Led Zeppelin, after many years of keeping their song catalogue close to the vest when it came to Hollywood film and TV soundtracks, have more recently opened up to the idea of allowing their music to grace the big and small screens.
Former Zepp frontman Robert Plant says the approach is built on introducing their music to new generations of kids. But worthy Hollywood projects, Plant said, remain few and far between.
“The music is dynamic,” Plant said in an in-depth interview with Vulture. “There it is, sitting there, and happily waiting for romance or nuance or drive that link to a film with substance. But those are hard to come by.”
Plant, in a candidly rare discussion with the website, said the choices on whether to license their songs are very much made between him, former lead guitarist Jimmy Page and former bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones.
“I’m not responsible for all the decision-making when it comes to where we allow our music,” Plant said. “It’s group decisions. There are two Capricorns and one Leo. We have to go through the whole thing together. Not to generalize, but quite often we’re presented with a scene that’s in the script or cuts of a film. When there’s something uncomfortable, unpleasant or overtly just not the right place for our music to be, we say no.”
Led Zeppelin, in their 1970s peak and then for years after drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980, when they decided they would not go on as a band, had been picky with their music licensing. Scenes backed by a familiar Page riff or Plant wail were not unseen or unheard and some even made their way into pop culture consciousness — think “Kashmir” in the car-dating scene of 1982’s “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” or the low-hanging fruit of the universally forbidden “Stairway to Heaven” guitar-store riff in 1992’s “Wayne’s World.” But for many years they’d been by no means prolific.
By the turn of the century, Plant and his bandmates had seemingly changed their tune. Thanks to a persistent personal effort by Jack Black, “School of Rock” featured “Immigrant Song” in a memorable if not iconic Zepp-powered scene.
Plant said his decision for the song’s use in the 2003 comedy was laissez-faire.
“My response is: Why not? Our songs didn’t come from Valhalla,” Plant said. “It’s not a preferred destination, either. I like the idea of taking the hammer to another time. Jack Black made a magnificent meal of it. It’s a killer guitar riff. What a shame ‘Immigrant Song’ isn’t easy for kids to play, by the way. Everyone gets it, young and old. It’s a great song. Not only slightly ridiculous but ridiculous. Considering that we wrote it in midair leaving Iceland — a fantastically inspiring gig and an adventure, beyond which there will be no books written.
“To give it to the kids is important,” he added. “Send it up, send it down, and just keep sending it. Just dig it because there’s no hierarchy. There are great risks. There are risks that are immediately attractive.”
Hollywood’s use of the Zeppelin catalogue has continued to pick up in recent years as Plant, Page and Jones have embraced it. “Immigrant Song,” for example, also drove the soundtrack — and the energy — for 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok.”
And Zeppelin has rocked several other big Hollywood productions of note, including “The Big Short” (2015), “American Hustle (2013) “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), “Argo” (2012) “The Fighter” (2010) and the HBO series “Sharp Objects.”
Plant said “Immigrant Song” went full circle from its inception on 1970’s Led Zeppelin III until “School of Rock” helped it “blow our myth up into the sky.”
“Jimmy Page has got that thing down,” Plant said. “I thought ‘Immigrant Song’ was great because it goes back to the Dark Ages effect on my being. I’m sitting here looking out into the darkness in the building that was built in the 15th century. It’s not a fancy building, it’s just a building that’s been brought back from a thousand different deaths. I know that before the Civil War, before Cromwell came through here, and before everybody would hide. Before, before, before, before, before, before. That Viking side of stuff is very funny. They used a huge f— off drum to choose the speed of the oars. Everybody’s seen Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas in ‘The Vikings.’ It’s just so evocative.
“So to give it to the kids, it’s great. I mean, Jack Black’s got it right down. He’s that risk. All of my grandkids have all been able to play Jack Black’s riffs. I think it was exactly the right thing to do, with ‘School of Rock,’ to blow our myth up into the sky for a while. Because it’s all myth. It doesn’t matter. I’ve watched the film and find it funny.”