Plant Returns To Interpretation

Excerpted from the magazine for

"My ability and vocal chords are all in good shape, but I haven't really felt substantially relevant as a lyricist for a long time." A stunning admission, but one characteristic of Robert Plant, the disarmingly honest voice of Led Zeppelin, whose new album, "Dreamland," is essentially a set of covers.

In addition to delivering versions of Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee," Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren," and Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe," "Dreamland" also includes "Skip's Song" -- penned by troubled Moby Grape singer Skip Spence -- and Arthur Crudup's "Win My Train," in which Plant includes passages from Crudup's "That's Alright Mama," Robert Johnson's "Milk Cows Calf Blues," and John Lee Hooker's "Crawlin' King Snake."

"They were songs that I've always loved, and I didn't see them as covers because I was there when they were being written," Plant explains. "It was just this period in American music [that] I'd never really got near [to] vocally in my adventures up to now. So I thought, 'I'm dry as a bone, but these songs are still vibrant.'"

Following its June 24 international release on Mercury, "Dreamland" entered the U.K. sales chart at No. 20. The set is due tomorrow (July 16) in the U.S. via Universal. Plant is to open several shows for the Who this summer; he is to appear on "Late Night With David Letterman" Thursday (July 18).

After he's done supporting "Dreamland," Plant says, "I'll probably write an album," though he adds, "there are probably another three or four thousand albums in my house" that could fuel another set like "Dreamland." "I rather like interpretation. Led Zeppelin's first album contained a lot of Howlin' Wolf, but they weren't called 'covers' then, because nobody knew they were covers."

So what of another collaboration with Jimmy Page? "I can't see any reason not to," Plant says. "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."

A reunion with Led Zep bassist John Paul Jones is unlikely. "My relationship with Jonesy is hampered by one misinterpreted word at the first press conference that Page and I did to go with the Unleded stuff. The first question to me was, 'Where's John Paul Jones?' I said, 'He's parking the car' -- and that was it. F***ed for life. I apologized, and I went to one meeting and got on one knee as he was walking out -- to tie my shoelace, as well -- and said, 'John, surely now we're way too old for this?' But he just sidestepped me and walked out into the East London air."

Excerpted from the July 20, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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