Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s relatively normal upbringing in the West Midlands was a far cry from the glitz and glamour that would suffocate him throughout his adult life. A large portion of Plant’s childhood was spent looking out of the window, daydreaming about escaping or cycling to the picturesque Welsh borders from his home in the Black Country.
Plant was an only child until he turned 11, and time was something that he had plenty of on his hands. As he got older, music started to play a more significant part in his life, and suddenly, it was all that mattered. Despite growing up in a remote town in the Midlands rather than in a major city, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Plant and, somewhat bizarrely, Stourbridge had a budding music scene.
Every week concerts would run at Stourbridge Town Hall, and this provided Plant with getting to experience many stars of the day. The future Led Zeppelin frontman adored his time in the crowd gazing at stupendously talented musicians, but deep down, he knew that one day he belonged to be stood on that hallowed stage.
“I pushed my stamp collection to one side and found myself cycling into Stourbridge in the West Midlands most nights, and working in Woolworth’s every weekend to be able to buy a ticket to Stourbridge town hall for five shillings,” Plant revealed to The Guardian. “The curtain would pull back and there would be Gene Vincent, Screaming Lord Sutch or the Pretty Things. Everything seemed otherworldly, even the gels used in the spotlights.
“Suddenly my mates in the lunatic fringe at King Edward VI grammar school had pointed shoes and slicked-back hair and the girls wore petticoats. Everyone was getting ready to become mods, and all this played out among blood, sweat and cheap perfume on a maple sprung dancefloor,” Plant added. “To me, Stourbridge was the Beverly Hills of the Black Country. There were three kingdoms: rockers with bikes and Gene Vincent, jazz beatniks with modern jazz quartets and fancy Albert Camus books, and then the blues and folk movement listening to Leadbelly and such.”
These life-affirming nights spent at the town hall watching artists like Gene Vincent tear the roof of the place made Plant want to grab a microphone and replicate their greatness. When he finally got the call from a friend to sing in his band, there were no nerves from Plant — this was what he was born to do, and by the end of the show, everybody in attendance was in agreement over this matter.
“I was obsessed with it all,” Plant noted. “So became any one of those throughout the week. One night, my schoolmates asked me to sing in their band, the Jurymen, at some gig in Swadlincote. I looked down over the audience into the eyes of true love: to my right, to my left, and a blonde true love over there. Oh, dear … From that moment, I knew what I wanted to do.”
Plant’s adolescence and formative years were built around the concerts that he attended throughout his youth, which gave him reason to believe that there was a hell of a lot more to life than Stourbridge. After growing up on a diet consisting of some of the greatest showmen around, Plant was more than ready when the time came for him to step foot on stage, and the singer has never looked back since.