Home > Uncategorized > Lots of things have broken my heart over the years. But Led Zeppelin never did.

Lots of things have broken my heart over the years. But Led Zeppelin never did.

I’m pretty sure I was in 7th grade when I bought my first Led Zeppelin record. Bought all my records from Ralph’s Record City in Scranton….a glorious little hole in the wall run by some pretty cool heads who were never condescending, no matter how much you asked for it. Ralph’s Record City and places like it are the reason why people still love records. The camaraderie of it all. Knowing you were not the only freak in the neighborhood. It certainly isn’t because of how good they sounded (assuming they didn’t skip, requiring things like taping pennies to the arm of the needle…it gives me the willies just thinking about records…”Whole Lotta Love” skipped horribly when I brought it home….and when I finally heard the song the way it was supposed to sound….I swore there was something wrong with it……as if the song isn’t fucked up enough with Plant having his orgasm in the midst of it and all…)

But I digress…which I am prone to do on a Sunday night after too much sun.

Those first few records were pretty staggering stuff for a 13 year old. One listen to “Communication Breakdown” could turn you into a speed freak….just trying to capture that feeling over and over again of Page in overdrive, with Plant’s screechings reaching every corner of my house. Enough so that my Mother was constantly banging the ceiling with a broom in a mostly vain attempt to get me to turn it down. And I was listening on one of them portable cheapies….not much bigger than a piece of carry on luggage today. If I had today’s sound equipment when I was 13 our house may have fallen in on itself.

Jimmy_Page_2008During my 8th grade year I was on a state championship caliber basketball team. I was the Ralph Malph…the guy who never bothered to change my street clothes under the warmups because I never played. But they were some good times bad times nonetheless. On a team trip we were let loose in some mall, and I bought a copy of “The Song Remains the Same” with the money my parents had given me for food. Double album. Of course I couldn’t listen to it until we’d gotten home. If it were up to me the team would have forfeited then and there so I could find a record player and fire up “The Rain Song”.

I survived “The Song Remains the Song”, one of the most self-indulgent live albums of the 70s (and that’s saying something), but what I remember most is taking the liner notes of the album (by Cameron Crowe as I recall) and copying them nearly word for word for some English project. I got an A. It was the first time I was ever called a good writer.

I’ve tried to hate Led Zeppelin ever since.

They were part of the natural order of things though. Most near-teens found them, started drinking and drugging and dreaming, and lived happily ever after. Some of us veered left…..found The Kinks and The Who, and got all snotty and started making fun of “Moby Dick” and “Dazed and Confused”, and waited patiently until the Clash came around and made us feel good about turning off the radio every time it played “Stairway to Heaven”….even then an overplayed chestnut of “classic rock”…which had just been invented.

But a funny thing happened on the way to….well….wherever it was I was supposed to be going.

I never hated Led Zeppelin. But….still….so what if I was hiding in the back-row during those midnight screenings of “The Song Remains the Same”….wearing a hoodie and nipping from a flask…trying to feel superior. Why was I there? What ghastly force kept pulling me  back towards Jimmy and his evil band of groupie ravaging, depraved Aleister Crowley worshipers?

And what in the sweet name of Blanket Jackson am I doing speaking such gibberish now? Get a hold of yourself son! The 70s are long gone. Bonham died like a Spinal-Tap drummer…..and Plant is now a country music frontman playing the Harford Fair circuit with Alison Krause. Nobody really cares about Jones because he’s only the bass player. Page is as grey as a badger, forever having to endure the shame of playing with David Coverdale. It’s over.  Nothing to see here. Move along.

Except it isn’t of course. Page has spent the past few years alternating between re-working the band’s entire catalog and calling Plant names for not wanting to tour again and make a kajillion dollars (recently Plant was heard to say that Page needs a “good rest”. Some good old fashioned prima donna press bitching!)  Zeppelin is back.

Not that they ever went away.

Their first 3 records have been re-mastered and re-released with scads of unreleased and live material, alternate takes and different mixes. I wanted to be cynical about all of this.

My daughter has their entire catalog on her Ipod. She is 15.

I said…..”what about the Clash?” She said, “who?”

So you see….we are doomed to repeat the past. And I still can’t figure out the riff to “Heartbreaker”.

I miss them days. I miss Ralph’s Record City. I miss the anticipation of hearing the music. No leaks in them days. No short cuts.

I miss the decadence, even though I was always way too much the guilty irish catholic to participate (well…mostly).

Today I listened to “The Battle of Evermore” and “Four Sticks”…..grinning from ear to ear. “When the Levee Breaks” forced out the headphones. Those drums are way too much for my quiet neighborhood.

And “Fool in the Rain”. You might not love it….but I sure do. Still.

Lots of people and things have broken my heart over the years. But Led Zeppelin never did. And, I don’t expect them too. Ever.

In a bit..

-tf

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