Last month, writing about Led Zeppelin, I mentioned my radio highlight of recent months, Robert Plant talking about Elvis Presley on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2. The show was available on the iPlayer until 11 November and I wrote, “If I’m organized enough I’ll transcribe the audio so that you can at least read it after 11 November, but in the meantime have a listen for yourself”.
I woke at 7am on Sunday (12 November) aware that I had not been organized enough and had not transcribed the words from the show. Fortunately they were available for an hour or two longer. I recorded them from my laptop onto a Mini Disc and have spent rather longer than anticipated transcribing them, with a combination of dictation and one-handed typing (as outlined in Blog Posts from yesterday and the day before). In case you missed them here they are, beginning with Plant’s answer to Natalie Dormer’s question about who he would most like to have worked with, including those “who have passed”. It’s not the same as hearing the words spoken out loud but unless the BBC broadcasts this segment in some other format, it’s the best I can offer.
Robert Plant: Well you know when I was a kid my hero vocally, and with expression in vocals, was Elvis. Now you know the thing is there is a cut-off point when he started making records, I think when Leiber and Stoller stopped writing great songs, and he’d finished the – some of the movies are really cheesy but he got to a point where the songs ran out. And at that point somebody should’ve taken over and I’d love to have been able to get in there and play him some really far-out stuff and keep that fire burning because he was such a passionate guy, and he was so talented. And when the songs went away he started touring and sending himself up and all that stuff, I saw him quite a lot, and I thought, man, this guy has got so much more to do and to have and so rather than sing I’d like to have actually produced him.
Natalie Dormer: Robert Plant and Elvis Presley …
Chris Evans: Didn’t you once get stuck in a room with him for a few hours? Tell us about that.
RP: Well we had the same agent in America and we were selling tickets faster than he was and he wanted to know who – because in a goldfish bowl, which we can all end up in, you don’t really ever, you’re not too familiar with what’s going on but you know somebody else is doing big business. And then he heard that we were into the same music as him, all the Mississippi Delta blues and the stuff around Memphis, so he invited us to a show and we ended up in the hotel with him afterwards. And it was a spectacularly funny and fantastic evening because he was so full of charm, and he’d got a wicked sense of humour. He had this big suite in the hotel opposite the LA Forum and it was empty and then it filled slowly with as many amazing-looking Sandra Dee impersonators as you could ever see – everybody looked like Gina Lollobrigida’s sister. When the room was almost full of all [those] ladies, and Led Zeppelin, the door at the end opened and in came Elvis swinging his hips round all the furniture just, it was like, you could not believe how slinky this guy was and all the time his eyes were twinkling because he was having a laugh, you know, and we talked and talked it was really good you know because inside the goldmine it can either be hell or heaven and he was such a good guy and, um – Am I going on too much?
CE: You’re telling a story about meeting Elvis Presley, no you carry on it’s fine, no, actually no you’re right [joking] gotta move on … here’s the travel.
RP: [That was a, that was certainly a journey] He said to us, “What do you do before the shows?” and we didn’t tell them everything but a lot of it and he said, “Do you ever sound check?” And Jimmy Page said, “Well, when we do the singer only wants to sing your songs” and he said, “Which one do you like to sing?” And I said [singing], “Treat me like a fool treat me mean and cruel but,” you know, all that stuff. So he goes, “Uh-Huh” [Elvis voice, everyone laughs]. And we come to leave and I’m in the corridor walking down to the lift and he suddenly swings round the door-frame and stands there like a gun-slinger and starts singing, to me, so the two of us are pub-singers, you know, we really are in the back of Dudley somewhere doing an Elvis together at each other, it was so funny.
CE: Is that top 5, top 3 or is that THE moment for you?
RP: Well, you know, I’ve seen some great singers, really, really good singers, but the great thing about all that was he was such a good guy … really good guy.
CE: Excellent, what a story, that’s the end of that … shall we all pack up and go home? Okay, that was show business, it was good wasn’t it? It was good for a while, then Robert Plant came in and blew us all away one day and we all …
RP: But he got screwed by his own, you know, I mean, everybody around him, nobody wanted to shake the money tree, and so he never got the stimulus that he was deserving, and … that’s a shame.