Bernie's Story: Meeting Robert Plant
Many, many moons ago, there was one rock band who reigned supreme above all else.
They were called Led Zeppelin.
Their music was deep, loud, cool, and rhythmic. In the summer of 1980, by chance, my dad and I found out they were doing a tour of Europe. So, we went to Europe. I saw them three times. I was 19.
I was sleeping in a hotel in Amsterdam and my dad woke me up at noon saying, “Come on don't you want to see the city?"
I figured he was nice enough to get me there, so I slid my pants over my pajamas and headed out with him to see the city.
As we walked, I noticed all of a sudden bright white light out of the corner of my right eye.
I turned to look and the bright white light was actually the reflection of the sun shining on the hair of Robert Plant, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. He was followed by bass player John Paul Jones. They had just stepped off the trolley.
I screamed to my dad, “That's Robert Plant!!”.
He stomped his foot in anger, and said "Bernie, that's a woman".
Ignoring him, I tore after them. I passed the trolley and saw them walking away, I yelled, “ROBERT!”.
He turned around and with a gleam and dead focus in his eye, we walked towards one another. As we met, my heart felt like it was going to fly out of my chest. I thought for a moment he could hear it.
There I stood, face-to-face with Robert and John, on the streets of Amsterdam.
He was a beautiful creature: tall, long, amazing features, and as my dad would later say he looked like a Greek god!
He wore his stage clothing, deep dark blue/black-ish tee shirt, jeans and brand new white sneakers no socks. John Paul Jones wore a beige casual jacket and underneath was a Led Zeppelin t-shirt in black.
I don’t know how I did it, but I spoke. "I saw your show last night it was pretty good.”
He replied back, "Were you up towards the front?"
"I recognize you."
With that statement coming from MY GOD, there was one of two things I could have done: 1- fainted or 2- relax, take a deep breath and forget it for now. I choose the latter.
Just then my dad comes up to join us.
To see my dad come up in the fashion he did was worth a million dollars! He didn't just come up, and say hello. He took steps walking up SLOWLY with his head down ashamed that he called Robert a woman. He walked up to us like he was some peon peasant who needed a good lashing. Head down, afraid he was going to be whipped! Not worthy to be in Sir Plant's presence!
As he got right up to Robert he S L O W L Y lifted his head up, as if someone was lifting their head up to view the entire statue of Liberty! By the time my dad's head made it up to Plant's (a full head taller than us), it was quite dramatic and I almost expected the clouds to part and god to peep thru with dramatic music!
I am a drummer. I came out of my mother a drummer! and shall die as one! So naturally, I was curious about their drummer. The drummer for Led Zeppelin was such a God that I asked Robert "Where's Bonzo?"
Bonzo was the nickname that Robert Plant gave the drummer because he reminded him looks wise of a cartoon dog in England named Bonzo.
I am ashamed of myself, back then. My head wasn’t there. I was too amazed. For instance today now that I am 55, if I ran into Robert Plant today, I would sit talk and get into deep conversations regarding his music. Back then I was this little turd of a fucking moron disrespecting him by asking him about the drummer!
Robert didn't like that I asked about Bonzo and looked far away without answering me.
I had seen Led Zeppelin, 3 years earlier in America, they were scrappy (British term for crappy). By the time 1977 came around, they were drugged-out long haired rock-gods that were jaded and over blown like Elvis before he died! In 1980, thankfully they recovered and they swept always the bullshit and returned to the power and energy of their beginnings in 1968.
Their live shows turned into circuses without good performances ,but they did have the most amazing flying sound system ever. It was in vogue if you were a top rock band in the mid to late 1970's to have speakers way way above the stage so that they can project out and loudly into the audience. Sonically one of the coolest parts of that 1977 concert was when they played their epic song “Kashmir” and when Robert belted out the word ‘been’, and the note lasted forever. He panned the note he held from the speakers over the stage to the hidden speakers in the center ceiling middle of the garden! So it gave it this weighty trippy feel that killed us!
I referred to that great JBL flying sound system and said, “In 1977, John Paul Jones had the greatest fucking bass sound”. My dad butted in, scolding me for using foul language. Robert soothed us by saying "it's ok, we say those words occasionally also".
I asked Robert what happened to Jimmy's ZOSO amp. Jimmy Page had this black grilled amp with white lettering saying ZOSO. It was not there for 1980, Robert replied with a smile, "Probably blew up" .
My dad told Robert about our long journey to see them and the high costs, Robert swiveled his head from me to my dad and said "You must have a good Pop". I quietly agreed.
My dad then told them that we are trying to get tickets to see them on his birthday. Then I said “I am trying to buy this poster I saw but they said it's a promotional poster not for sale”.
Robert Plant asked me to describe the poster.
I said, “Well, let's see, John Paul Jones is on bass.”
"You mean John Paul is on bass?”, his hands making a swinging motion, feet apart, mimicking a bass player. Robert said "I'll tell you what give me the name of the place your staying, and I'll see what I can do. Keep in mind so many people have a hand in it."
My dad quickly wrote down the Hotel we were staying at. And then my dad said to Robert, “You know you are a God to him!”.
Robert said in a very serious humble tone "No, it really shouldn't be that way".
My dad and I started to walk back to our Hotel; John and Robert walked in the opposite direction. Further and further we parted.
I knew I had to do something.
I would sing to him.
I called out, “Remember…” Robert turned around along with Paul Jones.
I chickened out; I couldn't sing. But I could talk and out of my mouth came “It's nobody's fault but mine".
Robert laughed hysterically!
We got back to our hotel and my dad went right up to the counter front desk. "I am expecting something. As soon as you get something from them you are to call me without fail - understood?"
We went upstairs to the room. i laid down on the bed to relax and get some fresh air, but I was too tense and excited.
My dad was pacing back and forth like some crazy lunatic, he scared me, he was too fucking hyper! Within 15 minutes of us being in our room the phone rang. My dad LEAPED onto the fucking phone!
My heart was pounding. He hung up. “You wait here”, he told me.
Around 30 seconds later my dad was coming up the stairs. He came into the room, and unrolled the poster i wanted! It had ALL their autographs on it!
Paul Jones wrote with the same pencil. Plant and Page wrote with the same pen. Robert wrote:
To Bernie - keep the faith.
This was perhaps the single greatest day moment of my life! But there was more. Accompanying this poster was a little piece of paper.
Dear Sirs: please come to the back of the Halle to pick up your two complimentary tickets for the show! - signed Harvey Goldsmith, some big shot who ran the tour that year!
I kept the poster for many many years until I ran into financial trouble and sold it at auction at Christie's of London for $2,000.