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Plant thought Bonham lived too far away to hire

Led Zep’s Robert considered saying no to drummer John because of travel costs - and explains decision to “run away from big time” in 2000

Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant has told of a moment he nearly refused to hire drummer John Bonham – because the 20 miles between their homes was too far.

The pair got together in Band Of Joy in 1967, before forming Led Zep with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. But Plant says it might never have happened.

He tells Sound Opinions: “I was playing once at a ballroom once and he came up and said, ‘You’re alright, but you’d be a lot better if I was your drummer.’ I said, ‘So you already understand that I’m in charge?’

“I said, ‘Where do you live?’ He said, ‘Well, I live in Redditch.’ I said, ‘That’s 20 miles from where I live – that’s too far. You’re not good enough.’

“But we stole a little bit, nicked stuff from people when we weren’t looking, put the gas in the vehicles and off we went.’”

He adds of their early days: “In the Band Of Joy when we were penniless, stealing milk from doorsteps and syphoning gasoline out of cars in the middle of the night, he set his drums up at the front of the stage so there was nowhere for me to stand. He was desperate to get the hell out of any life with me. His wife Pat used to say, ‘You’re not going out with Planty any more – we’re starving!’”

Earlier this year he said he wasn’t interested in a Led Zep reunion because he didn’t want to return to the “circus” the band had become. He’s since reflected that he’s enjoying the response to latest solo album Lullaby And… The Ceaseless Roar, because it’s another change of direction.

Now he explains: “I ran away from the sports arenas of Europe in 2000. I quit smoking, I quit my relationship on the road with the big time and ran for help. I was so dejected by everybody’s idea of what I should do that it was like a wet blanket on my shoulders. I wanted to do something fresh.”

And he insists it’s not a new approach for him: “The Band Of Joy thing was pretty far out – so far out that not many people would book us. We did something so different that it gave us an expansion, so we could put our contribution into the early Zeppelin attitude.

“Having had that tangent to come in from when I was 19, I didn’t see any reason I would compromise from then on. I have to have a colourful, exciting opportunistic future. I cut the cloth according to my needs, and in doing that I go to a different place. It’s the most stimulating and heartfelt times of my career as a singer.”

Plant was the subject of rumours earlier this month that he'd torn up a £500m Led Zep reunion deal. He dismissed the claims as "rubbish" via a spokesman. Earlier this month Page revealed that a fortune teller had predicted Zep's success while the guitarist was still in the Yardbirds.

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