Monday, August 25, 2008

A Rock and Roll Reality Check...
The Posting May be different, but The Blog Remains The Same...

"Omigosh", I thought as I was reading the paper whilst scarfing down a Denver Omelet and Hash Browns at breakfast...there it was...a picture of JIMMY PAGE, you know, Led Zeppelin's guitarist, and the caption said he, together with "Leona Somebody" performed "Whole Lotta Love", one of the Mighty Zep's signature tunes from way back when, at the closing ceremony of the Olympics, in China. Well, the chord structure of the song is really, really simple; it's a song he could play even if he were "Dazed And Confused". And of course, Zep Lead Vocalist Robert Plant's voice can no longer handle the primal banshee screaming techniques it takes to perform the song. So a woman's siren-like voice was used instead. Sometimes even Robert Plant can't do Robert Plant...if you contrast the studio version of Zep's "Rock And Roll" ('Been a long time since I rock and rolled...) with the live version on "The Song Remains The Same", Plant can't hit the high notes he hit on the studio version, which was only recorded a coupla years earlier....

Still, Zep was a classic "Live" band...they could REALLY jam. "The Song Remains The Same" DVD (pictured above), features 26 MINUTES of "Dazed and Confused", complete with Jimmy Page playing his guitar with a Violin Bow! (That'll make Symphony Orchestra members run for cover...), and interwoven with Zep's live performances are 'fantasy sequences' of each band member; Page, Plant, and bassist John Paul Jones (not his real name) all play mystical-sort of characters...the only 'fantasy sequence' that really doesn't work for me is the one featuring drummer John Bonham, who had a totally different haircut in his 'sequence' than in the concert, (which doesn't do much for 'continuity's sake') and no, I'm not impressed by his motorcycle and horse-riding; really, what kind of fantasy sequence is THAT? But the way Zep improvised in concert was truly something to behold.
The succintly titled "Led Zeppelin DVD" (a 2-disc set that came out in 2003, pictured below) was GRRRREAT. I am especially impressed with that disc's live version of "Achilles' Last Stand" where Plant's vocals are mixed in louder than on the studio version (which is on 1976's "Presence" album), and Jimmy Page is sweating bullets as he grinds out lead-guitar notes in that ultra-complex song...or how about their performance on "Kashmir", that most exotic of Rock songs...I consider Led Zeppelin to be The Beatles of the 70's, because their music was so startlingly original; the band, love 'em or hate 'em, had a sound all their own.

There are hundreds of Led Zeppelin concerts available (most on bootlegs), and I can see where a dedicated Zep fan (like me) would want ALL of their concerts on video, 'cos Zeppelin would do things differently during every show. Trouble is, I can't afford them all. But the two DVD's pictured above (NOT bootlegs) are definitely worth seeking out. Zeppelin also had roots in English Folk music, and on the "Led Zep DVD", the group does a really cool set of delicate acoustic performances. And all you thot the mighty Zep could do was play the heaviest sort of rock sludge possible. Which they did. And believe me it's heavy. And tasty. But this acoustic stuff is great in its own way.

The Posting may be different, but The Blog Remains The Same: I wrote all of the above to get to this part of the post: First of all, didn't "Rock and Roll" and "Reality Check" used to be mutually exclusive terms? Secondly, why did I do a Rock and Roll Reality Check when I saw Jimmy Page's picture in the paper today? Well, he looks like THIS now...

Here's Jimmy Page with 'whoever that woman is', cranking out "Whole Lotta Love" at the Olympics closing ceremony in Beijing. Wait...isn't an old guitarist from the West who plays that Decadent Rock And Roll the kind of person China doesn't Want in their country? I see this as some kind of musical coup. Music transcending politics. And there I go getting philisophical again.
But LOOK at Jimmy Page! He's Old...He's (probably) feeble...he took a TON of drugs way back in them old daze...and his hair isn't gray, it's WHITE! I still can't get used to old guys with gray hair playing Rock and Roll music. They didn't have gray hair when they initially got famous, after all! My Rock Heroes Were Young and Rebellious! Whenever I see some old band full of old, bald or gray-haired guys rocking out, it Just Looks Strange To Me. But every now and then, I see a musician, such as Stevie Winwood, who's been around FOREVER, and he still looks like a teenager. So there's hope. And if there isn't hope, there's always Grecian Formula "16"...

Finally, a bit of trivia: why did Led Zeppelin spell it "L-E-D"? Because Jimmy Page thought that otherwise, people would go around saying "Leed" Zeppelin, and he didn't want that to happen. And of such small and insignificant details, truly Legends are Borne.


Blogger raymond pert said...

As you know, I work with a segment of the youth population seeking an education and an impressive number of these youngsters are gaga over both Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and like to raise that Ginger or Mary Ann kind of question about these two groups. Who do you thinks better, they'll ask: Zeppelin or Pink Floyd.

I've always said Led Zeppelin, almost like a muscle reflex.

But, I went to hear the Pink Floyd tribute band, The Floydian Slips a week ago and I was astonished and I've been listening to Pink Floyd's music lately and the question of Zeppelin or Pink Floyd has become more complicated.

I think I know your choice, but I'm wondering what your take on Pink Floyd is.

I'd really enjoy knowing.

12:11 AM  
Blogger Idaho Escapee said...

Actually, Raymond, these are two groups that are equally as good for totally separate reasons. I place them both in the highest echelons of music.

Pink Floyd is more of an atmospheric band, while Led Zeppelin channeled blues and folk through a '70s rock element; Zep plays acoustic and electric, rock, blues, funk, and they even got into soul music at times.

And yet Zep could turn around and do a Floyd-ish track such as "No Quarter". But then again, Pink Floyd could also dabble in the blues and wax a little bit folksy, on their earlier LP's. So actually, one cannot afford to 'pigeonhole' either band, because they don't fit neatly into one category.

Both bands, in a way, paralleled each other, taking vastly different approaches. Floyd is more about texture, rather than instrumental prowess, whereas Zeppelin blows you away with their sheer technical virtuosity.

I love both bands and couldn't live without either one. They were original, self-sustaining, didn't play the top-40 trip, and most of all, in my view, achieved the highest levels of artistic integrity. Both bands are the result of a 'certain something' which happens when 4 individuals come together, and through sympathy or anarchy, achieve a 'whole' that is greater than any one member could achieve by himself.

The more I try to answer this, the more I realize I can't answer this. In the end, probably, it doesn't matter who between these two is better, because they're so different. Indeed, why try to choose one who is better? Each is part of an expanding musical universe.

I would encourage your youth-group or whatever, to absorb it all, as much as they can. I remember when I was in many great bands...Kansas, Triumvirat, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Captain Beyond, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Titanic, Omega, Crack The Sky, and on and on and on. I'm all about music boundaries. I must be. What with I've listened to all my life, now I'm getting into Jazz and old-time Vaudeville singers as well as big bands and old rhythm and blues.

There is so much out there. I, for one, find it impossible to keep up with all the newer bands, although a station down here plays current stuff, and I do listen to that once in a while.

In short, Raymond, I guess I can't answer your question. There aren't many kinds of music that I won't try out. So, stress flexibility to your youth group. Be open to influences, new and old. We can all teach each other.

Am I done now?

1:10 AM  

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