While the 1960s saw John, Paul, George, and Ringo expand the British Empire through music, the ?70s became the platform for John Paul, Jimmy, Robert, and Bonzo to exploit that new, fertile ground. The Fab Four broadened the Pop palette through hard touring and insatiable studio curiosity; Zeppelin forged Hard Rock upon the Blues anvil while sharing the aforementioned traits of their predecessors. Both groups stand as paragons of their genres, and while we intend to discuss the Beatles in the future, we now head Over The Song And Far Away...
1. Dazed and Confused
Led Zeppelin (1969)
CM: An airship launches from the wings of old yardbirds and sets the course for everything to follow. Zeppelin knew what they were doing right from the start, and as much as the whole debut album proves it, “Dazed” has Supro-legendary status. It establishes their mythical riffery, dramatic awareness, musical personalities, and general vibe under one roof, all in mutual service to the piece. And while the studio version is great, another reason for the song’s legacy is that it nightly displayed the group’s improvisational capabilities (and indulgences) during an extensive stage tenure. This remains the ultimate Zeppelin showcase.
TG: We weren’t kidding when we said Zep forged Hard Rock on the Blues anvil; their debut album is a compendium of Blues licks and lyrics. But did Zeppelin rip off Howlin’ Wolf, or did Wolf rip off Charlie Patton? Or did they all knock off Rachmaninoff? In the end, it doesn’t likely matter. Zeppelin took little-known-and-heard Blues (and other) songs and turned them into something new – just as countless bands have done since. Did anyone besides music geeks raise a fuss when Jane’s Addiction came out and ripped off Zeppelin? No.
Speaking of other songs, this one shares some similarities with Jake Holmes’ folky freakout of the same title. Was Holmes the opening act for the Yardbirds at one time? Yes, he was. Now, move along before someone sues us.
The point here is that “Dazed” is a monster track using the combined strengths of the very talented group members to create the formidable centerpiece of their first album. The song is immediately recognizable from its opening bass licks to its ending crashcade. It established Led Zeppelin as a presence and ensured they would soar higher and longer than a “lead balloon.”
TG: And now we come to the portion of the show wherein I’ll list the Blues-based inspiration for the Led Zeppelin song at the end of my review.
With that out of the way, damn, I wish this track was my lover. The thunder drums and lightning crashes assert that the storm, she is a comin’, and Jimmy's swell of slide guitar signifies the deluge. If it keeps on rainin’, another Woodstock might break out.
You know who else loves this song? The Beastie Boys. They lifted Levee’s opening beat as the basis for “Rhymin’ and Stealin’”. Yet, nobody says shit when whitey rip-offs honky.
“When The Levee Breaks” by Memphis Minnie with Kansas Joe – lyrics
(These asides are by no means meant to provide an exhaustive list of the Blues influences; they are merely an acknowledgment of the sources where known.)
CM: I can offer descriptions – a Cinemascope presentation of a stark historical picture, a swampy trudge graced by heavenly visions, a swirling miasma of extraordinary sound – but pinpointing exactly what makes “Levee” so special is tougher. Unique factors are at work here, one being the lyrical scenario, another the faux-aged (or post-psychedelic?) aura of the recording, almost as if it’s being played by ghosts. It feels real and staged at the same time, old and new, lost yet found, and magical.
CM: Bypassing conventions, “Love” gained immortality with little more than a stuttering vamp, randy singing, and sonic havoc, all sequenced to big impact. Heyday performances often imported a cover song or six into one of its pregnant pauses.
TG: You need coolin’ / Baby I’m not foolin’. Take a riff, a beat and vocals, add some bass and guitar. Include a more-focused freak out than in “Dazed.” Boom, you have one of the most recognizable tracks in Rock history. As Chris notes, it’s barely a song; however, it’s the quintessence of Rock And Roll (as opposed to Rock N Roll, which was a ’50s thang).
Subsequent bands learned the lesson well. When in doubt, make some noise, add a beat and call it a song.
“You Need Love” by Muddy Waters (written by Willie Dixon) – major lyrical inspiration
TG: Time for a Norse excursion. Our journey begins with John Paul Jones’ mellow liquid lines sketching a ship in motion. Bonham provides thoughtful backing until Jimmy breaks the reverie with heavy fuzz. The trio (fine, the quatro, thanks to overdubbing) push oars bringing the ship up to speed, but, hark, what’s that foreboding voice? The rowers pull back their strokes and listen. It’s Robert calling back to the mainland – “Turn out the lights; Don’t wait up; Leave out some milk and cookies for Thor; May-hap he willn’t bash in your skulls with his mighty Hammer.”
Poorly phrased metaphors aside, “No Quarter” is a track I like to listen to in the dark, preferably with rain in the background. After the first verse and chorus, I inevitably succumb to the depths and leave my psyche behind, merely enjoying the sounds made. I don’t want to analyze it. I want the song to wash over my being and transport me to another time and place. Quarter is given, if only temporarily.
CM: The spotlight rarely hit the most proficient musician in the band, yet John Paul Jones (primarily bass, but also piano, organ, synth, mandolin, guitar, recorder, string arrangements, etc) always received his due for this fog-laced, doom-laden, keyboard-based piece rich with pure Zep mystique. There’s a great live version on the original Song Remains the Same album, criminally edited on the 2007 reissue.
CM: “Power, mystery, and the hammer of the gods” engraved upon an immovable stone. While it flows so perfectly, the structure is quite unlikely – the vocal begins on the second chord, spills into the returning first riff, then adorns three ascending chords that finish the verse, with no chorus to speak of. Or maybe that three-chord bit IS the chorus; point being that the song doesn’t fit any standard mold, rather forms its own. And then you get those unsettling shifts at the end...brilliant.
TG: Another Nordic track? Call today, and it’s yours for 5 EASY PAYMENTS of only $399.99 (excluding shipping and handling charges, which are a bitch by the way). Infomercial sales pitches aside, “Immigrant Song” rushes out of the speakers and into your earholes in a tidy two minutes and twenty-seven seconds. I mean, that’s hardly enough time to wrangle the kittehs into the boat, yet it has the feel of an epic no doubt thanks to Robert’s thrusting wail.
TG: Speaking of epic, here’s one. A friend of mine (not CM) wanted to use this music during his wedding when his wife walked down the aisle. Needless to say, that didn’t work out. After a while, neither did the marriage. Here’s hoping his next lady is more open to suggestions for wedding tracks.
Back to “Kashmir”, my friend was not wrong about this song. The orchestral arrangement adds a stately air suggesting a waltz-like pattern which invites movement. Quite appropriate for a song about traversing the desert. Too bad Kashmir is more of a mountainous zone. No matter, sayeth the rock stars, we’re moving through Kashmir with sand in our eyes and joy in our hearts!
CM: Given all Witnesses to this Heaven-Bestowed Gift and praise heaped upon it, I’ve nothing to add except that it lost no ounce of majesty in Zep’s 2007 London reunion show (later viewable on the Celebration Day home video).
CM: A pinnacle of LZ’s raison d’etre. Superior performance from Plant on vocals and hellhound harmonica, while his compatriots render the snaky periphery, jagged riffs, and soul-stilling pauses with brutal precision.
TG: This one erupts and spews lava over everything in its path, scorching the earth and anything foolish enough to get in its way (I’m talking to you, Eagles, or Disco, or K-Tel’s Super Hits of 1976). It’s not that Presence is subdued; instead, it’s stripped down. And after the opening onslaught of “Achilles”, things chill out a bit. Well, they do until this hot little biscuit melts your face like butter. It’s almost as if Zeppelin were harkening back to their younger days or something. Oh, wait...
“Nobody's Fault But Mine” by Blind Willie Johnson – lyrical inspiration
TG: And as much as I hate to say it, the differences between the opening plucked chords of “Stairway” and the introductory (after the extended intro) plucked chords of Spirit’s “Taurus” are nearly indistinguishable. Sure, Jimmy added a couple of brighter notes, but the “Stairway” opening (the foyer?) somewhat reflects the somber timbre of the Spirit chant. After that, the songs go in different directions, of course.
If you want to hear and judge for yourselves, go to YouTube and search for Taurus - Spirit. In the meantime, ready “Stairway” on your device of choice. When “Taurus” reaches 43 seconds, start “Stairway”. If your reaction time is similar to mine, you should hear both chords played at the same time. It may take several tries to get the volume settings right, but you’ll eventually hear both at the same time.
And, yes, “Taurus” did come first (1968). And, yes, Zeppelin did open for Spirit on part of an American tour. Now, does this mean that guitar shops should put up signs that read “NO SPIRIT” instead of “NO STAIRWAY”? I don’t know, but I’m sure CM can straighten out this mess...
CM: Forget the holiest-rock-song stigma, the number of times you’ve heard it, the fact that Page probably nicked the intro from elsewhere, and horrid approximations of such heard in guitar shops (last time I bought strings, apparently Kermit the Frog was giving it a go). Just try to catch yourself off guard and listen anew, like I did for this list, and you might re-experience its magnificence.
CM: What starts as a straightforward number detours into a suite of sorts, including a haunting violin-bowed guitar section and a lap around Albert King’s “The Hunter”. When I told a buddy about this list to be, he asked if we would rank by objective value or what’s “most Zeppelin-ish.” Good question, and I think the answer turned out to be both, though this track leans toward the latter criterion for me.
TG: I love this song. I love the ones before it, to be sure, but this one always makes my day when I hear it. The intro style seems a nod to Howlin’ Wolf, but Zeppelin then transforms the track into a swingingly bodacious foot tapper and head banger before chilling out for an entertainingly indulgent interlude. After the interlude, it’s right back to the bombastic swing. It’s an eight minute, thirty second track that only feels like half that.
“How Many More Years” by Howlin’ Wolf – intro and title
CM: After a spooky intro and Plant’s title invocation, the band kicks into a rocker that reflects a decade having passed since their inception. There’s still a riff-centric nucleus topped by a bold vocal, drums that could guide infantry, and effective changes of pace, though everything seems sculpted in a more mature way. Some fans push Out Door out the door for various reasons but admit “Evening” has merit. I say it’s not just good, it stands with their best. As does the album, though that’s another story.
TG: Originally, I said something to the effect of let’s be rebel rebels and put this track ahead of “Stairway”. Later, I changed my mind and said I was being stupid. But I wasn’t too far off. Where “Stairway” ends up being larger than itself thanks to the relatively generic, yet uplifting, philosophy of its lyrics, “Evening” wants to be nothing more than a song about the end of the daylight and the encapsulating night.
The rolling phased drum fills fit neatly with the curry-flavored intro. Even though Robert and Jimmy leap in aggressively, Bonham’s timing keeps a measured pace, and the band falls in line. Robert’s lyric is more benign than beatific – I need your love / I want your love / I got-ta have your love. If not for the power of Plant’s voice, the song would have veered into further triteness. As it stands, it’s an effective call to nighttime activities with really good music; thus, it is a lesser being than “Stairway”.
CM: Jones’ funky clavinet sets the groove for this track, where Zeppelin proved yet again that they weren’t enslaved to a particular style. It could still get anyone on the dance floor, while Page hangs raunchy drapery and Plant declaims lines that I continually mishear as some lost jargon – Pig Latin meets gobbled chop-shop-speak, or summat like that.
TG: Car as Woman as Car as Love as Sex. Let me inspect your transmission. Let me lube your chassis. Let me adjust your headlights. Let me slap an oil change reminder sticker on your windshield. Let me write you up for a service plan and sell you an extended warranty. Let me get your credit information so we can discuss monthly terms.
See, it’s better when you leave such matters to Rock stars...
CM: Down and dirty workout where the boys let it hang loose – whole lotta slide from Jimmy, fearful prayer from Robert, and ferocious push from the engine room. In the verses following the fast riff introduced at 3:45, I love how Bonzo brings the hi-hat 16th notes in and out of his beat. Then at 4:57, Page begins to solo and Bonzo’s back on the 16ths with Jonesy ripping along. The whole middle portion of the track is wicked stuff.
TG: Just an incredible journey through the land of Bonham, where the rivers run deep with Stoli, fashion is wearing whatever you bloody well fancy, trees are nothing but drumsticks ready for thumping skins and kick drums never loose their oomph. When Bonham passed, the world lost a treasure. No wonder his bandmates could not continue without him.
“In My Time Of Dying” by Blind Willie Johnson – lyrical inspiration
CM: Zep first eyed the soft/loud prize with “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, and one album later, they found even better methods of claiming it. The pull-push of this song comes from every department, most obviously the alternations between light and heavy, and Jimmy’s brief lead spots add further flavor. But what really pushes the song is Jones’ bass, singing strong counter-melodies under the verses and becoming especially nimble during the chorus.
TG: This one always pleases me because the opening pitter patter of Bonham’s kit resembles someone taking actual steps away and toward yet another destination. JPJ gets to show off his deft touch as his fingers ramble tamble all over the frets. Robert even takes time to invoke Mordor and Gollum, briefly ramblin’ to another realm.
TG: Lest we forget who is behind all the wizardry of this allegedly guitar-based rock band, Jimmy shows his hand here, and it holds aces aplenty. “Black Dog” is an excursion through Jimmy’s bag of licks – he begins by throwing out a sigil augmented with fine filigree.
Jimmy and Robert then trade the lead back and forth like handsome cabbies, and all the while Jimmy offers variations on his opening idea. Turning the Page, Jimmy pulls no punches during the solo; you can hear him sparring with himself, jab-jab-duck and jab-jab-feint and rapid fire and rapid pick – finally finishing off with combination body shots.
CM: Let’s also not forget that Jones came up with the main bopping line in this omnipresent hall-of-famer.
CM: One thing I was reminded of in revisiting the LZ oeuvre is how they never skimped on presenting songs in the most effective way. Even if it’s just subtle stuff like varying accents or briefly shifting harmony or meter, Zeppelin went beyond slapping basic elements together and saying That’ll Do. “Over the Hills” is good enough a song to impress in a more modest arrangement, but I think “Stairway” encouraged the myriad textures and transitional moments that elevate the final result.
TG: Houses Of The Holy is my favorite Zep record, but the title track didn’t even make the cut for the album release. The only bummer is “D’Yer Mak’er”, which is still enjoyable if you’re in the mood. One reason Houses is my favorite is “Over the Hills”. The frolicsome acoustic intro denotes carefree times in a rural setting hinted at by the title. After about 1:30, the electric slam kicks the song into another gear, Richard.
Jimmy doubles up on adrenaline, sorry, guitars before a brief acoustic offering leads to the eventual electric solo. Able acoustics once again escort our ears to the final outro where a far-away organ signals that it’s time to return home to the city and leave nature to the bunnies and bees.
TG: And now the title track that got bumped. “Holy” could have taken the place of “D’yer Mak’er” and all would have been right with the world. Maybe the mix wasn’t fully fleshed out. Maybe the lyrics didn’t sit right. Still, here on a double album, it takes a high seat amongst the hodge and podge.
CM: Undoubtedly one of Zep’s catchiest cuts.
TG: Simply gorgeous. I don’t even need rain to enjoy this shimmering beauty. From Jimmy’s thoughtful playing to John Paul’s plaintive piano, this track pleases my aural receptors and makes me glad to be alive.
CM: Some of the lyrics and singing are iffy to me, but the music is golden. Calming tonalities are spiced by a few unusual chords, piano and Mellotron augment the guitars, and the motifs lead nicely into one another. I’d call it a mega-ballad, big on feeling but not sappy or too ornate.
CM: A three-part masterpiece.
TG: This calliope-inspired twister and turner features ups and downs while remaining centered during its ten-minute ride. The synth strokes clue us in that a wild ride is ahead. Bootsy may be the King of Funk, but John Paul really steps up his bump game here – at times it sounds like Bonham is following him!
I believe this song gets lost in the shuffle of great Zeppelin tracks because of two factors. The first is its sheer length. True, an 11 minute track wasn’t even that long in the blazing ’70s, but this one’s length was only passed by their own “In My Time Of Dying” as far as studio offerings go. And compared to the secret Side 3-1/2 of Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, which features nothing but 33 minutes and 33 seconds of cow flatulence and umbrella opening, “Carouselambra” is a short, moderate thrill ride.
The second factor is the pummeling received by the listener during the song’s first four minutes. JP manages to simultaneously ape Rick Wakeman on keys and James Jamerson on bass. Bonham is his usual heavyweight self. Jimmy sprays paintings in the sky. And somehow, Robert’s voice is just as upfront while throwing out lines about peace and calm amidst the loudly sustained gallimaufry.
A well-deserved break finally comes after those four chaotic minutes, but those listeners cowed by relentless abandon have long since wrenched up their faces in dismay, thrown up their hands in surrender and retreated from The Land Where My Speakers Are King. Too bad, because they missed a hell of a party.
CM: Touching and dare I say innocent, buffeted by subtle background textures, plus the tape is vari-sped a hair to make it even more dreamlike. At proper speed, as can be heard on the bonus disc of the 2014 reissue, it’s still sweet. On the other hand, the early-70s live version on How the West Was Won reverses the spell via a laborious tempo and Plant’s acrobatics.
TG: Takes acoustic thump to a new level with Robert egging on the proceedings with his excited performance.
CM: A folk borrowing turned into a vibrant crescendo: vocal and guitar introduce a gallop punctuated by Bonham’s snare, and things eventually reach a twangy plateau where Jones doubles bass and mandolin and Page plucks a banjo. This exuberance belies what happens in the story, though.
TG: Traditional song given curvaceous form by the group. Robert plays the lyrics note-perfect in that he saves his wink for the punchline. A multi-layered acoustic revelation.
TG: This track takes flight with Jimmy’s effective call-to-arms. The band shakes their moneymakers for all they are worth – much like the subject lady of the song. The only thing missing is the purple um-ber-ella of the Living Loving Maid. We’ve ruthlessly severed the conjoined classic rock twins to highlight the pumping pulse of the better half.
CM: Zeppelin’s music is identifiable on every level, from top-line vocals and guitars to a subconscious sense that one could drop the needle anywhere and recognize this foursome working together. It’s also ingrained in the sounds they produce, which gets me to the point that any indoctrinated listener can identify this song before Jimmy finishes bending the first note, whereupon the heavy merriment begins.
CM: A crafty riff supplies the rock, a finger-snapping coda summons the roll, and I can’t be late for the Hi-Ho Helena Ball.
TG: The first time this song really made an impression on me was after a Metallica concert where we on the crowded floor stood awestruck after their performance hoping for the lights to dim again and more Justice to reign our ears. As the Metalli-cats had already played their encore, that didn't happen, but a sage soundboard person blasted The Ocean out of the house speakers. The undeniable riff somehow sated our thirst, and we dispersed in befuddled satisfaction – knowing now that the show was over yet also that rock music was a timeless wonder.
TG: A punisher of a track that starts with a building intro before taking off behind Bonham’s artillery blasts. Robert’s lyrics invoke kings, wings and golden things as the assault carries on nearly unabated. Indeed, the lyrics seem to be about life or at least life as “Led Zeppelin”. This band, this beast conquered the world, carrying its members far beyond the bounds of their home country. Roads girdle the globe, but a private jet emblazoned with your band name knows hardly any constraints. In essence, they did rise above the Earth and travel as warriors carrying their messages to far corners of the globe in their own version of a Trojan horse (made of metal and with wings, of course). Still, as the final lines of the song state, they felt some burden upon them – though not as great as Atlas holding up the heavens. Perhaps it was the burden of knowing that they would not stride those same heavens for very long.
CM: Occasional tedious passages don’t derail what one must call an epic by Zep standards, given the running time, Page’s guitar “army” in force, and Plant’s oration of whatever fantasy plot he’s devised. It also might be their most strongly propelled song, thanks to Bonham’s forward movement and Jonesy’s 8-string bass.
With the cupboard-clearing of Graffiti done, Zeppelin started from scratch for Presence, one reason it always feels fresh to me. To begin that record with “Achilles” was pretty daring given its unrelenting force, and maybe that boosts the track’s larger reputation.
CM: A mesmeric vamp sets up a higher plane where “owls cry in the night” and worldly inspirations come into play. Apart from the personal buzz I receive from it, I’m fascinated by “Sticks” because its origin seems so mysterious – was there an initial spark (like the 5/4 vamp) that accumulated other ideas, or did a thumbnail of the whole song exist from the start? I can only name “Friends” as a precedent for what happens here.
TG: I almost forgot about “Four Sticks”. How does one do that? Maybe because of its position between the weaker sisters of “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Going To California”? But I’ll take “Sticks” over those two, “Evermore” and “Rock And Roll” any day of the week. People point to IV/Runes/Zoso as Zeppelin’s best album, and that’s likely because “Stairway” and “Levee” are such standout tracks. What IV does have going for it is variety, and the album is enjoyable because of that. It’s a balance of acoustic and electric where III tilted more toward the acoustic (not to any great demerit in my book).
And then there’s this track. “Sticks” is filled with more goodies than two shoes (goody goody two shoes, that is). Bonham plays with four drumsticks because two aren’t quite enough, John Paul doubles on bass and synthesizer and Jimmy twists his “Rock And Roll” riff into a raga. Plus, Robert somehow mixes in his usual “baby”s along with owls (thanks, CM, I always thought it was “howls”; at least I didn’t think it was The Howells from Gilligan’s Island) crying, fires flying and rivers drying while making it all sound relevant to everything else going on.
It’s no wonder they played this song while in India; it already sounds like a Bollywood nightmare.
CM: By turns spacy, stomping, and uplifting, “In the Light” almost captures the wide range of Physical Graffiti by itself. As if it didn’t tread enough ground, two alternate versions found on the latest reissues of Graffiti and Coda reveal even more up its evolutionary sleeve.
TG: Numinous tones brush our lobes as we breach the earthen sanctum. Mist from the nearby waterfall forms rivulets and creates clear paths down our faces, which are otherwise dusted from our pilgrimage. Still and quiet, though, we must remain as the Druidic ritual is carried out below. Macabre chants increase in tempo until the dervish appears, spraying the revelers in mysterious ichor.
As the dervish exits, the stained bodies form penitent poses and all becomes nearly silent. A sneeze explodes to my left, and I dart a spiteful glance toward Mullins, who gestures wildly beneath his perch where a stand of Ostrich ferns grow upon the mossy bank. Damn Mullins and his allergies! Luckily, the near-hypnotized throng has taken no notice of Mullins’ nose bellow as now the pack is intertwined in the largest rugby scrum I have ever witnessed. As one, they take 15 steps to the left followed by 18 to the right and 21 again to the left. The soil beneath their feet roils as the step pattern is increased before ending at 36. “Ye gods,” whispers Du Shayne, “they're digging!”
Du Shayne is proven correct as the group exits the grounds, carefully avoiding the fresh ruts. The dervish appears again and hops to the center point. Once there, he spins and flails his arms about, throwing...something. “Seeds,” I spit through clenched teeth. My party murmurs agreement as they too catch the reflected glints as the tiny life-bearers fly in ever-expanding arcs.
As the dervish exits, a young woman enters and steps into a hidden basin. She then shuffles about the circles, covering the seeds and wetting them as she executes each circumference. She ends in the center where she intones a brief blessing before exiting carefully.
Our eyes grow, our mouths open and our hearts fill with wonder as eerie bluish-white shoots pop out of the freshly tilled ground. The shoots turn to stems and reach about a meter in height; a bulbous mass is then transported through each stem to its top, where the bulb morphs into a crescent-shaped blossom. We gaze agape because each flower is a miniature moon, and as we peer into the vale, our faces are painted...in the light.
CM: An arse-kicking introduction to the Zeppelin galaxy that also unveils their tendency to break traditional song boundaries. The bang-bang opening leads to a spidery riff beneath the first verse, a key-shifting chorus, then the second verse slips to a previously unheard tonal center. Next is a guitar spot that steps back into the third chorus, but there’s no third verse – just a return to the bouncy riff from earlier that you didn’t have time to miss.
TG: Short but stout, it’s the rockin’ brother to “Communication” below. The band elements come together perfectly in this burst of aggro where musical muscle is flexed and vocal hops are on tap. Belly up and join us in a 12-ounce (or 16 for those across the pond) curl.
TG: Is it sadly elegant or elegantly sad? How’s a man supposed to keep his head on straight with a worried mind? And, yes, “Worried Mind” is a song performed by several artists, but other than that phrase, there doesn’t seem to be a direct link here. In fact, forget all that who-wrote-what nonsense for seven minutes and twenty-four seconds while this perfect slice of Blues eases your ever-lovin’ mind.
CM: In a bout of ambition and/or irony, Zeppelin spiked their first completely original blues with extra chords and measures to stamp it as their own. Some of it is over the top – Plant seems to try too hard – but other aspects are welcome, like Jones’ organ backdrop and Page’s convincing testimonials.
CM: The finessed tune, playing, and subject matter made this an easy choice.
TG: It is a love song, but not about an anonymous lady or generic girl. The lyrics are mournful yet uplifting in the same breath. Robert pours out the voice of a soul hollowed by tragedy while John Paul fills that cavity with sonic light. Yet another feather in Jones’ well-bedecked cap.
TG: Recorded in November of 1978 during the Out Door sessions, this is a message song reflecting the attitude and sound of Presence but not released until Coda. It’s Zeppelin putting a blister on the sun, watching it fester and then peeling the scab to reveal raw heat at a time when punks coolly regarded them as dinosaurs. Zep couldn’t be punks because they were too skilled as musicians, but this track shows they were still capable of ripping your face off sonically.
CM: This probably should have made Out Door; I’d shorten it by a minute or so and put it in place of “Hot Dog”. “Wearing” addresses contemporary ideals and reminds people which band helped predict them in the first place. Its only fault is that punky rock shouldn’t be doused in a gallon of reverb.
CM: Going acoustic for much of the third album wasn’t just about resting the amps; the band was exploring different creative means, and “Friends” is one result. Page’s detuned guitar and the hand percussion convey intimacy, then exotic counterlines almost predict “Kashmir”. Above, the banal lyric doesn’t really fit the music (except maybe for “looking for what you knew” line, vis-a-vis global influences), but the totality works.
TG: With a song featuring bongos, I suppose this is a good a place as any to discuss the recent 2014-15 Zep remasters. For the most part, they sound absolutely amazing. I’m hearing details that have escaped my attention quite some time. And in the past where Robert’s vocals dominated some versions, each instrument is now given more weight (or air, depending on the intent). This characteristic makes for a more immersive and rewarding listening experience. The only exception may be Physical Graffiti, where it feels (to me) like some of the punch is missing.
Anyway, I like the droning quality of “Friends” – first in Robert’s vocals and later in the waves that wash over as the song resolves its climax and appropriately births “Celebration Day”.
CM: Would you believe that this made the list at the last minute? Formal similarity to “Ramble On” initially presented a choice between one or the other, but space opened up and “What Is” deserves to be on the field somewhere. Heck, it should probably be closer to the goal line.
TG: What weren’t and never was? What it be but never is? And if I say to you tomorrow that I’ve listened to this damn song 73 times and still don’t what the hell to write about it, then what of it? Perhaps that means it’s so good that it defies explication? No, I won’t fall into that trap of laziness. Suffice to say that I enjoy Bonham’s jazzy touch during the opening and how JPJ props up the open space above the song that threatens to crush it. Jimmy’s axe and Robert's rasp then fissure the enveloping tissue of relaxation. After about two minutes, it starts all over again.
TG: To me, this song and “Crosstown Traffic” just go together. This is Zep thrashing about and making noise as every young band tends to do, yet it’s still so well put together that it’s a small, sparkling gem worthy of attention. No matter how many times you break it down, it remains consistent.
CM: A nod to what purist rock was and would become again. Check out the funkification breakdowns that appear in the BBC Sessions versions.
CM: Not the showiest entry here but one of the sturdiest, roving rocky lands with ease.
TG: I have trouble describing (and sometimes even remembering) “The Rover” – not because it’s not good – but perhaps because it merely is what it is. The opening shots command your attention, and then the riff bores just deep enough into your cranium to stay anchored there until the song takes off. I’d say it’s because the lyrics are forgettable, but I’ve been to London / Seen seven wonders / I know to trip is just to fall. So there’s that. I'll say it’s because of the “If we could just join hands” lines; they’re kind of annoying.
Still, I must admit I’ll listen to any Zep song any time, mostly to hear what Bonham was up to. Yep, dig the last minute of the song; some good band communication happens once Mr. Plant drops out.
TG: “Tangerine, tangerine / Living reflection from a dream / I was her love / She was my queen / And now a thousand years in between.” Unlike some other places where Robert’s hippie-dippie, fantasy-laden lyrics seem quaint or at the least naive, “Tangerine” explores aura and color in a good way.
Time and distance now separate the lovers once joined. The recollection is sweet, yet the fruit pulled, peeled, and palletted leaves the bitter aftertaste of whatcouldhavebeen. The desire for such sweetness still proves worthwhile as he imagines with longing that she ponders the same idea
CM: Simple and affecting. Great Page solo – his best playing tends to be pre-planned.
CM: Connoisseur cut from a classic album, and you gotta love hearing the bass walk all over the middle section.
TG: It’s a rockish take on “The Stripper” where Robert, whom I’ve taken to task in other entries, provides the knowing wink to the musical nudge, nudge. Seriously, what would Zeppelin be without Plant? His vocal instrument complemented the musical extravagances John Paul Page dreamed up, and it was powerful enough to lend conviction to whatever lyrical flight of fancy he wove.
“Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon” by Blind Boy Fuller – song
Todd’s 5 Faves:
TG: Bonham creates a pocket and keeps it open for guitar, harmonica, vocals and bass to do what they may. There’s structure aplenty, but everything flows thanks to that endlessly endearing shuffle.
TG: The galloping rhythm charges the coursers to burst from their reins, yet a brief calm overtakes the team until another rattling burst re-energizes. From there, hardly a slow step is taken except for a solo whinnie from one unkempt mane. But steppes are soon conquered by echoing hooves against hard-pan. The tale ends with an exhausted “Whoa!”
TG: Have to tilt some props in the direction of this non-Canon volley. Too much of the bonus material on the 2014-15 reissues is just an instrumental version of the final track. Blame that on Mr. Page being too much of a perfectionist or the band just being too good for their own good.
Yet there are rare delicacies hidden on the bonus discs, and this one pricked my thumbs because something wicked this way comes. This track balances on the edge of falling apart and keeping it all together while exploring corners of each. Listen to Bonham give Robert the most obvious cue in rock history. Listen to Robert try to decide where to blow his harp. Listen to Jonesy finding what fits. Listen to Jimmy rip shit up throughout – probably already conniving what to correct in the studio. This extra is a sloppy blast.
TG: This one is simple. I like what Jimmy does with the guitar sounds throughout – the sustained chords and sways and occasional whammy pulls, the crescendos and chops and chugs. He’s showing off in a subtle way, if that makes sense. It’s not “Look what I can do!” It’s “Listen to this bit...and then that bit...and can you tell what I’m doing here? Yeah.”
TG: Sometimes it’s difficult to express what you like about a song other than it quantifies what you like about music, or a band for that matter. This is one of those for me. This isn’t the best Zeppelin song ever. Hell, it didn’t even make the (combined) list, but that doesn’t mean that I like it any less than the others above. It just means it’s different and that it appeals to me.
“Ten Years” isn't about anything in particular other than the passage of time and an enjoyable way to spend it. Jimmy’s solo isn't spectacular, but it isn’t supposed to be. It’s there to add emotional weight and a bit of drama to the song, and it carries off that task beautifully. I guess my point is that it’s okay to admire a well-constructed song that does what it’s supposed to do. A song doesn’t have to shake the earth or even your ass; as long as it’s well done, just...let it be.
CM: Spirited organ chords fuel a dodger’s tale that gives Plant excuse to tell yet another mama that he’s gotta split.
CM: Just as exciting to me now as it ever was. An upside-down “Immigrant” riff drives the verses, followed by an instrumental refrain led by Leslie-fied guitar. It’s got energy, attitude, and Bonzo killing it as usual.
CM: Love that groove.
CM: The piano, Bonzoid shuffle, and vocal are good fun, but when the quicker beat appears from below the border (with whistles and tuned percussion), “Fool” reaches a peak that’s impossible to resist.
CM: An original blues that sings of (road?) weariness in a suitably hazy way, while certain chords and fortissimo fanfares show how much force lurks beneath the surface. Some folks make unfavorable comparisons between this and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (same key, nearly the same tempo), preferring the outward mojo of the earlier piece, but I think “Tea for One” has a wiser perspective.