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5 July 2017 1,679 views 10 Comments

TBL Archive: Robert Plant  Pictures At Eleven album 35 years gone… 

To mark the 35th anniversary of Robert Plant’s landmark debut album – here’s an extensive feature I wrote back in 2002. That album remains one of the most crucial of his long career and still sounds every bit as exciting and fresh as it did back in the summer of 1982.

Pictures at Eleven – Still vivid at  35

Robert Plant’s first solo album was a personal  career watershed to rival Led Zep 1 

For the former singer in the biggest band in the world, the post Zeppelin career rebuilding process can be traced along the highways and the byways of the North of England in the late spring of 1981. Stopping off at Bradford University, the R’n’B ad-hoc line up The Honeydrippers he had established performed on one of the larger stages of their infrequent itinerary. At the soundcheck Plant, sensing the bigger surroundings of the platform, begins warming up with a version of The Beatles. Day Tripper, spinning around at the end of the stage in a once customary manner now seemingly redundant, Guitarist Robbie Blunt comes out of that 6o’s skit and hones down on a descending blues riff… “Oh I dont know, oh I dont know, oooohh yeah,” repeats Plant over the riff. After two or three minutes they stop. “Hey that might be enough for a song” Plant laughs and turns to Blunt. “You never know,” comes the thick Midlands-accented retort.

Within a couple of months during that summer of 1981 Plant and his new writing partner -and indeed sensed the possibilities of a creative partnership that had periodically reared its head in the lighter moments of The Honeydrippers.

As he recalled at the time, “The Honeydrippers had been great fun to do without the usual pressures. Slowly though Robbie and I began to look at each other and realised that it wasn’t going to be that serious so we started writing little bits and pieces in between gigs”.

Joining him at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth was ex-Ashton Paice and Lord bassist Paul Martinez and keyboard player Jezz Woodroffe who Plant had met when inquiring about buying a synth in a local music shop. His past credentials included a touring stint with 31ack Sabbath.

Plant, Blunt, and Woodroffe had already turned in some demos at Plant’s four track home studio – notably Fat Lip with the aid of a Roland drum machine and an excellent Blunt-led mid-tempo rocker Far Post that strangely would not make the final album selection.

The problem of who would fill the drum stool was the biggest dilemma. Plant chose to employ a variety of percussionists. Early demo work even included the then 14 year old Jason Bonham and Bad Company’s Simon Kirke was another initial contributor.

The first recording sessions at Rockfield though employed Cozy Powell – the big hitting drummer who had previously backed Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore. Powell added the necessary backbeat ooomph to two of the more intense compositions – Like I’ve Never Been Gone and the full-throttled Slow Dancer. “Cozy came in like a typhoon. Everyone realised we were playing rock’n’roll. He came in at the middle of it and let fly” recalled Plant.

On a whim Plant then called a pre-mega solo fame Phil Collins – then jobbing Genesis front man and all-round reliable drummer for hire. Collins was more than happy to participate – later taking the drum stool for the first Plant band US tour.

For Plant the whole recording process as a solo artist proved to be an emotional one and there was one seal of approval that he was more than keen to gain. In early 1982 Plant took the completed tape of the album over to Jimmy Page’s Windsor home. “It was an emotional time. We sat there together with my hand on his knee just listening. He knew although about to embark on the first steps of a new career, Plant also found himself confronted with his past. Atlantic had been harbouring for a final Zeppelin album and in the autumn of 1981 Page began trawling the tape archive to assemble what would emerge the following November as Coda. Plant and Jones were both actively involved in the final selection and sleeve design. Plant attended some of the overdubbing and mixing sessions at the Sol adding a new vocal to the ’72 Houses Of The Holy leftover Walters Walk.

In the early spring of ’82, Plant handed over the master tapes of his own solo album and did a photo shoot with photographer Michael Hoppen for the sleeve design. The album would be known as Pictures At Eleven a wordplay on the UK ITV news programme News At Ten.

The album was released on June 25 and entered the Music Week UK chart at number 2 and quickly climbed to the top 3 of the Billboard US listings. The UK chart position was a remarkable feat considering there had been no pre-release single and Plant only gave one UK press interview to Kerrang prior to release.

Though he had yet to formulate any live touring plans he did perform at the Princes Trust benefit show at London’s Dominion Theatre in July turning up with Robbie Blunt to perform Worse Than Detroit from the new album. Plant spent the next few weeks on a promotional tour taking in New York in the summer – his first visit to America since 1977.

He conducted a round of interviews including an MTV chat with long-term Zeppelin DJ associate JJ Jackson.

His whole persona defined the new fresh thinking. The bouffant hair, the casual suits -it was all a long way from the cock-rock poses of a few years back. Then there was his new-found eagerness to court the media – always a no-go area with his former band.
Now there were TV and radio interviews and even a guest spot as a panellist on Mike Read’s Pop Quiz TV show. The visual media age was upon us and Plant was more than happy to embrace it.

Back in the UK he shot a low budget video for Burning Down One Side for Dave Robinson’s Stiff Films which was aired on the Old Grey Whistle Test in September alongside a studio interview with Mark Ellen and David Hepworth.

Though the single made little impression but the album continues to rack up healthy sales on both sides of the Atlantic. It was the inspiration for Plant to retain the momentum and begin recording a second album The Principal Of Moments which was released the following June. Plant then embarked on a lengthy world tour kicking off in the US in August ’83 and taking in the UK, Australia and Japan. His solo career was well and truly up and running.

On the eve of that first tour he reflected on the past 18 months. “One thing about being a member of a close-knit family is that you can never imagine being without it. So when you evaluate your position and what it takes to make you function, you find that the most important thing is to express yourself with whatever the god’s have given you. To that extent Pictures At Eleven will always remain a major part of my life, symbolically if nothing else.”

My Pictures At Eleven

Pictures At Eleven bust into my life amidst the 1982 World Cup. I’d been keenly anticipating its arrival for months. At the time I was ensconced in collating the best material from the first six issues of Tight But Loose which would emerge as my first book The Final Acclaim. I’d had a firsthand report of the album from Robert himself after he had rung me to request I attend a meeting with Jimmy and Robert in Swan Song in March. At their request I brought in various cuttings and pics for them to mull over for what would emerge as the Coda sleeve. “My album is finished and it will be ready in the summer. It’s a new beginning and a re-birth,” he told me that memorable afternoon.

The Warner’s record company rep that called on the WH Smith record outlet where I worked kept me informed of the release schedule showing me a preview of that new stylish image on the cover. A pre-release white label would be with me shortly he promised. He was as good as his word for after calling into work late on the afternoon of Friday 18 June (coincidentally two years to the day that I’d seen them in Cologne)  I was working with the good lady Janet back then and it was Janet who informed me the rep had ”left a record for you”

Left a record for me? More like the holy grail!

It was with bated breath that 1 stuck the stylus down on this precious vinyl and awaited the new birth as he had put it. Out came the reassuringly potent Burning Down One Side to usher in a new era.

Initial impressions were most favourable. Moonlight In Samosa and Like I’ve Never Been Gone carried familiar emotional qualities and Slow Dancer was a definite nod back to that field outside Stevenage. Plant’s re-assuring vocal cutting the air “In the darkness, in the darkness, yeah yeah”.

Further excitement arrived with the publication of Kerrang with a cover story interview with Robert and the distribution of the limited edition promo Interview album which came my way via the Warner’s rep.

The album was duly released on Monday 25 June. A week later the Warner rep called in to tell me the album had entered the chart at number 2, a fantastic result – a call to Sain at the Swan Song office confirmed the triumph. As for the World Cup, suffice say England did not share such triumph exiting-left two days after the UK release of Pictures with Kevin Keegan missing that last minute header against the Spanish – curses!

However, there was a major silver lining ahead.

A month later there was an opportunity to see the man on the boards. Robert was added to the Princes Trust charity show at London’s Dominion Theatre alongside Pete Townsend, Madness and Jethro Tull. It was another memorable evening for resident TBL crew member Tom Locke and myself -not least for the opportunity to meet Prince Charles.  Robert did a scorching version of Worse Than Detroit with Robbie Blunt on guitar and a house band that included Pete Townshend. It was more than evident he could still command a stage with ease.

On the night Tom and I got to meet Prince Charles himself at a reception after the show attended by Robert and the other artists involved. A memorable occasion indeed – our Mums were well proud!

There was further activity in the early autumn with the release of the Burning Down One Side 12″ with the brilliant Far Post on the B-side. Plus the screening of the video on Whistle Test. Far Post was top of my play-list in the weeks leading into the winter to be finally side lined by the arrival of Coda… but that’s another story.

Pictures At Eleven was definitely the sound of the summer all of 35 years ago – on the deck before every visit to the pub and in between all those World Cup matches. Snapped in to the Walkman that sometimes accompanied me on my training runs for a half marathon I was then undertaking. From the adversity of the disablement of Zeppelin, Robert had emerged with fresh new music-and a firm indication that the new phase of his career was going to prove very fruitful. It was a reassuring time for Zeppelin fans the world over.

35 years on:

So all these years later I still have much affection for Pictures At Eleven. It retains an innocence and purity somewhat lacking in subsequent Plant solo efforts. Being his first post-Zeppelin music to be released it was an absolute landmark release. It could not have been easy trying to escape the shadow of the past.

The actual recording marked Plant’s first proper studio work since the final Zep album In Through The Out Door three years earlier. In starting anew there was nothing too radical in his approach.

Lining both album’s up side-by-side there are still obvious parallels. Burning Down One Side possesses the rumbling robust pleading of In The Evening. Both Moonlight In Samosa and Like I’ve Never Been Gone carry the melancholy feel associated with All My Love. Worse Than Detroit was the sort of blues-rock-stomp Zep did in their sleep while Slow Dancer offered the epic and dynamic flavour that characterised the likes of Carousalambra.

Elsewhere there were new places to go. Bonzo would have given short shrift to any use of a drum machine -but its deployment on Fat Lip sounded just right for the tune. Saxophones too would not be heard on a Zep album but the late Rav Ravenscroft’s Baker Street-like solo considerably lightened the load on Pledge Pin.

The main difference from ’79 to ’82 was of course the lack of Jimmy Page. Gone were the plangent glides and swooping wide-screen riffs to be replaced by the more refined guitar style of Robbie Blunt. More Chet Atkins than Scotty Moore, Blunt brought his own finger-picking style to the proceedings offering up a more polished sheen courtesy of his use of the Fender Stratocaster

The Kidderminster born ex-Bronco guitarist proved to be an inspired foil for Plant. Blunts no-nonsense pretension-free approach to both his playing and his role as Plant’s new sidekick and writing partner diverted any comparisons with his former partner.

Blunt excelled in providing a free flowing style that allowed the singer to breathe and interpret the songs entirely as he saw fit. Gone was the competitive edge of the Zep era -Plant was now in control and to his credit Robbie Blunt had no problem with that.

Listening to it now Pictures at Eleven still carries a cohesion lacking in subsequent Plant albums. The main criticism I’d harbour is with the actual recorded sound and overall production. Even for the pre-digital techniques of the early ‘8o’s the production sounds incredibly thin. Was it the studio? Plant’s own inexperience in now being hands-on, in the recording process? Clearly he could have benefited from some of Page’s influence as the sonic architect and master producer of all those Zep sessions.

That said, the actual songs stand up very well. Lyrically Plant reflects the vulnerability he must have been subject to at the time. There’s a lyrical starkness about many of the songs that mirror the events and feelings of the time. A rare glimpse into the psyche of the once, and soon to be again, confident front-man. His ego would soon be refuelled via the touring success of the next few years – leading to far less introspection in his writing mirrored in the likes of Doo A Doo, Big Love, etc.

It would not be until the more organic content of Fate Of Nations a decade later that he would return to the more sensitive composition style of this debut album.

Musically too there’s a stark, welcome simplicity in the arrangements. Ahead lay Plant’s perhaps unavoidable, but often uneasy on the ear, preference for 8o’s recording techniques. This would bring forth beat box remixes, sampled percussion, multi-layered backing vocals and synthesiser effects that often came out sounding not unlike a whoopie cushion. Pictures At Eleven retained the power of his past work but not in a glaringly obvious fist clenching way. The songs have an effortless feel throughout but quite complex in terms of construction.

Compare the arrangements on this album to the over-cluttered approach that would rear its head on The Principal of Moments (eg, Stranger Here) and reach something of a crisis with that most difficult of third albums’ Shaken’N’Stirred (eg, Kallalou Kallalou).

Burning Down One side is thankfully devoid of such distractions. It’s straight rock, pretentious rock at that with ample evidence that he could still push his chest out and attack the vocal.

Moonlight In Samosa is built around Blunts acoustic picking – a mid-tempo ballad sung with affection. Pledge Pin hinted at new directions – sparse, urgent and edgy with masterful vocal phrasing, (“As the cavalcade begins to thin do you stop and look around…”) and the best live number bar none of his early tours.

Slow Dancer marks one of the few occasions in that early 8o’s period that Plant faced the shadow of Zeppelin face on, emerging relatively unscathed. What it lacked for in Page finesse, it made up with sheer effort and bravado. “Look I can still do this,” seemed to be the underlying message.

To side 2, track one, and Worse Than Detroit. Clearly Robbie Blunt’s triumph – finger-picking masterfully and chording as required over Plant’s familiar harmonic growl. A blues-rock stomper honed as noted previously on the byways of the North and amongst the backwaters of the Midlands clubs they had frequented when the “Honeydripper was on his way,” to paraphrase the lyric.

The drum machine may have had no place in Zep but it fits perfectly here for Fat Lip which still carries a texture and atmosphere all of its own – and marvel still at that elongated last line “round and round its gonna spi-i-i-i-in”. Blunt again is to the fore putting in strange arpeggio runs with lots of finger stretching.

The anthemic Like I’ve Never Been Gone quickly elevated itself to the main set closer of the early Plant tours. This emotive ballad has worn well with Plant at his pleading best with

The somewhat nondescript Mystery Title is the album’s one real flaw. A jumpy multi-layered guitar romp which proved if nothing else that this type of arrangement was best delivered in the hands of James Patrick. A far better bet for inclusion on the album would have been Far Post. Somehow relegated to the position of the B side to Burning Down One Side. This rollicking Dire Straight-ish swinger with Jez Woodroffe’s piano well up in the mix and some great harmony guitar, remains a delight.

35 years on it’s a timely moment to get re- accustomed with this 1982 first solo release. In terms of the whole Plant career overview, it’s as vital a landmark in the scheme of things as Led Zep 1. Akin to that Zep debut, Pictures represents a breakthrough but on an entirely different level. It was the solo album Plant had never really intended to make. Out of the confines of the Zep safety net it was the moment he had to confront the future on his own.

Whilst it may have been low on production values, the debut Plant solo set clocked in well high in terms of performance and delivery.

He still had it – he could still project it. Pictures At Eleven retains a sense of innocence and purity before the big business kicked back in. It’s an innocence and purity that three and a half decades have done little to erode. That’s why it remains one of Robert Plant’s most durable recorded statements.

Dave Lewis

First written for TBL 16

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Led Zeppelin News Update:
In conjunction with the Led Zep news site, each week I will be re- producing highlights from their weekly email update news summary. This goes out every Sunday. Sign up details are below. Many thanks to James Cook.

Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page

Robert Plant

Robert Plant at the Silver Clef Awards in London on June 30 (YouTube/Nordoff Robbins)

John Paul Jones

Upcoming events:

Mid-September – The new Black Country Communion album, which will feature Jason Bonham, is due to be released.
October – Andrew O’Hagan claimed that Robert Plant’s new album will be released this month.

Many thanks to James Cook.

The complete Led Zeppelin News email goes out every weekend. To receive it each week sign up here:http://tinyletter.com/LedZepNews

Led Zeppelin News Website: Check out the Led Zeppelin news website at

http://ledzepnews.com/

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Feather In The Wind – Led Zeppelin Over Europe 1980 book relaunch:

This week marks the 37th anniversary of the final dates of the final Led Zeppelin tour – a low key 14 date trek taking in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria and Switzerland.

Continuing the TBL  celebration of that final tour, I am relaunching the Feather In the Wind book – the price is a bargain £10 including postage and packing.

Note – stocks of the book is now running down so if you have yet to check out the book now is the time!

This is a fantastic opportunity to invest in the definitive account of the tour at a bargain price – essential  Led Zep summer 2017 reading.

80-07-02 Mannheim (8)

TBL Retro Archive: Led Zeppelin Over Europe 1980: it was 37 years ago…

Continuing the TBL retro archive feature on the final Led Zeppelin tour as chronicled in the Feather In The Wind book… 

Mannheim, July 2nd, 1980. Hello July, hello Mannheim. It’s dull and raining. Zeppelin are due to play two gigs here.

The concerts are held at an extraordinary place called the Eisstadion. Normally an ice hockey arena, its roofing is partly canvas. The audience assembled tonight is every bit as crazy as in Frankfurt. A strong American showing, mixed in with the German fanatics and a few English representatives. The group are set for an early start but the proposed 7.30pm kick off passes. Jimmy hasn’t even arrived yet. However, I spot Bonzo backstage nervous but itching to play. Before 8.00 though, everyone is in and ready. Lights low and out of the backstage darkness comes the crew, headed by Peter Grant ushering his boys on to the stage once again. They walk into the glare of light… the audience crumble. This is getting to be a familiar ritual.

Tonight is hot and sticky. The group play as ever, like their very existence depended on it. In the Evening is a standout. It’s such a titanic arrangement. Jimmy swinging that tremolo arm like he’s some demented version of Hank Marvin. Robert strutting through the chorus, “Oh I need your love… I’ve gotta have… ” And, of course, that delicately slowed passage with Jonesy’s lilting additions. One other slight alteration comes when Robert gets to the line “One day soon it’s got to stop, gotta stop! Gotta stop!” and as he repeats the line, Bonzo emphasises the statement with a couple of bass drum hammerings. Powerful. I notice during All My Love that Robert has altered one of the lines slightly. He sings “Ours is the love of all the warmth we can find” instead of “ours is the fire.” That number too, is outstanding.

Jimmy is again moving around like some madman enthused by the wall of sound surrounding him. In Kashmir, Robert gets so carried away he almost sings one verse twice. Not that it detracts from the performance. That’s another aspect I haven’t touched on yet. As much as this set is together, it’s not flawless. Cues are sometimes missed, Jimmy drops his pick – I mean it ain’t perfect always, but then rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t meant to be note perfect and stereotyped. The rawness is there (and the mellowness too, if you look for it). Their playing is so adventurous; at times it walks a tightrope. One false step out of line and it will crumble. With the chemistry of the four blending together and peaking so often, it rarely fails.
Trampled Underfoot is an example of that tonight. Jimmy pushes everyone to the limit with a blistering run… and Robert… Robert just smiles. He knows…

Robert tells the people about his latest sketch.
“Just take yer hand, imagine you’ve a false nose and pull it back and forth, now say, ‘Aye thank yew.’ Let me tell you, it soon caught on!

80-07-02 Mannheim (5)

During Stairway Robert puts in another ad-lib. After the words “I hope so” he sings repeatedly, “I keep on choppin’ and changin’. Choppin’ and changin’, choppin’ and changin’.” I spot another magic moment here too. Just as Robert is about to throw away his tambourine after the solo, he glances over to the side of the stage. Spotting Peter Grant in the wings, Robert bows to him and Peter nods back his approval. A sensitive touch.
Two encores – Rock And Roll has Jimmy duck-walking the stage while on Whole Lotta Love he sings the chorus with Robert and later, during the Let That Boy Boogie finale, the old lemon squeeze kid throws in some lines from Elvis Presley’s (Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame.

“Mannheim – Thank you and good night.”

Dave Lewis

Extract from the book Feather In the Wind – Led Zeppelin Over Europe 1980

To be continued…
All this is fully chronicled in my book Feather In the Wind- Led Zeppelin Over Europe -the book is readily available. Here’s the link to invest in the definitive account of the tour at a bargain price – yet more Led Zep summer 2017 reading.

 


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OVER EUROPE PIC 1

Extract from the book Led Zeppelin Feather In The Wind – Over Europe 1980 by Dave Lewis.

 Book ordering Details – ORDER AT THIS LINK:  

http://www.tightbutloose.co.uk/books-t-shirts/led-zeppelin-feather-in-the-wind-over-europe-1980-book/

 

BOOK BUNDLE DETAILS: 

The Feather In the Wind book is also available as a bundle offer with the Then As It Was At Kenworth book for just £18 plus postage – order at the link below

http://www.tightbutloose.co.uk/books-t-shirts/then-as-it-was-at-knebworth-1979-and-feather-in-the-wind-over-europe-1980-book-bundle-offer-buy-both-books-for-just-20-plus-postage/

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Record Collector – new issue with How To Collect Records Properly feature: 

The How To Collect Records Properly feature in the new issue of Record Collector by Ian Shirley is a superb feature. Witty and informative – it really gets to the essence of the joys of record collecting…

Here’s a  quote from the How To Collect Records feature in Record Collector

‘’There are collectors who have barns full of records and there are some with just a couple of crates. There are collections that are meticulously filed and can be cross referenced on an Excel spreadsheet. There are collections where everything is a mess and records are strewn on the floor and piled up in boxes from floor to ceiling and it takes so long to find anything, the owner ends up buying another copy of something they already have…’’

The good lady Janet notes that I am more in the latter category….judging by the pic below she may well be right!

Another good quote from the excellent How To Collect Records Properly feature in the new issue of Record Collector

Crucially, a record shop (or stall) allows you to second time with vinyl. You get the feel of the record and looking at records leads to new discoveries- so you end up buying things you had no intention of buying when you walked in.”

Here’s all the gen on this issue via the Record Collector website:

So, you collect records? Why else would you be here? But is there a right and a wrong way of doing it? The Rare Record Price Guide’s Ian Shirley says so, and here is his back-to-basics guide to make us better collectors

You may have heard that in an age where music can be instantly streamed and downloaded onto your computer or watched on YouTube, more and more people are buying vinyl.

Yes, spending money on plastic round things with a hole in the middle. Why pay for something you can get for free online? But RC readers have been doing it for decades and a new generation is joining in the fun. After all, when was the last time someone invited you round to his or her place to take a look at a folder full of downloads? Or check out a wall of CDs in rickety jewel cases?

A vinyl record collection is something different: you are basically being invited to look, touch, prowl over and listen to someone’s musical soul. You might pop around to see a fellow enthusiast for a listening session and sit there like a teenager again taking in the rear sleeve of Suzanne Ciani’s Live Buchla Performances LP. Or get all misty-eyed over the sight of a robust tri-centre on a gold label copy of The Penguins’ Earth Angel that you can never own. Maybe you have an attractive record that your mate lusts after! Anyway, like a plague of zombies in The Walking Dead, record collecting is again spreading across the UK and Europe, and perhaps further afield. So, we thought we would take the blame for telling you how to do it – proper, like.

Ordering details below:

http://recordcollectormag.com/issue-detail/468

Finally on this subject, I also like this quote from Record Collector editor Ian McCann in the new issue:

‘’It’s easy to overlook just how tenacious and knowledgeable you have to be to get actually get anywhere with this record collecting hobby. It’s not straightforward: the average music fan downloads an MP3 or streams it – but record collectors have to put some work into enjoying their music ‘’

I very much can relate to that…here’s me after putting in some serious record collecting work at the last Victoria Record Fair…

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Forthcoming Paul Kossoff book: Paul Kosssoff  – All Right Now – The Guitars,The Gear,The Music


 

J.P. James , the author of what looks to be an essential new book on Paul Kossoff has been in touch with details of the forthcoming publication.

David Clayton of the Free Appreciation Society suggested I get in touch with you on behalf of TBL subscribers who might be interested to know of my forthcoming book about Paul Kossoff of Free.

Designed to sit alongside Free: Heavy Load, , the attached press release and the book cover itself cover it well enough, and you can also see it here:

http://freeappreciationsociety.blogspot.com/

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TBL issue 43 – o2 Reunion photo call out:

For the forthcoming TBL issue 43 due later this year, I am on the look out for some 02 reunion photos – principally one to adorn the cover -if you have some clear shots that might fit the bill I’d be pleased to hear from you – email jpegs to the usual email

davelewis.tbl1@ntlworld.com

I did a call out some years back for 02 pics if you sent some then I’d still be pleased to hear form you again with anything for consideration .

Many thanks in advance.

DL Diary Blog Update:

Friday treats at the Vinyl Barn and some great acquisitions last week –Cream’s Disraeli Gears on the Uk Reaction label, ,Bad Company Rough Diamond on the magnificent Swan Song label (I already have a copy but this one had different script on the label so you gotta have it!)  Sssion with the Dave Clark Five mono pressing on UK Columbia and a couple of very nice Elvis original pic sleeve singles (Suspicious Minds and Kentucky Rain) – the weekend playlist sorted once again thanks to the always excellent Vinyl Barn and Mr Darren Harte.

Friday treats at MJ Trading – and there’s more … I could not resist this repro Corgi model James Bond Aston Martin DB5 at Martin’s excellent MJ Trading model car stall next to the Vinyl Barn – toys for boys – you gotta love ‘em!

There’s been a couple of very good TV programmes on this last week. My late dad lived near where Tom Jones was born in Pontypridd and back in the 60s I visited there as child so I very much enjoyed  watching BBC4’s Tom Jones’1950s The Decade That Made Me on BBC 4. There were some poignant scenes of the area which prompted many a personal memory for me of being there back in the 1960s.

George Best – All By Myself was also essential viewing on BBC 2 last Sunday. I was lucky enough to see him play for Manchester United at Chelsea in 1970 – Chelsea won 2-1 on that day – Best was  amazing..

During the documentary I noticed in a series of photo clips concerning his time playing in the American NASL, a pic of George wearing a Bad Company Swan Song T- shirt – most appropriate really as in many ways he was a rock star in footballers boots…..and for all his off the pitch troubles he remains the ultimate football legend as the documentary made clear

Latest DL vinyl accessory:  I’ve just invested in this rather splendid all in one compact integrated turntable amplifier with built in speakers to give its grand title ( also known as a record player! £30?…I’ll take it!

Whilst not quite of hi fi lounge quality, it packs a considerable punch for its size and offers authentic juke box sound to those beloved 45 rpm singles of which I have quite a few! Note I won’t be using this for the album collection and high end singles I have – it’s a convenient fun outlet for rather worn 45rpms which like I say I have a fair few!

I am actually looking for a new turntable system as it’s high time I invested in a new unit.

It’s been fantastic to have our Sam back from Australia for a few days this week. It will be tough saying goodbye to her next Tuesday as she resumes her work placement until the end of the year -roll on Christmas!.

In between all of that, there’s been more work on the forthcoming TBL issue 43 due later in the year. Here’s a pic taken yesterday at StudioMix as Mick and I waded through the 02 Reunion feature – this account is sure to prompt many a memory of that night of nights of nearly ten years gone…another highlight of the forthcoming TBL 43. Ahead there’s more work on that to do and also the ongoing Evenings With Led Zeppelin book project -it’s going to be a busy July…

Dave Lewis –   July 5, 2017.

Until next time –  have a great  weekend…

TBL Website updates compiled by Dave Lewis

with thanks to Gary Foy and James Cook

Follow TBL/DL on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tightbutloose.loose

The TBL/DL Facebook page has regular updates and photos – be sure to check it out.

And follow TBL/DL on Twitter

YouTube clips:

Robert Plant – Worse Than Detroit – Prince’s Trust Concert 1982:

Robert Plant – Burning Down One Side -TV appearance 1983:

Robert Plant – Pledge Pin live at the Montreal Forum 1983:

 

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10 Comments »

  • Joe C. said:

    Growing up in suburban Detroit, the youngest of four (with two older brothers), my exposure to music was quite vibrant.

    Our radio stations were quite healthy in promoting standard fare, local talent, and uncommon tracks, the ones that didn’t always sizzle off the airwaves of most AOR stations in America (I came to learn, anyway). Indeed Bob Seger’s famous quote on his Live Bullet album was thusly true: “I was reading in Rolling Stone where they said ‘Detroit audiences are the greatest rock & roll audiences in the world.’ I thought to myself, ‘****! I’ve known that for ten years!'”

    So when one of our rock stations (was it WRIF or WLLZ?) played Pictures at Eleven one evening in its entirety (with minimal commercial interruptions, thank you), I pressed record and captured it on a freshly minted Maxell cassette. With Zep I had been a shallow listener, familiar with a handful of songs despite a middle brother 5 years my senior who was not only in possession of a black Gibson Les Paul Custom but utterly commanded it against the backdrop of the likes of Physical Graffiti and the rest of the catalog – not to mention the likes of Trower, The Who, Rush, Bowie, Frampton, Clapton, and so many others. (Despite his name – Jimmy – he opted to pursue social psychology instead.)

    Musically, I had been more attuned to Bowie who was slipping himself into a strange experimental phase. It wasn’t for another five years (no word play intended) that I would realize Bowie was ALWAYS in an experimental phase (sometimes going through several such phases within the same song). So Pictures at Eleven was transitional for me – weening me off the Thin White Duke for a reimaged golden god sporting saddle shoes.

    The music was accessible and the record very-well colored in moods, tempos, and timbres. Fat Lip was hypnotic and elusively introspective – and I loved it. The two Cozy Powell tracks (Slow Dancer and Like I’ve Never Been Gone) seemed like Plant’s gentle quest to displace attachments to Kashmir and Stairway. For a sax player like me, Pledge Pin was exuberant and reeked with coolness. And to this day, perhaps my favorite raw-power, energy-laden track preferred self-indulgence remains Mystery Title (which is, like the cover notes of Ziggy Stardust instruct, “To be played at maximum volume.”).

    The main issues as noted by Mr. Dave are the thin acoustics here (and Principle of Moments) which evaporated with the spatialness of Shaken ‘N Stirred and beyond, as well as Plant’s reluctance to throw in a few more hooks and choruses. Even so, the compositions are not only successful within themselves, but the entire record succeeds at being organic and one.

    When I listen to a record, I want to come away from it as if having read a gratifying story or book – even if thematically the artist wasn’t intending such. Pictures at Eleven achieves this – again through diversity of color, pace and feeling. While some suggested Plant played it safe, I suggest he did otherwise with a mix of songs – some that Zep would never craft and others that confront and flirt with some of Zep’s finer moments. Then there’s the unusual but cohesive line-up that made it all work. Further, when he first toured he left the Zep catalog behind and performed without a net in that regard. Hardly playing it safe; if any tentativeness is found here it’s the natural feeling of testing waters and sailing into the unknown: Intentionally, cautiously, but ever onward.

    So much for brevity…

    That old Maxell tape from a random summer evening captured in a house between Detroit and Ann Arbor is long gone, but the feelings from then were easily rekindled here and welcomed. It’s great to reflect on such a fine event as the release of this record and the impact it’s had on so many. This was a terrific article and the stories around it from Dave and others here were delightful. Pardon my verbosity, but I did want to acknowledge that this record and more from Plant significantly influence the soundtrack of my life for the better.

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Pedro I remember that book – a very intensive read – a bit too busy on my TBL projects to really get involved in a re print.

  • Pedro Sera-leyva said:

    Hi!
    First of all, let me say that I am a big fan of your magazine and have been reading it for years…..
    I was wondering if you have ever thought about reprinting the Led Zeppelin book, Hexagonal Experiences through your publishing operation. It is a great Zep book and I’m sure it would go over well with your fans.
    Would it be cost prohibitive?

    Cheers!
    Pedro

  • VHP said:

    Mark Williams,

    I am sure Tom Petty will be amazing. Such a shame its only 1 gig & I can’t make it.

    Anyway, didn’t Jimmy say last September that he would be seen to be doing something this year, & that 2017 wasn’t that far away? Well, we are half way through 2017 and (sadly) I am not surprised that nothing has been announced. Unless he is quick it looks like 2017 will be yet another lost year with no live gigs or all new material. Both of which have been frequently promised – but not yet delivered on.

    COME ON JIMMY!!!!!! (D.L. – unless you know anything different!)

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Larry great comments and yes ejector seat man all there!

  • Larry said:

    Great write up on Pictures At Eleven, and thanks for the Burning Down One Side video! I had never seen that before, really enjoyed that.

    Pictures is still my second-favorite Plant album behind Fate Of Nations (and all its b-sides). It’s true the 80s were a strange time in the “rock and roll” business. I just bought and listened to the remastered and expanded Tango In The Night by Fleetwood Mac (1987). It had been a long time since I had listened to that album. Lindsey Buckingham is my second-favorite musician behind Jimmy Page. Most of Buckingham’s stuff in and out of the Mac is solid, but like his solo album Go Insane (1984), the Mac’s Tango is 80s tarted-up beyond all belief. There’s a few good tracks that somehow survived it (more or less), but it’s just another example of how the music business and its inhabitants went horribly wrong back then. In other words, I can forgive Robert for Shaken N Stirred and Now And Zen.

    Like many fans, Slow Dancer was a thrilling listen for me at the time. I thought the whole album was great. He was playing it somewhat safe and that seems understandable. But that didn’t last long and he took a left turn on Principle Of Moments (which I enjoyed). But after that he went too far down the “hey I’m an 80s musician now” road. Most of his contemporaries did the same unfortunately.

    Nice pickup on the Bond Aston Martin DB5, Dave. Did it come complete with passenger ejector seat? 😉

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Richard wow a signed copy very nice!

  • Richard Willis said:

    Dave,I have enjoyed the trip down memory lane with your piece about Pictures at 11. Great! A few years ago Robert signed my copy for me. Its been hung in my home since.

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Mark thanks for great comments -enjoy the gig!

  • Mark Williams said:

    Dave,a superb write-up of Pictures at Eleven there. I remember buying the album the week it came out,such excitement to hear what the content would sound like.One part of me adored the Zep-like riffage of ‘Slow Dancer’, the other excited for the fresh,new perspective of ‘Moonlight in Samosa’ and ‘Pledge Pin’. For me and millions of others,while I still hanker for a return to that ‘other band’ 12 year period, Robert remains a true inspiration as he approaches his 69th birthday.

    Looking forward to this Sunday,Hyde Park with Stevie Nicks (and others) supporting the excellent Mr.Tom Petty. Keep up the great work & coverage,there’s nothing better than Tight But Loose.

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