Friday, November 22, 2002

Tribute bands keep Led Zeppelin's undying appeal alive

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Keeping Led Zeppelin's undying appeal alive through imitation are today's Led Zeppelin tribute bands. Listed here are six bands, half in the United Kingdom and half in the United States. This constitutes only a few of the Led Zeppelin tribute bands in the world.

United States
  • Zoso
    Reader's comment: "If you're ever in the Charlotte, N.C., area, you might want to check out Amos' Southend. They have a lot of tribute bands, and a Zeppelin tribute band from Los Angeles called Zoso appears there about every two or three months. They are due in for another show on Nov. 27. These guys are absolutely amazing." - Scott, North Carolina, Nov. 21
    Next shows: Tonight & tomorrow, Univ. of Alabama at Tuscaloosa
  • Four Sticks

    Next show: Tomorrow (Nov. 23), Black Rock & Blue, Fairfield, Conn.
  • Led Zepland

    Next show: Nov. 27, Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
    Rumor has it a studio album is on the way!
United Kingdom
  • Fred Zeppelin

    Reader's comment: "I went to The Limelight Club in Crewe to see a tribute band called Fred Zeppelin. What a performance these guys gave! A two-hour-plus gig was absolutely fantastic. Their renditions of 'Dazed and Confused' and 'Stairway to Heaven' were the best I have heard from any tribute band." - Ashley, Chesire, England, Oct. 30
    Next show: Tonight (Nov. 22), Schofields, Birmingham, England
  • Simply Led

    Reader's comment: "This was a special event that I will remember for all my life. The reason why I'm unsure of the set list is because I was just having too much fun. It was also very refreshing to see how the audience seemed so split between old people coming for a bit of nostalgia and younger kids coming to see what the whole fuzz was all about. Simply Led surely showed them that." - Daniel, Reykjavik, Iceland, April 9
    Next show: Dec. 14, Club 85, Hitchin, England
  • Whole Lotta Led

    Next show: Tonight (Nov. 22), Central Station, Wrexham, England
    Then: Tomorrow (Nov. 23), Pavilion, Bath, England (where Led Zeppelin played in 1968 and 1971)

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Letter: What's that noise on 'Black Dog'?

These comments originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."
More than 30 years after its creation and release, and more than 20 years after my first hearing it, "Black Dog" never ceases to amaze and challenge on both visceral and musical levels. Where is that downbeat, anyway?)

However, I could swear that during the final instrumental coda/solo,
over Page's Leslie guitar solo and Plant's panned vocal moans, I still hear some leakage voices --not unlike the leakthrough voices on "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Misty Mountain Hop" (possibly an earlier guide vocal) as well as Sister Sledge's "We are Family" and Kool & the Gang's "Celebration." In this case, of course, it's not like explicit party talk, but it almost sounds like spoken leakthrough as if they had recorded the sound of the otherwise final "Black Dog" mix in the control room and heard Page, Jones, etc., speaking quietly over it...?

Thanks for the question, Jay. I don't hear it, but I did have a great time trying to keep track of how many stray clicks there are from Bonham's drumsticks. But maybe some of my other readers are hearing voices too and would like to comment.

Oh, and a special note to my next-door neighbors. (Hopefully, they're on this mailing list.) That loud music you just heard was "Black Dog." It's over for now, but don't be surprised if it comes on again before midnight. And please don't call the police on my birthday!

Monday, October 21, 2002

Jason Bonham says mother would proudly approve if Led Zeppelin reunion included him

Jason Bonham was gracious enough to grant an interview to Lemon Squeezings on Oct. 17 after a concert with his current band, Healing Sixes, at the Thunder Dome in Baltimore. Behind a drum set, this thirtysomething musician sounds tight. But leaning against a bar and sipping from a can of Diet Coke, Jason shows his loose, easygoing demeanor.

Healing Sixes played a great set of material from its new CD, Enormosound, and three Led Zeppelin covers ended the concert on a high note for the energetic crowd. Luckily enough, that's just when things were beginning for myself and the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer. Off to the side of the stage, he made himself available to sign autographs for new fans and to answer questions regarding bootlegs, cars and his take on the possibility of a Led Zeppelin reunion in 2003.

"I'd be a fool not to ask you if you have any plans for next year, with all the rumors circulating," I coyly phrased the question. Apparently, the London Times was more straightforward when the newspaper recently posed the question to him by telephone.

According to Jason, an interviewer for the Times said that Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones had met on a certain day. Jason, knowing about the work being done on a Led Zeppelin DVD through a common contact, said they were probably meeting to discuss the DVD project.

But the Times insisted that they had also discussed reuniting. Jason said that he had not been contacted by anyone from Led Zeppelin or their management. "So, I phoned Jimmy to see whether he really did want me," Jason told me. "I left a message for him asking to call me and let me know. Well, I haven't heard back."

Jason said he would be comfortable drumming for a reunion and that his mother, Pat Bonham, would proudly approve. "My mom has said that she will give full support to the tour if I'm on the drums but not if anyone else is on drums," Jason said.

Although he hasn't heard from Page about the reunion, he has heard from the engineer on the Led Zeppelin DVD project. Jason said that the man helping Page on the project is Kevin Shirley, who also worked on the Healing Sixes CD as well as Live at the Greek, the double live album by Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes. Although Jason was not able to name any specific footage that would appear on the upcoming Led Zeppelin DVD, he said he's heard it's all excellent footage.

While fans prepare for the first official live release by Led Zeppelin since 1997's BBC Sessions, Led Zeppelin bootleg collectors have been enjoying a highly productive round of newly released soundboard recordings, video releases, and more. Trying to ascertain the sources of these newly discovered recordings, some fans assume that it must be coming from someone near the band.

Since Jason's name has been mentioned in the past in conjunction with such guesses, I asked him whether he knew where such recordings were coming from. He did not claim responsibility for any leaks. However, he hinted that he has been in possession of some recordings that are not available in trading circles, including at least one with a concert date previously unknown to Led Zeppelin historians. Lemon Squeezings will certainly follow up on this issue!

In the meantime, Healing Sixes is scheduled for the following appearances in the eastern United States and Canada:
  • Oct. 21: Philadelphia (Venue TBA)
  • Oct. 22: B.B. King's, New York
  • Oct. 24: Hard Rock Cafe, Toronto
  • Oct. 25: Double D's, Morristown, N.J.
  • Oct. 26: Palace, Lansford, Pa.
  • Oct. 29: Stone Pony, Asbury Park, N.J.
  • Oct. 30: Crocodile Rocks, Allentown, Pa.
  • Nov. 1: Town House, Williamstown, N.Y.
  • Nov. 2: Jarrod's, Attleboro, N.Y.
  • Nov. 6: Zanies Too, Indianapolis
And coming soon, dates on the West Coast!

Monday, October 14, 2002

London Times reports Led Zeppelin reunion tour certain; could it be true?

The London Times has just reported that Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones will reunite for a concert tour in the United States to take place in the summer of 2003. People are writing me on a daily basis saying that contracts have been signed. I receive e-mails from John Paul Jones himself with no comment.

As I've said before, history says don't believe the hype. History says there are a lot of people who want it to happen. History says there are a lot of people who expect it to happen. History says it might be considered. History says it might even be SERIOUSLY considered!

But history says IT WON'T ACTUALLY HAPPEN. I would be surprised if it does happen. But if it does, and if they call themselves Led Zeppelin, I want to introduce them at a concert, telling tens of thousands of people: "Hold onto your seat. Here comes Led Zeppelin!"

Sunday, October 6, 2002

Fans drive Volkswagen bus decorated with Zep symbols

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Two of my readers have a Web page devoted to their 1971 Volkswagen bus. It's as old as Led Zeppelin's fourth album, and it has the four symbols freshly painted on it. Maryland's Richard and Bernadette are truly one... er, um, two-of-a-kind Zep fans. You can see their painted bus at (This content is no longer available).

Thursday, October 3, 2002

Web gem: Viking kittens perform 'Immigrant Song'

These comments originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Several people yesterday sent me to this very cute Web page. Cat lovers, beware! It's "rather good," if you asked me!

Monday, September 30, 2002

Thanks to the G-Man and 'The Naked Brunch'

Hello and thank you go out to the G-Man, who had me on his weekly radio program, "The Naked Brunch," as part of his celebration of Zeptember. His show can be heard weekly on WPSC-FM 88.7 in Wayne, N.J. Try to find it if you happen to be near William Paterson University on Sunday mornings.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Will release of DVD set spawn a Led Zeppelin reunion?

These comments originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Soon, we'll see a new Led Zeppelin DVD set. This much is true for sure. But will the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunite? Think of the rumors that persisted while the band was around: They're going to break up! The rumors were wrong every time. And think of all the rumors that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin would reunite. The rumors were likewise wrong every time. History shows the odds are against a reunion.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Where were you on 9/11?

These comments originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Lemon Squeezings posed the question to John Paul Jones last year: Where were you when you learned of the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001?
"We'd just returned. We were out shopping. We'd just heard it when we came back actually. We'd heard it on the car radio. It kind of sounded at times like Orson Welles, how he did War of the Worlds. You just can't believe it."

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Led Zeppelin reunion rumors refuel as Robert Plant approaches Rockline interview

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

The Led Zeppelin reunion rumors are fast and furious again. But could the rumors be true for once? Here's my perspective.

On this day in 1998, the Reading Festival was held in England, with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant playing a triumphal set. Little did anybody know that soon the Page/Plant tour would be through.

Led Zeppelin classics such as "How Many More Times" and "Black Dog" were joined in Page and Plant's set list with scarce cuts from their new album, such as "Burning up" and "Heart in Your Hand."

Page and Plant's fans had come from various corners of the world to see the duo headlining its last European date for two months. Nobody knew time was running out on the reunion.

After this date, Page and Plant returned to North America to begin the second leg of their Walking Into Everywhere tour, followed quickly by a third leg of touring in Europe by the end of the year. With the prospect of further tour dates extending into 1999, hitting Japan and South America, Plant withdrew from the Japanese tour just days in advance.

So far, Page and Plant have not toured together since December 1998. For more than a year, Plant did not make any public comment to explain why he be'd broken things off with Page. The year of waiting to hear from Plant was an eternity in fans' eyes and also in the eyes of Page, who contacted Plant often to pitch various project ideas. Plant just wouldn't commit to anything and never explained why.

Page took his desperation to the press in March 2000. He told Canada's Jam Music:
"I have been trying to motivate something, even just (Page and Plant) together, for like the last 15 months. If I can't manage to pull that off ...

"I have employed every scenario that I thought somebody could respond to, like writing new material, to having a vehicle to just go and play, which was Net Aid, to doing this, doing that, proposing this, proposing that. It just wasn't to be, for Robert. He just couldn't see a way to do anything. I don't see how it is going to come together."
When Plant finally broke his silence, beginning in April 2000, to comment for the first time on his departure from Page, he revealed that he'd been tired of touring for the last 30 years. However, comments made in 2002 provided even further insight.

An interview published at in July 2002 quoted Plant as saying, "If you ever have the inclination to chuck a TV set out the window, it would be because you'd been to Japan for any period of time and have to deal with the psyche of playing our kind of music in that environment."

That's why his tour with Page ended prematurely. "I just couldn't hack it, really," Plant explained. "So I said, 'Look, it's a long time to be away. Spring's coming. There's some beautiful stuff going on.'" Plant took the opportunity to go out on his own and rediscover his own tastes in music, while setting himself in the proper direction for his vocal abilities.

Have Plant's views on reuniting with Page and perhaps Jones changed at all in the past two years? Although Plant's latest trend in interviews is mentioning he hopes to reconcile with Jones at least personally, it's doubtful that a Led Zeppelin reunion is in the works, as reports have once again been stating in print and on the radio for the last few days in August 2002.

Even looking just at Plant's quotes, it's doubtful. A report by Gary Graff at quotes Plant as telling WCSX-FM that he might consider reuniting with Page for a lunch. The likelihood of a concert tour between them doesn't sound very promising to me.

Plant will be answering questions from fans by phone and e-mail tonight on the radio program Rockline; see their Web site for information on how you can contribute your question to the program. Don't worry; I think at least one person will ask the inevitable "Will Led Zeppelin get back together?" question, so try to think of something original!

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Carmen Electra drums to 'When the Levee Breaks'

These comments originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Carmen Electra's a regular Bonzo on the drums, ain't she? Did anybody else see her playing "When the Levee Breaks" on "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn"?

Friday, August 2, 2002

'First Performance' lithograph update

This update about the limited edition lithograph of the First Performance of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham comes from a satisfied customer in Wisconsin who writes:

Thank you for letting us know about Jorgen Angel's lithograph of the First Performance. I received my print late last week, and it has already become one of my prized possessions -- along with all of my Chicago Bears memorabilia, which is not an easy feat to accomplish.

When you mentioned the lithograph on July 7, I almost didn't bother to check out the information on it because I assumed that the cost would be several hundred dollars. But now that I have the print, I think I probably would have been willing to pay considerably more than the $85 I spent (including shipping).

And I also wondered what kind of "customer service" I would receive, given the fact that my money had to travel to Copenhagen, and then the print had to travel from there to the US. I think the entire turnaround time was just over two weeks, with Jorgen emailing me a couple of times along the way, giving me updates about my check being received and the mailing of the print. He even asked that I let him know when I received it. What an all-around good guy. I highly, highly recommend this to everyone in LZHistory Land.

Delavan, Wis.
Remember: Only 750 of these limited, numbered items exist. You can order yours today at Please tell Jorgen that Steve "The Lemon" sent you!

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Live Led Zeppelin DVD may be out by end of 2002

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Earlier this month, Robert Plant gave Billboard magazine some intriguing news from the Jimmy Page camp. Plant reported:
"He's found huge archives of really rare old Zeppelin stuff -- live stuff from the States from 1969 -- and he's sifting through it with a view to putting it on DVD."
Inside sources indicate that a live Led Zeppelin DVD may be available in time for this holiday shopping season.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Interview with Tony Franklin, bass player with Jimmy Page and Roy Harper, later The Firm

This interview originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Fretless bass player Tony Franklin speaks with Lemon Squeezings about his involvement with Roy Harper and Jimmy Page in 1984.

SS: What can you tell us about Roy Harper and Jimmy Page?

TF: I can quite easily say that Roy Harper and Jimmy Page were, and are, two of my biggest musical influences. I had a good grounding in music before playing with those guys, but they showed me "the cracks between the musical pavestones". They are two of the best at what they do.

Lyrically, Roy is a masterful poet, going from the romantic, to the poignant, the political and the comical, seamlessly. His music supported his lyrics and melody perfectly. His music would twist and turn with little regard for what is "right" or "proper". He generally played the acoustic guitar, so his style acquired the "folk" label. But I think this is somewhat limiting. Roy is really something all of his own, in my opinion.

Jimmy Page did the same thing musically. But he worked mostly on the electric guitar, so it came out in more of a "rock" way. But once again, it's too limiting to say that Led Zeppelin was just a rock band, and that Jimmy Page just a rock guitarist. Their "folk" influence is quite evident, as well as numerous other styles.

SS: When did you first start playing with Roy Harper?

TF: Through "chance" connections and meetings, I did a recording session with Roy in 1982. This finally led to the recording of the Work of Heart album and tour. I've since done six(?) more albums with Roy.

SS: Did you ever expect that Jimmy Page would pop up in the studio to record a whole album with Roy?

TF: It's not something I really thought about. But when it came about I thought it was great. It was nice to see the two of them together. Their influence upon each other and respect was quite apparent. They've actually done a lot of music together. I'm sure you know that Jimmy used to appear on Roy's albums under a pseudonym? Jimmy didn't want to draw too much attention to himself. He wanted the focus to be Roy and his music.

SS: What was it like playing with Roy and Jimmy in the studio? Did you take part in or witness any of the songwriting process?

TF: It was very relaxed, fun and quite casual. We got a lot done. It didn't really feel like we were making an album. We took breaks and went down the "Promenade" at Blackpool. I have a fond memory of me, Pagey, Roy and Nik Green (the engineer and keyboard player) going on a roller coaster. I think we were all a little "happy" at the time. I remember all the loose change falling out of our pockets when we went upside down, and laughing a lot! (Nik Green actually has some comprehensive, insightful and humourous documentation of those days. You can see him at He's a talented writer, as well as a great keyboard player and person!).

I wasn't involved in the writing process. All of that was done before I got there. I did have some ideas during the recording process though.

SS: What did you like best about the album? worst?

TF: It's a great album. It's a very special moment in time for me, like an excerpt from my diary. I cannot really be objective about it. Each song has its own memories and feelings attached to it.

SS: What was the folk festival scene like? Were you ready to rock???

TF: It was all pretty trippy. Here were these two rock legends, amidst a bunch of far-out happy people, who were basically there to get stoned, enjoy the sunshine and listen to some cool music. It was laid-back, kind of loose, and everyone just went with the flow of it all. And there was me, in the middle of this whole thing, having a great time.

It was, and still is about the music for me. I'm blessed and thankful to have played with some amazing people in a wide variety of situations. And I still continue to be enchanted by the whole musical process. I want it to always be that way.

We were probably the heaviest act there, but we weren't specifically wanting to rock out or blow people away. We just wanted to do our thing, do a good job and have fun with it, which I think we did.

SS: Finally, you must have gotten along well with Jimmy Page; you were the only person from that lineup he took with him onto his next project. What was it like being selected?

TF: Yes, Jimmy and myself clicked well. It just felt very comfortable and natural. And that truly was the foundation that lead me to The Firm. From the outside, it probably seems like the whole process happened very quickly. Actually in the big picture, it did happen quickly. At the time, the whole process took a good few months of playing, working hard, having fun, bonding, and for me, playing with everything I had. And then suddenly, I was a member of The Firm! I think that life is a little bit like that. We seem to scramble around, plan, work, wait, focus, refocus, ride the ups and downs, adjust, work, plan, and on and on ... and then suddenly we "arrive", and it's all worth it. The key is to enjoy the process, the journey. Because most of it IS the journey! I'm still on my journey, and in many ways it feels like it's only just begun. I love music, I love to share my music. It's a privilege and a blessing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Robert Plant songs online for streaming

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Some have written in to say that Robert Plant's Online Jukebox at (Web content no longer available) was not working. It may not have been before, but it is now! For those of you on the fringe about whether to buy Plant's new CD, enjoy hearing these four full-lengths songs to help you decide.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Robert Plant releases Dreamland album; U.K. edition has bonus track

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Robert Plant's seventh solo album, Dreamland, was released today in the United States.

I've written enough about this album recently! Now you can hear it for yourself and tell me what you think. Import copies with the bonus track "Dirt in the Hole" are available, too.

If you're not yet ready to buy the whole CD, you can check out some of it online at the Robert Plant Jukebox. Tune in at (Web content no longer available).

Monday, July 15, 2002

Robert Plant 'Storytellers' debuts on VH1

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Robert Plant's edition of the TV show "Storytellers" has just made its premiere on VH1. His new album will be out tomorrow in the United States.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Robert Plant 'Storytellers to debut on VH1

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation will appear on "VH1 Storytellers" today at 11 p.m. Eastern. And remember, it's not too late to join Robert Plant's Official Online Team: You can do so at (Web content no longer available).

Sunday, July 7, 2002

Collectible lithograph offer: Photographer captured first Led Zeppelin concert

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Before Led Zeppelin was known by that name, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham perpetuated the Yardbirds' name for about a month, performing first in Scandinavia. It would have been hard to predict how famous that particular quartet would end up becoming, and those who showed any interest whatsoever at the time are hard to come by.

One particular name jumps out: that of a kid who took a camera to concerts to capture snapshots of the mugs of musicians like Jimmy Page. In doing so, Jorgen Angel became the only person to photograph the first live performance by the four members of Led Zeppelin.

Jorgen has offered his photographs through his Web site as prints in the past, but as of today he is publishing a limited edition lithograph of "The First Performance." This edition is limited to only 750 copies worldwide and 50 artist's proofs. When the edition is sold out, it will never be reprinted. Each art print will be signed and numbered by Jorgen Angel and comes with an original certificate of authenticity.

It has been Jorgen's wish for some time to present the best shots from this evening in a way that would take the Zep fan back to that special night. For many months, the photographer worked with designers and a visual artist to produce a simple, yet elegant artwork, designed to encapsulate the show as the photographer saw it -- presenting those magic moments in 26 frames. In the innocence of those early days, it was possible (for a schoolboy with his mother's camera) to get very close to the rock stars, actually on stage at times, as it shows in the intimate images on the lithograph.

Please see for more information on the lithograph, how to order and for a special limited-time offer. You will also be able to see with great detail what the product looks like. When ordering your numbered lithograph, please be sure to tell Jorgen that Steve "The Lemon" sent you!

Friday, June 28, 2002

Tribute to John Entwistle, "The Ox" (1944-2002)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."
"On top of the sky is a place where you go if you've done nothing wrong, if you've done nothing wrong. And down in the ground is a place where you go if you've been a bad boy, if you've been a bad boy. Why can't we have eternal life and never die, never die?

"In the place up above, you grow feather wings, and you fly round and round with a harp, singing hymns. And down in the ground, you grow horns and a tail, and you carry a fork and burn away. Why can't we have eternal life and never die, never die?"

- Lyrics to the Who's "Heaven and Hell," written by John Entwistle
Lemon Squeezings mourns the loss of legendary rock bassist John Entwistle, who died Thursday, just one day before the Who was to begin a North American concert tour. LZ History sends its condolences to Who fans and those who held him dear. All rock music fans suffer the loss of this innovative instrumentalist, singer and songwriter. Led Zeppelin fans may recall that Entwistle took credit for coining the name of Led Zeppelin some time before the band existed. The 57-year-old's death will undoubtedly affect the plans of Robert Plant, who was to open for the Who on the second and third legs of that tour beginning next month.
Long live rock, be it dead or alive,
Steve "The Lemon" Sauer

Monday, June 24, 2002

Robert Plant 'Dreamland' album released in U.K.

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Robert Plant's Dreamland is now available in the United Kingdom.

Just a reminder: Plant's "Darkness, Darkness" video can be seen at (Web content no longer available).

Sunday, June 23, 2002

'Red Dress': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 10 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

The last song to be reviewed is "Red Dress," the second of the two completely new songs on the album. This groovy shuffle begins with a lead played on fretless bass and steel guitar. The riff sounds like something out of the North Mississippi All Stars' songbook. (By the way, if you don't have that group's debut album from last year, Shake Hands with Shorty, you need it.) The percussion used here gives it sort of an Australian sound. It features Plant's first recorded harmonica probably since 1993. His last attempt I can think of was on "Promised Land" from his previous solo album, Fate of Nations. The harmonica in that song was just like in Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks." On Plant's new "Red Dress," the harmonica is not derivative of anything. If anything is derivative, it's the sound of that steel guitar; it sounds like it belongs on John Paul Jones' solo albums! The lyrics on the song aren't very intricate; Plant's pretty much singing about a "pretty little girl with a red dress on." When he hypothesizes about the meaning of love in this song, he manages not to get too deep in thought. It even sounds like he's guessing at what Skip Spence would say love is, too! No mention of badge holders anywhere, and that's a good thing in my mind.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

'Skip's Song': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 9 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Skip's Song," named for its author, Alexander "Skip" Spence. As a member of Moby Grape, he and the band first recorded it as a demo on Nov. 6, 1967, while rehearsing new material for the group's second album. In those days, Spence was a really loving guy, those who knew him said. But during the second album's recording sessions, Spence apparently snapped, possibly the result of some drug use. In a well-publicized incident, Spence apparently tried to use an ax on another member of the band. Spence was then institutionalized for six months.

With Spence no longer in the band, Moby Grape chose not to use "Skip's Song" for the second album, Wow. But the song was retitled "Seeing" and used as the final track on Moby Grape's third proper studio album, Moby Grape '69.

Robert Plant has long been a fan of Moby Grape and Skip Spence. The lyrics to the first two lines of Led Zeppelin's bluesy "Since I've Been Loving You" are a play on the corresponding lyrics of Moby Grape's soulful "Never." Since the Led Zeppelin days, he's performed versions of Grape's "Sitting by the Window" and "Lazy Me" and recorded versions of Grape's "8:05" and "Naked, If I Want To" and Spence's "Little Hands." This new cover of "Skip's Song" falls right in line.

The song closes out Plant's new album, Dreamland. Organ and acoustic guitar are the first sounds heard on the track. Generally speaking, "Skip's Song" has a different sound from the rest of Plant's album; sorry, I won't be using the word "soundscape" in today's review. The song jumps from light to heavy in the flash of a drum fill -- and back.

There are backup singers on it that are definitely not Plant; some of them are female! But the male backup voices might be the boys in the band, like bassist Charlie Jones, Plant's right-hand man when it comes to backing vocals on tour these days. Whoever it is highlights the words, "Save me," definitely a jarring phrase when taken into consideration that they were written by Spence while he was still a friendly man.

Throughout the choruses, there are two electric guitars: one strumming the chords and the other playing a country-folk improvisation. The arrangement here was not unlike what Moby Grape guitarists Jerry Miller and Peter Lewis employed on their version of the song.

In the end, Plant's version just fades out. But not eerily so. In a way, it does sort of leave you hanging ...

Friday, June 21, 2002

'One More Cup of Coffee': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 8 of 10)

Today's song is "One More Cup of Coffee," by Bob Dylan. Now, here's a song I'd been anticipating since the moment in February when I first heard the song was being recorded and even considered for a single. The thought that crossed my mind was that if the song were to be released as a single, the sound would have to be totally different from the original.

With all due respect to Mr. Dylan, the version on his January 1976 album, Desire, was about as uncommercial as one could get. It was nearly a dirge in a minor key with a poetic verse that requires one to ponder long before it makes any sense. It's not exactly lighthearted party music fit for commercial radio.

Dylan's even sounded unrehearsed in a few places. The violinist soloing in the opening bars obviously wasn't entirely sure of the chord changes, and that wasn't fixed by overdubbing. Dylan and backup singer Emmylou Harris obviously weren't reading from the same lyric sheet, and that wasn't fixed by overdubbing.

(Funnily enough, Plant left that second mistake intact at the end of his version, harmonizing with his own overdubbed second vocal line. With Plant's sense of humor, it's probably an intentional nod to Bob.)

On Plant's version, out goes the violin, and in come the electric guitars. He nudges the tempo just a bit so that the song doesn't drag. He sings it in the same key as the original, but instead of bellowing the lyrics as did his predecessor, Plant uses his raspy, breathy voice to ease through the verses. On the choruses, where he overdubbed his vocals to sing with himself, he alters the harmony from the original so that he doesn't have to sing in a female vocal range. Each chorus concludes with a full-band break preceding the last four words.

In these reviews, I've used words like "landscape" and "soundscape" so many times, I'm growing sick of it! But really, the Strange Sensation ought to be renamed the Smooth Sensation because the arrangements on these songs are perfectly smooth, swirling and textured. It will become such a cliche by the time I'm through reviewing each song, but that doesn't mean the album repeats itself at all. It's really an album that is worthy of being heard and thus enjoyed.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

'Song to the Siren': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 7 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Song to the Siren," the highlight from Tim Buckley's 1970 album, Starsailor. Plant missed that version of it the first time around; the first time he heard the song was the 1984 cover version by the U.K.'s This Mortal Coil. Plant was smitten.

Recalling some of his all-time favorite tracks for an article in the May 1990 issue of Q magazine, Plant said of "Song to the Siren": "I like the Tim Buckley original too, but I'll go with [This Mortal Coil's] version. It's so rewarding to hear it on U.S. college radio." Plant's still raving about the song this year, too. He said in a 2002 interview, "The haunting element of it, the lyrical content, it's so powerful."

For the last few years in his last two bands, Plant has performed the somber song as an encore, frequently closing shows with its peaceful yet intense textures. In the context of Dreamland, though, Plant sandwiches the song as the fifth track, between a bouncy original and a laid-back blues.

Buckley's album version and This Mortal Coil's attempt both approach the song in free form. The layered background sighs match each other. The electric guitar is less in the fore on the 1984 cover, with chords strummed once instead of arpeggiated over the vocal line. But the vocals on This Mortal Coil's version sound somewhat rushed, particularly toward the end.

Plant's new studio version opens with just acoustic guitar, definitely laying down a strict tempo to which Plant adheres. Plant's voice manages to escape all the labels with which he's been criticized: breathy, feathery, whiny, raspy, contrived. In a short break before the second verse, the sound of strings enters.

The arrangement through the verse remains slight but with a definite pulse rather than the free form of previous versions. By the end of the verse, a quiet electric guitar accompanies the arrangement.

A substantial instrumental break is added between the second and third verses, with cymbals being heard for the first time. A simple electric guitar solo energizes the break. The first half of the solo is all within five notes, and the second half seems to fade out before the final verse. Leading up to the track's high tide during the final verse is a light current of crashing cymbals.

Plant, whose singing has piled on a lot of influence from Meditteranean and Arabic singers, could have taken the opportunity to evoke some trills. The vocalist in This Mortal Coil relentlessly peppered the last line of each verse with trills. Showing restraint, Plant surprisingly limits his inflections in his six-minute version to the very last line, where the trills are effective.

I wonder if Plant has sat down and compared all three versions in a row. I did. And if he has, I wonder if he decided his takes the cake. I did.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

'Funny in My Mind': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 6 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Funny in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' to Die)." The opening track on Dreamland, it can't really be classified into any single musical genre. Robert Plant refers to the first bit as "Cajun psychedelic zydeco." The album is introduced with an accordion sound. But, as Plant says, "Just when you think it's performing in one particular area, it drops down into some kind of dark, psychedelic moment, which... I don't think Bukka White had that in mind, but I think it's the way that you have to move blues along. I don't think the polite interpretation of blues in the carpeted concert hall is what blues was all about in the first place."

Plant describes the arrangement as "bouncy and confident." He says it necessarily has to be that way to keep it entertaining for everybody concerned, including himself. It definitely has a driving, upbeat rhythm that doesn't hesitate. Plant sings with force throughout the track. Between verses, the band kicks into several different figures.

As for the lyrics, they're trotted out from songs that have been in Plant's repertoire for decades. We've heard some of these lyrics in Led Zeppelin songs before. "Fixin' to Die" is a Bukka White blues whose lyrics were no stranger to Led Zeppelin in the live arena; the April 1, 1971 "Whole Lotta Love" live medley on BBC Sessions includes "Fixin' to Die." Some lyrics are also in "In My Time of Dying," namely "Tell my Jesus to make up my dying bed," as sung in the new track. (Bob Dylan's first album employed both "Fixin' to Die" and "In My Time of Dyin'.")

The fast-paced music in Plant's new arrangement is definitely entertaining. The track fades out just after reaching four-and-a-half minutes. But that's really where it's just beginning for the Strange Sensation, Plant recently said in a promotional interview.

He said, "You can probably hear the great future for this band lurking on the fade-outs of the tracks. For instance, the kind of improvisation at the end of ... 'Funny In My Mind' is the kind of playing you will experience in a full hour-and-30-minute show. There is a good communion of souls, there's a lot of great guitar-filigree going on, not on a blues base but in that kind of Indo-raga style of playing, somewhere between John Fahey, The Flaming Lips and the Electric Prunes."

Plant is nothing if not a musical connoisseur, and, best of all, he knows how to implement all his influences into his own music.

Monday, June 17, 2002

'Hey Joe': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 5 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Hey Joe." It's a traditional song although sometimes credited to Billy Roberts. Other times, it's credited to the lead singer of Quicksilver Messenger Service -- Chet (or Chester) Powers, a.k.a. Jesse Oris Farrow, born as Dino Valenti.

Prior to the most famous cover version by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967, "Hey Joe" was covered and reshaped many times by bands including the Byrds, Love, the Leaves, the Shadows of Knight, the Music Machine and Tim Rose. Then came the Hendrix version, after which almost every cover of "Hey Joe" sounded mostly the same: Nearly all tried to sound like Hendrix! (Even Plant took a shot at it in the same year as Hendrix, recording a demo version in the Band of Joy with John Bonham on drums.)

But the new arrangement by Plant and the Strange Sensation is definitely different from any previous version. From the first note, that's obvious. Justin Adams' contribution is not on a guitar but a three-stringed Northern African instrument called the gimbri (and spelled various ways).

Conventional guitar? You'd better believe there's conventional guitar there too. Porl Thompson handles the electric guitar duties. Drawing from a lesson learned in the Jimmy Page technique, Thompson echoes some of Plant's higher vocal lines.

An underlying drone supports the verses while Plant sings the call-and-response lyrics. He told the BBC, "I made it sort of like a news broadcast, a sort of adventure in the middle of a drama. The musicians make it into this amazing soundscape."

"Hey Joe" sounds like a really good film score ("The Robert Blake Story," anyone?). The whole band leads the song into a very gradual crescendo, but what stands out most instrumentally are the drums. Throughout the buildup, Clive Deamer lays off and then sporadically inserts fills around Plant's vocal lines.

The drone of the verses finally gives way to a fortissimo peak. At that time, the band switches into the song's familiar rolling bassline, only uniquely played at lightning speed.

The instrumental break of this song is one of my two favorite moments on the entire album. At the end of it, Charlie Jones quotes from the descending bassline of "Dazed and Confused," whether intentional or not. I'll describe this song with only one more word. Exciting!

Sunday, June 16, 2002

'Win My Train Fare Home': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 4 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Win My Train Fare Home." It was given the working title of "If I Ever Get Lucky" when used to open Plant's live sets last year. I chose to review this song on June 16, the 33rd anniversary that Led Zeppelin recorded the blues-steeped "The Girl I Love." What these two tracks have in common is the way the singer handles his influences from the blues genre at large.

As long as Plant has been singing, he's been influenced by the blues. Through the years, he's spoken about bluesmen like Charley Patton, quoted from writers like Bukka White and covered entire songs by Willie Dixon. Over and over, Plant cites Chess recordings by Howlin' Wolf as some of the dearest to him.

The writing credit goes to Robert Plant and band, as well as the late Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, author of "If I Get Lucky" in the 1940s (another, later version of which is credited to J.B. Lenoir). But the lyrics in "Train Fare" are from more than one source; Plant compiled lyrics from some of the most honest blues songs, tracks that have endured in vinyl form on Plant's shelf. In addition to Crudup's "If I Get Lucky," Plant also quotes from "Key to the Highway" by Big Bill Broonzy, "Milkcow's Calf Blues" by Robert Johnson, "Crawling Kingsnake" by John Lee Hooker and "Levee Camp Moan" by Son House.

"Crawling Kingsnake" was a tune Plant used to sing in a band called the Crawling Kingsnakes; it was his first band with John Bonham. But probably most meaningful to Plant are the Crudup lyrics ("If I ever get lucky, mama, I'd win my train fare home..."). Thirty-four years ago, Plant could barely afford the transportation fare to go to Jimmy Page's boathouse to discuss the possible formation of Led Zeppelin. Needless to say, the 19-year-old singer ended up lucky and won his train fare home.

There's no question that this is the Delta blues. It's just that the delta might be beside some river on another planet. A plethora of guitars and keyboard instruments describe the landscape and atmosphere of the delta.

Charlie Jones plays an upright bass for this one and switches at will between plucking and bowing it. At the instrumental section, the interplay between guitar and bass is legendary. The guitar action itself is full of bluesy, bent notes, and Jones uncharacteristically explores the upper reaches of his fretless instrument like a true jazz bassist. This is one of my two favorite moments on the entire album.

During the break, I count four times Plant sings the Arabic word, "yallah," which means "Let's go." It's a word that entered Plant fans' vernacular first in 1994, when they titled a new Unledded track "Yallah" (retitled the next year as "The Truth Explodes").

The point is that Robert Plant is very enthusiastic about the blues and incorporating not just Arabic influences into it but also the unique contributions of his wonderful band. This song is a prime example of the diverse forces within the Strange Sensation flowing together to gel into one sound, or as Plant put it recently in an interview for BBC radio, a "mix of really astute and colorful musicians."

Saturday, June 15, 2002

'Darkness, Darkness': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 3 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Darkness, Darkness." The song was first released by the Youngbloods in 1968 (on the album Elephant Mountain and as the A-side of a single the following year). The original sounded almost Celtic in nature. Fiddles introduced the melody, and it was a tune that could have been danced to. On the original, recorded when fuzz-tone guitars were a popular staple, a hook vocal line at the end of the chorus was duplicated with a searing electric guitar.

Robert Plant's new version is much more somber than the original. There are no fiddles, and there's no dancing. Instead, there's anguish in his voice, as if he's truly feeling the lyrics: "Take away the pain of knowing; fill this emptiness with light." His performance is really convincing; you have to feel sorry for the guy! Fortunately, fans who put up with the moodiness of Led Zeppelin tracks like "No Quarter" and "I'm Gonna Crawl" should be able to stomach the feeling.

John Baggot initiates the track with a placid and deceptively warm electric piano. Then a delicate soundtrack underscores Robert's voice: Drummer Clive Deamer keeps the rhythm with a lone ride cymbal. A few brief lines later, chords strummed on acoustic guitar comes into the picture, followed quickly by bassist Charlie Jones nicely slipping into the mix. Then Deamer switches to a medium pulse on drums for the next verse.

Each stanza of lyric is met by an increase in intensity -- not necessarily in volume. If the mark of a good band is the recognition of the difference between volume and intensity, then Robert has a good band in the Strange Sensation.

After the first chorus, the electric guitar and bass experiment with some minor-ninth chords. Doing this leaves the song sounding intentionally open. The chords sound like they're initiating questions. Plant's singing seems to continue this. Reconstructing the Youngbloods' melody at the hook, he uses a few key notes from the Strange Sensation's interesting chord choice.

A few bars of Baggot vamping on electric piano precede just as many bars of an electric guitar solo. The guitar's sound benefits from heavy reverb and what sounds like an Octavizer effect. All the notes come from the Aeolian mode but for one instance of a flat five. It's tough to know whether that particular note was borrowed from a blues scale or imported from an Eastern scale. The beauty of the Strange Sensation is that it could really be either.

Instead of the song merely ending the way it came in, an enduring chord in the background comes to the fore, ushering in a heavy rock coda that continues for the next minute and through a very long fadeout. Among the tricks Robert pulls out during the final section are the "C'mon baby" rhythm he used on "Come into My Life" from his previous solo album -- itself a throwback to Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er." Plant also throws in some high notes that are reminiscent of the very early days of Led Zeppelin -- the same time the Youngbloods recorded this song. All in all, this song does a great tribute to the music and to the era.

Friday, June 14, 2002

'Last Time I Saw Her': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 2 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Last Time I Saw Her." I chose to review this song right away because I thought there might be people who thought Dreamland was an album of all covers. Well, it's not. This track shows the creativity of Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation.

Plant deserves a lot of credit for his performance on this one. His voice may have changed a lot throughout his career, and his voice gets a lot of criticism for being breathy these days. Still, Plant never fails to conjure up vocal energy when it's needed. And this track is one of those times when he comes through with flying colors.

His performance in the upbeat verses of this track reminds me of the Presence track, "Hots on For Nowhere." He sounds like he's having some fun on this track, and with a great band behind him, how could he not be? The rhythm section lays down a funky, syncopated backbeat to support the song. Crazy effects from guitar and synthesizer show why this five-piece backing band might be called "the Strange Sensation" in the first place. Some of Plant's energy throughout the song could be attributed to the inspiring noises behind him.

When Porl Thompson spoke with Lemon Squeezings last month, he described his own guitar sound on the album as "over loud" and "uncontrolled." Well, that's only half of it! Does anybody remember laughter? Squeaks, growls, trills and howls are just some of the describable noises throughout the track. Then there are the indescribable ones, too; I won't even get started on them.

Plant himself gets into the groove with his own repeated words and phrases and improvised hollers. The song fades out with a battling exchange between guitar and keyboards. (I turned up the volume so I could hear the last sounds before they fades away completely; I won't spoil it for you which one wins.)

"You can probably hear the great future for this band lurking on the fade-outs of the tracks," Plant said recently. No kidding! But there's a lot to be heard within this dynamic four-and-three-quarter-minute track, and every second counts in Dreamland.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

'Morning Dew': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 1 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Some Led Zeppelin fans are reluctant to listen to any solo material. But this quote above from Page in 1969 speculated that each member of Led Zeppelin's solo albums would be great. But Led Zeppelin no longer exists as a music-making force, and so that might be a good reason for fans to check out what does exist and decide for themselves whether it's great. Ever onward ...

Earlier this year, I provided a song-by-song analysis of John Paul Jones' new album, The Thunderthief. But I reviewed all nine songs in one e-mail, and several readers complained that the e-mail was too long. So what I'll do with Plant's new album is review one song each day.

Today's song is "Morning Dew," the first single from the upcoming album, Dreamland. It may already be familiar to some of you through radio play. One "Led Zeppelin History" reader tells me that Polish public radio is playing it! The single will be released commercially at the beginning of next week.

Plant's studio arrangement is totally new, and his live versions this year reflect it. A previous version played by Plant and the Strange Sensation on tour in 2001 was in a lower key, C; now, the arrangement is in E, placing restrictions on Plant's voice. His vocal range is higher in this version but really doesn't exceed one octave. Given the limited range and the lack of volume on the verses, there's not much room for Robert to show off throughout the song. He keeps the arrangement laid back.

In last year's shows, John Baggot's electric piano drove the song. But after the first verse of the studio version, the song is mostly driven by Justin Adams on guitar. An extended break between the second and third verses yields a chorus of female backup singers lending their "Oooh." At this point, Clive Deamer switches from percussion to drums. Also emerging are a string section and a groaning electric guitar courtesy of Porl Thompson. The song achieves a musical climax during the break but still manages to stay relatively somber.

After the minute-long break, Deamer accentuates every beat with a light tap of the snare drum. He keeps this up during the final verses as Thompson weaves in and out of each vocal line with some supplementary guitar.

Tim Rose's version from the 1960s was basically composed of three different verses, but he repeated them so often that he was already beginning his eighth stanza by the time the song faded out at 3:39. Plant's adaptation, with only three verses, is actually just a few seconds shorter than that. The time is made up with a decrease in tempo and with the addition of the break between the second and final verses.

Plant's voice on this track is not meant to be showy. The strength of "Morning Dew" lies in the group's arrangement and performance and the meaning of the lyrics. Plant told the BBC this month, "It addresses so many more things than just the current condition in India and Pakistan. It just talks in the simplest and most word free aspect of projecting reason through music. It talks about our blindness. We control so many things so poorly. We make amazing advances in one area of our culture, life and society and we make such huge gaffes built on such aimless crap on the other side." Not bad for three-and-a-half minutes!

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Robert Plant U.K. tour underway; release of Dreamland album precedes U.S. dates

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Robert Plant's U.K. tour has been underway all month. Reports are that Liam "Skin" Tyson is working well as the new guitarist for the Strange Sensation. On June 6, Plant and his band even filmed an appearance for an upcoming episode of VH1's "Storytellers." There is no information yet as to when this will air, but many reports from those who watched the taping say it will be well worth watching. His tour continues June 28 at England's Glastonbury Festival. In July, he'll start a U.S. tour, including dates opening for the Who.

His latest album, Dreamland, will be out in the United Kingdom on June 24 and in the United States on July 16. For the rest of the world, please check with your local stores.

Beginning in April, selected radio stations received a Dreamland radio promo. It has two songs: "Darkness, Darkness" and "Funny in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' to Die)." The first of these was available in three different lengths. The longest of these is the album version, which clocks in over the seven-minute mark. It can be he heard online at (Web content no longer available).

"Morning Dew" is the first proper single available from the album. It's already in rotation on some radio stations. The single will be released commercially this coming week. It seems to include a live version of the non-album track, "A House is Not a Motel" (originally by Love). There will be an enhanced version of the single too, with a "Morning Dew" video and a video interview with Plant. Advance orders for both versions of the single are being taken online.

And to finish off the exciting news, there is now an official online team to help promote Robert Plant's new album. By simply promoting the album, you can win Robert Plant merchandise like a Dreamland advance sampler. To join the online team, visit (Web content no longer available).

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Mystery silent footage of Zep concert identified, synched to audio

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

The most recent news from fan site Electric Magic is that some silent footage of a Led Zeppelin performance has just been identified as June 22, 1972, at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, Calif. The silent footage was synched up to a decent monaural audience recording. The songs include "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Heartbreaker," "Black Dog," "Stairway to Heaven," "Dazed and Confused," "The Crunge" and "Whole Lotta Love."

Better yet, the three-and-a-half-minute synched video can be downloaded at Electric Magic (Windows Media required). Point your browser to to download. (Update: The footage currently resides at Led Zeppelin's official Web site using this link.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Tony Franklin recalls The Firm's final concert

This interview originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Fretless bassist Tony Franklin speaks with Lemon Squeezings about the Firm's final concert on May 28, 1986. (See also his previous interview, a longer one touching on other work with Jimmy Page in The Firm and previously with Page in Roy Harper's band.)

SS: Tell us about the Firm's last concert.

TF: That last show was wild! The audience was electric. I think the show had to be stopped at one point as the audience was pushing forward so hard that people were in danger of getting hurt! They may have been the loudest audience on the tour. At one point I remember somebody throwing a basketball shoe towards me on the stage. It was funny because I was like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. I was transfixed. And before I knew it ... BOOM! it hit me square in the chest and knocked me back a few feet! Still, I didn't miss a beat! Ha ha! Fond, fond memories. And what a great send-off to a great band.

There are always mixed feelings at the end of any tour ... from sadness that the great "adventure" of the last few months is coming to a close ... and relief that's it's over ... with the prospect of going home and having a break from the craziness.

I don't think that any of us in the band thought that this would be our last ever show as The Firm. There was certainly no talk of it ... Maybe some of the guys had an idea that this was the end, but I didn't. It's probably just as well.

Firm bassist Tony Franklin prepares solo album

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Tony Franklin, who played bass with Jimmy Page and Roy Harper in 1984 and joined the Firm for the next two years, has asked me to share his latest news with you. He writes:
"I'm adding the finishing touches to my album, and am surging to get it completed in the next couple of weeks. I'm very excited about the progress. It's heavy, grooving, good songs, and I'm working with an amazing singer called Scott Kail. Aside from him having a great voice, he and I connect really well. It's rare and special. I'll keep you posted."
Franklin's Web site is, and he is involved in a discussion group in his honor.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Robert Plant launches official Web site, promises U.S. tour

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Robert Plant's recording label registered for an official site on May 8. The site is now in place, and Plant's studio version of "Darkness, Darkness" is available in its entirety. It's seven minutes and 27 seconds long.

New tour dates have been posted, with some good news for those of you in California. A May 17 announcement at the site said to watch for an update "in the next few weeks."

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Plant to debut new guitarist on tour this month

This news originally appeared at the Web site for the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Robert Plant is to begin touring later this month with a revised lineup of his band, the Strange Sensation. Guitarist Liam "Skin" Tyson of the Liverpool band Cast, has joined, replacing the outgoing Porl Thompson, formerly of the Cure.

"At the moment I can't commit to the touring side of the band," Thompson told Lemon Squeezings in one of two e-mails received March 14. He articulated the point in another e-mail two months to the day, writing:
"Due to other projects and family commitments, I am unable to do the tour. So the band have drafted in 'Skin,' the guitarist from the band Cast, to take over. They sound great in rehearsals, and I wish them lots of love and luck with the tour."
When Thompson confirmed in March that he would be replaced on the tour, he commented:
"This was a hard decision to make as there is a good vibe between us all, but it was never my intention to get back into a full-time band situation, and this had always been said from the start."
He said that he hopes to carry on with Plant in the future. He told Lemon Squeezings in March:
"We have talked about doing some unusual type gigs and things together and some more recording at some stage, but as to when and where -- ?"
No further comment on that was available.

Plant's upcoming tour (see scheduled dates below) is set to commence with three dates in Portugal on May 22, 23 and 25. Some concerts and promotion in the U.K. in May and June are expected to include a London concert date later to be announced and a May 31 homecoming for Tyson in Liverpool, England.

In July, Plant will begin headlining some shows in the United States. The first of these is currently slated for July 20, where promoters at Cadott, Wisconsin's Rockfest say Plant will top the bill on the third of the festival's four nights.

The majority of Plant's tour dates after that are to be as a special guest opening for the second and third legs of the Who's U.S. tour in July, August and September. This will include a four-night stand at New York's Madison Square Garden July 31-Aug. 4, with a night off on Aug. 2.

Thompson said May 14 that Plant's tour will continue "on into winter," a statement he articulated with an exclamation point.

Plant's new album is expected to be released in the United Kingdom on Monday, June 24, and in the United States the following day. His seventh solo effort will be called Dreamland, according to the most recent reports. Previous reports had pegged the name as Head First.

The album will have some new original material but will mostly consist of cover songs recorded in 2001 with the previous lineup of the Strange Sensation. Tracks will include revamped versions of 1960s classics like "Hey Joe," the Youngbloods' "Darkness, Darkness," and "Morning Dew."

The latter is expected to be released as a single, which would precede the album release by one week.

The new album will be Plant's first for Universal Music Group.

Plant's most recent solo album was in 1993, called Fate of Nations. However, he has since collaborated with Jimmy Page to write and release the 1998 album, Walking into Clarksdale, which earned them their first Grammy award with the single, "Most High."

Plant's Strange Sensation is made up of new guitarist Liam "Skin" Tyson and four other musicians: Justin Adams on guitar and an African stringed instrument known as the gimbre, Charlie Jones on bass guitar, John Baggot on keyboards and Clive Deamer on drums.

Tyson joined the band in 2002 after the album was recorded. Porl Thompson described his own guitar sound on the album as "over loud" and "uncontrolled."
Europe & U.K. 2002
  • Wed 5/22 Lisbon, Portugal Aula Magna
  • Thu 5/23 Lisbon, Portugal Aula Magna
  • Sat 5/25 Porto, Portugal Coliseum
  • Thu 5/30 Bangor, England Bangor University
  • Fri 5/31 Liverpool, England Liverpool University
  • Mon 6/3 Isle of Wight, U.K. Isle of Wight Festival
  • Monday, June 17: New single, "Morning Dew," to be released
  • Monday, June 24: New album, Dreamland, to be released
U.S. headliners 2002
  • Sat 7/20 Cadott, Wis. Rockfest
  • Mon 7/22 Milwaukee, Wis. Eagles Ballroom
With The Who 2002
  • Fri 7/26 Mansfield, Mass. Tweeter Center
  • Sat 7/27 Camden, N.J. Tweeter Center
  • Mon 7/29 Hershey, Pa. Hersheypark Stadium
  • Wed 7/31 New York, N.Y. Madison Square Garden
  • Thu 8/1 New York, N.Y. Madison Square Garden
  • Sat 8/3 New York, N.Y. Madison Square Garden
  • Sun 8/4 New York, N.Y. Madison Square Garden
  • Fri 8/23 Auburn Hills, Mich. Palace
  • Sat 8/24 Tinley Park, Ill Tweeter Center
  • Sun 8/25 Noblesville, Ind. Verizon Wireless Music Center
  • Tue 8/27 Grand Rapids, Mich. Van Andel Arena
  • Wed 8/28 Columbus, Ohio Polaris Amphitheater
  • Fri 8/30 Holmdel, N.J. P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
  • Sat 8/31 Wantagh, N.Y. Jones Beach Amphitheater

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Steve 'The Lemon' Sauer graduates from college

These comments originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

I'll feel like I'm on the top of the world in a few hours at my graduation ceremony, now that I've finished four years of study at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Alert: Virus targeting Led Zeppelin fans

This announcement originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

I hate having to say this, but please be aware of viruses in your e-mail. My friends at TBL/Web issued a virus alert within the past few hours (see for details) (Web content no longer available). It seems a recent strain has infested the e-mail accounts of Led Zeppelin fans! In the past few hours, I've received unwanted files in my e-mail from Zeppelin-related addresses, including from my very own!

In closing, this newsletter does NOT send files, and you are not at any greater risk of receiving a virus by being a subscriber. But if you receive an unwanted file, delete it right away to avoid possible harm. Sorry for the interruption.

Friday, May 3, 2002

Promoters withdraw John Paul Jones appearance

This news originally appeared at the Web site for the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

The only U.S. concert date to which John Paul Jones has been linked so far this year was retracted this week without any explanation provided.

The Web page for the Lakefest in Sheboygan, Wis., has removed its reference to Jones performing at the festival on Aug. 17 at 6:15 p.m.

This unheralded change occurred within a day after Lemon Squeezings expressed concern that the information originally at that Web page was inaccurate, given an e-mail received from Jones' manager.

Richard Chadwick of Opium (Arts) Ltd. informed Lemon Squeezings on the morning of April 29 that the Lakefest Web site was wrong to write that Jones would perform on that date. "I don't know where it came from or how they got hold of it," he wrote in an e-mail.

Lakefest promoters have still not responded directly to a Lemon Squeezings inquiry.

No future concert dates for Jones have yet been announced, although the multi-instrumentalist and singer is expected to tour this year in support of his second solo album, The Thunderthief. The CD was released on the Discipline Global Mobile label.

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

John Paul Jones's manager discredits promoted tour date

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

John Paul Jones' manager has told me that a U.S. festival concert planned for later this year should not currently include Jones on the bill.

Current promotion says Jones is scheduled to appear Aug. 17 at the Lakefest on the shore of Lake Michigan. He is to play at 6:15 p.m. between an opening set by John Sebastian and a headlining appearance by Jethro Tull, the festival's Web site states.

However, Richard Chadwick of Opium (Arts) Ltd. informed me that the festival's information is inaccurate. "I don't know where it came from or how they got hold of it," he told me.

As of press time, Lakefest promoters have not yet responded to my inquiries.

Jones' manager has not announced any upcoming tour dates.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Various news online at TBL/Web

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History" that mentioned a Julie Felix connection with Led Zeppelin in 1970.

Julie Felix still performs and still has Led Zeppelin connections today. In fact, she met up with John Paul Jones at two of her live appearances this year. Both were in England to support the Mines Advisory Group,

(Update: Web content from here on out is no longer available.)

Most recently, Felix and Jones performed together earlier this month at a bookstore in London. Details and several photos from that appearance can be found at courtesy of Tight But Loose. Dave Lewis had a chance to interview Julie Felix before she performed. Among the topics discussed was how Jimmy Page got to perform on her show in 1970.

This interview will be found in the next issue of Lewis' magazine, Tight But Loose, established in 1978 as the original Led Zeppelin magazine. See for subscription information.

Elsewhere on Tight But Loose's Web site, you can find the latest tour dates from Robert Plant and John Paul Jones. Jimmy Page is not expected to tour this year, but any gigs he does will be covered with the rest, at

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Chris Blackwell interview, Part 3: Fate of Nations (1991-1993) to present

This three-part interview of Chris Blackwell originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History." Part one can be found here, and part two can be found here.

For Robert Plant's fourth and fifth solo albums, he used one studio band. The same band joined him on the road for two large-scale tours to support those albums. Guitarist Doug Boyle and drummer Chris Blackwell were ready to get down to business for their third studio album with Plant, but they were about to get a wake-up call. The story unfolds here in the third part of my interview with Chris Blackwell.

SS: Your band was on the road all over Europe, the United Kingdom and North America between May 1990 and January 1991.

CB: The 1990 tour was great fun, better than 1988 because it was more extreme! We were all battle hardened by then too and could take the piss out of each other. Knebworth [in June 1990] was the pinnacle, though!

SS: Did you finally get some time off after the tour?

CB: We all had about two months off.

SS: It's said that in January 1991, Robert Plant actually agreed to a full-scale Led Zeppelin reunion tour, about which he then changed his mind after 45 minutes or so. Do you remember this as true?

CB: I have no idea. He kept that side of things very quiet from us for obvious reasons.

SS: I noticed that you co-wrote five songs on Plant's next album, which turned out to be Fate of Nations.

CB: 'Calling to You' and 'Network News' were written in my studio and presented to Robert complete for him to write the melody and lyrics. The others were written by all of us, mostly in Cornwall, Wales, I seem to recall.

'29 Palms' was written in Boulder, Colorado, on the stage at the University [of Colorado]. Phil started playing the opening guitar riff, Doug joined in, and then we all sort of took it from there really! It was very hot outside that day . . . I liked Boulder! We stayed at the Boulderado Hotel (great name!).

All the tracks were written specifically for Fate of Nations. I found that my input as a writer was greater than as a player by that stage because of all the weird vibes that were going down. I played on only one track on the album, and even that was taken from a demo we'd done in Wales!

SS: Did you think the album was going to have Plant's same backing band -- Doug Boyle on guitar, Phil Johnstone on keyboards, Charlie Jones on bass and you on drums?

CB: Initially yes - there was no reason not to. But then I kept bumping into different guitarists and drummers at the studio and thought that perhaps there was something going on that I didn't know about!

SS: At those sessions, I count seven guitarists, two keyboardists, one bassist, and four drummers. Where did all those musicians come from?

CB: I really have no idea!

SS: After two albums and huge tours, was the core lineup finally over in your mind?

CB: I think we knew that it was [over] anyway by this time.

SS: When did you realize that?

CB: When we started recording at RAK studios for Fate of Nations and found various other musicians milling about - bit of a give away really!

SS: Do you remember the last straw before you were through?

CB: I would probably say the last straw was in Cornwall, where we stayed at a studio called Sawmills, writing and recording for a couple of weeks. There was a really strange atmosphere in the place (and I don't mean Doug's socks!). Robert kept coming out with these really obscure references for song ideas, and I couldn't get a handle on where he was coming from at all. Personally I wanted him to go the whole hog and do what he did eventually with Jimmy anyway, but at the time I think he was still fighting the idea. Fate of Nations turned out good though!

SS: Do you still see Plant these days?

CB: I normally pop along to the gigs when he plays in London.

SS: Did you see Plant and the Strange Sensation in London this year?

CB: I didn't see them, but good luck to him!

SS: It's been announced that Porl Thompson, ex-guitarist for The Cure, will not be on tour with the group this year. [At the time of the interview, his replacement had not yet been announced.] Might you recommend any guitarist to take his place?

CB: Doug Boyle?

SS: You play guitar. Would you be up for the gig?

CB: No! Quite happy doing what I do these days!

SS: What you do these days -- which is what is all about -- is music for television and film. In February, some of your music was recorded with a complete orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. Here's a quote from your Web site:
"Orchestral sessions are very different to Rock and Roll sessions. For a start they all turn up on time, secondly they read the stuff and play it like they've known it all their lives, and thirdly it all has to be done in an allotted time."
It sounds like a whole different world, right, Chris?

CB: It is the same but different! There are many facets to music, but it all boils down to that same emotional response thing - the power of an orchestra in full flight playing my stuff gives me the same feeling as playing Madison Square Garden with Planty! I love the different avenues I am exploring, and every day brings a new challenge and keeps me on my toes! Doing session work on the kit again too now from time to time - better than going to the gym!

Thursday, April 4, 2002

Page to co-host charity dinner, auction

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Jimmy Page and his wife will co-host the second annual dinner and auction to benefit Action for Brazil's Children. The event will be held May 8 at the Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

About 150 people were in attendance at the Tower Club on April 4, 2001, for the first dinner and auction for the ABC Trust. Among the items auctioned off was a Gibson Les Paul autographed and personalized by Page. In addition, there were other signed guitars and various items from artists including the Bee Gees and Gloria Estefan. Page won the $14,000 bid for a rare Gibson guitar from the Who's Pete Townshend.

The hardest item to sell in 2001 was a gift certificate for laser microsurgery hair removal. A Led Zeppelin fan who sat at that table said, "No one would bid on the hair removal thing, and I stood up and started bidding against myself for it. Jimmy cracked up!"

That bidder, Joe Hecht, managed to set a comical tone for the evening. "Jimmy thought it funny that I bid against myself several times," he said. "And before the final bid on the $14,000 axe, they made sure I did not want to outbid him again."

Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain presided over the 2001 auction. It was the third time that year that Page and Iron Maiden crossed paths in the name of charity. In January at the Rock in Rio music festival in Rio de Janeiro, the band presented Page with a Fender Stratocaster autographed by all of Iron Maiden.

With Page's autograph added, that guitar was sold March 14 at an online auction benefiting Casa Jimmy, a homeless shelter Page helped to establish in October 1998.

Tickets, priced at $150 each, can be purchased from:

ABC, Inc.
2400 East Las Olas Blvd.
Suite 262
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 USA
Phone: 954-537-9440
Fax: 954-337-2350

Sunday, March 31, 2002

Chris Blackwell interview, Part 2: Now and Zen (1987-1988) and Manic Nirvana (1989-1990)

This three-part interview of Chris Blackwell originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

In Part 1 last week, we were introduced to Chris Blackwell, a session drummer who hit the jackpot in 1987 when a few demos featuring his work were passed on from a publisher to Robert Plant. Among them was a song called "Heaven Knows," which particularly caught Plant's attention, and so he personally called up the musicians from the demo.

CB: Next thing I know there's a message on my answering machine saying, "Hi, it's Robert Plant" and would I like to join his band? He didn't even get his manager to call me! I didn't hesitate in calling him back because I thought it was a wind up! I mean you don't normally get Robert Plant leaving messages do you!

SS: Why didn't you write any of the material on Now and Zen?

CB: I thought it was a session. You don't go into a session and expect to write songs! Anyway, [keyboardist] Phil [Johnstone] had most of that side covered. It was very much Robert and Phil's album. As far as I knew I was contracted to record the album and that was that. After the recording was finished Robert started talking about us as a band and about the upcoming tours and so on. [Bassist] Phil Scragg had other commitments at the time, and he is now heavily into the Jazz scene, so perhaps it was a wise decision on his part. He never played with us live at all - Charlie [Jones] joined at the final stages of recording Now and Zen.

SS: And when you went on the road, it was the first time in Plant's solo career that he sang Led Zeppelin material. Do you know what was going through his head?

CB: You'd have to ask him that! He did seem to have an aversion to playing any Zep though. Zeppelin songs are so good to play, and we were such big fans of all that. We would play stuff in rehearsal when he wasn't there. One time he walked in on us playing "Immigrant Song" and joined in, and off we went!

SS: Do you remember the process by which the Led Zeppelin tracks covered in concert were selected?

CB: I think we all made suggestions based on our understanding of what the songs were, and how we felt they would fit into the set. Obviously 'Stairway to Heaven' was taboo! But I did get to play mandolin live on 'Going to California' . . .

SS: Jimmy Page showed up at a few of Plant's performances in 1988. They played together at the last concert of the Non Stop Go tour. What was it like having him around?

CB: Another very nice man! Great fun to be with, and an incredible musical mind - you really do feel like you are in the presence of genius.

SS: In October 1988, Jimmy and Robert brought their overlapping U.S. tours to the same venue two nights in a row, in Worcester, Massachusetts. They didn't play at each other's shows, but Robert did attend Jimmy's. Do you remember this?

CB: That first tour in '88 with Planty was such an eye opener for me that I was too busy having a good time to take part in any politics that may be going down. I do remember Robert going to Jimmy's show wearing a turban and sunglasses though - problem is he probably looked more conspicuous like that! Shortly afterwards he began to wear Jimmy Page T-shirts on stage.

SS: The next project was the album Manic Nirvana. What was the process for that?

CB: Manic Nirvana was great fun as we all knew each other by then, and we had a tour under our belts which brought many shared experiences into the frame. We began work on this straight after the Now and Zen 'Non Stop Go' tour and we were all encouraged to contribute to the writing.

I felt a little stifled in the rehearsal room, so I wrote 'Tie Dye on the Highway' in my own studio and presented it to Robert complete. He added the melody and lyrics (incidentally, that's me playing guitar on that track!).

The other stuff was written at Robert's house in Wales - 'Watching You' I think I have on video as it is actually being written! 'Big Love' began as a drum feel and just grew from there really.

SS: When you say "Robert's house in Wales," you don't mean the famous Bron-Yr-Aur cottage, do you?

CB: No, unfortunately! He had a lovely house in Monmouth, Wales, that apparently used to belong to the doctor who discovered the G spot (typical!).

SS: What an imagination that doctor must have had! So ... Jimmy Page turned up again for Plant's appearance at Knebworth in June 1990.

CB: We performed 'Wearing and Tearing' at Knebworth, and rehearsing it was a great leveller as none of us had ever played it live before - Robert and Jimmy included!

SS: What was going through your mind, knowing you had to fill the heavy shoes of John Bonham on those songs?

CB: Didn't really occur to me until Knebworth when I found myself playing the intro to 'Rock and Roll' in front of 125,000 people with both Robert and Jimmy . . . the drum solo bit at the end was a bit fraught and I wish I'd played it better! There really was no point in emulating Bonzo as he was a one off, so I just played the stuff how I remembered it with a hint of CB thrown in for good measure!

The conclusion of the Chris Blackwell interview can be found here, focusing on Blackwell's work with Plant on Fate of Nations (1991-1993) and his other professional work to the time of the interview.