September 24 – Plant Moved Foward By Looking Back

Led Zeppelin have been at times considered the originators of Heavy Metal, but anyone with a perfunctory knowledge of their output realizes they put out a diverse range of sounds spanning various rock/pop genres over the ’70s. Much of that might have come from singer Robert Plant’s interests. Nonetheless, once Zeppelin was done, Plant seemed eager to differentiate himself and explore even more territory (as continues on to date as his projects with Alison Krauss show, for example). After a couple of solo albums, he got together a side-project who looked back to the pre-Zep days. The Honeydrippers were the result and they put out their only record, Volume 1, on this day in 1984.

Their origins date back to ’81, when he would sometimes perform under the name – which they took from early Bluesman Roosevelt Sykes’ nickname – and play old retro early rock or blues numbers. Atlantic Records boss, and Plant’s friend, Ahmet Ertegun liked the idea and had played around with the idea of having an album of old ’50s songs he liked done by a new band. So he recruited Plant, who in turn brought in some high-profile talent, most notably including ex-bandmate Jimmy Page, as well as Jeff Beck on guitars. Rounding out the lineup were Paul Shaffer on keyboards (who at the time played with the Blues Brothers when they were active) , Stray Cat Brian Setzer on an uncredited guitar appearance, drummer Dave Weckl, bassist Wayne Pedzwater (who’d soon go on to work frequently with Michael Jackson) and Nile Rodgers who added yet some more guitars and co-produced the record with Ertegun himself. Like our reader Mike Ledano pointed out it was “as close to a Page/Plant reunion as we were likely to get in the ’80s but this is very different from Led Zeppelin.”

The result was an 18-minute, five song EP (which eventually came out on a CD with a live bonus track) consisting of Rudy Toombs “I Get A Thrill” (Toombs was an old Vaudevillian who became a staff songwriter for Ertegun in the ’60s), Ray Charles “I Got A Woman”, “Young Boy Blues” , a song co-written by Phil Spector and the two singles – “Rockin’ At Midnight” and “Sea of Love.” The former was said to be Plant’s favorite of the lot, a cover of a 1947 song. The latter, the lush, “Sea of Love”, a 1959 song by Phil Phillips, became the breakout hit.

Allmusic rated it 4-stars, noting “Plant always harbored a deep abiding love of early rock & roll” and suggesting while “it may not be much more than a lark but it’s truly fun.”

The surprised public figured so too. “Rockin’ at Midnight “ hit the top 20 while “Sea of Love” got to #3,and #1 in Canada, where the EP went triple-platinum in about four months. Overall the record got to #5 in the U.S. but did little overseas.

The Honeydrippers toured in ’85, joined by the Uptown Horns , but plans for a full-length followup album never materialized.

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8 thoughts on “September 24 – Plant Moved Foward By Looking Back

    1. yep, a strong Two Hit Wonder, LOL. ‘Rockin At Midnight’, or a little clip of it , was used as the theme music for a Canadian late night video show before there was around-the-clock Much music up there.

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      1. it’s hard to get one’s mind around the dude doing ‘Raising Sand’ with Alison Krauss (which I listened to in full a few months ago…. great music in small doses but after 8 or 9 songs I found a bit tiring) is the same one who did ‘Rock N Roll’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’!

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  1. “Sea of Love” got lots of radio play at the time back in Germany. I liked it and still do. I also remember that tune from the Al Pacino movie. While I knew that Jimmy Page was involved in the Honeydrippers project, I never looked into it more closely and wasn’t aware of the other big name artists.

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