December 4, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Robert Plant on Tiswas

2 min read
In 1981, Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant found himself on children's programme Tiswas as Tony McMahon discovers
Robert Plant

Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant is humbled by the lunacy of the Tiswas set but handles it very well.  Name check for new wave band Landscape at the top of the programme as well as heavy metal die hard Ian Gillan (ex of Deep Purple) and The Cure. Pop in 1981, when this edition of Tiswas broadcast, was incredibly eclectic. An amazing time for British pop. 

Plant had just gone solo after the split up of Led Zeppelin following the shock death of drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham in 1980. He’d died after a vodka drinking binge that started at breakfast and ended with him choking to death in bed. A terrible waste and doubly sad given that he only received full recognition as an innovative and incredible drummer in the years that followed. In 1982, Plant would release his first solo album Pictures at Eleven.

The last Led Zeppelin studio album before Bonham’s death was In Through The Out Door in 1979 which got a bit of a mauling in some quarters – especially given the use of synths – a big no-no to many hard rock fans. But the band was responding both to punk’s unavoidable legacy and the rise of synth pop. Many classic combos of the 1970s tried to adapt to new musical tastes with varying levels of success and failure. I actually liked the album at the time but traditionalist rock aficionados despised it.

DISCOVER: Tiswas versus Multi-Coloured Swap Shop

And so we have Robert Plant about to have the Tiswas treatment. It’s all very typical Tiswas with managed chaos, informality and the bubbly Sally James. She joined the Tiswas team when the programme began to be broadcast in London. These were the days when ITV was made up of separate, independent regional broadcasters and up to 1978, Tiswas wasn’t shown in London. Instead, Sally James presented Saturday Scene to viewers in the capital. But when Tiswas arrived, that show was canned and she was transferred across.

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