After the 1980 demise of Led Zeppelin, the 32-year-old Robert Plant began the second act of his career in music on his own. And 40 years later, Plant’s solo career is still going strong. Were it not for the global pandemic, chances are he’d be performing at a festival near you at the close of 2020.
He wouldn’t be skimping on the Zeppelin material, either. On his 2019 “Carry Fire” tour, about half the songs Plant performed came from the Zep catalogue. But that wasn’t always the case. In his first solo tours in the early ’80s, Plant avoided performing Zeppelin tracks.
The situation came to a head in rehearsals for Zeppelin’s reunion set at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary party (1988). That night, Plant declared he wouldn’t sing “Stairway to Heaven.” Eventually, he relented, but you can count the times Plant has performed the song after 1980 on one hand.
Yet while Plant has dreaded performing “Stairway,” he’s always embraced parts of the Zeppelin songbook. In fact, Plant has been performing another track from Led Zeppelin IV almost continuously since the album’s 1971 release.
Robert Plant has never shied away from performing the ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ classic ‘Misty Mountain Hop’
If you haven’t scanned the track listing of Led Zeppelin IV lately, prepare to have your mind blown. There’s a reason it’s one of the biggest-selling albums of all time (one that’s topped every Beatles studio album in the sales department).
The records kicks off with “Black Dog”; follows with “Rock and Roll“; continues with “The Battle of Evermore”; and then side 1 closes with “Stairway.” It’s as close to perfect as an album side can get, and then “Misty Mountain Top” kicks off side 2.
On the album, John Paul Jones opens “Misty Mountain Hop” with a haunting riff played on electric piano. Jimmy Page joins him in playing the riff, then John Bonham absolutely stomps his way into the mix. And Plant sings his lyrics of hippies sitting in the park looking for some weed to smoke.
When Led Zeppelin tackled the track during its legendary stay at Madison Square Garden in 1973, the band played a similar arrangement, only a bit quicker and with Page delivering more guitar variations. In his solo days, Plant picked it back up with the first batch of Zep songs he performed in ’88.
Plant revived ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ on his 1st solo tour featuring Zeppelin songs
After distancing himself completely from the Zeppelin catalogue for most of the decade, Plant embarked on his Now and Zen (1988) tour performing Zep songs. And he put “Misty Mountain Hop” on those setlists, night after night.
In an ’88 Rolling Stone interview, Plant spoke about how it felt singing those lyrics. “The lyrics are so hippie-dippie: ‘Lots of people sitting on the glass with flowers in their hair,’” he said. “It’s very hard to sing that now, but at the same time it’s great to sing it. It’s powerful stuff.”
Two decades later, when Plant, Page, and Jones reunited for the 2007 shows at O2 Arena, the band played “Misty Mountain Hop.” And Plant continued performing the track the following decade. In 2017, you would hear him play the IV classic as the closer on some nights. It never got old for Plant.
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