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Music

When Robert Plant teased Pearl Jam about lifting 'Going to California'

Without Robert Plant there would be no Pearl Jam. A key component of English rock leviathan Led Zeppelin, Plant augmented their esoteric mystique by matching the power of Jimmy Page’s guitar-playing with a ferocious style of vocal delivery. At points, it could be so otherworldly that many listeners wondered whether he was actually a character from one of the mythologies he referenced in his lyrics. 

In many ways, Plant is the ultimate rock frontman, and Zeppelin the greatest rock band to have graced the earth. Amongst their millions of adoring fans are the members of Pearl Jam, and it’s a fact that the Seattle band are happy to admit. They’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that Zeppelin had a considerable influence on their sound, whether it be Mike McCready’s form of guitar playing or frontman Eddie Vedder’s iconic shriek, the hues of Plant and Co. are clear.

Fans of both bands will be aware that Pearl Jam showed their love for Led Zeppelin when they released the single ‘Given to Fly’ in 1998, which is very similar to Zeppelin’s ‘Going to California’ from 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV. In a 2015 Q&A session with Mike McCready on SiriusXM’s Pearl Jam Radio Station, Plant toyed with the guitarist for Pearl Jam lifting the track.

Asked for his opinion on the significance of staying creative, Plant argued that it is “absolutely crucial”. He explained, “Being an entertainer, outside of skill, craft, experience and whatever else it is you grow into, repetition is a hell of an evil bedfellow.”

The classic Led Zeppelin song that Robert Plant dismissed as “pompous”

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Then, the sharp-witted Plant decided to pounce: “To repeat yourself as regularly as we do as entertainers — you know this. I mean, how many times have you played ‘Going to California’? Oh sorry, whatever your song is called.” 

McCready was in stitches at Plant’s quip, and the Led Zeppelin man proceeded to repeat the question, and after being told the real name of the Pearl Jam song, he rounded it off with, “Yeah, yeah, whoopsadaisy. Mind you, nobody’s perfect.” 

What ensued was a discussion of how it is common for artists to borrow from their inspirations. Afterwards, the chat focused on a hilarious anecdote where Eddie Vedder once introduced ‘Given to Fly’ as ‘Given to California’. 

“When you came to see us in Sweden, we did the song, and he said, he dedicated it to you I think, and acknowledged you, and said ‘Given to California,'” McCready remembered. 

“It’s a good job he had some dancing girls backstage afterwards to take the heat out of the moment,” Plant joked again. “We’re all mature, so we all know that’s okay. I didn’t get a cheque in the post, nothing like that.” Considering just how many songs Led Zeppelin ripped off in their time, it seems only fitting that Plant should take this one in good jest.

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