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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

North of Watford Gap! Led Zeppelin: Genesis of a Monster.

North of Watford Gap!
Led Zeppelin
Genesis of a Monster.

Ever wondered how world famous super pop group Led Zeppelin began?
Wonder no more. Here is the story, warts and all.
From Newport Pagnell to…The World.


Watford Gap Service Station: The M1, 1973.

Even the name sends a shiver down the spine of history. Romantics everywhere flock through its portals in such of meat pies, sausage rolls and hot mugs of builder’s tea.

Now, here, one frosty morning, we find legendary German Kraut Rockers, Kraftwerk - pioneers of electronic synthesiser pop.

Ralf, Helmut, Hans and Florian had been watching the expansion of the British motorway system for some time now and had noticed that each motorway, when struck precisely with a hammer and recorded on a portable cassette recorder, had a slightly different note, the frequency sometimes modulating up or down by as much as a semitone or even more:

Ralf: Ja vol, mein Florian. Have you the hammer implement?

Florian: Yes mein chum, I have placed it so.

Ralf: But where is Helmut?

Florian: On my head, Ralf, mein altum kumpel

Ralf: Is is a very funny joke mein pal, I laugh like ze schnellzug

Florian: Yes we possess a gut sense of zee humour.

Ralf: Observe ze process, Florian. I hit the tarmac just so.

Florian: Yes, Ralf, is most interesting, mein old chum

Ralf: You must now record with much precision mein Florian.

Florian: I am now holding unt portable microphone so, Ralf, mein pal.

Ralf: Incredible

Florian: Yes, mein chum, a semitone higher than M2 at Farthing Corner Services.

Ralf: I record this amazings sounds. Donner und blitzen!

Florian: Achtung, achtung. A new section of zee M1 has now opened today. We must immediately go to the Newport Pagnel Services.

Ralf: Donner und blitzen. We must go there unmittelbar, Florian mein chum.

And so, Kraftwerk packed up their equipment, legged it to their Volkswagen Beetle, and before long were hurtling up the expressway at a respectable fifty miles per hour, counting the junctions and passing Ernest Marples, who was hopefully waving his autograph book.

But there was no time to stop. Fate was soon to tip her critical hand in a most horrific and crucial way.

For, waiting at Newport Pagnell was none other than a young Robert Plant, Bob for short, or indeed Bobby, named for Wolverhampton Wanderers football hero Stan ‘Bobby’ Cullis.

There he was gazing skywards with his Great Aunty Blodwen from Wales, looking up at a mighty German Zeppelin, straining like some huge black dog battling with gravity against its temporary moorings.

Young Bobby Plant pensively stroked his bearded chin. ‘Hmmm. Black Dog. Like a Black Dog.’

Bobby made to run up the angled steps leading towards the cabin with the confidence of only the very young. 

However, Great Aunty Blodwen had other ideas and took hold of his shoulders firmly. ‘No, look you, boyo,” she cried, ‘That leads to the out-door. You cannot be going in through the out-door, can you, boyo?”

‘Yeeess’, thought young Bobby, ‘In through the out-door.’ And his beard got another firm stroking and the long, flowing blonde locks were tossed thoughtfully.

Once aboard the Zeppelin, in flight and on course for Dunstable, Bedfordshire via Brecon, Oswestry and Ross on Wye, young Bobby Plant looked around the crowded bar and observation deck.

Although he was too young to drink or smoke yet, his mind raced with the possibilities. He listened as the in-flight attendant spoke of life jackets, flames and emergency exits before skipping lightly to more pleasant prospects: ‘Welcome to our tour of the important Welsh motorway junctions of Britain. We will be travelling at a height of ten feet above ground level and cruising at a speed of seven knots. Just beneath us: Junction 32 of the M1. Observe if you will that it is a partially unrolled cloverleaf or parclo for short.’

Over in the corner, he observed, with the keenness of a poet, two groups of strangely attired people, distinctly confrontational, involved in some drunken face off that young Plant barely understood. But his keen mind grasped just enough – the brightly coloured ones in their primary reds, yellows and blues were squaring up to those dressed in duller, more functionally military costumes. And he strained to hear as the bearded one shouted with drunken belligerence.

‘Frankly, I never liked Earthers. They remind me of Regulan blood worms. No. I just remembered. There is one Earthman who doesn't remind me of a Regulan blood worm. That's Kirk. A swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood.’

Bobby sniggered. The tension was building in the bar. It looked as though the one in the brightest red tunic was about to fight. His fist balled. He looked dazed and confused at the communication breakdown. And the two groups were right beside a giant lever marked in giant red capital letters: ‘Emergency Zeppelin Crashing Switch!! Do Not Push Under Any Circumstances! You Will Cause A CRASH!’

‘Of course, I see it all now, dazed and confused, communication breakdown. There isn’t a whole lot of love between these groups of people. No sir.’ And young Bobby Plant smiled.

The bearded one continued winding up the bright shirts. ‘Of course, I'd say that Captain Kirk deserves his ship. We like the Enterprise. We, really really do. That sagging old rust bucket is designed like a garbage scow. Half the quadrant knows it.’

Now, the red shirted bloke finally spoke, fist still clenched. ‘Laddie, don't you think you should rephrase that?’ He muttered, threateningly.

‘You're right, I should. I didn't mean to say that the Enterprise should be hauling garbage. I meant to say that it should be hauled away as garbage,’ sneered the bearded one, laughing at his colleagues. 

That did it. Bobby Plant moved as the first chair was smashed over the nearest head.

Bobby was seized with panic as a light orchestra in the corner of the bar struck up up a comical slapstick ‘bar brawl in outer space’ musical number. Fists thrown. Chairs broken. Glasses smashed on heads.

As a flying body sprawled against it, the giant emergency lever was pressed to the ‘Crash the Zeppelin’ position!’

Great Aunty Blodwen seized Bobby by the hand. The Zeppelin spiraled helplessly out of control, diving from its altitude of nine feet, heading straight for the newly opened M1, Newport Pagnell section. 

‘We’re going to crash, we’re going to crash!’ screamed Bobbby, in terror, ‘And we’re heading for some comedy Germans!  They appear to be hitting the motorway with hammers and recording the tone on what looks like a portable tape cassette recorders!’

‘Yes, look you, boyo, if we cop an ear, we can listen to their comical chatter, look you, boyo,’ screamed Blodwen, pitching from side to side like some monstrous harpooned Welsh whale. A giant Moby Dick of a woman she pointed her brass ear trumpet downwards at the unsuspecting electrosynthpop outfit.

Ralph: Look Florian I am hitting zee motorway with zee hammer just so.

Florian: Yes mein chum, a semitone higher than zee one on zee newly opened M1 autostrada at Watford Gap, or, is incredible, lower than the Penny Farthing Services on the M2.

Ralph: But where is Hans?

Florian: Hans? On zee end of mein arms.

Ralph: You Dummkopff. I am laughing like zee drain. I wet myself. You possess zee gut sense of zee humour mein pal.

Florian: Yes. Zee fun fun fun on zee autobahn.

Ralph: Donner und blitzen! Achtung! Achtung! Und Zeppellin is now improbably heading directly for us. We will never complete zee experiment!

Florian: Nooooooo! It eez a wreck of twisted metal and flaming cloth! Vot is and vot should never be! Like und giant Moby Dick! Und trombonist is descending towards us like und giant hearing trumpet! Aaaargh!

Ralph: On no, I am being covered in zee burning cloth! The twisted metal is, even now, ruining our experiment! Zee road is covered in a comedy brass band!

But it all ended happily. Kraftwerk and Bobby shook hands and agreed to call a truce. In fact they turned over a new page.


A Jimmy Page.