The second half of my 1975 interview with Robert. I must have asked him whether he played guitar himself judging from the opening quote, but I’m damned if I can remember. I do remember his suite at the Plaza though. You could have housed a family of 10 in there, and all their uncles and nephews too. Led Zep didn’t stint in the accommodation department when they were touring America, or the transport department for that matter. No one, and I mean no one, had a longer caravan of limousines than these boys.
“I play guitar now and again around Worcestershire but it isn’t met by such tremendous outcries as it is when we all get together on stage.
And how’s the current tour going? “I’ve been 75 per cent pleased with the shows we’ve done so far even though we’ve got a new stage set-up to get used to. It’s quite hard to go out and confront thousands of people with a new stage, so we have to compensate for these new things.
“At the beginning of the tour I always feel nervous because I’ve got a lot to stand up for over here. If ever I’ve given all that I’ve got to give, it’s been to an audience and the audiences here can really drain you until you’re almost in tears.
“It’s not as if these kids are all 17 or 18 and going barmy. These people have been going along with us for seven or eight years. Now I know there’s people in England who’ll say they’ve been standing with us for seven or eight years, but over here the whole motion is like a seven-year trek that’s charged with the energy that these people give. My nerves are really through hoping that I can re-establish the contact that I had before.
“The English promotion side of things has always been archaic. They didn’t want to know us as the New Yardbirds in the early days, so we had to come over here and make a statement that no-one else had made before. Then everybody wanted to know.
“I can see this happening again with the Pretty Things who have achieved so much ability with their writing and playing. They get much more coverage here than in England, but how much coverage can you get in England, anyway? It’s not too hot, and the promoters are a little reserved in what they can promote.”
Zeppelin have always maintained a reputation as outlaws of the road in the US. Talk of their excesses in hotel rooms ranges far and wide, and the faint of heart have been known to cower when they approach with the twinkle in their eyes that spells havoc.
“Like the music, the legend grows too,” said Robert. “There are times when people need outlets. We don’t rehearse them and, let’s face it, everybody’s the same. Over the last few years we’ve spent some of our time at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle where Bonzo fishes for sharks in the sea from his bedroom window. Hence the mudshark thing on the Zappa album.
“No, we’re not calming down yet. Calming down doesn’t exist until you’re dead. You just do whatever you want to do when you want to do it, provided there’s no nastiness involved then the karma isn’t so good.”
Moving on to more serious topics, I asked whether Robert thought ‘Stairway To Heaven’ was becoming heavily identified as the group’s signature tune. “I don’t know about that. We’ve always intended to try and create a spectrum of music that captures as many aspects of us as we could, although we never realised it at the beginning. We try and do this on stage, too. We start off like songs of thunder and then we take it down with a song like ‘Rain Song’ so you tend to develop a rapport rather than just a blatant musical statement. It ebbs and flows through two and a half hours or so, and we feel it would be unfair for the climax to be ‘Whole Lotta Love’ now, because that isn’t where we climax anymore.
“It’s quite a moving thing. I remember doing it at the Garden last year and I sang well away from the mike and I could hear 20,000 people singing it. I mean... 20,000 people singing ‘High Heeled Sneakers’ is one thing, but 20,000 people singing ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is another. People leave satisfied after that, and I don’t think they leave satisfied because of the violent aspects of the music, which I don’t think exists anyway, but because they feel a satisfaction with the music they’ve heard.”