Shaken 'N' Stirred - Es Paranza 1985.
This was Robert's attempt to make a modern mid-80s sounding album. And you must admit - he certainly did make a Mid-80s sounding album! Which is, of course, why it's so hard to listen to it in 2001 without laughing your ass clear off of hero astronaut Neil Armstrong's fondling fingers. The processed drums are really, REALLY loud and fake sounding, the neat guitar stylings of Blunt have been replaced by ridiculous B52s-sounding synthesizer noises and a most minimal amount possible of guitar - bar chords only. And hoo boy, those female backup vocals. Ah me. So but still - the songs are really entertaining! Funny, mindless, catchy, stupid fun - and every bit as dated as a very attractive man.
Or am I mistaken? Certainly the record initially comes across as foolish just because it's so 80s-synth-noise-driven, but the songs themselves don't necessarily seem "dumb," just fake. Like the rhythms themselves are somewhat complex at times, the melodies are always really catchy and available in a wide variety of flavors (moody, radio-ready "Little By Little," failed tense rocker "Easily Lead," goodtime ecstasy fun of the first few songs) and there seems to be an attempt to mix it up in a lightweight avant-garde almost worldy music kinda way during a couple of points.
It's still pretty fucking stupid though. I give this laughable excuse for a record a high 8 and play it fifty-two times a minute!!! I stop Father Time in the street, kick him in the balls and play this album fifty-two times a minute!!!!
That would be listening to excess.
Robert Plant (email@example.com)
Dear Mr. Prindle,
Usually I do not deign to speak to music critics directly (if I may be so bold as to characterize what you do as actual criticism), but I feel that you have judged me unfairly in regards to my solo career, particularly in the case of my album Shaken 'N Stirred.
It is generally assumed by thick-headed rock journalist tossers that Shaken 'N Stirred was a crass attempt on my part to cash in on the New Wave music fad by tailoring my sound in a way that would appeal to a more youthful market, but that simply is not the case. In spite of the image of me that my management had created - that of a Tolkien-esque feudal lord adorned in flowing robes and living in a drafty castle on the moors - I was really quite enamored with the new music being created at the end of the Seventies. I was always nudging the boys in Led Zeppelin forward in an attempt to rouse them from their handlebar mouser and bellbottom doldrums, but they were quite set in their ways by that point and resistant to any kind of change, particularly if they thought it would alienate our lucrative fan base. I'm telling you, it was like pulling teeth just to get them to cut their hair and update their wardrobes so that we weren't gadding about stage like a bloody Dungeons & Dragons parody. Jonesy was a complete and utter wanker and he would do anything if he thought it would keep the royalties rolling in, so he didn't take any convincing at all, but Jimmy and Bonzo put up a hell of a row! Jimmy kept bleating about his hair being his bloody "essence" and providing him with certain mystical "powers," but he had a nasty drug habit at the time, so we (Peter Grant and myself) caught him when he was jonesing and set the stylist loose on him. Bonzo was half in the bag most of the time in those years, so we just held him down while he was drunk and let the stylist cut his greasy locks. He screamed and cried like a little poof, and I shall never forget the sight of him - tears streaming down his fat, drink-swollen face, a dark stain of urine appearing in the basket of his trousers - and pleading, "Not me mouser! Please don't trim me mouser!" Alas, that is how I remember poor Bonzo, when I even bother to remember him at all.
But even with the velvet flare trousers and wide-collared embroidered shirts retired and a fresh, modern look on board for the dawn of a new decade, Led Zeppelin was still hopelessly outdated and insignificant by 1979. I tried to push the boys to be more adventurous and progressive with the music, but it was a lost cause by that point. Jimmy was a hopeless drug addict and would rather stay locked in his room reading obscure occult texts and buggering daft teenage runaways than show up for rehearsal, and Bonzo was a pitiful lush and beyond any salvation whatsoever. Toward the end of the In Through The Out Door sessions we had a child's crib placed in the corner of the studio, and after Bonzo would piss and shit himself - which was happening with more and more frequency - we would chain him in the crib with his ever-present bottle of vodka while we had a studio drummer overdub the parts that Bonzo was incapable of playing (if you listen closely to the coda of All My Love, you can hear Bonzo in the background wailing "Peter, I shat myself again!") Jonsey was in agreement that we should take Led Zeppelin in a more modern direction, but the best that tosser could come up with was the poncy carnival riff for "Carouselambra," which I've always thought showed precisely what an utterly talentless hack he truly was.
Thus In Through The Out Door became one more formulaic album in the interminable, bombastic Led Zeppelin style of old, and it has been the source of much embarrassment to me ever since its release. In an attempt to salvage a modicum of our integrity and perhaps connect with a hipper audience, I booked a band called the Fabulous Poodles to open for us at Knebworth, which caused a huge rift between Peter Grant and myself. Peter hit the roof when he found out about it, and he cornered me after rehearsal one night and screamed, "Led Zeppelin is the biggest band in the world! No one opens for Led Zeppelin, not even if that is what Led Zeppelin desires!" Peter had by that point obviously been compromised by his herculean cocaine intake, but his managerial contract gave him final approval over our concert appearances, so the Fabulous Poodles were dropped from the bill and once again we had to trot out the shopworn Led Zeppelin tricks and play for a stodgy crowd of wankers that had steadfastly refused to grow in the new musical climate. Who knows what may have happened if Led Zeppelin had been exposed to a hipper audience at that point. I hate Peter Grant, and I am pleased that he is now dead.
Of course, everyone knows what happened next. Bonzo thankfully died, freeing us from his plodding, Neanderthal drum beats so that we could branch out in a fresh direction. I wanted to overhaul our sound completely and enlist the drummer from Athletico Spizz '80 to begin work on a post-Bonzo Zeppelin album immediately, but the other tossers - Jimmy and that poof Jonesy - felt that it would be blasphemous to carry on without the dead boozy wanker shiteing himself behind the drum kit, so we agreed to go our separate ways and never play together again. Frankly, I was overjoyed to finally be rid of those two arseholes. They were without a doubt the most horrible, cretinous human beings on the face of the Earth.
I immediately moved to London and set to work assembling a New Wave band, Sword of Damocles. We recorded a dance number called "Dance, Little Monkey, Dance" in early October of 1980, which I think held its own among the Punk and New Romantic songs popular in the U.K. at that time. But since it contained veiled threats to Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, for legal reasons we were never able to release it, but it was still great fun to be in the studio again. It was refreshing to work with musicians who weren't closeted bugger boys or constantly muttering oblique references about Aleistar Crowley, but even with my contacts I had a difficult time finding representation for us. It seems that I had underestimated the shadow of Led Zeppelin (Oh how I grew to loath that name!) and the expectations placed on my by my fans. No one wanted to see Robert Plant mature as an artist - at least not if it meant he wouldn't be resuscitating that horrible piece of shite "Stairway to Bleeding Heaven" for the umpteenth time - so against my better judgment I disbanded Sword of Damocles and allowed myself to be forced into recording two tepid solo albums that would satisfy the bean counters at the record company as well as the idiot Led Zeppelin fans that, if they could have their narrow-minded way, would have me singing "Whole Lotta Love" well into the next millennium. The albums were critical successes for me, but my heart was obviously not in the music anymore.
By 1984 I had given up the notion that my music would ever be relevant again, but then something miraculous happened. One afternoon Jeff Lynne from ELO came round the manor with Nick Heyward from Haircut 100, both dressed in the height of New Romantic fashion. Jeff had brought his band from the brink of obscurity by being unafraid of changing with the times and unabashedly exploiting any trend to come down the pike, and he believed that I could do the same with my career if I was willing to take the gamble. Jeff and Nick looked quite the odd pair, dressed in matching parachute pants and vinyl jumpers with matching checkered headbands, snogging each other like a couple of rutting teenagers (Jeff had to be close to 50 at this time and it was most unseemly), but listening to him describe how "Don't Bring Me Down" had rejuvenated his boring band of listless prog-rockers and garnered them a new audience, I was was sold on the idea. It was on that very day that Shaken 'N Stirred was born!
I had to fight tooth and nail to get Shaken 'N Stirred released, but it was a total labor of love and remains the album of which I am most proud. During the recording sessions, I had executives from Es Paranza hanging about the studio and screaming at me, "We need another 'Big Log,' Robert! Where's the 'Big Log'?" They didn't have any faith in the material and consequently they didn't promote it as aggressively as they could have, so it was a forgone conclusion that Shaken 'N Stirred would fail. They made sure of it, and I will never forgive those dirty bastards as long as I am still able to draw breath! I nurtured this album like it was my own child, and they maligned and destroyed it! When that arse-bandit David Bowie makes a New Wave album people can't bend over fast enough and beg to buggered by one of his calculated fey personas, but when Robert Plant does it he's labeled a "sell out" and a "crass opportunist raping the gay music culture"! Piss off, you bloodsucking wankers! This is the music that I want to play, not that boring Led Zeppelin shite!
Of course when Shaken 'N Stirred was a critical flop, I had to return to making the same boring MOR shite that I've squeezing out for the past 40 years. I even had to reunite with that warlock pedophile Jimmy Page just to keep my name in the music press. My management won't let me cut my hair (there's actually a clause in my contract the binds me to keep my hair at a certain length, if you can believe it), so I'm forced to cobble a living out of singing bad rock 'n' roll songs that I despise while looking like a geriatric Cowardly Lion. I hate my life.
And I hate all of you arseholes that still expect me to prance around like a poncy hairdresser while yelping "The Lemon Song" like it's still 1970. I am a grown man, for Christsake! I am probably older than your parents! Would you want you father to run around acting like that? I would rather go back to playing that Honeydrippers shite than play "Kashmir" again. Why can't you people just leave me alone?
So judge Shaken 'N Stirred harshly if you must, but at least I tried to show you something wonderful and new. And if you really hate it - go buy yourself another copy of Physical Graffiti. It pays my rent.
ZDebralah1@aol.com (Debbie Holmes)
Dear Mr. Prindle-
After reading the letter that you say Robert Plant E-mailed to you I have a very hard time believing that the letter was written by him. Did you ever think that someone just used his name to get you to read the letter to begin with? Whoever wrote that to you has a God-awful attitude, and I'm having a really hard time fathoming that Robert wrote that letter. Maybe you should double check that it really came from him, and if there is any question, then delete it from your site. It just doesn't seem right to leave it there unless you are sure!