Monday, December 31, 2007
The Zeppelin Re-Inflates...
It has been a long time since they rock and rolled...not counting the Live Aid and Hall of Fame performances, it's been almost three decades since they broke up.
But on December 10th, the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin, with deceased drummer John Bonham's son Jason on drums, played what was apparently a fantastic show at London's O2 Arena...and there are rumblings around the world that the re-formed biggest, baddest, crudest, most shameless hard rock band in history is considering a world tour. It could very well be the biggest world tour ever.
And for every music critic with a safety pin jammed through his cheek rolling his eyes over this (though I notice that virtually everyone these days gives Zeppelin its due), there are probably ten thousand people who would consider selling their grandmothers into slavery to go see them. After all, Led Zeppelin...well, they weren't Herman's Hermits, were they? They weren't the Yardbirds. They weren't even the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones may have started out as a blues band, but they are, and have been since very early on, a pop band in the truest sense of the word. Heck, even GOP presidential hopeful - and ordained Christian minister - Mike Huckabee cites Keith Richards as his favorite guitarist. And we're not even mentioning Margaret Trudeau and Truman Capote and Captain Jack Sparrow...
But Led Zeppelin was never like that. Like all great cults, they never really made it into the mainstream, for all sorts of reasons. One reason was this: it is almost true to say that Led Zeppelin hardly had any real "songs". When you think of a classic rock "song", you think of "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" by Bad Company, or "Alright Now" by Free, or "China Grove" by the Doobie Brothers: there was a verse, and then a chorus, and then a verse, and then a chorus...maybe a bridge or breakdown...then a verse, and a chorus. Or something very similar. These songs are taut. They stick to classic song structure.
But the funny thing about Zeppelin is how often their "songs" are slightly - or greatly - skewed. "Whole Lotta Love", for example, obviously very much has a chorus, but it also has somewhere around a minute of bizarre sound effects, with no melody or chords right where a bridge should be. Songs like "Communication Breakdown", "Ramble On", and "Good Times Bad Times" have big choruses, true; but so many of Zep's classic rock radio station staples - "The Ocean", "Stairway to Heaven", "Black Dog", "Trampled Underfoot", "Over the Hills and Far Away", "When the Levee Breaks", "Kashmir", "Four Sticks", "Houses of the Holy", "The Wanton Song", etc. - just don't really bear any real resemblance to "normal" songs at all. There are no choruses. There is no real song "structure". Often the lyrics veer into inanity, or childish crudity, or self-importance, or are incomprehensible.
So, whereas any bank teller could immediately relate to "Honky Tonk Woman" or "Last Time" or "Satisfaction", virtually NO bank teller could relate to "Dazed and Confused". It's just too damn weird. You almost need something wrong with you to get sucked into the Led Zeppelin vortex...because you have to be, I suppose, fairly susceptible to a certain form of mesmerism.
Yeah, mesmerism. Hypnotic trance. Deep, vivid, sensory hallucination. You have to be able to hear "The Battle of Evermore" and...start to get glimpses of a cloudy sky...with arrows shooting across it...and stone castle walls...and ancient soldiers wearing dark grey armor and scarlet tunics...and you've got to smell the pungent, medieval earth...and you have to long so much to be able to go back in time and really be there during some ancient battle, that you often can hardly stand to be confined to your own time and space...you have to live with a permanent ache that you can only ever get glimpses, and that maybe, you don't entirely belong to your own era...
Like I said, you gotta be unbalanced in a way.
Gotta go to bed - WAY more to come on this.