Subscribe

Credit: Dina Regine

Music

The bad Led Zeppelin reviews hidden from Robert Plant

@TylerGolsen

Robert Plant is one of the most famous and acclaimed frontmen in all of rock history. Guiding Led Zeppelin through a decade of majesty and grandiosity, Plant was like a gilded god (to use his own alleged words) with a bouffant of towering hair, an open shirt, and a voice that could bring down buildings without solid foundations. 

But it wasn’t always that way. When he was first tapped to join Jimmy Page’s new project, he was a 19-year-old kid that had never played on a stage bigger than a tiny platform at a local pub. On their initial tour as The New Yardbirds, Plant had to embody an entirely new persona and weaponise it almost immediately, considering that the Scandinavian audiences were likely confused about why the only distinguishable Yardbird on stage was Page.

Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant, noticed Plant’s early reluctance and did what he could to shelter the young singer from the harsh reviews that were coming in. “He did lack a bit of confidence at first,” Peter Grant is quoted as saying in the book Led Zeppelin IV: Rock of Ages. “I mean, I used to hide all the negative reviews we had.”

Bad reviews were nothing new to any of the members: Page and John Paul Jones both had prominent gigs as hired guns that led them to some interesting pairing and less than stellar performances, while Plant and John Bonham had to deal with the indifference of barflies while struggling to make it in The Band of Joy.

Unfortunately, the negative press was something that Zeppelin would have to get used to – they were notoriously lambasted for years, garnering difficult relationships with magazines like Rolling Stone (who called Led Zeppelin I “very dull,” “monotonous,’ and “redundant”) and the Daily Mail (who called Page’s playing “depressingly antiquated”).

Still, Plant acknowledged his own lack of awareness at the band’s initial shows. “I didn’t even know what to do with my arms,” Plant says. “Now I understand why Joe Cocker did that thing for a while. Because what are you going to do? There were so many solos.”

That said, Plant was able to perfect his stagecraft by the time Zeppelin began working on their first album. From there, it was about learning how to fit into the band as a singer and songwriter and how to keep the shouting to a minimum: “I was shouting too much on the first album,” he told Cameron Crowe in 1973. “I stopped shouting a little bit by the second album. By the third one I finally learned how to sing.”

Follow Far Out Magazine across our social channels, on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.