Led Zeppelin

"Ten Years Gone"

They never play it on FM radio, but diehard fans get wet just thinking about it. It’s about the dynamics, how the song goes from soft to loud and back again. Along with a descending figure that makes you nod your head like you’re on drugs, even if you’re straight. Listening, you feel like you’re in Robert Plant’s living room, in front of the fire, as he tells you tales of his travels to the east.

It’s not a ditty, but an opus. With different moods. A cornucopia of emotions. It’s my favorite Led Zeppelin track.

"The Battle Of Evermore"

Listen to the record, IT FADES IN! Like minstrels are arriving in your town, to ENRAPTURE YOU!

This alone would be worth the price of admission to a Zeppelin reunion show. Unfortunately, Sandy Denny is no longer with us. Not that she sang live with the band back in the seventies. Actually, her part could be sung by Ann Wilson of Heart, she kills it on the cover with her side group the Lovemongers.

You feel like you’re peeking in on a private moment. Robert and Sandy singing in the near-darkness, opening up their souls.

You’re in a folk number, then, four minutes in, the intensity BUILDS! It’s like Robert’s dick has finally gotten hard, that he’s inserted it into Sandy and as he sings about bringing it back again and again he’s orgasming. Listening, you want to fuck EVERYBODY!

Great music makes you lose yourself, abandon your environment and merge with the sound. By not trying to impress you, "Battle Of Evermore" draw you in, you need to spin it ENDLESSLY!

"Ramble On"

For years, I couldn’t listen to "Led Zeppelin II". It was the soundtrack of my senior year of high school. I drove up to E.J. Korvette with my newly acquired driver’s license the day it came out. I only had a week before "Whole Lotta Love" became ubiquitous on the radio and the hoi polloi adopted the band.

Some records are too perfect. They make it look too easy. That’s "II". It sounds instantly perfect, instantly familiar. You don’t need multiple plays to get into it, but as soon as you hear it, you want to hear it again.

"Ramble On" has everything. Acoustic guitar, loping bass groove, lilting vocal, explosive guitar solo, obtuse, otherworldly solo… Play "Ramble On" for someone and let them try to explain why they hate Led Zeppelin… IMPOSSIBLE!

(Meanwhile, how come Boston was the only act that nicked Zeppelin’s trick of going from acoustic to electric and back again? It’s what made "Long Time" so great!)

"Thank You"

The girls’ Zeppelin track.

What got me back into it was Tori Amos’ cover.

It’s the killer on Tori’s "Crucify" EP. She infuses it with all the mystery, all the majesty of Zeppelin, even though it’s quiet and understated. Listen to "Winter" from the same EP for more of the same groove. It’s not made for us, but for her, and that’s why we love it and her so.

Anybody who thinks John Paul Jones is superfluous needs to listen to "Thank You".

"Good Times Bad Times"

The track that got me into Zeppelin. All the elements of the band in two minutes and forty six seconds. There’s bombast, intrigue… They’re forcing you to pay attention, and it’s got nothing to do with physical image, it’s purely theatre of the mind. Jimmy’s solo is enough to hook you, still, there’s the cowbell, the devilish bass lines, the thundering drums and Robert’s vocal…

Robert sang about knowing what it means to be alone… And this one song insured that he’d never have to spend a lonely night ever again.

"Your Time Is Gonna Come"

For a long time, I considered the first album my favorite. Because it was so unexpected! You were drawn in by "Good Times Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown", but soon you fell down a hole into the abyss.

Zeppelin was a club in ’69, prior to the October release of "II". They were not the world’s biggest band, they were purely cult. There was some FM airplay, but at this point, most people weren’t listening to FM, not every market HAD an underground FM radio station.

There was a darkness, a diversity in the debut, that was both fascinating and riveting. The more you listened, the more you liked the record. Even though it really didn’t sound quite like anything else.

As stunning as "Good Times Bad Times" was, the second track on the disc dumbfounded you. "Babe I’m Gonna Leave You" was slow and dreamy, it didn’t seem to be cut in London, but the hinterlands. After grabbing you, the band let you go.

We knew "You Shook Me", both the song and the sound employed. But the side closer, "Dazed and Confused", was positively creepy. It was like a bad drug trip. Did you sign up for this? Was it gonna go on FOREVER?

Such a simple intro, plodding bass, but then there were these guitar flourishes exploding in the sky… And speaking of exploding, this sexual Paul Bunyan suddenly emerged on the scene and even men were silenced.

It went on and on. The middle quieted down, almost akin to the Doors’ "The End", but much creepier. It got faster, then slower again. There was THUNDER! We’re not sure whether Robert is coming or being tortured. Then suddenly, it ends. The needle picks up, returns to the armrest, and you’re sitting in your living room feeling naked and alone.

At first "Dazed and Confused" is too dark to penetrate. But then you start smoking marijuana, you get into a trance, and you experience the foundation of every metal band since.

The last song on side two is faster, but almost as creepy. When "How Many More Times" finishes, when the record is done, you feel like you’ve been threatened. You’re not applauding. You’re stunned. The band is still on stage, staring you in the face. Finally, after the shock wears off, you get up and say MORE!

"I Can’t Quit You Baby" is the side two equivalent of "Dazed and Confused", just less threatening.

In retrospect, "Black Mountain Side" is ultra-important. It shows that the band couldn’t be pigeonholed, that they weren’t just about bluster.

"Communication Breakdown" is a tear. The single of all time in a radio universe that doesn’t exist. Still, I prefer "Good Times Bad Times". But my favorite song on the first Led Zeppelin album is on side two. It’s the opener, "Your Time Is Gonna Come".

Once again, the man without the accolades deserves the honors, with the long organ intro, bringing you down after the intense assault of "Dazed and Confused".

This sounds like the "Lord Of The Rings".

But it’s the lyrics that cement my affection.

Lyin’, cheatin’, hurtin’, that’s all you seem to do
Messin’ around, every guy in town
Puttin’ me down for thinkin’ of someone new
Always the same, playin’ your game
Drive me insane, trouble’s gonna come to you
One of these days, and it won’t be long
You’ll look for me, but, baby, I’ll be gone
This is all I gotta say to ya, woman:

Your time is gonna come, your time is gonna come
Your time is gonna come, your time is gonna come

Ever been dumped? It hurts SO BAD! Don’t they realize how great you are? Maybe they don’t. Maybe they’ll go on to someone better. No, that can’t BE! Won’t they come back?

When you finally realize it’s over, before you find someone new, you feel exactly like this song. One of these days they’re gonna hurt. They’re gonna get dumped, they’re gonna lose. Why the fuck did they TREAT YOU THIS WAY?

For some unknown reason, when I’m ecstatic on the ski slope, I start singing this involuntarily. Makes me feel rooted, makes me feel powerful.

"Gallows Pole"

When I was a freshman in college, there was only one record store in town, the Vermont Book Shop. It was overpriced. I refused to shop there, it was an insult to my addiction. But when "Led Zeppelin III" came out, I had to lay down close to list price the day it was released.

I don’t know another soul in the dorm who purchased it.

I was intrigued by the cover, with its spinning wheel, the key was to get one that wasn’t defective, that hadn’t been damaged in the box by the brass center ring. And there was amazing surface noise, Atlantic was notorious for this. I must have returned this album twice. Still, I ended up sitting in front of my stereo, dropping the needle again and again, learning to play "Gallows Pole" on the guitar.

I knew it from seeing the band at Yale Bowl six weeks before. I loved it. But I can’t say I loved the rest of the record, even though I gave it multiple spins. Oh, I really liked "Tangerine" and "Celebration Day", but I’d loved EVERY cut of what came before.

That’s when I swore off Led Zeppelin.


Today, kids go to college to learn a trade. They study business, they need a degree in something practical. I majored in art history.

And as soon as I was done, I drove to Alta, Utah to line up a job at the Goldminer’s Daughter.

But before I could start my job, I broke my leg. I ended up slinging hot dogs and scooping ice cream at the BirdFeeder on the Snowbird Plaza when I finally arrived somewhat healed in Utah two months late.

And that’s where I met Jimmy Kay and the rest of the freestylers, I curried favor by giving them ginormous ice cream cones. Maybe that’s why they allowed me to live in their condo in Mammoth during the month of May. But, in reality, they just wanted my fifty bucks for rent.

I was the outsider. But what brought us together was alcohol and Led Zeppelin. Every night we listened to "Physical Graffiti" on a home made 8-track. And one day on the chairlift, I got an urge to hear "Kashmir", I made Jimmy play it as soon as we got back to the condo.

Don’t ask me to explain it. There’s just this MAJESTY! Like a parade of elephants, who are never going to stop, who are going to continue their procession.

"Night Flight"

It starts side four with abandon. There’s no intro, and when Robert urges you to meet him in the morning, in the middle of the night, you jump up and say I’M READY!

"Boogie With Stu"

Ian Stewart, of course. Kicked out of the Stones for being too ugly. Even though he continued to play keys on their records.

This track just SWINGS!

"Down By The Seaside"

It’s the seemingly minor numbers that hook you on "Physical Graffiti".

Tori Amos covers this too.

It’s an amazing intro to "Ten Years Gone". It’s kind of lighthearted, if not quite upbeat. Then you’ve got the darkness of "Ten Years Gone".

"In My Time Of Dying"

There are three lengthy opuses ending sides on "Physical Graffiti". This one is forgotten, but it’s almost as good as "Kashmir" and "Ten Years Gone".

"When The Levee Breaks"

Funny how people talk about "Rock And Roll", "Stairway To Heaven" and "Black Dog"… I never play those, I never have to hear them again. They’re everywhere, you can’t avoid them.

But it’s the album cuts that make the fourth album so special.

I didn’t really know the fourth album. I was living in Vermont, there was no radio. I told you I’d sworn off Zeppelin. I didn’t get hooked until my Zeppelin jones was rekindled in Mammoth.

My favorite song on the album is the above-mentioned "The Battle Of Evermore". But I like "Going To California" almost as much, because of the acoustic intimacy. Still, no dissection of the fourth album is complete without a discussion of "When The Levee Breaks".

Jimmy’s fantastic, Robert is stellar, but it’s BONZO who’s the star here! It’s like he’s pounding oil drums. He’s a locomotive driving the whole band. Listening is like being pounded on the head, incessantly. And you LIKE IT!

Imagine hearing the master tape, in a cavernous studio. The raw power illustrates why John Bonham may be gone, but isn’t forgotten.

"Dancing Days"

You have NO IDEA how incessantly "D’yer Mak’er" was played on the radio in the summer of ’73. When FM finally ruled. Bad reggae if you ask me. Yet I LOVE the stupid-lyriced "Dancing Days".

In the oeuvre of Led Zeppelin, "Houses Of The Holy" is second tier. It contains the "Ramble On" extension "Over The Hills and Far Away", but not enough tracks that grab you. STILL, it’s the long, slow numbers that ultimately win you over. Like "The Rain Song" and "No Quarter".

Really, who could expect the comeback of the fourth album? At this point, Led Zeppelin was known for excess more than music. Maybe Jimmy knew this, maybe that was his inspiration for the completely diverse, no minute wasted "IV". Inspiration is funny, artists want to prove something. They want not only sales, but respect. Ultimately, Jimmy garnered both.

And it was Jimmy’s band. Maybe that’s why he’s had such a hard time moving forward. He was not just an element, he was the mad scientist.

"Physical Graffiti" was Jimmy’s "Tusk". But Lindsey Buckingham, although a great guitarist, is not quite in Jimmy Page’s league. In the seventies, no one was in Zeppelin’s league. Not that they were universally revered. They were managed by a wrestler who thought the law was at best a guideline. They were haunted by tragedy. They were considered misogynist before the women’s movement was turned on its head and five year olds started dressing like ho’s and high school girls gave blow jobs to be accepted by their peers.

Like Don Henley said, you can never go back. But today’s teenagers were never there. They realized Zeppelin contained something all the acts they were being fed by the machine didn’t contain. Zeppelin was bigger than the execs, they raped and pillaged in their own style, but it was all subservient to the music. The trappings were interesting, but the music was superior, and it ruled.

The band is as surprised by its resurgence as anybody. Hell, they sold their royalties eons back, they figured they had their moment in the sun.

But now Led Zeppelin is a rite of passage. Your parents might sing you Beatle songs, but somewhere between twelve and fifteen, you start to think for yourself, and you discover Led Zeppelin, they accompany your adolescence.

No one over the age of twenty five should be allowed to see Led Zeppelin. If you’re older than that and you missed them the first time around, fuck you. You were never a fan, you’re a johnny-come-lately. You’re going so you can boast of your attendance. It’s not that sheer excitement of experiencing something for the first time. Whereas if you’re a young ‘un, and you’ve been subjected to the modern crap, Led Zeppelin is a REVELATION!

It’s this younger generation that might inspire Jimmy and the band to create worthwhile new material. Because kids have a shit detector nonpareil. They don’t care if you were somebody sometime. They don’t read the mainstream press. They’re only interested in quality. And Led Zeppelin was quality. The very finest.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.