In a new interview with The Guardian, Plant recalled that he “realized that tough, manly approach to singing I’d begun on [the 1966 track with the band Listen] ‘You Better Run’ wasn’t really what it was all about at all. Songs like [Zeppelin’s] ‘Babe I’m Going to Leave You’ … I find my vocals on there horrific now. I really should have shut the f— up!” Plant said he came to that conclusion after working on the song “Friends,” an unplugged and more experimental track from Led Zeppelin’s mostly acoustic III album.
In the interview — in which the singer looks back at his earliest days as an artist all the way up to his most recent solo album, Carry Fire, which came out last month — Plant surveyed some of the songs that shaped his life.
In addition to “Friends,” he talked about Led Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand,” the tough opening track to 1976’s Presence, which was released right around the time punk broke through in the U.K. He noted how the Damned were one of his favorite bands from that time. “’New Rose,’ ‘Neat Neat Neat’: what brilliant songs,” he said. “They quite rightly kicked juggernauts like Pink Floyd into touch for a couple of years.”
He recalled how modern music, and a particularly biting headline attached to an interview with former bandmate Jimmy Page, inspired him to take his solo records into new territories. “I’m not lying down because I’m from another time,” he noted. “My time can’t be the last thing I did. It has to be what’s around the corner.”
Since then, Plant has made some of his best and most restless work, including the 2007 collaboration with country singer Alison Krauss, Raising Sand, that netted him a Grammy for Album of the Year. “I was basically tutored by Alison,” he said. “She’s a very precise singer who’s done more duets than you can shake a stick at, and I was thinking, Help, I’m a rock singer, no matter what I do. But, of course, I’m not. I’m just a guy that sings songs.”