Robert Plant salutes Phil Collins for helping him kiss Led Zeppelin goodbye: "Zeppelin was a lot to live up to"

Phil Collins and Robert Plant in 1983
(Image credit: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Robert Plant has paid tribute to Phil Collins for helping him launch his post-Led Zeppelin solo career.

"After John [Bonham, Led Zeppelin drummer] passed away and there was no Led Zeppelin, there had to be a way to go,"  Plant says in a new interview with Vulture. "I floundered around a lot because until I was 32, I was in some kind of wild and absurd adventure."

Acknowledging that Zeppelin was "a lot to live up to" Plants pays tribute to friends who gave him "support and strength" as he worked upon his first solo album, Pictures At Eleven, which emerged in 1982.

"Phil Collins especially was a driving force and had positive energy with the first record, Pictures at Eleven," Plant tells Vulture. "It wasn’t a difficult job to get together with other people, it was just whether or not we could cook it properly.

"With Phil, it wasn’t so much advice as encouragement and consideration," Plant continues. "He was taking no prisoners. He would only allow himself a short amount of time to come to the studio in Wales and make it work. Nobody was hiding behind the performance."

Ultimately, Collins played on five tracks on Pictures at Eleven, with Cozy Powell taking on drum duties for two songs.

Plant says: "Then he [Collins] came on tour with me and basically said, 'Robert, the guy [John Bonham] that sat behind you for all those years was my hero.' That was it. He said, 'Anything I can do to help you to get back into fighting shape again, I’m here.'

"That was at the time when [Collins' 1981 solo single'] In the Air Tonight came out. Yet he was still mixing and working with me while kicking off a particularly impressive and successful time. He’s a great spirit, a good man."

Collins subsequently played drums with Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones at Led Zeppelin's none-too-impressive reunion performance at Live Aid, a gig Jimmy Page remembers as "not too clever", pointing the finger of blame at Collins.

Phil Collins told his side of the Live Aid story to Classic Rock in 2017, saying, "Jimmy says: “We need to rehearse.” And I said: “Can’t we just go on stage and have a play?” So I didn’t rehearse when I got there, but I listened to Stairway To Heaven on Concorde. I arrived and went to the caravans, and Robert said: “Jimmy Page is belligerent.” Page says: “We’ve been rehearsing!” And I said: “I saw your first gig in London, I know the stuff!” He says: “Alright, how does it go, then?” 

"So I sort of… [mimes the Stairway To Heaven drum part], and Page says: “No, it doesn’t! It doesn’t go like that!” So I had a word with [co-drummer] Tony Thompson – cos I’ve played as two drummers a lot and it can be a train wreck – and I say: “Let’s stay out of each other’s way and play simple."

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.