Robert Plant told Heart’s Nancy Wilson that he ‘hates’ the Led Zeppelin classic “Stairway to Heaven” at a performance. Wilson told the story on KLOS.
“Yeah, the first time we saw Zeppelin live – they were opening for like a fair, like a youth fair festival on a little stage called the Green Lake Aqua Theater in Seattle, just a little show outside with just like concrete benches.
“And they were amazing. But we were like, ‘Wow, that guy has his shirt open, and those guys are like doing sexy gestures, what’s going on with that? Wait a minute, that’s a little bit risque.’
“We were kind of young at the time when we saw it, we were kind of like, ‘Oh dear!’ And all these girls were just screaming because it was really something to see – so rock, so free, and so sexual, so we were like, ‘Oh, wow!’
“The next thing we knew, the album was out, and the next thing we knew, they were huge, and we got to go see them, I think it was at the Seattle Center the first time, I saw them about three times live, and they were just magical.
“They were just unbelievably cooler than cool. And they were androgynous, they were like wood nymphs on a big rock stage. They just had that whole magical Tolkien-esque spell-weaving capability to just make us create a spell and hold it there.
“Then they’d have lasers for ‘No Quarter’ that went straight over the heads of the audience, which at that time, everyone was smoking in shows, so the smoke would be rising through the green laser thing.
“It was just so trippy, and you felt like you were on drugs even if you weren’t. They were so good, such a good band. Then they’d walk out and sit on stools and play acoustic songs like ‘Going to California,’ and it was like, ‘What, they’re doing that too?’
“When we started to create our band, that was the benchmark, that was the blueprint, like, we can rock all the way out, or we could just go acoustic. We’d have all those capabilities, I brought a lot of the acoustic sensibility into the band, and I could also rock.
“Then we learned a whole bunch of Zeppelin songs, of course, we were playing in clubs, we had to pare down the amount of Zeppelin we would actually do for a night. It’s like, people already started to call us Little Led Zeppelin.
“It was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that, we’re not a cover band.’ It was hard to choose between the songs because there are so many amazing songs that are so much fun to play.
“Flash forward to the Kennedy Center Honors, when we’ve been asked to honor Zeppelin – of course, it was a surprise, and it was like, ‘OK…’
“We were on the road, but we had to get a private jet over to DC and with one only rehearsal, and the next day was the show, so it was a little nerve-wracking.
“And it was so cold in DC before Christmas, my hands were really cold, I was trying to keep them warm in any way I knew how in order to be able to play the beginning of ‘Stairway’ all by myself in front of all these dignitaries plus Zeppelin – no less, the President [Barack Obama], the first lady, all of it.
“Anyway, it was like one of those zen exercises where you go ‘I’m going to focus,’ and so I focused and started.
“We didn’t even see how they reacted until after it was cut together later when we saw it at our home, and I know for a fact that they did get emotional, it was really beautiful how they reacted.
“But I think a big part of that was also because of Jason Bonham, the son of their former drummer John Bonham was on the drums with a bowler hat like John Bonham used to wear, and then there were all these reveals throughout the course of the song with the smaller choir, and the orchestral part…
“And then the big choir at the end, at the end they all put on their bowlers, and so I think that had a lot to do with how it surprised them in their heart of hearts.
“And then afterward each one of those guys came up to us at sort of our dinner table – kind of like a governor’s ball-type situation afterward – they each came up and they just said, ‘Way to go, that was great!’
“Jimmy Page telling me, ‘You played that great,’ I was like, ‘Oh, I could die now.’ He’s my hero, my muse, and that would be like Joni Mitchell or a few different ones, but him in particular I guess.
“And then John Paul Jones who we did an album with once called ‘The Road Home’ was really sweet as always, and then Robert Plant said, ‘OK, I’ve learned how to hate this song, but you guys did it justice, and it was very good a version of the song.’
“So each one of them had the greatest reaction, really sweet, great guys.” Ultimate-Guitar transcribed her comments.