Led Zeppelin, revisited

This weekend I was wandering around this cute little shop and I look up and there, painted on the wall, is “Whole Lotta Love.” This caused me to turn to the man I was having coffee with and ask him the question I’ve been asking everyone all week, which is, other than Krupa, Bonham, and that guy from Sepultura, are there any other drummers you recognize by sound alone?

He says to me, “When my wife asked me to turn down the CD player this morning, I said, ‘Oh, that’s right, women don’t listen to Led Zeppelin.'”

Well, I guess that’s true. Other than me, I don’t know any women who listen to Led Zeppelin.

Let’s come back to this.

On my way home from Kentucky, I heard Dean Martin do a version of Patsy Cline’s “She’s got you.” About halfway through the song, I realized I was smiling, and not just that ‘oh, how nice to hear Dean again’ smile, but the ‘I’m way too drunk and way too close to you’ smile. And I thought about it, and I reckon I probably have that smile on my face any time I hear Dean Martin.

Other people like Frank Sinatra, and fair enough, I like him just fine, but of the two of them, I prefer Dean.

Also, on the way home, I was listening to Muddy Waters and he has this line in one of his songs where he’s talking about what it is about women that drives men crazy and he says “Must be the same thing that makes a preacher lay his Bible down.” That, my friends, is an awesome line. That says something about lust, right there, about how it makes a man turn his back on his whole life, sometimes.

And the Muddy Waters album I have has that great song “You Shook Me,” which is one of the blues songs Led Zeppelin helped themselves to, and that got me thinking that maybe a more interesting question to have been asking all week would have been, other than Dean and McKinley and Robert, are there other men that sing like they know having sex with you is inevitable?

Which brings me back to my real question, which is, why do straight men listen to Led Zeppelin? Or Muddy Waters? Or Dean Martin?

I mean, I know why I listen. I listen because I find men who sound like they know what they’re doing and yet can’t help but want to do it with you (and not just you, but every woman they can) immensely pleasurable in small doses. It might be annoying in real life to hang out frequently with someone that self-assured and insatiable, because, at the same time you’d be the most important thing he was doing right then, every woman would also potentially be the most important thing. The jealousy would do me in.

But to take a few minutes, in the car or in the shower or wherever you have an obliging CD player, and indulge in that feeling. . . well, of course, that’s a good way to pass the time.

But to me, listening to those guys feels so intimate and so sexually charged that it’s hard for me to understand why straight guys listen. I mean, those guys are hitting on your women! Even out of the grave, they are seducing all of the women within earshot. And we’d go home with them, if we could.

So, how is that pleasurable for you?

I have a suspicion, though it’s one based only on observation, since, obviously, I’m not a man.

I think that, as shitty a job as we do as a society helping women navigate our desires, we do just as shitty a job helping you navigate yours. For better or for worse, at least we have two well-established stories about our desires–virgin or whore–and it’s easy enough to figure out which one you are.

But what do you guys have? Right now, it seems like all the Butcher’s friends either imagine themselves as pimps or players or they imagine themselves still at the high school dance standing along the gym wall under the crepe paper and basketball hoops watching the dancing and pretending not to want to be out there too.

The trouble with pimps and players is that it’s a position inevitably hostile to women, in which one’s activities become more about what other men think of you than what the women you’re with think. The trouble with watching from the sidelines is that we women aren’t ever sure if you are standing over there because you’re bored and want to go home or if you’re just dying for someone to ask you to dance.

But these three–Martin, Morganfield, and Plant–map another kind of desire: one in which being a Man is all wrapped up in loving women, all kinds of women. It doesn’t concern itself at all with what other men think (no one believes that the menfolk standin’ in line have come to pray to the Lord when his little girl looks so fine, but we get why he has to believe that). It is just about feeling good and feeling good about the woman that you’re with.

It says a lot about our sorry state of affairs that songs by men who love women feel so strange and wondrous.