Monday, December 03, 2012

Today's Essay Question: Please Hammer (of the Gods), Don't Hurt 'Em

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but even though I like a lot of songs by last night's Kennedy Center honorees Led Zeppelin ...



...and despite the fact that I think Jimmy Page is something of a genius producer and arranger, I've never actually been what you might call a fan. In fact, I think it would be more accurate to call me a Zep agnostic.


I've also never actually been able to put my finger on what bothered me about them, until I read this quote from Trampled Under Foot, Brit author Barney's Hoskyn's new bio of the old lemon squeezers (in a recent issue of UNCUT).

Which seemed to me to get it, in the words of Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein, on the nosey.

"Zeppelin songs," Hoskyns writes, "became battle cries for a lost generation of disowned teenagers swearching for dark magic in their suburban shopping mall lives."

Discuss.



20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Elitist!

You just don't understand, man/dude.You F E E L it, you don't think it.

FD13NYC said...

I think Hoskyn's got something there. But I was never a disowned teenager, I would not have searched for dark magic and I didn't grow up around a suburban shopping mall. Yet, I still dug them.

JZ said...

I couldn't stand them when I was in High School and I can't stand them now...I understand Jake Holmes, after many years of trying to get Page to acknowledge his authorship of "Dazed And Confused", has finally decided to go legal. I hope Jake wins...

Mark said...

And I saw Zep, through the first three albums anyway, as a more muscular version of The Yardbirds. The first Jeff Beck album, TRUTH, also, extended the Yardbirds sound with muscle and distorted loudness.

The "dark magic" BS that Hoskyns refers to was, to this fan, nothing more than an embarrassing distraction. But much less embarrassing than, let's say, YES lyrics.

After LZ4, even I had no idea what the hell they were doing. But what attracted the teenagers and older folks was NOT the dark magic, but the brute power and occasional melody produced By Page and Plant.

Sal Nunziato said...

I think when you're a fan of someone, trying to convert those that aren't is useless. (Like, I really don't like Marah still.)

But I will say this. I don't understand those that gave up on LZ after Zep 2 and I don't understand Mark's comment, "After LZ4, even I had no idea what the hell they were doing."

What's so hard to understand?

It's rock and roll and blues and funk and folk, played by three of the greatest rock musicians to ever stuff their pants.

While I won't defend (anymore) Jimmy Page's plagiaristic tendencies, people have to at least admit that "In My Time Of Dying" sounds nothing like the song he has taken credit for other than the lyric.

It's fine writing by Hoskyn's, but occasionally, there are some teenagers and adults who just love the sound of great playing, regardless who might be sweeping with threshing oars.

wayne fraizer said...

Put on you're headphones and listen to "When The Levee Breaks", maybe you'll get it

buzzbabyjesus said...

I was an uneasy Led Zeppelin fan until "Physical Graffiti". Way too much filler, and "Kashmir" is ten times too long. Everything after that shone even less bright.
Uneasy because I never liked Robert Plants vocals.
More recently Page's tendency to plagiarize has become a deal breaker for me.
I'm rooting for Jake.

cthulhu said...

Being a teenager in the '70s, Led Zep was omnipresent on AOR FM radio, but outside of a few songs (When the Levee Breaks most notably) I never got what all the fuss was about; I listened to Quadrophenia instead.

Yes, Page was and is an often-innovative and technically skilled guitarist, and blues-based rock should be right up my alley; but I could seldom get past Plant's high-register singing (in retrospect, much of it seems like the inspiration for Barry Gibb's falsetto), and Bonham's drumming was, for me, dramatically inferior to Keith Moon's.

And the hippy-dippy lyrics were the icing on the cake, as it were. Even lesser Townshend songs were much preferable (I'll take Faith in Something Bigger or Squeeze Box any day).

But I don't hate LZ, they're just not really for me...

Anonymous said...

as a sort of thinking man's Black Sabbath, he may have something there, but I think it violates occam's razor. they just rocked while having an exotic sound that nobody else did (unless you're counting their female disciples, Heart, who I doubt have a black magic totem hidden anywhere on their tour bus).

Noam Sane said...

That explanation is kinda simplistic. You could come up with an equally zippy one-liner for just about any band, ever, but it would be equally simplistic.

"Don't like 'em" should suffice, really.

steve simels said...

I think what Hopkyns was getting at, in his admittedly slightly pretentious way, was that there's a certain whiff of WAYNES WORLD to Zep's worst stuff that makes them a little hard to take seriously sometimes.

That said, I actually love some of the later stuff like "In the Evening" and "Fool in the Rain," to which no such aroma adheres.

The Kenosha Kid said...

Just posted on my OTHER Facebook friend that is having a Zep ripoff discussion (seriously):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkX7Q2J7k48

Apparently Pagey ripped off WHITE people too! Who knew?

Anyway, I still love Led Zep, and Page's production work for Donovan (!) qualifies him as a genius anyway.

steve simels said...

Keonosha --

Like I said, Page is totally a genius. And not just for his session work.
:-)

Brooklyn Girl said...

Zep was always way too self-indulgent for my taste.

And comparing them to the Yardbirds? Well, let's just say that Relf couldn't handle "Dazed and Confused", and Plant couldn't handle "Train Kept A-Rollin'". Make of that what you will.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Sorry, I should have said the Beck Yardbirds, not the Clapton or Page Yardbirds.

Anonymous said...

"Fool in the Rain?" You mean the one with the air-raid siren vocal and the world's worst sloppy guitar diarrhea solo?

Seriously if there is a worse guitar solo in a charted pop song clue me in.

steve simels said...

Worst guitar solo ever on a charted pop song:

Whoever (Big Jim Sullivan, maybe) plays on Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual."

Anonymous said...

almost everything cthulhu said pretty much NAILED IT from where I sit

That said, there are a few Zepplin songs that I really like. For my money Fool In The Rain has the single most amazing drumming I believe I've ever heard. I've played that song for my son, who's an aspiring drummer, and told him if he can ever replicate the drumming in that song he has truly arrived.

Anonymous said...

LZ were sorta like The Who... minus the sense of humor, and fifty IQ points per musician.

Other than that... :)

John Fowler said...

Late to this comment party, and not a lot to add - I agree mostly with Cthulhu. Never was a Zep fan, had LZ4 for 'Stairway to Heaven', but that wore out (to my ears) sometime in the 80's. Didn't really understand the huge fan following at the time.

But in the last few years, I've come to enjoy a few select songs of theirs a whole lot - but they tend to be the shorter and more radio-friendly ones. the previously mentioned 'Fool in the Rain', 'Ramble On', 'Over the Hills and Far Away', and most especially the apparently tossed-off 'Hey Hey, What Can I Do?'. Led Zep as a singles band....