In this great country, we hold a few precious things above everything else. Some of these things include American flags, Freedom, and old Ford Mustangs. I have always felt that there are several things missing from that prestigious list. Since there are too many to list, and since I’m getting a cramp in my wrist from all this typing, I will have to say that the most important thing that belongs on the list is Led Zeppelin. You know who I’m talking about. That British band that rocks and can ruin every other band ever (and I do mean every other band, either physically or mentally).
I was inspired to write a commentary about Led Zeppelin after remembering that it was the 25th anniversary of their departure from the music scene. They were just far superior than could be handled in those decades. It’s hard to grasp something as utterly awesome as Led Zeppelin, but I’m going to try and explain to those who question my ability to write about how fantastic the band was. I’m also out of ideas about real subjects to write about, but I guess writing this can help me think of something that people would consider more significant, even though in terms of rock music, Led Zeppelin is about as significant as it gets.
For the record, Zeppelin rules. Keep that in mind at all times, no matter what else you’re doing at the time, unless not paying attention would somehow vaporize a large portion of the world population. That is the only time when you will be allowed to not think about Led Zeppelin at some level.
It all started back in 1968 when the four members
of Led Zeppelin (then known as The New Yardbirds) went into a studio
It wasn’t just the pure volume. Folks back then already had The Who and Jimi Hendrix to mess with their hearing. The real thing about it was just the sheer power. The Who had a few big loud numbers, (“My Generation,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and some other ones I can’t remember right now) but they didn’t have the real sound blast that could turn bones to dust. At best, they could probably melt your skin and some of your flesh, which is still pretty impressive. Ironically, the Who’s Keith Moon was responsible for naming Led Zeppelin, joking once that the band, “would go down like a lead zeppelin.” He died knowing that he was both arguably the greatest drummer ever and wrong about Led Zeppelin.
Jimi Hendrix was also loud and could vaporize pure steel with sound waves, but he wasn’t necessarily trying to be loud for the sheer enjoyment of it. It was just the best way to get that shriek that comes from standing next to your amps when they’re turned up beyond eleven. Listen to a live version of “Voodoo Chile” or “Machine Gun” if you doubt my statements, which you should never do as a general principle.
The thing about most Zeppelin songs is that they absolutely must be turned up loud. You can’t listen to “Immigrant Song” delicately in the background at some box social that you went to with your grandmamma; that particular anthem must be blasting out of your speakers at an unbelievable and possibly horrifying rate. In fact, you should be sitting in a chair and have the speakers (a few 4-by15s should do the job) pointed directly at you so that everything around you gets blasted out of the way. Be sure to fasten your chair to the floor, because I had some problems when I didn’t do it correctly. Also, you should avoid listening to studio versions of their songs. Zeppelin is one of those bands whose live music is needed to obtain the full discharge of awesomeness. Sure, the studio music is out of this world and anyone who says different is wrong, (Incidentally, this isn’t one of those situations where you can say, “Oh, that Eamonn Rockwell! He has too many opinions and doesn’t see all sides of an issue like any halfway decent human being would!” While you would be correct in most other circumstances, this is a rare case where anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. End of story.).
But some bands are just so much better live. Led Zeppelin is one of those bands. You can hear where almost every single punk and metal band got some of their sound from. Dave Grohl (the second well-known drummer for Nirvana, frontman for the Foo Fighters, all-around musical genius of this day and age) put it best when he said, “Heavy Metal would not exist without Led Zeppelin, and if it did, it would suck.” (Rolling Stone, 946).
Listening to some live Zeppelin is just one of those things you need to do in your life, like writing a threatening letter to a celebrity or leaving large piles of unmarked, non-sequential U.S. dollars outside my porch in a briefcase or a sack with a dollar sign on it.
What was great about Led Zeppelin
was the fact that they were one of the first big groups of the 1970s,
while other bands had set a few standards for rock-star behavior,
they didn’t know how to do it on a grander scale. Led Zeppelin did
things in hotels 30 years ago that most bands are still trying to
top. In 1971, John Bonham and the band’s manager Richard Cole reenacted
a samurai battle in a Japanese hotel with some katanas that were
lying around. They even carried bassist John Paul Jones out of his
room while he was still asleep and continued the mêlée in his room,
running up a $30,000 hotel bill. A more unsavory, but hilarious,
story is the one where John Bonham is fishing off the side of the
Edgewater Inn in
It could also be that the majority of these bands were made up of no-talent scum who were desperate for any form of fame they could get, not realizing that they should have been exterminated by the British government like so many other failures. The point is that some bands can get away with being larger-than-life, which most bands just can’t do. Led Zeppelin can and did become larger than life. For God’s sake, they bought their own jet! How many other bands could do that during their career in those days? I’ll accept answers from anywhere between “none” and “very few”. And this wasn’t one of these tiny Gulfstream jets that just about anyone can buy these days. This was a big Boeing 720B jet named “Starship” that had been transformed to have only 40 seats. But what it lacked in seats, it made up for in magnificence. Any band that can play at 35,000 feet has to be good, and Led Zeppelin was really good to begin with, thereby making them extremely good due to various math and/or physics laws that I can’t be bothered to look up right now or ever.
Led Zeppelin can appeal to anyone. Not just anyone in the sense of everyone who I like and nobody who I don’t, but everyone who is currently alive (Note: If you are reading this from beyond the grave and are a fan of Led Zeppelin, then good for you. If you are an unborn child, then you’d better start listening to some Zeppelin pretty soon or face being labeled a “dateless wonder” upon being born). Rock music fans love Led Zeppelin because they rule and rock really, really hard.
Fans of heavier genres (Metal, Punk, Math Rock, etc.) can appreciate where a large amount of their favorite bands got inspiration from. Fans of literature will appreciate the abundant references to the Lord of the Rings series (“Ramble On,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “The Battle of Evermore” to name a few) unless they hate LOTR, in which case they might want to listen to the other fine music Led Zeppelin offers. Just so you know, there’s so much more non-LOTR related music that Zeppelin cranked out. The non-stop speeding up and amplifying of old blues songs can work for any band, but them boys brought it to a level that inferior bands could not even begin to think about attempting. Some would utter harsh words while implying that reworking old songs or taking obscure ones and changing them around constitutes theft, but in addition to being card-carrying Communists (say that five times fast), those people are misguided.
There’s nothing immoral about theft as long as you don’t damage whatever you’re stealing. The same theory applies in the art world, where paintings get stolen like it’s going out of style, which it isn’t. The owners of the paintings will usually just make a desperate plea for the thief or thieves to return the work undamaged in exchange for not involving any law enforcement. Led Zeppelin never ruined anything they “rented,” so there’s no harm done and lots of awe-inspiring rock to enjoy.
These days, a belligerent old man like me is having a hard time finding credible bands that sound like Led Zeppelin. Oh sure, I can find a few here and there, but not nearly as many as I’d like to. I don’t expect for a minute to find another Led Zeppelin, or even another band that can play as well as them, but I would like at the very least to find a band with at least half of the grandeur, energy and pure talent that Zeppelin had. I’m sure some indie kid can tell me a list of bands that are close, but I can guarantee that it won’t be close enough. Without Zeppelin touring anymore, this generation (I forget what stupid name was thought up for us) needs a hard-rocking, hard-living wild band that can turn a concert into the greatest moment of a young person’s life with non-stop power, creativity and Rock n’ Roll. Is that too much to ask? No, and fie on anyone who says it is.
When a band can play songs for up to a half hour without being labeled a hippie jam band (Phish, Grateful Dead, etc.), play a song fast and loud that can put everyone into a state of disbelief (AC/DC, The Ramones) and yet play a soft acoustic song that can either make you the happiest person in the world or cause you to cry like a baby that was just dropped into a snake pit (Cat Stevens, CSNY). Any one band that can do all that must have something perfect going on, and I’ll look for the next best thing until the end of time. If Led Zeppelin were some type of drug that I could converse with, the only possible words that I could say would be, “I Can’t Quit You, Baby.”