I got into Led Zeppelin relatively late in life. I don’t know why I put off listening to them in earnest for so long, but once I heard them, there was no going back. For one, I love the blues and I love how well they use it and fuse it with rock in their earlier albums. There is something phenomenal about Jimmy Page’s guitar skills, and Robert Plant’s vocals cannot be beat or replicated. Bonham’s drumming skills are insane, and John Paul Jones is a mad genius. They will never be replicated, nor should they be.
That being said, I also really like the fact that they took some pretty big chances. Not all of their work stuck to the same sound. Think of it: the same band brought us Whole Lotta Love, Stairway to Heaven, D’ya Maker, Fool in the Rain, Houses of the Holy, Dazed and Confused, Tangerine, Kashmir, Ramble On, Going to California, and on and on and on. None of those songs sound the same. The intro to Stairway is a throwback to Tudor court music, Black Dog has something like 98 time signature changes (and the second half is a sonic mirror image to the first half, I believe), and God knows what else. At some point it became vogue to hate Stairway to Heaven, and part of me gets it, but on the other hand…there’s a reason it’s played so much. It’s an incredible fusion of lyrics and blazing music. The hope in the words directly reflects the heat of the guitar solo. It’s awesome. Honestly, they may be hard rock, they may be blues rock, but they’re a little hard to classify if you line up all their tracks together.
I also get that it’s become vogue to only like certain Zep stuff, or proclaim them as boring or your dad’s band or whatever. It’s the same old old vs. new music debate. The fact remains that these guys are damn good musicians. The songs are catchy, smart, and blazed a trail when they were written. And the songs are hot. Some of those lyrics are just sinful coming out of Robert Plant’s mouth, they border on being a whole other education besides the musical kind.
Plus, there’s soul there. It may be convoluted at times, but there’s soul buried deep in the music. My absolute favorite Zeppelin song is Over the Hills and Far Away. It’s philosophy is beautiful, the music is gorgeous, the guitar superb…and it’s a wonderful blend of gentle and hard. Maybe that’s what I like about the band: they incorporate folk, artistic ideals with a really hard edge and hot undertone.
Plus, it’s hard to deny their stage presence. They knew how to play together. They knew how to work a crowd. They knew how to give people a show that was worth paying for. They extended songs by huge amounts of time, they played forever. You were getting an awesome experience if you saw a live Zeppelin show.
Love them or hate them, make no mistake about it…you hang out with me for long, you will hear Zeppelin. you will hear Stairway to Heaven. And if you complain I will torture you mercilessly with that and all the other tracks I’ve amassed through the years.