1. Gene Vincent - “Be Bop A Lula”
A Top 10 hit for the hard-drinking Virginian and his band the Blue Caps in 1956, this track sparked Plant’s enduring love of rockabilly. One of Plant’s first bands, The Crawling King Snakes, with John Bonham on drums, opened a show for Vincent when he visited the UK in the mid-’60s.
2. Johnny Burnette - “Dreamin’”
A further early rockabilly standard, Plant’s parents gave him this single to play on his first record player, a red and cream 1960 Dansette Conquest Auto.
3. The Miracles - “Shop Around”
This effervescent soul track gave Berry Gordy’s nascent Motown label its breakthrough hit in the US in 1960. It was also the first record Robert Plant bought with the money he earned from his paper round.
4. Robert Johnson - “Traveling Riverside Blues”
The late, great Mississippi bluesman has been an enduring influence on Plant from the time he discovered his music in his local record shop, the Diskery in Birmingham, England. For Zeppelin’s ‘The Lemon Song’, Plant lifted Johnson’s most lascivious line from this track: “You can squeeze my lemon ‘til the juice runs down my leg.”
5. Spencer Davis Group - “Keep on Running”
In the mid-’60s Plant was especially inspired by the example of the SDG’s freakishly talented singer Steve Winwood, still a teenager at the time and like him also a native of England’s Midlands, and would trek into Birmingham to see his band perform in pubs and clubs. In 1965, this track took them to Number One in the UK.
6. James Brown - “I’ll Go Crazy”
One of the self-styled Mr Dynamite’s early blazing R&B hits from 1960, Plant got his guitarist friend Kevyn Gammond to work out the chords for this track so his Crawling King Snakes could cover it.
7. Stevie Wonder - “Fingertips, Part 2”
Motown’s boy genius came to the Midlands in the summer of 1965 to perform at the Old Hill Plaza. The MC for that gig was Robert Plant, who’d turned up on his Lambretta and introduced Wonder onto the stage. This was Wonder’s opening song that night.
8. The Rascals - “You Better Run”
The US pop-rockers’ stomping calling card was covered by Plant’s pre-Zeppelin band Listen as their - and his - first single in 1966. Backing vocals on the Listen version were sung by future Elton John sidekick Kiki Dee.
9. Jefferson Airplane - “Somebody to Love”
Plant was a huge fan of the psych-rock that rushed out of San Francisco from the mid-’60s, having been turned onto it by British DJ John Peel’s seminal radio show, The Perfumed Garden. The Airplane’s lysergic anthem from 1966 became a staple of Plant’s sets with his pre-Zeppelin Band of Joy.
10. Joni Mitchell - “Big Yellow Taxi”
Both Plant and Jimmy Page were struck by the Canadian singer-songwriter’s third album, 1970’s ‘Ladies of the Canyon’, from which this vibrant track is lifted. Mitchell is the “girl with the flower in her hair” referred to by Plant on Zeppelin’s ‘Going to California’.
11. Beastie Boys - “She’s Crafty”
The New York rap trio sampled the riff from Zeppelin’s ‘The Ocean’ for this 1986 single. It prompted Plant to do the same - lifting snatches of ‘Custard Pie’ and ‘The Wanton Song’ for his solo hit of the following year, ‘Tall Cool One’.
12. Tim Hardin - “If I Were A Carpenter”
The late American folk singer’s finest song, from 1967, is a particular favourite of Plant’s. He recorded his own version for his 1993 solo album, ‘Fate of Nations’.
13. Love - “Bummer in the Summer”
Arthur Lee’s brilliant psych-rockers are among Plant’s most beloved bands. When, in 1999, he formed the covers band Priory of Brion with a bunch of local musicians from the Midlands, this track from Love’s baroque masterpiece ‘Forever Changes’ was a regular fixture in their sets.
14. Ralph Stanley - “O Death”
Alison Krauss and producer T-Bone Burnett introduced Plant to this haunting bluegrass standard during the sessions for their ‘Raising Sand’ album. Dating from the 1920s, Stanley’s chilling reading of the song appeared on the acclaimed soundtrack to the Coen Brothers movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
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