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Big Klu

Pinpointing the gig when Plant lost it (the wailing)

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When exactly did Plant go from wailing banshee singing an octave above the tunes to...oh crap, I can't sing the studio Over the Hills or Rock and Roll vocal hooks anymore'?

Sometime is '72? He still had it in Japan 71 but by '73 he seemed thrashed.

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By the time they arrived in New York in '73 the tour was nearly over, and he had shot his vocal cords. He had surgery on them at one point in time, and I"m not having much luck locating the dates. I"m sure I have them somewhere. It was probably sometime in '72 that his singing voice started to change. If you listen to 4 he still has a lot of the "screeching" ability. He has also said, though, that by the time HOTH came out he had learned more had to sing and less how to screech. Meaning that he realized he didn't have to screech and scream to sound good.

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I think he peaked in 71, using the end of STH as a reference (There was a lady..) listen to a good quality 71 show, then listen to HTWWW and then TSRTS. In 71 he definitly had a higher range and was able to sustain those high notes, there is a slight decrease in 72 and then in 73 it is much more noticable. I figure thats the main reason that Immigrant song got dropped from the setlist eventually.

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Plant was faking the high notes on HTWWW, but he stopped trying the 'over the hills' vocal hook by UK '73. He still had it in Australia even though those Immigrant Songs were beginning to get bad. Usually in 71, the first 'wail parts' would suck, then Plant would be ready for the second go-around, but in 72 either he was on or off.

yes...the immigrant song litmus test... ^_^

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Big Klu, I remember years ago you used to post like a madman on one of these Zep sites but I can't remember which one. I just started posting again, I forgot my login and passwords and had to start over. I cant even remember if this was one I was originally on.

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Electric magic was it called? led-zeppelin.com

This one is directly descended from that one.

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Plant was faking the high notes on HTWWW, but he stopped trying the 'over the hills' vocal hook by UK '73. He still had it in Australia even though those Immigrant Songs were beginning to get bad. Usually in 71, the first 'wail parts' would suck, then Plant would be ready for the second go-around, but in 72 either he was on or off.

yes...the immigrant song litmus test... ^_^

How do you do that?

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How do you do that?

When I said HTWWW, I was more thinking about the gigs instead the album. There were some points where he's 'pitchy whining' the high notes instead of singing them (with weight behind it). Its more obvious on the boots.

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Okay, I see what you mean. You had me really confused. But that isn't hard to do.

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The first time the cracking was noticable was in 73 also. I'm a stickler for details like this but in the end i don't really care. Its not Plant's fault that his voice got messed up really, who would have known that that would happen anyway. I still enjoy all the shows, there is still magic even in the later ones and as we saw just recently. Its just a shame that there is not an official soundboard from 1971.

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As I discussed in another thread, the problems with his voice really surfaced in Japan in October '72. He could still sing with the high-pitch in the summer '72 tour, as heard on HTWWW. Although I agree that his voice does sound "thinner", with the pitch intact but not as much power behind it. In October in Japan his voice started to crack more, and he had to sing some songs in a lower key. Then it got worse in the UK tour in December, partly because of the flu he caught while hitch-hiking in the cold. As that tour progressed into January, then they headed to Germany in March, he was settling into the singing style that was heard in the summer '73 US tour...he was using his voice more carefully, going for the power sometimes, holding back other times, and always on the verge of a crack.

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I asked this question in the Best Boots topic.

Forum member "pippin," who kicks ass btw for responding so graciously, wrote this in response to the same question:

This is a very interesting subject.

I have recordings from 22 Dec 72 London and 15 Jan 73 Stoke and Plant's style and range is vastly different. His sound in Dec 72 is pretty good, recordings from the October Japanese tour show his voice to go from very strong to slightly strained - Over the Hills and Far Away is a good song to judge the strength of his voice due to the many higher register vocal lines.

I have read some reviews of bootlegs in between the ones I have from Jan 2 - Jan 14 1973. I think they help in finding out what happened to his voice:

Jan 2 City Hall Sheffield UK

"Plant goes mute! From the beginning it is pretty apparent that something is very wrong with his voice and it's really painful to hear him even trying to sing! The flu has taken its vengeance! He's just caught it hitchhiking to Sheffield and the next two dates will be cancelled. The amazing audience doesn't seem to mind anyway!

(In Since I've Been Loving You) heard for the first time as an instrumental while Plant narrates it!

The same happens with Dazed and Confused which becomes a completely new experience without Plant!

Jan 7, New Theatre, Oxford, UK

" Plant has recovered enough to wander again through the increasingly powerful instrumental machinery. His fluctuating vocals break constantly and he's forced to do strange and funny arrangements"

Jan 14, The Empire, Liverpool, UK

"Although Plant's voice is partially recovered, all the weight of the performance still lies in the power of the instrumental section"

It seems that the rigours of touring, cigarettes and lengthy sets didn't give Plant much chance at recovering his voice. Maybe the experience of hardly being able to sing on stage encouraged him to change his style - more use of effects (delay/ doubling) to thicken his voice as assistance from the mixer. Interestingly, the audiences don't seem to mind and this must have some effect on his decisions.

(Quotes taken from "Led Zeppelin Live" - by Luis Rey - a great addition to the collectors reference material)

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As I discussed in another thread, the problems with his voice really surfaced in Japan in October '72. He could still sing with the high-pitch in the summer '72 tour, as heard on HTWWW. Although I agree that his voice does sound "thinner", with the pitch intact but not as much power behind it. In October in Japan his voice started to crack more, and he had to sing some songs in a lower key. Then it got worse in the UK tour in December, partly because of the flu he caught while hitch-hiking in the cold. As that tour progressed into January, then they headed to Germany in March, he was settling into the singing style that was heard in the summer '73 US tour...he was using his voice more carefully, going for the power sometimes, holding back other times, and always on the verge of a crack.

after singing the whole song basically in an almost cracking way he let out a wild scream before the solo for Black Dog on TSRTS that reminded me of his old wailing voice

he did pretty good on the Ocean too hitting the last really high note and he nailed it.... I use this in contrast to the opening Rock & Roll which didn't sound like Plant of old at all

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Yeah, it was kinda strange hearing Plant almost "talking" through songs while other times it was like the old days.

Hell, even in Knebworth, he almost had that wail back at some points.

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When I saw them in September of 1971 his voice was a bit raspy at the start of Immigrant Song, but quickly smoothed out.

As Matt said though, he really started getting more of the cracking starting with the recording of October 2, 1972 in Japan. The period after those July shows that year seemed to me, to be the time damage became most apparent as evident on those October shows. He'd just wailed his voice like a banshee up to that time.....stretched it to the limit ...

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IMO it was the lack of proper vocal warmups before gigs....generally not taking care of himself......wearing open shirts in cold places..etc ....Early Zep's touring schedule.....etc.. He probably either partially damaged his vocal cords or at least had a case of nodes on them.

But....these are just physical restrictions....and growing out of his late teens into his twenties...plus smoking...physically changed his voice.

Either way, he may have lost the range as Zep went on, but his mental singing ability and skill of transposing on the fly increased. He was twice the singer in 79 as he was in 72....he just did'nt have the range anymore. Personally, I don't judge singers by how high they can sing....just like I don't judge guitarists by how fast they can play. Some of that 68-72 screaming was a bit over the top IMO. Impressive sure...but not exactly what I call beautiful singing.

Like listen to the Rain Song from EC 24th. There's some passages there he did'nt have the mental capacity tp pull off in the early days. He definitely became a much better musician overall. (So did Bonham IMO)

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Yep, I've often said, when he could no longer scream, he had to learn how to sing.

If we're talking studio albums then yeah. If Plant had gone on to yelp on all the albums like on zep1, that would have been ridiculous. But he neutered the live versions of 'Over The Hills' and 'Rock and Roll' by not being able to sing the hooks right after '72.

...much like why the hell Page changed his default kickass LPaul tone after '70 to a more tinny trebly thing. Then even more so after '75. Those WLL riffs sound so sad.

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Yep, I've often said, when he could no longer scream, he had to learn how to sing.

Yes, but was definitely an ongoing process for Plant to set aside to screaming from his 69-72 Zeppelin days. By late 72/early 73 his voice was already cracking from even the slightest push. In 75 (first touring post surgery), you can tell that he's still adjusting to a newer singing style and still trying to find where his boundries are. His 75' singing voice sounds very "tight" and restrained whenever he decides to give it a little extra. He also took a song or two, just like in 73, to get warmed up. His voice really started to "loosen" up by 77 and 79. He actually sounds quite good in 79 IMO, as he made the adjustment nicely.

I believe he actually made his greatest "singing" advancements during his solo career. Not having to bring the hammer of the gods night in and night out was probably a good thing for him. What he may have lost in physical tools, he easily made up for with feel and experience.

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At times he did sound pretty good later in his career, listen to Cologne 1980. I have to say he sounds impressive there, even better than Knebworth a year before. Cologne 1980 is a pretty good show actually, Page was ripping on that one. Plant's vocals on RnR are top notch. Almost seems like his range was higher again. I wish that was a soundboard although the audience recording is not bad. His voice cracks a little on CB at the end but he still sounds great.

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Yeah, I like Plant's later voice, circa ITTOD. It's rougher and more mid-range, but powerful in its own right. With the deep echo added, it had a cool vibe.

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Yeah there's a huge difference from plant's singing just in 3 years (BBC Sessions '71, HTWWW '72 and TSRTS '73)..always wondered how his voice sounded about the same in Zeppelin I & II (and BBC Disc 1)..then Zeppelin 3 he started to be very high pitch through until Houses..

Even though i love his high screech days, his vocals on physical and in through are awesome. Hell, the 6-30-80 show i hae in Frankfurt, Germany...he sounds great i think. he did such a great job on all the tracks..he was more confident with his singing at the end of the band's career rather than trying to push his voice to "show off" or to prove his ability. but yeah...def. between '72 and beginning of '73 was when his wailing went..although missed, thankgod for the albums and history.

come on now...if plant was still screetching and wailing on in through, would anything be that much different? i say no. i'm guessing the band matured as plant did, and they all compensated and adjusted to his changing voice over their career..most bands today would have been "ok we give up..u lost that voice u had 5 years ago..bye bye."

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I think a 2nd breakdown in his voice occured around 1988. That's when it became difficult for him to hold a steady note without falling into a vibrato. So his melodies seem to be constant portamento like a trombone, almost talky, kind of whiney, never really staying on a note long enough to quantify as a note.

Some of his better known solo songs like Ship of Fools, 29 Palms, etc... suffer from this affectation and it hit a dubious zenith by Walking into Clarksdale.

It's not really clear to me what's going on because he can pull it together when he wants to. But maybe it physically hurts for him to do this, so that when he is left to his own devices, he too often takes the easy road out and nobody is around him willing to tell him it doesn't sound good.

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