Sunday, July 20, 2008

Underappreciated '80s: Robert Plant, "Heaven Knows"

Robert Plant had his first and only truly massive solo hit in 1988 with "Tall Cool One" from his smash album Now and Zen. This single was so popular that Coke subsequently bought the rights to use the song in its ads, a sure--albeit sad--sign of obscene success.

Much more impressive, but less well remembered, is the opening track of the album, "Heaven Knows," which features the former Led Zeppelin lead singer at his best.

Although he didn't write the lyrics, Plant couldn't have picked better words to start off his first true solo album since 1985:

A brand new human being
Razor sharp, all firm and tan
All clean, all pure
With a 30 second attention span

Look at that album cover. He DID look razor sharp, after some questionable fashion and musical choices in the early and middle '80s. (Not to mention that it was good to see him again embracing, at least visually, the vibe of "Kashmir.")

"Heaven Knows" moved quickly enough between verses, chorus, and interludes to prove that a 30 second attention span wasn't all bad. Especially with lyrics like this, which would have seemed much cheesier coming from a less smooth voice:

Now I find myself fully occupied
And half alive
With your hands, heart, arms, and legs
Wrapped around my family pride

Not that I really wanted to picture a middle-aged Plant in such a position ... but it was good to HEAR him back in the proverbial saddle.

Especially when we get a Zep-era scream at the end of the bridge, when he follows the word "anything" with an eleven-syllable rendering of the word "goes."

Zen indeed.


At July 20, 2008 9:13 PM, Blogger Barbara(aka Layla) replied to my musings ...

Just checked my sister's collection of CDs and sure enough she has this one. I'll have to rip this song.

What do you think he means by family pride, David????

At July 21, 2008 12:26 PM, Blogger angel, jr. replied to my musings ...

I am sometimes perturbed when a product uses successful tunes in their advertising. Afterwards, whenever I play the song on my iPod or hear it again on the radio, all I could think about is the commercial.

At July 21, 2008 1:53 PM, Blogger Jessica replied to my musings ...


Haven't heard this one...I will have to check it out. :)

It's funny how sometimes lyrics get heard one way, and then when you see them written they are totally different.

At July 21, 2008 5:14 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Barbara: Naturally, by "family pride" he's referring to the gathering of lions at the Plant family's private zoo.

Angel: A similar thing happens to me now with "Who Are You" by The Who, which makes me think of CSI. Rats.

Jessica: Most lyrics, although born in print, are best not seen that way once sung.

At July 21, 2008 5:38 PM, Blogger Barbara(aka Layla) replied to my musings ...

David, thanks for clearing that up. It also explains where he got that mane.

At July 22, 2008 6:57 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Barbara: Happy to help! Now if you can explain THIS line from the song, I'll be impressed:

"You were pumping iron as I was pumping irony."

At July 24, 2008 6:30 AM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

I remember "Tall Cool One" being a regular spin in a dance club I went to back in the day and I thought it was the apocalypse coming that Plant would be spun in an eighties teen version of a rave...but yeah, it's a pretty decent album

At July 24, 2008 2:43 PM, Blogger bob_vinyl replied to my musings ...

I think Plant has stayed true to Led Zeppelin in really important ways. Where Page has tried to recreate the sound on more than one occasion, it falls flat, because he doesn't have the energy and sense of musical adventure. Plant has that more often than not and his last two albums have been incredible.

At July 25, 2008 11:06 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Ray: At least he embraced his past with all of the samples from Zep music in "Tall Cool One."

Bob: I'm still surprised at the relatively little attention that Mighty Rearranger received.

At July 25, 2008 3:40 PM, Blogger Dear Jane replied to my musings ...

david, thanks for stopping by & leaving a comment. I am glad to see you are still writing here on your blog, and it appears also in 'real' life...that's awesome.

I am still deciding whether to blog or not to blog...ah, that is the Question, eh?


At July 25, 2008 9:01 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

Right on.

At July 25, 2008 10:05 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

This was a great album. I saw Plant twice on this tour. One of my favorite songs on this album was Nirvana. ?Used it to get revved up before a bike race. His next album (was it Fate of Nations?) with 29 Palms was really good, too. Oh the memories...I think I burned out my cd of this and Aztec Camera's "Stray" up in Vermont.

As for pumping irony, maybe that was his nickname for Alannah Myles at the time...?

At July 27, 2008 2:38 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Jane: I face the same question on a regular basis.

ZW: Left off.

Mike: I think you're conflating this album with Manic Nirvana, the follow-up. They were his two biggest hit-producers and had much in common. Fate of Nations was a half-step away, and a bit more refreshing.

Great line on Alannah Myles. You win this round.

At July 28, 2008 4:14 PM, Blogger Nessa replied to my musings ...

Wow, haven't thought of Robert Plant in a bazillion years.

At July 28, 2008 7:30 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Nessa: And you've just bought yourself another million. Something tells me he'll still be around.

At July 28, 2008 10:13 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

Ah, yes, the mind is fuzzy after all these years. You are correct. How can't my mind be fuzzy after going to school in Vermont when Phish were beginning their great heights.


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