One thing I’m enjoying these days is listening to my seventies collection again. The cr*p coming out now really can’t hold a candle to it, the size of current ‘artists’ egos notwithstanding. Of course, what started my retro course was hearing P Floyd again on the Dark Side of the Moon remaster. Sitting in the living room, the sounds surrounding me, I realised that this is something I really enjoy, hearing music that amazes me, not just entertains me.
Floyd’s concept albums- Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, Wish You Were Here and, to an extent, The Wall were what I grew up with. At the time, it seemed that there never had been a greater band with more meaningful a fusion of music and words. In fact, I still love a lot of their stuff to this day. Yet, as I started listening around, I realised that this isn’t entirely true, as this accolade belongs more truely to someone else… Led Zepellin. Surely no rock band has existed before or since that could create such incredible, enveloping sounds. This isn’t to diminish Floyd, but to put them in their proper, yet still exhalted place as one of the greatest bands ever, certainly one with some of the greatest albums, from a time when albums were not so stuffed with ‘filler material’ as they are now. Another advantage Zep has versus most of the other great rock bands is that their music impresses without ever depressing (as The Wall often does). This, for me, marks them out as true Masters of the genre, a genre they themselves created.
Even so, chosing my favourite songs by Zepp is complicated in that their live acts have such incredible, lengthly versions of their work, sometimes going on for as long as 30 minutes… without ever getting boring, more building the passion of their music to new heights. The drumming, guitar solos and simply the perfection of many of their songs have yet to be reached, let alone surpassed. In fact an arguement could be made that, as the inventors of Rock music anything else made since is a form of derivation, however much they themselves got from other bands.
Still, I’ll make an effort now to chose some of my favourite numbers, remembering that the live versions are the best (which you can download as mp3s from sharing sites, or find on some of the newer, remastered, live albums…
Kashmir (not actually about the place, but concerning a mythical journey there, or even to heaven itself. It was composed driving in the Sahara Desert.
Dazed and Confused (especially the live one on the ‘The Song Remains the Same’ concert/film DVD)
Stairway to Heaven (maybe surprisingly to many people, not actually their very best, but still up there)
Since I’ve Been Loving You (like Dazed and Confused, heavy with Blues influences and full of passion and double meanings… not neccessarily just about a woman…)
Going to California (another traveling song and again with the deeper meanings of a heavenly journey, the girl spoken of here being Janis Joplin, whom the band loved).
Of course, there’s loads of other tracks I love, ‘No Quarter’ for instance, which is also a lot more impressive recorded live, but they don’t grip me as much as the ones above. Finding out more about the hidden meanings via the net has really opened them up to me. Led Zep didn’t just know a lot about life, they were also heavily influenced by Tolkein and the mythologies Tolken drew from, as well as knowing a lot of esoterica; hence the mystical symbols on the cover of what would have otherwise been ‘Led Zep IV’; one for each band member.