Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rolling Stone’s backstage pass to Led Zeppelin

Rolling Stone Collectors Edition
Led Zeppelin, The Ultimate Guide to Their Music & Legend

During the 1970s, Led Zeppelin was the definitive heavy metal group of the 1970s, a band that attained legendary status among its millions of devoted followers (myself included). In this Collectors Edition, Rolling Stone has reached into its archives and chosen a series of feature articles, interviews, photographs and album guides to create a compelling and highly readable tribute.

Although this Edition is primarily aimed at hard-core Led Zeppelin fans, it would appeal to any rock fan (casual or hard-core) interested in knowing about the group’s roots and what contributed to its enormous worldwide success.

For me, Led Zeppelin was always about the music, and less about the band’s often-reported antics and excesses on the road. Whether it was a hard-driving number like “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a melodic ballad like “Thank You” or an audacious experimental piece like “Kashmir,” Zeppelin boldly went where no band had gone before.

In these pages, both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page come across as sensitive, passionate and articulate when discussing their respective musical styles and influences. Here’s Jimmy Page speaking to journalist Cameron Crowe in a RS interview from 1975: 
“The term ‘genius’ gets used far too loosely in rock & roll. When you hear the melodic structures of what classical musicians put together and you compare it to that of a rock & roll record, there’s a hell of a long way rock & roll has to go. There’s a certain standard in classical music that allows the application of the term ‘genius,’ but you’re treading on thin ice if you start applying it to rock & rollers. The way I see it, rock & roll is folk music. Street music. It isn’t taught in school. It has to be picked up. You don’t find geniuses in street musicians, but that doesn’t mean to say you can’t be really good. You get as much out of rock & roll artistically as you put into it. There’s nobody who can teach you. You’re on your own, and that’s what I find so fascinating about it.”
For Led Zeppelin, it was all about the musical innovation and following their bliss, at least in the recording studio and during their live performances. This was no pop band intent on repeating formulaic tunes with every new album. Rather, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones were virtuoso performers who wanted to reinvent themselves all the time; they seem not to have cared about achieving top 40 status on any playlist (indeed, the band’s most famous song, Stairway to Heaven, was never released as a single). 

For Zeppelin fans, it was about immersing yourself in the experience: listening to “Zeppelin IV” or “Physical Graffiti” in a friend’s basement or in the car. The music was bold, rapacious, rebellious, sexual and subversive. If you were listening to Zeppelin, you were probably engaging in other recreational pursuits that parents disapproved of. Zeppelin spoke to a generation that wasn't ready to cut its hair and punch a clock. The band had attitude and the talent to back it up, and that was a large part of its appeal. Zep was going to do things its way, and to hell with what anybody thought.

For those young enough to have enjoyed Led Zeppelin during the band’s prime, this Collectors Edition will evoke memories of time spent listening to a band that became synonymous with the 1970s counter-culture. For those who weren’t around back then, the publication will provide a thrilling snapshot of the life and times of one of the most creative, versatile and influential rock bands of all time.

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