My one-night adventure with Led Zep

June 09, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 16, 2016 11:44 am IST

Terrific duo:Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, both formerly of the English rock band Led Zeppelin

Terrific duo:Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, both formerly of the English rock band Led Zeppelin

On June 14, rock stars Robert Plant and Jimmy Page will start defending themselves in a trial, claiming that parts of their Led Zeppelin hit, ‘Stairway To Heaven’ were copied from the instrumental ‘Taurus’ by the band Spirit. Yet, that’s not what this column is about.

Well, every journalist has that one story to tell. This is mine, and it concerns Plant and Page. Things just happened.

I was working with a tabloid. And on November 27, 1996, I attended a Saregama HMV party to launch DJ Bobo’s album. Parag Kamani, the label’s international music head, asked whether I planned to meet Plant and Page. I was clueless. He said he’d heard they were landing that night for the Channel V Awards three days later.

The channel had announced performers, but had hidden this. Something was fishy. My mind started wandering. It was past midnight. Those days, only a few of us had mobile phones. Not me. No Internet or e-mail. Decided to head to Sahar airport. Gut feeling. But rushed home to prepare. Requested rickshaw guy to wait. Called office. Told shift in-charge to depute photographer. Took notebook and pen. Forgot to carry cassette for an autograph.

Reached airport around 1.15 am. Had Plant and Page arrived? Suddenly saw Mandar Thakur of Channel V heading towards the arrival section. Yelled. Luckily, he didn’t hear me.

Waited an hour. No sign of photographer. Suddenly saw this guy with long blonde hair. Robert Plant! Broke security cordon. The staff whistled. I didn’t care. Just started shooting questions. Plant answered politely. Thakur looked angry.

My idol kept chatting. The hits. ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘Kashmir’. Spoken voice a total contrast to the singing eagle screech.

Suddenly, heard a devilish scream. It was a formally-dressed brunette. “Who told you of this? I shall have you sacked. It was a secret to have them suddenly up on stage. If it’s someone from Channel V, we’ll catch the next flight back.” Thankfully, she didn’t carry a gun or knife. Thakur wanted to escape. Plant pacified the lady: “It’s okay, Honey, I always admire people with enterprise. He’s got his scoop...”

Told him my name. The lady was manager Honey Blanche. I too called her Honey. She couldn’t argue. But where was Jimmy Page? And the photographer?

Turned out Page was there throughout. Had cut his hair short so didn’t recognise him. He joined the fun. Did an impromptu ‘Stairway To Heaven’ on air guitar, while Plant sang. People walked by. Nobody knew them.

A Mercedes was arranged. Page wanted an Ambassador. Driven one on their 1970s visit. I got another half hour. What a chat. Photographer finally arrived. Got autograph on my notebook. Forgot to get a picture with them.

Reached office at 5 am. Filed a back page lead story headlined ‘Zep Talk’. Woke up late. Channel V head Jules Fuller called: “How on earth did you get this? Who was your source?” Told him months later.

On November 29, Plant and Page were forced to attend the press conference. Saw me and hugged. Faces turned green. Later, Plant and I walked out together. He heard Mumbai singer Vivienne Pocha rehearsing Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’. Didn’t want to disturb her, but whispered, “She has a great voice and range.” Told Vivienne years later.

Plant and Page appeared at the awards, with Queen’s Roger Taylor on drums and Remo Fernandes on bass. The song was ‘Rock ’n’ Roll’. Now, the sad part. They synced it. Not live. Certainly not rock ’n’ roll. Tragedy!

The author is a freelance music writer

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