Thursday, August 21, 2014

29 Led Zeppelin (1969) Led Zeppelin

1. Good Times Bad Times
2. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
3. You Shook Me
4. Dazed and Confused
5. Your Time Is Gonna Come
6. Black Mountain Side [Instrumental]
7. Communication Breakdown
8. I Can't Quit You Baby
9. How Many More Times

It's worth taking a minute or two to admire the guts of Jimmy Page. People revere him as a guitarist, and it's right that they should, but he's much more than just one of a bunch of great players of a Fender stratocaster or Les Paul. Jimmy Page created Led Zeppelin and their legacy in a way that few people have created a band before. He's more than just a guitar-slinger, he's a band leader, producer and visionary with no shortage of chutzpah (a word I'm happy to type but don't have enough chutzpah to actually try and say).

Page created Led Zeppelin out of the ruins of The Yardbirds, a band he was in until the rest of the line up decided they weren't in it with him. The Yardbirds fell apart completely leaving Page with rights to the name but nobody to play with. He immediately set about assembling a band and called on John Paul Jones, a bass player he'd done a lot of session work with. He chose Robert Plant after checking him out in a tiny club gig and being amazed at his abilities. Apparently Page's initial reluctance to sign him up was because he felt anyone that talented who wasn't famous must have been incredibly hard to work with. Plant recommended Bonham on drums and the band had a try out and apparently gelled immediately and went on a tour of Scandinavia as The New Yardbirds to fulfil an outstanding contract.

When they returned Page decided to get a recording contract but rather than audition for record executives he paid for studio time out of his own pocket. The first Led Zeppelin album was funded and produced entirely by Page without any record executives looking over his shoulder telling him what he should or shouldn't do. He mixed the tapes and then strode boldly into Atlantic and said "Listen to this". They fell over themselves and decided to sign up the band for a huge advance and were prepared to give Page unprecedented levels of control over future Led Zeppelin albums.

When Page's first band collapsed he had the guts to back his own abilities and assemble other players who could accomplish his vision and then direct them as their leader. Then he had the temerity to back himself and tell a record company what terms he would let them sign him up with. That's some fairly gutsy play in my book.

While he had a lot of skills, it could be argued that one of them wasn't really songwriting. As others are quick to point out, the majority of Led Zeppelin is made up of blues covers, several of which aren't fully attributed to the original artists who deserve a song-writing credit. Even Dazed and Confused, which for many is Zep's signature tune, owe's a huge debt to a song by Jake Holmes. He's also overstated his credit for Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, You Shook Me, I can't Quite you Baby and How Many More Times and been called out for it several times. He's been called a plagiarist although Page probably prefers to be called an interpreter if he bothers responding to the charge at all.

Regardless of who wrote the songs in their original form, Page can take credit for turning them into hard edged rock and roll. He's the one who took Dazed and Confused and gave it the grunt and the power. He's the guy who decided to play a guitar solo with a violin bow and to make the whole thing into a proto-Heavy metal odyssey. He's the one who told the others how to play and sat behind the control deck and then the mixing desk. He called the shots and made sure they were big booming shots that the whole world heard.

Led Zeppelin 1 (as this is often called) is fantastic and we owe credit to Page for making his vision real. The rest of the band are brilliant at what they do but we should thank Jimmy P for having an idea and turning into a barnstorming reality.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "In fact, Led Zepplin is ALREADY forgoten -- NOBODY in my hi school has ever hear of them, or any song they've ever done."

-This is clearly nonsense. There are kids rocking to Led Zeppelin at every high school in the English speaking world.

So does this go down like a Led Zeppelin for you? Let me know below.

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