The Forgotten Arm: The Honeydrippers

The story of The Honeydrippers is the embodiment of the poetic phrase, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.”  The band was formed in 1981 for two reasons: for Robert Plant to have an outlet for his love of R&B music, and for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun to hear new renditions of some of his favorite songs.  Naturally, with two such icons of rock music at the helm, it was no surprise that The Honeydrippers lineup boasted some of the most talented and accomplished musicians of the time (and, in retrospect, of all time).  Joining Plant were fellow Zeppelin-er Jimmy Page, Page’s former Yardbirds bandmate Jeff Beck, Brian Setzer, Nile Rodgers and Paul Schaffer.  In addition to those big names, a slew of well-traveled studio musicians and sidemen rounded out this rather adventurous project.

Despite the involvement of all these heavy hitters, The Honeydrippers only ever recorded five songs in their three-year career.  The Honeydrippers: Volume One, the band’s only EP, was released in 1984 to surprisingly popular reception.  The EP featured a number of rockabilly- and soul-inflected tunes, but it was the lush interpretation of “Sea Of Love” that got the most attention.  In fact, it became the highest charting song of Plant’s entire career.  Apparently, DJs had played “Sea Of Love” instead of its A-Side, the more upbeat “Rockin’ At Midnight.”  “Sea Of Love” topped charts around the world, and Plant wasn’t happy.  Though he enjoyed participating in this group, he was afraid that his performance on “Sea Of Love” was going to leave him labeled a “crooner” thereafter.  Luckily for Plant, the inherent difficulty of getting members of a supergroup to cooperate and manage schedules kicked in, and The Honeydrippers were, as Plant himself later said, “put to sleep.”

Sometime in the early 2000’s, Plant and Ertegun apparently discussed resurrecting The Honeydrippers.  However, when Ertegun died in late 2006, the idea was abandoned as Ertegun played as integral a part in the band as any of the musicians.  There is no word on how many (if any) of the original members would have gotten back on board.  The Honeydrippers: Volume One was remastered in 2007, along with a large portion of Plant’s catalogue for the Nine Lives box set.  A live version of “Rockin’ At Midnight” was added as a bonus track, but the EP’s contents remain otherwise the same.

Watch: The Honeydrippers – “Rockin’ At Midnight” from The Honeydrippers: Volume One (1984)

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~ by E. on March 8, 2010.

One Response to “The Forgotten Arm: The Honeydrippers”

  1. I like this album about as much as I dislike Led Zeppelin. Go figure!

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