Friday, September 26, 2008

Five Badass Acoustic Zeppelin Songs

I remember the moment very well. It was Christmas Eve 1990. I was in a crowded hotel room at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in glamorous Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s sounds a little racy, but it certainly wasn’t. I had just turned thirteen years old. The Westenskow clan had driven the Wagoneer to Vegas on their way to San Diego. Ty Detmer had just won the Heisman a few weeks earlier, BYU was just about to play Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl and we had tickets. And oh man, did BYU get their butts kicked. That was brutal. But it was a fantastic trip and wonderful memory from my childhood that included me almost getting kicked out Disneyland for spitting on a bird from the Sky Ride and my mom smuggling a stiletto for me across the border from Tijuana. Darolynn, you’re a champ.

But this particular night, the five of us (my folks and my two brothers) were enjoying Christmas Eve in Vegas. It was late at night and the whole family was nestled into a single hotel room with two beds. My two brothers and I were entwined in the same queen sized bed, trying in vain to not touch each other. Let me tell you something. My little brother sweat like crazy when he slept. You could grow rice.

The TV was on even though no one was watching it. One of those music commercials came on where the song titles scroll up the screen while they play clips of the music. As I was about to fade away, I heard something that caused me to jerk up in bed, waking up my sweaty little brother. I heard the first few bars of the Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. The commercial was for the Zeppelin Remasters. I had never heard them before, but those ten seconds grabbed my attention. Zeppelin would soon become my first true musical love. It was their music that began my quest for a full appreciation of Rock n Roll’s finest era (1965ish - 1974ish). To this day, if I am bored in a meeting I find myself doodling the four symbols from Zeppelin IV. My hand just works off autopilot.

Led Zeppelin is well known for their Satanic darkness (ooooo, scary!) and face melting power. But my favorite feature is their totally overlooked and completely unique acoustic stuff. Jimmy Page knows how to compose a song.
Bron–Y–Aur StompLed Zeppelin III 1970
Aside from the aforementioned Immigrant Song, Zeppelin III is pretty much an entirely acoustic album. It is my favorite Zeppelin Album. The title (pronounced Bron Er Air) is a reference to a Welsh Cottage where the band wrote the majority of Zeppelin III. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp has a great country folk vibe.
Going To CaliforniaLed Zeppelin IV 1971
Ah, Zeppelin IV. What is it about this record that resonates so well with Junior High aged males? Going To California features the excellent mandolin work of John Paul Jones. It’s kind of Celtic, kind of Bluegrass. I really don’t know what it is but it’s friggin beautiful. Is there another band that sounds anything like this?
Black Country WomanPhysical Graffiti 1975
I’m not sure if this song refers to a woman from the Black Country or a black woman from the country. Either way, I’m cool.
Hot DogIn Through the Out Door 1979
In Through the Out Door has a very different sound than their previous records. They pretty much cut their balls off before they recorded this one. But I don’t care. Fool in the Rain, All of My Love, I’m Gonna Crawl. Maybe I’m an apologist but I like ‘em all. Hot Dog is the only non-80’s sounding song on this record. It is a classic country hoe down. I can picture Slim Whitman crooning to this bad boy.
That’s The Way - Led Zeppelin III 1970
This song is sublime. Page’s open tuned twelve string and Plant’s dreamlike lyrics creates music that sounds like shimmering water. Crank this song next time you’re driving through a heavily forested, winding road. Big Cottonwood Canyon would do nicely. You’ll thank me.

One More - Alright, you can’t feature five Zeppelin songs without throwing in an ear bleeding ass kicker. He is footage of the then unknown band from Manchester on a Danish TV show playing their single off their debut album. Dazed and Confused. If you’re a Zeppelin novice I would recommend skipping Jimmy’s violin bow gimmick. It’s cool and all, but it is a gimmick. At about five minutes, they really turn it on.

It’s interesting to hear an unfiltered live performance like this. Warts and all. Jimmy isn’t perfectly on with his solo, but it’s still entertaining as hell. How can this much sound come from a single beat up Telecaster, one bass guitar and a stripped down drum kit? Holy crap, Bonzo bashes the hell out of those drums. The crowd’s reaction reminds me a bit of Hill Valley High after Marty McFly played a Van Halenesque Johnny B Good at the 1955 Enchantment Under The Sea dance. I wish at the end of this song, Robert Plant said, “You guys may not be ready for this. But your kids are gonna love it.” We do.


Earth Sign Mama said...

See, this is why you were the obvious choice for the phone call from Meredith: you know so much about so much. I sat and listened to each of these selections and you were exactly right about each of them. Very nice.

cool_guy said...

Thoughts on The Yardbirds??

BusterBluth52 said...

Outside of their pedigree, I've never been blown away by them. Most of the Jimmy Page stuff done with them, he redid better with Zeppelin. And as far as early Clapton goes, I'll take Cream any day of the week over The Yardbirds.

But I'm not completely familiar with them, so I could very well be wrong.