Robert Plant said visions of “true love” made him decide to pursue a career as a singer.

The future Led Zeppelin icon was already consuming as much music as he could find, but the life-changing moment came when he stood on stage with a band for the first time.

“To me, Stourbridge was the Beverly Hills of the Black Country,” Plant told the Guardian of his native Black Country in England. “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. I was obsessed with it all, so became any one of those throughout the week.”

He continued: “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 recalled becoming the opening act and presenter at ballroom concerts in Birmingham, where he was inspired by Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Buddy Guy and others. Recalling his difficult pursuit of stardom, he said: “I wasn’t earning any money, so ended up tarmacking West Bromwich high street with other musicians walking past going: ‘Looks like you’re gonna be a big star!’”

He remembered his first meeting with future bandmate John Bonham: “[H]e came up and said: ‘You’re all right, but you’d be twice as good if you had the best drummer in the world.’ I said: ‘I’ve already got that, who are you?’ That became the tone of our friendship all the way through Zeppelin… Before Zeppelin, I always knew when he had a better offer because he’d get his drums out of the van to clean them. He made such a contribution to the extreme power that I was able to switch on because he was thundering behind me, growling away.”

Plant discussed being a lifelong fan of the Wolverhampton Wanderers soccer team, saying he was convinced that star player Billy Wright had waved at him on his first visit to a match. “I didn’t take into account that there were 15,000 people standing on that side of the ground,” the singer admitted. “Years later, I met Billy… It was like Zeppelin meeting Elvis. I told Billy I was the kid he waved at in the Waterloo Road stand. He clasped my shoulder and said: ‘Of course I did, Robert’.”

 

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