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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 May 2006, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Zep singer returns to solo roots
Robert Plant (photo courtesy Andrew Pritchard)
Robert Plant back at Rockfield, where his career took a new path
Rock legend Robert Plant has paid homage to the recording studio which helped him launch his solo career.

The former Led Zeppelin frontman returned to Rockfield, near Monmouth, to mark the 25th anniversary of his debut album after the group broke up.

He was reunited with guitarist Robbie Blunt and keyboard player Jez Woodruffe for a book on the studio.

Plant said: "Rockfield was an absolute dream because it was pastoral, funny and had a fantastic musical history."

I moved here and became one of these dismal, happy, sad, failed musicians that other people cross the street to avoid
Robert Plant

The visit was arranged by journalist Jeff Collins, who is compiling a history of the studio, which was founded in the mid-1960s by brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward.

Plant, 57, recalled how he arrived at Rockfield 25 years ago this week, in the wake of Zeppelin's split following the death of the band's drummer John Bonham.

But he told Collins he had not been sure he would make the transition from globe-trotting rock star to a musician with a solo career.

He said: "As far as expectation went, I mean at the age of 32 when your career is finished, anything that came after that was a bonus really.

Rockfield, near Monmouth (photo courtesy Andrew Pritchard)
Rockfield was founded by the music-loving Ward brothers

"I really enjoyed my being in this Rockfield environment. I had lived in this goldfish bowl in Led Zeppelin.

"All we knew about were shadowy figures that came in the night with bags of gear, and security blokes, so it was fantastic to come here and find this whole culture [of musicians] around Monmouth.

"You'd go down to the Nag's Head pub in the town [The Olde Nags Head, in Granville Street] and come wobbling back up here.

Enhanced credibility

"So I moved here and became one of these dismal, happy, sad, failed musicians that other people cross the street to avoid."

Plant recorded two albums at Rockfield, Pictures at Eleven in 1981, released in June 1982, and Principle of Moments two years later.

Robbie Blunt, Jez Woodruffe and Robert Plant (photo courtesy Andrew Pritchard)
Together again: (L-R) Robbie Blunt, Jez Woodruffe and Robert Plant

Former Genesis star Phil Collins drummed on both, but could not make the reunion as he was in New York writing a musical for Disney. He sent his apologies.

Kingsley and Charles Ward, who had their own music "combo", created Rockfield because they thought it would be easier than travelling to London, the nearest place with studios at that time.

Music folklore records how in 1975 Queen's Freddie Mercury wrote his piano part for Bohemian Rhapsody in a former feed store at the farm while the rest of the band played frisbee in a nearby field.

But it was Plant's decision to record at Rockfield which gave the studios enhanced credibility with generations of musicians, said Jeff Collins.

He said: "Of all the artists that have worked there, the person most talked about is Robert Plant, having been in one of the world's biggest and most successful bands.

"A lot of musicians have seen that his albums were recorded at Rockfield and thought, 'if it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me'."

Plant's 2006 schedule includes gigs in Milan and the USA at the end of May and June and a one-off performance with former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page at the Montreux festival in July.

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