Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Robert Plant and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

So, a version of the Led Zeppelin song "Ten Years Gone" came on my iPod the other day from a 1977 concert in Cleveland. As the song went on, I realized there was something eerily familiar about the rudimentary 70s voice effect Plant was using. Then it hit me: He sounds just like the humpback whale-speak simulation used by the bizarre alien probe in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The question then is: Was Plant trying to tap into the oft-ignored population of music-loving whales?


Dave said...

Didn't they do a concert on the back of a blue whale?

Pat said...

I heard that, but I think that impression really depended on how many drugs the particular person was on at the time.

Randy said...

I have that very same bootleg, Pat, and I know of what vocal effect you speak. It was actually Jimmy Page's doing. In his insatiable ambition to make Led Zeppelin the master of every possible music market, Page realized that, even with their multi-platinum albums, Zeppelin had not yet tapped into the highly lucrative marine world. So he started treating Plant's vocals to sound like whale song. Page knew that whale song can travel for thousands of miles and wanted the same power for Zeppelin's music. Truth be told, Page wanted to sell enough units to earn the very first uranium record, which not only would make Led Zeppelin the undisputed King of Rock, but would also make the band the world's fourth-leading producer of nuclear fuel.

Hoping to attract the giant aquatic mammals and their giant wallets, Page took a page from the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's album, in which a dog whistle plays during the album's runout,* and used a whale-song filter during the 1977 world tour (specifically: blue whale for the heavier songs; beluga for the acoustic set).

Of course, Page failed to take into account that whale song requires a liquid medium to travel such great distances. By the time Page realized his blunder, the tour had already moved into the Southwest, away from the great waterways, and his plan for global music domination scattered to the winds.

*This was one of the Fab Four's few failed musical experiments, in that hardly any dogs responded to the gimmick, preferring to spend their money on the grittier Are You Experienced album.