Friday, September 21, 2007

Led Zeppelin

Tonight, while channel surfing, I came across "The Song Remains The Same", a film of Led Zeppelin's 1973 concert at Madison Square Garden. I was a big Zeppelin fan back then, and even got to see them in Memphis during their 1975 tour. We had the cheapest seats in the house, back BEHIND the stage, looking down on them. Can't say I remember much of it ... whether it's the fact that it was 32 years ago, or the fact I was pretty stoned, or both ... but I certainly remember being in awe of the sound those guys produced.

Which is what struck me again tonight. Led Zeppelin was brilliantly creative. Their songs were hard-edged and raw. Where most musicians are concerned with the "right" way to play their instruments, Page did all kinds of things to create unique sounds, like playing his guitar with a violin bow. You just don't see that today. Almost all today's groups (that you hear about, anyway) are slickly over-produced with all the jagged edges polished away. So about the best reaction you can hope for is "hey, that's pretty good!". Whereas with Led Zeppelin, my reaction is "oh ... my ... gawd ..."

So why don't we have more Led Zeppelins these days? I think part of it is the times. In the late 60's and early 70's there was a lotta turmoil. There were race riots and mass marches against the Vietnam War. There were hippies and druggies and straights and rednecks and Woodstock, and change going on in every facet of the country. And this was reflected in the music. The music of 1973 was a universe away from the music of 1963. You just don't have that today. There's no sense of large-scale social turmoil, just everybody going about their daily business. And the music of 2007 is really no different than the music of 1997.

Kinda makes me nostalgic for 1973. There was an energy then. But after we pulled out of Vietnam and the anti-war movement ended, people just wanted to party. Led Zeppelin gave way to the Bee Gees. The last time I felt anything remotely resembling the nation's sense of optimism in the 70's was Bill Clinton's first inauguration.

So while there are certainly some great young musicians out there right now (Jonny Lang, for one), I just don't see the creative geniuses to compare with Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Hendrix.


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