Monday, 7 June 2010

"Hear My Cry, Hear My Roar, Lend Me Your Ears, See Me Soar"

The One Where Gray Writes About A Cool Band, I've Never Heard Of (Joke)

One day... many years from now... Gray will write these before the publishing date. You know. So they publish together.

In the mean time, I give you @diaryofaledger!

“To be Rock and not a Roll”

It’s not often you can pinpoint the exact moment you fell in love with a band, what song it was and where you were.  But I can with Led Zeppelin.

I was on a school lunch break at my friend John’s house with another friend Jamie.  I was told I ‘had to hear this.’  They looked excited so I sat down and waited.  A C90 was produced and stuck into tape player.  After the initial hiss a gentle, teeny tiny acoustic guitar started and was soon joined by pan pipes.  I looked at them to make sure they weren’t kidding.  Being the most gullible little fuck nut ever means I’m liable to be taken in by the odd wind up.  Slowly though the song grew.  Vocals joined in, a great voice.  The words passed me by but there was that strange feeling, like I’d heard the song before when I hadn’t.  At 4 minutes and 18 seconds the drums kicked in and I fell in love.  The song changed so much in that moment, the building and building to that most explosive, most spine tingling guitar solo of all time.  I can remember the hairs going up on the back of my neck hearing it for the first time and yet there was still more.  That last gasps of true Rock, Plant screaming the words.  Suddenly my world changed.

Stairway to Heaven, bless it, gets decried a lot.  It isn’t Zepp’s best song, but as introduction to a band it’s second to none.  Plant’s vocals and words, Page’s staggering guitar playing but most of all Bonham’s drumming all combine to deliver one of the most famous songs of all time.  Live it went on for several years but the original recording sounds like it comes from another world.  The whole of Led Zeppelin 4 is like that.  Jamie put it on a C90 for me; he even inserted a scrap of paper with some of the words from Stairway scrawled on it.  I still have that somewhere at my Mum’s.  I listened and listened to that album, poured over it.  It was approaching twenty years of age when I heard it for the first time, but it still sounded fresh and vital.  It still does.  It’s just a great album, maybe one of the greatest ever.

It turned out that the previous three were pretty special too and that what came later was even better.  My Mum had never heard of them.  In fact it seemed at the time that no one had.  Being me, I had to understand why.  They never released any singles.  Weird huh?  They were huge in the states, out selling the Beatles but the UK, despite people buying the albums rarely ever played them on the Radio.  Well not in those days prior to the commercial station boom.

Zeppelin changed the way I listened to music more than any other band.  I started to appreciate craft more than ever.  As much as I loved Queen it was easy to see how much of an influence Plant’s writing had been on Mercury.  This was a band that defined what it was to be ‘Rock and Roll’.  A band that lived the dream to its fullest and a band that made some of the greatest rock songs ever.  They still make my spine tingle.  They made me appreciate the blues; understand that music could be down right dirty and sexual.  They made me see that in ‘heavy’ there could be melody and more than anything else they started my love affair with quite/loud that pretty much defines my music collection.  They, or rather Bonham made me understand how vital a drummer could be, how a song can be so driven by one man and some sticks. 

One of the joys of Zeppelin is that Plant’s vocals are often as much as an instrument as the guitar, bass and drums.  There aren’t many Led Zepp songs that are gonna make your eyes well up at the emotion contained deep within the lyrics, but it’s about the sound.  Listen to something like No Quarter from 1973, the words are nonsense really with a few references to Thor etc but as part of the song, the mildly distorted voice just works.

Led Zeppelin were greater than the sum of their parts.  It’s just that the parts were pretty special to start with.  Last year I got to see John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page play with the Foo Fighters at Wembley.  My lasting impression was Dave Grohl’s face, utterly in awe of these men and his joy at getting to play two of their songs with them. 

Zeppelin were special.  Their influence was wide and far reaching not because they pushed boundaries, they just did that shit better than anyone else and they knew it.    

1 comment:

diaryofaledger said...

I write better when I'm under pressure.