Thursday, May 6, 2010


That's kind of like asking which hundred dollar bill I'd like to have, from a stack of them in your hand. Or like when The Princess discusses her boyfriend de jour. It changes frequently, often depending on which Zeppelin song I'm listening to at the time.

Right now, I'm thinking that Trampled Underfoot might be my favorite LZ song. Yesterday, and on many prior occasions, I've been convinced it was SIBLY. Or Kashmir. Or Going to California.

And so on.

That's the power of music with a band that speaks to you. I don't care if it's Russian Polka music, if it talks to you, it talks to you. Music soothes the savage beast, I have long found, and back in the days of the hour long commute each day to work, I used to pick with care every few days appropriate selections for the round trip.

I enjoyed epic double albums (CD's really, but I'm getting old and set in my ways) like the Drive By Truckers "Southern Opera". It was perfect for a round trip two-fer. By the time I got home, I had been entertained, done some thinking about the lyrics, and in the process I had relaxed greatly from an often high stress job.

So I was thinking today how little I've posted about Led Zeppelin and it's members, as a band and individually. And I guess that's gonna have to change. It's nice to find other people out there who are intelligent, not crazy and who "get" certain kinds of music with whom you can critically (with hopefully some tawdry gossip thrown in) discuss music and something other than the fucked up politics of the world where we live. And messed up economy. And messed up environment. And so on.

And you learn things you didn't think about before. For example, I had always known that the Sub-Saharan and Morrocan regions provided early inspiration for Page and Plant as they began to make some money and could travel early in their career. I know they took a "fact finding" expedition to those areas to listen and absorb and learn how to play those unique rhythms and different instruments. I've heard they both spent some time becoming familiar, but perhaps not proficient, with certain instruments as later come to play in their music, particularly in their post-zeppelin careers, both individually and together.

But I had never thought of the Welsh and Celtic connections and allusions in their music, and of the many legends that go along with those cultures and related cultures. I knew about them, I just never connected the dots. Sometimes I can be so clueless about something like that which should be obvious, as I've always been real observant and good at seeing the big and little picture.

So along with thinking about that instead of the Dow Jones or the Market or Greece or any of the other myriad of potentially life changing events for the rest of the world, I think it's much more relaxing and indeed, personally productive to think about Led Zep instead of impending disaster on numerous fronts. Keep posted on the news, yes, but don't get hooked on the CNN live feed. Or so I say.

So I like to think about things like surf fishing or fishing for golden trout in the small creeks of the Eastern Sierra Mountains in California. Or my favorite Led Zeppelin song.

Today, as I said above, my favorite LZ song is Trampled Underfoot. In sort of a trifecta, I decided today to compliment this choice, thus my favorite album side was side 2 from Physical Grafitti, which includes the above favorite song as well as Kasmir and Houses of the Holy. Unsurprisingly, Physical Grafitti is currently in my car player and ranks as favorite album at this time.

The favorite live CD I've ever heard of Zeppelin arose from a very well recorded show in 1969 in Dallas, Texas. It was about a 45 or 50 minute opening set, but everything came through crystal clear and it's a real good live recording. They were just on the cusp of fame and fortune but at that time they were still Hon-Gray and hyped up on the excitement of the sudden rush of fame.

John Bonham had just received his first set of Ludwig Drums as an endorser, thanks to Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice. The big natural finish Maple kit. Legend has it that Bonham's kit included twin bass drums like Appice's, but that at the first rehearsal with them, Page insisted that he cut down to one bass drum. As I recall, Bonham was using twin medium sized congos where he would later position a tympani drum.

Bonham was loyal as a dog to Ludwig and Paiste cymbals. I admire loyalty. There were tons of drum companies will to drop LARGE dollars on Bonham back then if he'd switch, but he was loyal. According to legendary drummer Jim Keltner (studio great, Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen and solo albums by Ringo, Lennon and Harrison over the years), he once was able to "tap" on Bonzo's drums on stage before a gig. To his great surprise, the HUGE drums Bonham played were tuned way up high, like jazz drums. Keltner thought the drums must be waiting to be tuned, for there was no way those drums could belt out Bonzo's signature thumps.

Keltner will tell you in the same breath that he was dead wrong. The drums had been tuned, very much to John Henry's liking. He came out to start the show, made a few minor adjustments and then low and behold, Bonham's signature deep sound was coming out of those tinny, high-pitched drums. To this day, Keltner will tell you he doesn't know how that happened, that Bonzo could get "that sound" out of those high pitched drums.

And such is another tidbit of history about Led Zep. And I submit, that the history and back story behind the makers of that music that takes you away or really moves you is as important as any other history about any other subject. As mentioned above, particularly in these turbulent times.

Led Zep made their own path, and plowed their own roads. Few had been where Zep would go, and really few bands are as revered 30 years after they ended, save for a few of their contemporaries and predecessors like the Rolling Stones. I regret that I didn't get to see them at O2, and wonder when that DVD they recorded of the O2 show is going to be released.

Even more than that regret, I *really really really really* regret in the mid-70's taking a date to see some top 40 artist whose name I've long forgotten in a concert that she just had to see. At the last minute, I got offered a chance to go see Led Zeppelin in the Summit. I foolishly chose to please the date and take her to the promised show, thinking I'd have the chance to catch Zep in the future. That was the last time they came through Houston.

But thanks to the release of How The West Was Won a few years back, with a nice TV you can at least see the boys in action better than in the movie they made in the 70's. I also admit a certain fondness for the NO QUARTER project that Page and Plant did. The DVD is excellent, and features the late, great Michael Lee on drums, playing a massive marching snare with a Bonham sized kit. And just rocking those drums like nobody's bidness.

The Led Zeppelin Unplugged MTV show DVD is also one of my favorites. It's different, but like No Quarter, it's cool as hell and it rocks.

An essential part of a desert island music list would include the Zep's BBC LIVE 2 CD set. As with the BBC Live sets by Hendrix and Rory Gallagher, this one catches them fairly early in their career, well into their classic material but still lean and mean.

Now as I've been writing this, I've been thinking of some of my OTHER favorite songs by Zep. But I remain steadfastly resolute in my resolve not to change the above choices of my favorite Zep selections.

Until next week. I promise.

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