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Back To His Roots, Robert Plant - Jul. 12, 2002

By DAN AQUILANTE

As the voice of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant redefined the scope of rock music.

On "Dreamland," his new solo record out Tuesday, he dusts off old rock songs for a contemporary audience.In a conversation with The Post from his home on the rolling hills on the Welsh border, the 54-year-old singer seemed a total gentleman - hardly what you'd expect from a guy who sowed acres of wild oats in his chaotic younger days in Led Zep.

When asked how he's changed over time, he paused thoughtfully - as if he'd never considered he was a day older than when he first met Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones.

"I've gotten a bit more patient, I suppose," he said.

"I lost a bit of my ego, but those carnivorous days of swallowing cities whole seem to have been replaced with a feeling that I'm doing something that is so wholeheartedly beautiful that I've found nirvana."

For someone who's found bliss, Plant has quite a bit on his plate. He's the subject of a VH1 "Storytellers" documentary airing Sunday at 11 p.m. He appears Thursday on Letterman and has a July 24 solo gig at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Then he and his new band, Strange Sensation, will open for The Who when the group performs here later this month.

Post: Naming your record "Dreamland" begs the question - do you remember your dreams?

Plant: In my dreams, I go to wonderful places. Often I go to this beautiful city in the desert. Once I was in India and visited a town that I think might be the place I dream about. My dreams are peaceful places - I don't wake up sweating.

Post: Why did you decide to cover old rock songs on "Dreamland"?

Plant: I don't consider these songs old or rock. These are heirlooms. They come from another time - the end of the two-minute pop pastiche. Men like Dion and the Belmonts and Bobby Vee were passing into history, and this whole department of thought-provoking American folk poetry came forth. This was the music that really stirred me when I was a kid.

Post: And now?

Plant: It continues to do so, and I wanted to go back there. I've always taken strength from these songs - both from the beauty of the melodies and the intentions of what the writers were trying to convey.

Post: You called them heirlooms.

Plant: I don't think of them like they're museum pieces, like say a Chuck Berry song. I believe the lyrical content, the poetic endeavor, is as meaningful today as it was when these songs were written.

Post: Tell me about "Morning Dew."

Plant: That was a song that was around when I was a kid. With few words, it expresses the demise of the human race. I can't call it charming, but it is a beautiful, beautiful song.

Post: This song is treated more gently than some of the others on your disc.

Plant: You're right. I hit "Hey Joe" with a hammer, but not "Morning Dew."

Post: Some artists from big-name bands make cover albums as solo projects to distance themselves from their outfit.

Plant: You might think this is a cheap cop-out, but I put a lot of thought into the music. For me, this is a re-initiation and a return to the beauty of the music and the time it was written.

Post: Why do it now?

Plant: I've always been so busy with Zeppelin and with Jimmy, but I thought, "I'm always listening to this stuff. Why not do it myself?" It was a cathartic exercise of getting the music and the feelings out. I wanted to get it off my chest because I've loved it for so long.

Post: Didn't you do that in Led Zeppelin?

Plant: Yeah, we managed it in songs like "You Shook Me," "Whole Lotta Love" "In My Time of Dying," "Nobody's Fault But Mine" - all those songs are leaning back. We did a whole lot of leaning back in those days, my friend.

Post: So what do you say to the skeptics who charge you with taking the easy way out?

Plant: It isn't easy to maintain a career of some distinction and do a Hendrix tune. I gotta live with what I do, and right now, my soul is intact. So is Jimmy's. We do what we want, and we may work together again, but when we do, it has to be real.

Post: Is it real now?

Plant: I'm doing OK. I'm having a good time. I have a good record and a fantastic band, and my voice is in good shape and my tennis is good and I can still see a good-looking girl from 100 yards.

Post: Being on the road, you probably see lots of good-looking girls even closer.

Plant: I can recognize a good overhand top-spin serve, but that doesn't mean I can do it. And the same goes for the girls.
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

August xx, 1968 - Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham hold their first rehearsals in Gerrard Street, London
August xx, 1968 - Page, Grant and Chris Dreja go see Robert Plant perform at a Birmingham Teachers College. Page invites Plant to his Pangbourne house and offers him the vocalist position
August xx, 1969 - Peter Grant starts enforcing the 90/10 split in favor of the band
August 31, 1969 - The third US tour ends at the Texas International Festival in Dallas
August xx, 1970 - Zeppelin earn no less than $25,000 per show
August 17, 1970 - Page completes mixing of the Led Zeppelin III in Memphis
August 19, 1971 - The seventh North American tour opens in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
August xx, 1972 - Jimmy Page purchases Plumpton Manor in Sussex
August xx, 1973 - Jimmy starts arranging ideas for the next album
August xx, 1974 - Film maker Peter Clifton has the band re-enact scenes at Shepperton Studios
August 31, 1974 - John Paul Jones appears with David Gilmour and Steve Broughton as Roy Harper’s backing band for the night
August 04, 1975 - Robert Plant and his family are seriously injured as their car veers off the road on the island of Rhodes
August 08, 1975 - Rehearsal for Zeppelin’s Eleventh North American tour postponed after Robert is involved in a serious car accident
August xx, 1976 - Arrangements are made to show the upcoming Zep film in theaters
August xx, 1976 - Jimmy Page finishes mixing the soundtrack for the movie The Song Remains The Same
August 14, 1977 - Jimmy jams with Ron Wood at a charity golf tournament for underprivileged children
August xx, 1978 - Robert plays with Dr. Feelgood and Phil Carson in Ibiza, Spain while on holiday
August 11, 1979 - Led Zeppelin perform a second show at Knebworth due to overwhelming ticket demands
August xx, 1980 - Jimmy moves into his new Windsor home, which was purchased from Michael Caine
August 14, 2009 - It Might Get Loud opened in select theatres in NY, WA & CA.
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