Sunday, November 25, 2007

In the days of my youth

In the days of my youth
I was told what it means to be a man
Now I've reached that age
I've tried to do all those things the best I can
No matter how I try
I find my way to the same old jam
---Led Zeppelin, "Good Times Bad Times"

Let me tell you about my wife. I love my wife and think she is incredibly beautiful. If I posted a picture of her, some people might agree, and some might say "Ehh, overrated if you ask me." But I think she is lovely so the heck with the other opinions. All in the eye of the beholder.

Kind of like that with music. I grew up when Led Zeppelin was still together, before John Bonham died. My cousins were typical 70's classic rock lovers, with their bedrooms full of Nazareth, Nugent, Johnny Winter Group... anything Circus magazine covered at the time. But they loved Zep. The cool guys in my junior high and high school all loved Zep. I just didn't get it and didn't care. My band was Kiss. I got into a lot of Kiss vs Zep arguments/fights. I can remember when Bonham died. A lot of guys were bummed because they had tickets to the upcoming tour. For me... Zep was gone and good riddance. I would have told you that they were incredibly overrated. Fool In The Rain? What the hell was that crap, Beavis?

You've been learnin'
And baby, I been learnin'
All them good times
Baby, baby, I've been discernin'-a
---Led Zeppelin, "Whole Lotta Love"

Flash forward 15 years. Page and Plant put out the No Quarter album, and just out of curiosity I watch the show. The song Thank You comes on and I am very taken with how beautiful the song is. All of a sudden I have to give Zeppelin a second look. Now Thank You is the same song now that it was then that it was in the 70's, but I am different, and looking at it through a music lover's eyes rather than a junior high "clique A vs clique B" attitude. I bought the CD but still didn't think about getting into the Zeppelin catalog. I didn't want to hear any backwards messages or anything. (Not that there were any; that was just my mindset at the time.)

Jump ahead another ten years. It is now 2006-2007. I am still a big Kiss fan, and I have just discovered the magic of bootlegs. A downloadin' I will go. Amidst the 200-plus shows I get by Kiss, I notice some Zeppelin boots. My inner stoner says to taste and see that the Zep is good, and I comply. The 1977 Cleveland "Destroyer" show didn't do much for me, but when I downloaded the Blueberry Hill boot... well holy stinkin' crap. That concert kicked my a**. When this band get this good? I had to get as much as I could. 80 shows is nowhere near what is available, but some trading vines are going to bump up my total.

To make a short story long, my point is this. Was Zeppelin overrated in 1979 but the greatest thing since sliced bread in 2007? No; they were the same band playing the same music. I was the one that changed. I found it much easier to appreciate the band's musicianship when teenage boys weren't threatening to kick my a** unless I traded in my Kiss Army badge for four runes. Time changes perspective. I think that Jeff Beck is just another guitarist. I hear Eddie Van Halen and think "ehh, whatever." Give me some time and maybe I will change my tune (pun intended).

Do I think Led Zeppelin is overrated? No, but my opinion doesn't really matter that much. I personally think that history will hold out Led Zeppelin as very influential in the course of hard rock music. The fact that they could pull off electric blues, hard rock and folk music on the same album, and made it sound cohesive (in most cases) testifies to their musicianship. Yeah, they stole from blues masters. Bob Dylan stole from old folk records; Alex Haley plagiarized a good portion of Roots. Their art still had an influence that went beyond their "reworking" of original material. Heck, without the Zeppelin records I would never have bothered to check out the old blues stuff.

If you like Zep, raise the banner high. If you don't like them and think they're overrated, turn people on to the bands you do like. There are people out there who need to be turned on to a fantastic show that you have your hands on. Go out and spread the word!

Little drops of rain whisper of the pain
Tears of loves lost in the days gone by
My love is strong, with you there is no wrong
Together we shall go until we die, my, my, my
An inspiration's what you are to me, inspiration, look and see
---Led Zeppelin, "Thank You"


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