Wednesday, October 08, 2003


Apropos of my recent (measured) praise of Led Zeppelin, loyal reader John passes along this gem from Joe Queenan's review of Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored by former Zep tour manager Richard Cole (the review ran originally in the Wall Street Journal in 1992):
[W]e get detailed accounts of lead guitarist Jimmy Page's obsession with witchcraft and whips, and of the band's supposed pact with Satan, in which the lads sold their souls to the Prince of Evil in exchange for commercial success. The band got nine mega-platinum albums, tens of millions of dollars and the teen girls; the Prince of Evil got the souls of an alky fetishist, a junkie leather freak, a singer with too much hair and a so-so keyboardist with a wife and kids. Once again, Satan got the short end of the stick.

But it was a band that was long on influence, and most of it was negative. Virtually everything that is maddening about contemporary rock music comes directly from Led Zeppelin: bad album covers, pretentious lyrics, pointless guitar virtuosity, leaden-footed drumming, skinny singers with too much blond hair, pop Satanism, the complete absence of a sense of humor.
The "definitive sum up of the band," says John, and I agree. Mostly. Like I said in my original post, there was actually some blues underneath the blooze, and it came out more as time went on. And, as for being long on negative influence, you could make the same case for the Summer of Love version of the Beatles. They were just talented enough to pull off something as pompous as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but when you take into account the scores of lesser bands that took big awkward whiffs at that knuckleball, it sure seems like a net loss. (Revolver was better anyway.)

Also, Led Zeppelin wasn't completely lacking in humor. I only recently discovered that the title of the song "D'yer Mak'er" from Houses of the Holy is not some sort of runic riddle like I and everyone else I knew back then always assumed but instead a slangy contraction of that universal post-date question: "Did you make her?"

Adolescent male sexuality dressed up in bogus mysticism--now that's Led Zeppelin!


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