When three quarters of the Style Council (Steffie, Linda and myself) decided to go to Joshua Tree for a weekend of high desert jinx, we knew to expect the unexpected – after all, this is the land of UFOs, shooting stars and the Integratron (a strange acoustically-perfect dome supposedly designed to communicate with alien beings).
But while we were more than ready to deal with Martians, we were utterly unprepared for our supernatural encounter with rock legend Robert Plant.
“Er…that's frigging Robert Plant,” someone whispered as he strolled into Pappy and Harriette's, the dusty ol' biker bar/music venue where we were throwing back a few desert brews and watching rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson play some favorites. But it was no mirage – the swirl of blonde ringlets was unmistakeably that of Led Zep's godlike lead singer. Word spread like wildfire…necks craned as everyone strove to see if the rumors were true. Sir Zep seemed relaxed and was happy to engage in conversation with the patrons. He told our friend Karen he was going to join the local musicians in their regular jam session the next day. “You should all come down,” he offered.
When Sunday evening rolled round we piled back into Pappy's and waited for Plant to reappear. I wasn't convinced it would happen. Even when one of the guitarists teasingly played some Stairway to Heaven while tuning up, I still tried not to get too excited. Having seen Robert Plant once was random enough – for him to apparate twice in the same little biker bar in the middle of the desert would have defied all laws of rock probability.
But lightening can strike twice – Plant stayed true to his word, and beamed himself back to Pappy's. I grabbed a CD and a pen and followed him out back so he could autograph it. He was talking on his cell phone. “This place is great,” I overheard him say. “I'm so sick and tired of all the sycophants in LA. This is very refreshing.”
When he got off the phone, I got him chatting for a few minutes and he told me he was heading back to LA to meet with his old band mate Jimmy Page on Tuesday. They are checking out an aerial ballet troupe that wants to use some Zeppelin tracks to accompany their routine. We chit-chatted some more and I was so excited I totally forgot to mention information which could have further prolonged our conversation – like the fact that I interviewed Led Zep's former tour manager Richard Cole not so long ago (“back in those days we didn't have fax machines or email, ” Cole told me. “We booked world tours by picking up the phone and saying 'don't fuck with us, this is Led Zeppelin'”).
And I forgot to mention that I had lunch with legendary British producer and manager Peter Asher last weekend, who told me about the time he hired Jimmy Page as a studio musician, and how John Bonham liked to yell at his drum technicians (“make them fucking LOUDER”).
And I forgot to tell Plant that between the ages of 16 and 19, nearly every time I lay in bed with my boyfriend, it was his voice I was listening to.
All these things flew out of my brain the second I set eyes on the craggily majestic face of one of the greatest musicians in the history of rock…but it didn't really matter – he seemed to enjoy the conversation anyhow. The only time I noticed a flicker of irritation in his eyes was when I thanked him a little too profusely for taking the time to talk. I guess even rock gods get tired of being worshipped all the time.
Then he stepped on the tiny stage, belted out three numbers for an ecstatic and slightly bewildered crowd, stepped off the stage and hung out some more.
As an ancient Greek once said – the best-loved gods are those that choose to walk among us…
Posted by Caroline Ryder
Postscript: Style Councilor Lina, possibly one of the best-connected (and nicest) gals in town, has just informed me that the name of the aerial ballet Robert and Jimmy were checking out is Led ZAerial “an elaborate trapeze and aerialist tribute to the songs of Led Zeppelin”. They saw them at an 'industry showcase' at the Key Club today. Here's some more info:
“The show runs about 50 minutes, and includes trapeze, rope, fabric, ballet and hand balancing numbers. These numbers are presented to the original music from recordings of our favorite Led Zeppelin songs. There are also 2 live music numbers, performed by 2 acoustic musicians, who present their own interpretations of the songs. https://www.ledzaerial.com/“