonham’s support. His comments on John’s death and the demise of Zeppelin were equally poignant. But at 32 years old there was a whole new world of musical discovery ahead.

The diversity of his achievements from there on was aptly demonstrated from the first video Burning Down One Side, via The Honeydrippers to his work with Jimmy Page and the Egyptian ensemble in the mid 90s. A clever link of Kashmir at Knebworth with Zeppelin intercut with the same song at the MTV Unledded show illustrated how he and Jimmy were able to reinvent their catalogue so effectively.

There was also some lovely grainy images working with Ranier Ptacek at Rak Studios and then the story moved into the noughties with tales of his trip to the desert in 2005 and work with Strange Sensation – the likes of Takamba being a stark reminder of just how good that particular union was. The Raising Sand episode was illustrated via some superb rehearsal footage with Alison and then finally there was the formation of The Band Of Joy and his current standing in a career that has spanned five decades.

Robert Plant By Myself was his story told as he has experienced it. An official DVD release would be most welcome.

As would the complete Roundhouse Electric Proms performance. The hour long presentation last night was truly excellent if somewhat frustratingly edited.  It recreated the special warm event like atmosphere on the night pieced together via a nine camera shoot that looked crystal sharp and close up. The sound mix also excellent. There was no attempt to keep to the set list order of the actual gig which did make for a rather disjointed viewing – the main set finale Gallows Pole for instance appearing mid way through.

However that did not detract too much from the pure enjoyment of the show – plenty of clear crowd shots (my good friends Tom and Phil watching here with me saw themselves on camera on more than one occasion) added to the overall ‘’right there right now’’ feel. The close up camera angles highlighting the on stage empathy of the whole band. House Of Cards, Please Read The Letter, Monkey, Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down and Harm’s Swift Way brought back fantastic recent memories of what have been some of the most enjoyable moments spent in the singer’s company for many a year.

As for the 12 Gates To The City and Bid You Goodnight finale with the London Oriana Choir – well as it was on the night, this was an incredibly moving spectacle that sent shivers down the spine.

Following the concert presentation, BBC2 offered two viewing options –press the red button facility for more Electric Proms footage or watch the Robert Plant Later With Jools Holland highlights programme. The latter had some great moments – I’d forgotten how many appearances he has made on the show – it was great to see Calling To You from 1993, Four Sticks with Jimmy in 1994, The Wanton Song from 1998 and Killing The Blues with Alison.

The red button facility was a repeat loop so we watched that after the Later segment. This was an illuminating snapshot of the build up to the Electric Proms show with some informative interview clips with Robert, Buddy and Patty conducted by Jo Whiley, plus footage of the London Oriana Choir rehearsals at Maida Vale studios. This would be a perfect extra item on an official DVD release  of the whole show  -an idea we must hope the BBC will consider.

It was nigh on 2am by the time we had soaked all this up. A welcome outpouring of footage  that captured the real essence of Robert Plant – be it with Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, The Honeydrippers, Strange Sensation, Alison Krauss or The Band Of Joy.

Robert Plant Night on BBC2 was a Saturday night visual feast and a timely celebration of his life and music.  I and I’m sure countless others watched it all with a deep sense of pride.

Dave Lewis – November 7th 2010

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


  • Tony Falco said:

    Ok There is no other vocalist like Robert and we all miss the glory days and well the less said about Band Of Joy the better BUT the most important question I would like answered is who the hell is the gorgeous girl in Robert’s “If I were A Carpenter” video ?

  • Matt said:

    Ah, it was FD then! Thanks for confirming.

    Looked him up on YouTube/Google images and still struggle to see the resemblance other than being lanky and skinny, but guess there’s no-one else quite like that. Great guitar player too.

    Sad story about KSMcM too, I thought his playing during If I Were A Carpenter was fabulously understated and beautiful.

  • WillS said:

    Being unable to sleep a couple of nights ago, I thought I would finally catch up with the fuss surrounding Mr. Plant’s latest efforts and settled down to watch the Roundhouse gig courtesy of iplayer. Have to say that I was bitterly disappointed and can only agree with Bern and Sheila above. Whilst Robert is undoubtedly in good voice, I found the material dirge like in the extreme with little variation between one song and the other. Even an old reliable like “Gallows Pole” was completely stripped of its urgency and drama.

    Having fast-forwarded several times, I eventually gave up about 40 mins in and watched the “Later” clips – found three minutes of “The Wanton Song” a very effective antidote.

    I know I’m in a distinct minority on this site and it would seem more generally but I can’t say the Band of Joy gives me much joy.

  • Scoof said:

    The tall lanky blonde guy was indeed Frank Dunnery. I’ve got the show on an old VHS and Plant appears to introduce him as “Mad Frank” just before the big finale of Na Na Hey Hey.

    But there’s another guitarist (also wearing shades) and I believe Richard’s spot on – a very long-haired Kevin Scott MacMichael. So sad that both he and the outrageously talented Michael Lee are gone.

  • RichardG said:


    I think you’re referring to Kevin Scott Macmichael who was in Cutting Crew before a shared love of Moby Grape and all things West Coast led him to Robert’s band for Fate of Nations and the tour that followed.

    Along with Michael Lee, Kev’s sadly no longer with us, succumbing to lung cancer a few years back.

    Made it a very poignant evening remembering those who’ve passed through the ranks…



  • Matt said:

    Hi, loved the concert and the whole night of stuff. one questoin that’s alwasy bugged me- during his 1993 Jools Holland performance of Calling To You, who is the rhythm guitarist, the tall lanky blond guy with the shades on? I know Francis Dunnery was playing with Robert aroud that time, and played on Fate Of Nations (althogh not on CTY I think), but any photos of Francis Dunnery do not really resemble the guy on stage that night. Anoter weird thing is that on Saturday night’s coverage, the song was introdiced by Jools and the band went straught into the guitar intro but I remember it as Robert P introducing the start of the song by saying summat like “Mad Frank is going to lead this one”. It may be that they performed it twice and both were recorded, but I always thought him introducing ‘Mad Frank’ meant Francis Dunnery, but always confused that the guy performing with him did not resemble FD of It Bites days….

    Great bit of RP programming over the weekend though!

  • sheila said:

    Im a massive fan of roberts and I was looking forward to all the coverage,I thought the interview was great and the solo jools holland was also good.But can’t say I enjoyed the concert that much!sadly I found it a bit boring and dull! even the zep versions apart from rock n roll, I didnt like either not the best choices from a vast range I thought.
    Im afraid this is one journey I wont be sharing with him thought his work with the strange sensation was much better all this bluegrass stuff is not for me,apart from the “monkey “track it was very dull which is a shame

  • caroline thompson said:

    I bid you goodnight must not be allowed to disappear.BBC must release the radio concert on DVD.PLEASE

  • caroline thompson said:

    I totally agree with everything posted about the magnificent Robert Plant and the Band of Joy concert.I just hope that someone at the BBC will have the foresight to get the concert released in its entirety on dvd.Bid you goodnight must not disappear as was a truly memorable moment amongst many standout performances.Thank God for Robert Plant

  • John C said:

    This is for Mick.
    To my knowledge these are the tracks which were played at the gig and the people who played;

    1 Little Sister
    2 Treat Her Right
    3 Sea Of Love
    4 Pledge Pin
    5 Other Arms
    6 In The Mood
    7 Big Log
    8 Like I’ve Never Been Gone
    9 Worse Than Detroit
    10 Other Arms
    11 Fat Lip
    12 Burning Down One Side

    Jezz Woodroffe – Keyboards
    Robert Plant – Vocals
    Roger Taylor – Drums
    Robbie Blunt – Guitar
    Paul Martinez – Bass
    Bob Mayo – Guitar/Synth

    The album is titled “Just to know what he’s doing” – if you want to post your email here I’ll check later this week and gladly send you a photo.

  • Scoof said:

    Thank Bob there’s a guy who’ll turn down the nostalgia money! I wish more people would be honest and admit that a geriatric and John Bonham-less “Led Zeppelin” dragging itself around the stadium circuit as its own tribute act would be an unfitting end to a band which gave us such a sparkling, vital body of work.

    I salute the endlessly inventive Mr Plant for continuing to evolve and explore, just as I salute JPJ for his own forays into country and bluegrass among his other musical adventures. It’s unfortunate that you can’t do that sort of thing without frustrating a few folk here and there but that’s part of the price for keeping your art alive.

    Loved the interviews and the performance footage. It’s just a shame it was edited down so much. It would be great to see the solo spots from Buddy Miller, Darrell Scott and Patty Griffin again. Fingers crossed for the DVD.

  • Mick said:

    Great article Dave! Enjoyed the night on Saturday. Agree that a DVD would be very welcome.
    (On a side note – John C mentioned a bootleg of The Tube gig exists. I would welcome some details)

  • Chris Wright said:

    I think Buddy Miller is the best musical partner Robert has had since, well you know when. What a fabulous band they have put together. I’m still reeling from the experience of listening to this concert over the airwaves as it happened. The TV performance only served to further underline that here was an evening of unpredictable brilliance the like of which we haven’t seen since, well you know when 🙂

  • Velhinho said:

    Nice to see that, good to know Robert is keeping himself fresh and criative.
    But it´s a pity he don´t get along with Jimmy and Jonesy anymore.
    Time to BBC do a Jonesy perspective.

  • Sheldon Cole - Taunton Zeppelin fan said:

    I agree with Bern.
    I am a big Robert fan but found the documentary disappointingly dull.
    On a general note I wish people would be honest and admit that they would rather see Robert out there with Jimmy, JPJ and Jason performing songs from the Zeppelin catalogue, as opposed to giving us an interminable stream of cover versions. Rod Stewart, dare I say, springs to mind. Another fine songwriter from the early 1970s who now finds himself unable to write songs himself so resorts to cover versions.
    It is sad that Robert has turned his back on the vast majority of the first rate material he actually penned himself, and is more focused on covering other people’s songs.

  • ian baker said:

    It was a truly great night of TV. I was so pleased that the guy we all know a nd love has at last got the mainstream recognition he so rightly deserves.
    My wife and I played a drinking game during the concert, take a swig every time we see ourselves on TV.
    We we shown ALOT, being up front btween Robert and Patti.
    Suffice to say we got quite squiffy….
    Later with Jools was great, how about the wanton song and four sticks!!!
    Here’s to the next time, my bands full of joy!!

  • Steve "The Lemon" Sauer said:

    Thanks for the rundown, Dave! Knew I could find it here!

  • Mike Warry said:

    Hi Dave,

    Great article. I really enjoyed the BBC2 evening. I would like to see ALL of the interview – I was upset not to see any reference to Priory, which I presume the Beeb edited out rather than Robert didn’t mention (I hope). For me the Priory was very important and enlightening.

    I have really enjoy the way Robert has always moved on and pushed ideas forward into other worlds.

    I’m gutted I didn’t go to the Roundhouse!

    Dave, keep up the great work, Mike.

  • Kam said:

    It’s the first time I’ve heard Robert talk about his career in a ‘chronological’ order. Just as the Elton John one was the week before, I thought it was really good.

    Sounds like Bern had a great night.

  • Graeme Powell said:

    It made a refreshing change from the usual ill informed programmes that often surround anything to do with Zeppelin.
    Thought the clip interplay showed just how much Bonzo brought to the music (for the un-initiated !)
    Time Jimmy got off his backside and gave us some new material,whats gone is gone..time to move on.

  • Bern said:

    What a load of old tosh – Dull, dull, and even more dull. The last two albums have been almost as exciting as watching paint dry. Am I glad I opted to see the Gorillaz instead of spending money on seeing this rubbish live. The only good stuff on Saturday was the first 20 minutes of the Later show. Even the documentary was disappointing.

    He should be drawing his pension and pulling on the slippers (and so should Page if he doesn’t do something soon) – leave it up to Jonesy as standard bearer.

    I am beginning to think in Percy’s case that Neil Young was right.

    Hey hey, My my.

  • Ingy said:

    What a great night.I thought the documentary was of a very high standard and let Plant put his vision into context. It was so clear that he is proud of his past, but also so clear and undertandable that he pushes forward.

    The Round House gig was great – ‘I bid you goodnight’ is the musical highlight of the year in any genre.

    It is also so pleasing for al TBL followers to see Plant getting the full recognition that he deserves as a musical icon and visionary.

  • John C said:

    I’ve been lucky enough to see Robert’s solo outings dozen’s of times, the first being April 81 in Middlesbrough, the infamous Tube gig with Rodger Taylor complete with Eric Morecambe brown overcoat and flat cap (I have the bootleg LP!).Since those early days I’ve tried to see him as much as possible – there have been high’s and low’s, but you always get 100% from Robert and total belief in whatever he is doing.
    The evening was a joy for me, all those wonderful musicians – another testament to Robert’s continual desire for change. His tender recollection of John Henry and his obvious pain of outliving his beloved son were clear for us all. It won’t be the last time I say “Thanks Robert”

  • Gary Wade said:

    Ah Dave, how good it was after all these years to see Roberts stance vindicated, let the past take care of itself i move on to paraphrase. We may have not admired all of it but it was always interesting and i found myself nodding in agreement with him throughout. If only Jimmy had adopted the same work ethic………….

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Your guidance on the night was essential!
    Don’t forget to bring your tools round to put that mirror up next time!

  • Phil said:

    Now you know what the red button’s for and how to use it!!

  • filosofee said:

    Pleasure reading your article, I agree, an official DVD release would be welcome 🙂

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