Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s modest upbringing in the West Midlands was a world away from the adult life that he would go on to live. A large portion of Plant’s childhood was spent looking out of the window daydreaming about becoming a rockstar, despite it feeling improbable, this pipedream offered him a form of escapism that he clung on to like his life depended on it.
Plant always felt isolated as a child, and before he found music, he felt like a perennial outsider. However, once he found rock music, his life changed forever. Elvis was an early icon of his, recalling in 1994: “When I was a kid I used to hide behind the curtains at home at Christmas, and I used to try and be Elvis. There was a certain ambience between the curtains and the French windows, there was a certain sound there for a ten-year-old. That was all the ambience I got at ten years old and I always wanted to be a bit similar to that.”
Elvis was Plant’s gateway drug into the world of rock ‘n’ roll, and when he was 12-years-old, one record would be released which would change everything for the future Led Zeppelin singer. The late Billy Fury was an early British rock icon, he never quite got the same kind of plaudits that his peers like The Beatles received, and instead became a cult icon rather than being adored from the masses. Since he passed away in 1983, Fury hasn’t loomed large over the rock ‘n’ roll history books, but without him, we may never have had Led Zeppelin.
Despite equalling The Beatles’ chart record of having 24 hits throughout the 1960s and spending a mammoth 332 weeks on the UK chart — he never quite reached stardom. Fury failed to achieve a number one single or album, and in the 1970s he went into semi-retirement, leaving his pop career as a thing of the past. He only ever released three-albums yet his record, A Thousand Stars, would change Robert Plant’s life.
“Music was a panacea and a mysterious release for me,” Plant told The Guardian in 2007. “It was otherworldly, another life outside Middle England in 1960 where it was all about endeavour, learning and making sure that all your vulnerabilities were not too evident so that you didn’t end up looking like a sobbing klutz.
“Does the male of the species pretend he’s more than he is, or does he get lost in forlorn, broken-hearted love songs? I like the idea of the lone male willowing away, and Billy Fury was the great British singer for that. He was part of the pop machine, but he slid through it and became something more, and this song hit me hard when I was 12,” Plant passionately said.
In a later interview with Record Collector, Plant astonishingly revealed that his time at Grammar School ended after his adoration for Fury led to him getting expelled. Explaining the expulsion, Plant said: “Hair. But not this Hair, the Hair of Billy Fury. Yeah, that’s got to be the title of the fucking interview, hasn’t it? The Hair of Billy Fury [laughs]. I loved Billy Fury, stunning and that’s why I just wanted to get that thing, that Billy Fury moment.”
If it wasn’t for the Hair of Billy Fury leading to Plant’s expulsion, then the chances of him having to courage to move to London aged 16 to chase his dream. This chain of events which began with discovering Elvis, saw him fall head over heels in love with Billy Fury and eventually moving to London. Each event was a brick being laid down by Plant which would ultimately build the house where Led Zeppelin lay, and go on to become one of the all-time rock greats.