Robert Plant and John Bonham's Psychedelic Sixties Outfit Band of Joy
As a young blues belter growing up outside of Birmingham, Robert Plant first played with Led Zeppelin's future percussion powerhouse in 1965 during their tenure in a short-lived band known as the Crawling King Snakes. "We grew up around the same things, and dated the same women," Plant said of his early impressions of John Bonham. "John was very colorful to be around. We were both proud owners of unbelievably huge egos." Bonham soon moved on to play in a number of groups around the English Midlands (Steve Brett and the Mavericks, the Way of Life, and the Nicky James Movement among them) while earning money by day carrying bricks at construction sites. Plant departed the Crawling King Snakes as well, making his recording debut in 1966 with a band called Listen before releasing two further singles under his own name on CBS. "I'd been singing with a lot of groups and I'd written a few songs about myself that didn't really have the right amount of balls behind them that they should have. It really just went around in circles until I formed the first Band of Joy."
It would be the first of three Band of Joys. The original incarnation suffered an acrimonious split due to a management conflict, and Plant's attempt to form a rival Band of Joy failed to get off the ground. The third time proved the charm and Band of Joy Mark III played in local clubs and dance halls across the industrial West Midlands. While their soulful tunes were standard mod fare, their appearance was something else entirely, sharing more in common with West Coast psychedelic groups. One of the first bands in the area to boast a light show, they regularly appeared onstage in face paint, decked out in hippie-chic kaftans, beads and bells. By 1967, Plant asked Bonham if he wanted to throw in with this new outfit. "It was debatable whether he'd join because it was a long way to go and pick him up, and we didn't know whether we would have the petrol money to get over to Redditch and back! We always laugh about that," Plant recalled. "It turned out to be a really good group. It was a combination of what we wrote ourselves, which wasn't incredible, and re-arrangements of things like [Jefferson Airplane's] 'She Has Funny Cars' and 'Plastic Fantastic Lover.'"
Having secured regular gigs at hip London underground venues like Middle Earth and the Marque Club, Band of Joy booked session time in Regent Sound Studios to record demos. The results were two covers, "Hey Joe" and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," and the originals "Adriatic Sea View" and "Memory Lane" – the latter written by Plant and Bonham about a street in their native West Bromwich. But the tape failed to garner any industry interest, and their low performance fees were an enormous strain on the group. By the summer of 1968, Plant accepted an offer to tour as a backing musician with visiting American singer Tim Rose, and Band of Joy folded ... for a time. Between 1977 and 1983, the group carried on minus Plant, who revived the name himself in 2010 for a new album.