Performer: Robert Plant
Songwriters: Chris Blackwell, Robert Plant
Original Release: Fate of Nations
Definitive Version: None
As I mentioned, my family has always been fans of the Indy 500. I took Scott to his first race in 1983, and within a decade, he had already caught up to me in number of visits to the track.
But his junior year at Ball State, presented a unique opportunity: He had met up with a group of guys who rented a house across the street from the new basketball arena, which we called the Dick Dome in commemoration of Dick Hunsaker, the coach at the time.
It was a ranch house with a finished basement and a back yard, and Scott quickly realized the setting would be perfect for a pre-race Memorial Day weekend barbecue in 1993. I’d drive down from Flint and Jin would drive over from Chicago (although I seem to recall that she stayed only for the barbecue after the race debacle of a year before).
This was going to be big not only because of the event itself but also because Scott wanted me and Jin to meet his new galpal, whom he had met at a house party the previous fall and then started to date in February. Scott couldn’t stop talking about her, and after his affliction by the alien woman, as I snidely called her after the fact, he could use a positive relationship situation. We were eager to meet her.
I came down Friday to help Scott with pre-barbecue preparations and party a bit and was greeted at the front door by Scott’s cardboard cutout of Danny Sullivan, which Scott had doctored up with a speech bubble that read: Danny sez Welcome Race Fans.
For those of you not in the know, Welcome Race Fans is a phrase that’s literally everywhere in Indianapolis—but particularly around the speedway—during race weekend. Just from that alone, I knew we were in for a good time as well as a proper tribute to the race.
Anyway, Scott had to swing by the Kinkos store near to the party area of campus to get some stuff he was printing out, and I saw that a record store was nearby. Naturally, I went in to see what’s what. I asked Scott: How about some new music for the party? Cool. Robert Plant had a new album out, and with Scott’s seasl of approval, that was what I got. Then it was back to the ranch (house) to get ready for the guests to arrive.
We’ll pick up the story there at another point, but this song—aside from being the lead track on the album and thus the first song we heard that day, of course—is one of those where I have several memories attached to it.
For example, I remember playing Fate of Nations for Dave on the drive to a card show or ballgame in Detroit—I can’t remember which—and Dave said of this song, “Did that have any words in it at all?” I remember that his response surprised me, because I thought he’d dig it as much as I did, and it was a further sign of the distance that seemed to be growing between us.
The memory that stands out the most, however, was when Debbie and I saw Page and Plant in Cleveland in 1995, and they broke out this song in the middle of the show. That was cool enough—I was surprised and pleased that they played something from Plant’s solo material, which I loved.
But what really made it was that in the middle, they took the song in a different but familiar-sounding direction. It took me a few seconds to realize that they had gone into the middle section of Carouselambra—a song Zeppelin never played live in the United States, of course.
They did the whole middle section, which is my favorite part, before bringing it back to Calling to You. If they had temporarily lost all the Led Heads by playing something that wasn’t Zeppelin, they got them all back right away. It remains one of my concert highlights.