Richard Rodriguez Navi Pillay
Romei Rotondo, unregenerate music lover, is an out-of-practice
rock guitarist, and an artist living and working in Montreal.
The editor of this publication regards (bar none) Rotondo
as Canada's most distinguished portrait
just a kid back in ‘69, hanging out at Dany’s, a
bar in the north end of Montreal, shooting pool with the juke
box blasting out. The music was always loud and mostly good,
but this was different. Like someone shot 50,000 volts up my
song was “Good Times, Bad Times.” It opened with
two mega-potent chords repeated five times over. And these power
chords, as they would later come to be known, were the first
the world would hear of Led Zeppelin. With them the rock universe
would forever be shaken from its three chord complacency to
the one chord jolt. No build up. You heard the needle scratching
the disc then bang, a sonic tsunami, over-the-top ear-arresting
accents and phrasing propelled by the powerful, locomotive drumming
of John Bonham; John Paul Jones’ “contrapuntal”
bass, melodic and up front -- McCartneyish in a way -- and Robert
Plant’s one-of-a-kind voice, wide ranging, raw and vanquishing,
like the shrill of the eagle announcing his soaring return to
his eyrie with prey in talons
course this was still a blues song. In fact two of the tracks
on their eponymous debut album were Willie Dixon covers, but
with a menacing eruptive attitude never quite before heard,
remote yet engaging; bearing a Wagnerian Teutonic neutrality
But explosive originality aside, already in
this, their first LP, one could detect something compositionally
unique about Zeppelin, as in “Black Mountain Side,”
an instrumental ditty
played in open D A D G A D, a rhythmic throwback to Celtic Britannia,
a harbinger of more to come; a sound evolving years later into
“The Houses of the Holy,” “Kashmir”
Page had awakened Thor from a
millennium deep sleep to announce the end of the 60s, introducing
a sound guitarists would emulate for decades to come.
no one could yet anticipate where this band was heading, but
for Rolling Stone critic John Mendelsohn, in his initial
appraisal of Led Zeppelin I, to refer to Jimmy Page
as “weak and unimaginative" came off as a bit stupid.
The band was voltaic, the music severe, the riffs gripping and
contagious, effortlessly lofty, never pompous. Led Zeppelin
weren’t a “mere blues” band, they were the
best rock band to ever hit the stage assuming one had an ear
for the genre, and if one didn’t, why pay the guy to write
II provided yet again another shocker jolter of an opener
with “A Whole Lot of Love,” quite possibly the most
iconic song of the 70s: an electrifying 3-note riff sustaining
the song like a mantra, equally metallic and airy. As far as I’m
concerned, the opening riff to “A Whole Lot Of Love”
is equal to any classical motif. Of course not nearly as structurally
complex as the simplest of Bach’s concertos, but as energetic
as the imaginary black hole -- zero volume, maximum weight. That’s
riff power. That’s rock. And no one riffed it better than
Jimmy Page. And never twice quite the same. Zeppelin could come
down kryptonite-hard then surprise you with the suave easy going
rhythmic harmonic strumming of “Ramble On,” abruptly
winding to full stop before the power hook zinger. Cut 3, Side
2, 4:35 of bliss. After Zep II there was no doubt –
this was no gloss, these guys were for real.
. . . and from the “darkest depths of Mordor” in “Ramble
On,” Zeppelin sang of the “Immigrant” odyssey
from the cold lands of the north to far away western shores, on
ships steered by the steel cold hammer of the gods driven on by
the memorable opening inside the string F# octave plucked riff,
just the one F# note picked between strings. Simple. As simple
as “Open Ye Sesame.” If the listener was expecting
more of Zep II on Zep III he would have been
untitled fourth album featured “Stairway to Heaven,”
one of rock’s greatest songs ever. A blend of acoustic
and electric where the power chord relents to the moody A-minor
arpeggio slowly building into an up tempo elaborate guitar solo.
Dreamy yet never sentimental.
were not a band for the lonely hearts. Theirs was the chant
of iron age druids in anticipation of mystical conflict, as
“In The Battle of Evermore,” a musical journey back
to the days of a long distant past, rekindling in the listener’s
palpitating heart that primordial flame whose eternal light
bears witness to all great music.
The Celtic dirge furthers on out in later songs like “No
Quarter,” an iconic slow building tune, a whimsical blend
of keyboards, vocals and strings, as wailing winds lifting before
the storm heralding the joyful delirium of the riff. A classic.
In my opinion Zep’s best. Possibly the most overlooked
song in all of rock. If Pink Floyd ‘Set the Controls to
the Heart of the Sun,’ Led Zeppelin led us before the
ancient altars of the Houses Of the Holy, a mostly
acoustic album set in the cool mood of Nordic heathers and shiny
the experimental Physical Graffiti, we’re in
“Kashmir,” a tune reminiscent of “Black Mountain
Side,” where perhaps better than anywhere in rock the
“east west twain” does meet. Unlike the Jefferson
Airplane, Doors, King Crimson, Deep Purple et al, Zeppelin
didn’t merely superimpose the Arabic scale onto a western-bluesy
structure, but fused the two into one.
Zeppelin experience comes to completion with In Through
The Out Door where “In The Evening” opens with
a haunting howling hum fading lazily in the distance followed
by a vintage Page drawn out lick punctuated by stop and go,
in and out chord modulations as if the music lost its way in
a tempest of sonic confusion only to rise out of the labyrinth
into Chaucer’s world of a thousand and one nights. Rock
drifts from the Mississippi delta across to the song of Stonehenge
to eventually merge with its supposed oriental counterpart.
so the fantasy ends.
the enchantment will forever live on in their music.
those of us raised on rock Led Zeppelin have no rivals. Not
Bene: With the exception of the Beatles, no British band
sold more albums than Led Zeppelin. As for John Mendelsohn of
Rolling Stone magazine? – well who the fuck cares.
Led Zeppelin was for innocent ears -- that is, those who never
heard any of the music they were aping. But I'm glad you have
email@example.com Led Zeppelin was a very good Brit band but groups like
Beatles, Moody Blues,Genesis put out better music, stuff you
can still sing today.
You insult the Beatles....Led Zep are nothing compared to
them....my kids know every Beatle song and not interested
in Led Zep cause Beatle music is plain better.
Led Zeppelin was a great band, good rockin' tunes; Jimmy Page
did invent some cool riffs and he was a great influence on
me as a teenager in spite of severe lackings in the rythm
department. Also "Black Mountain Side" was a total
rip off from Bert Jansch as is almost the entire first album,
a fact partly acknowledged by the band itself.