In 1970, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin went to a remote Welsh cottage Bron-Yr-Aur, and wrote songs which would appear on four of their later albums. We look at their time there.
Last updated: 30 June 2010
The above clip is taken from Bethan Elfyn's Radio Wales Show, broadcast Saturday 3 July 2010. If you'd like to contribute to the Welsh Music Atlas feature on the show, about great moments from Welsh music history, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Bron-Yr-Aur, meaning hill of gold or breast of gold in Welsh, is a cottage a couple of miles outside Machynlleth in the southernmost part of North Wales, right down at the tip of the Snowdonia National Park, in some beautiful surroundings.
The cottage was first encountered by any of the Led Zeppelin bandmates in the 1950s when Robert Plant went there for family holidays. He grew up in the Black Country in the west midlands so mid and north Wales would have been pretty easy holiday destinations for the young Plant and family. It obviously made an impression on him because despite having no running water or electricity he went back to it over a decade later with his bandmates.
It was 1970, after the release of Led Zeppelin II and the tour which supported it that they went to Bron Yr Aur. By this time they were massive, and that album had sold well, featured as it did tracks like Whole Lotta Love and Ramble On. It had gone to number one in America and it was the time at which they were getting a lot of attention from the US groupie scene - Pamela Des Barres and the GTOs.
A quiet spot in Wales was a great and productive change for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page who went there in 1970, accompanied by Plant's wife Maureen, Page's girlfriend (the French model Charlotte Martin) and two of their roadies.
Page has said about their time there, "We took our guitars down there and played a few bits and pieces. This wonderful countryside, panoramic views and having the guitars... it was just an automatic thing to be playing. And we started writing."
That pre-production involved formulating ideas, jamming and coming up with the skeletons of songs that might appear on their records later. It was a place in which they could let some creative juices flow.
It was good for the band dynamic too, because Page has said, in an interview with Cameron Crowe for some Led Zep liner notes, "that was the first time I really came to know Robert. Actually living together at Bron-Yr-Aur, as opposed to occupying nearby hotel rooms. The songs took us into areas that changed the band, and it established a standard of travelling for inspiration... which is the best thing a musician can do."
It wasn't all work and no play; it wasn't as debauched as some of the stories of them as their official other halves were present, but they certainly found their own way of relaxing. Apparently Page's daughter Scarlett was conceived there in 1970.
The songs that were written there, or at least developed, included Friends, That's The Way and Bron-Y-Aur Stomp which appeared on 1970's Led Zeppelin III. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp was misspelled on the tracklisting but never corrected. Over The Hills And Far Away and The Crunge appeared on Houses Of The Holy, Poor Tom from Led Zeppelin IV and three songs from Physical Graffiti: The Rover, Down By The Seaside and Bron-Yr-Aur.