Robert Plant is taking time to look back at his early solo career — a second musical act that has actually aged surprisingly well. Plant's new Digging Deep box set is a limited edition vinyl collection featuring 16 solo hits and B-sides on seven-inch singles. The eight-disc set is released in connection with the second season of Plant's podcast, Digging Deep with Robert Plant.
Plant spoke to Uncut and recognized that that part of his post-Led Zeppelin journey hasn't found a home in his live work — much to the chagrin of friends and fans: “I’ve always spent so much time going forward, going from a present tense to a future tense, I’d completely forgotten about the structure and various other aspects of those early songs. I was encouraged by some friends who said, 'Why don’t you play some of that s*** when you’re actually doing gigs with the (Sensational) Space Shifters?' I said, 'I don’t know. Why don’t I?' I suppose it’s because I’m always concentrating on today and tomorrow. So it seemed like a good adventure.”
He went on to describe the experience of fronting, arguably, the biggest rock band of the 1970's to becoming a new and untested solo act: “Being in a band like Led Zep was magnificent and also quite frustrating. Because you were in it and it was a democracy, it worked when it worked, and it didn’t work when it didn’t work. But to suddenly be completely free to fail? That was a totally different mindset altogether. And magnificent because of it.”
Although Robert Plant and Jimmy Page joined forces a handful of times in the 1980's with mixed results — Plant admitted it felt a long way from Led Zeppelin, recalling, “The times had changed. We hadn’t got John (Bonham) any more. We hadn’t got anything apart from our ability to do what we do. It was good that he came; I was glad. Also he’d played on the Honeydrippers stuff, along with Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers. Then you become people who know each other and sometimes you work together and sometimes you don’t. It didn’t carry any of the emotional hangover because Zeppelin faltered and faltered and then failed. So it wasn’t as if it was an overnight shock that it stopped completely. We were already slightly thinking on different lines musically anyway. But we came together and it was a remarkable sound — Jimmy did a great job.”
Robert Plant's first solo album, Pictures At Eleven. was released on June 28th, 1982 — less than two years after the death of John Bonham. Plant recalled how the project, which acted as the springboard for a long and varied career apart from Zeppelin, came about: “Initially, I didn't want to do anything at all. But I got a little four-track tape machine at home and we started knocking out a lot of rockabilly stuff and Dion stuff. And the musicians that I was working with were really quite competent. And a lot of them had been in bands, traveled abroad, been all around the world and had chosen to go into the slow lane, rather than the fast lane. So, there was a total different adrenaline count, which meant that we could spend two nights doing 'Ruby Baby,' or something like that, and making it sound great. So, we said the best thing we could do is perhaps having a go of it on the road, and it just sort of escalated from there into something quite good.”
Robert Plant will next perform on May 8th in Cheltenham, England.