Once, I sent a long email to the Legal Eagle talking about how I think the opening to Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” may be the quintessential guitar moment in the last half of the 20th century. He sent me back a polite email about how he had no idea what song I was talking about.
The Redheaded Kid loathes Led Zeppelin and I mean loathes them to such an extent that we can’t even talk about them because he gets angry and I get angry and I start sounding like some old fogey talking about “kids today” and he starts talking about how the best thing Jimmy Page ever did was record with David Coverdale, which causes me to about die, and that pretty much ends the conversation.
It’s weird. I mean, I’m no first-generation Led Zeppelin fan. I was a baby when their stuff came out, and if not for a t-shirt my mom had, I’d probably not have been curious about them at all (in all fairness, I’m not sure my mom knew who they were. Being a science major, she probably thought the concept of a lead zeppelin was pretty funny.) and, after hearing “Stairway to Heaven” at one too many middle school dance after someone had gotten run over by a train (that or “Dream On”), I wasn’t exactly primed to be a Led Zeppelin fan.
But it seemed like you couldn’t really get into music without having to contend with Zeppelin. Were they Satanic? Were they over-rated? Were they immoral for stealing old blues songs and not giving credit where credit was due? Was John Bonham really a man or some kind of god incarnate straining against the confines of his uncomfortable mortal body? Could folks really spontaniously orgasm while listening to Plant?
To my way of thinking, they are everything a rock band should be: talented, good-looking, immoral, steeped in history, and self-mythologizing.
Yes, it really bothers me that they stole from old blues singers. And it bothers me that I know that and listen anyway–listen and love. Sure, one can come to some kind of esoteric understanding of American music by pondering the verse “The girl I loved, I stole her from a friend, joker got lucky, stole her back again” (as it appears in Alan Jackson’s song) right next to the Robert Johnson version, “The woman I love, took from my best friend, some joker got lucky, stole her back again.” But the gain of occult knowledge doesn’t excuse such blatent theivery, does it?
I steal from you, you steal from me, is only fair if we both make money or both stay broke. Though maybe it’s a blues verse because it’s not fair.
Anyway, Led Zeppelin…
I hope they haven’t faded into obscurity.