A FAN’S NOTES
The Determined Renaissance of a Golden God
My painful years in high school ran from 1973 through to 1977. I hated high school so much that I did not repeat a grade although geometry was a bastard and summer school was a drag. The administrators of my school worshipped the papacy. The students, especially the stoners, worshipped Led Zeppelin.
I remember squirming through a hash hazed midnight showing of ‘The Song Remains the Same.’ The film seemed painfully pretentious (a new word in my vocabulary). Sometimes the music soared but more often than not it descended into a dense sludge. Robert Plant did not move like Mick Jagger or even Rod Stewart; he wagged his index finger once in a while. ‘Shake it one time for Elvis.’ Right. And when ‘Stairway to Heaven’ played at the close of a dance in those days, all it meant was an unsettled night alone in bed with braces and elastics in my mouth, acne on my face and southerly frustration.
My brother-in-law Al went to the same school. Our paths did not cross until later in life as he’s seven or eight years older then me. (This age gap has begun to pay off in spades as Al buys as much if not more music than I do, but he forgets what he has. In PEI last month he handed me a sealed copy of ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.’ I said, ‘Thanks but you’ve already given me this one. Did you buy it a third time?’ He peered at the cover for a moment and then replied, ‘No, no… This one was a gift.’ Right. He then substituted a sealed re-mastered copy of ‘Pretty Hate Machine.’) Al’s take on Led Zep’s debut as a longtime music fan and talented amateur pianist is, ‘I never realized the blues could be so heavy.’
Time has been on my side. I no longer associate Led Zeppelin with Catholic schoolboy hell. While Al prefers their first three releases, I’ve embraced ‘Physical Graffiti’ and ‘In Through the Out Door.’ Part of the band’s mystique, if you exclude the misty mountain Hobbit imagery, hysterical rumours of Satanism and shark fins, is the finite nature of their time together. Just nine albums if you count the farewell barrel scrapings of ‘Coda.’ While the Rolling Stones and the Who have staggered to 50 in various incarnations and fits and starts, Led Zep has emulated the Beatles to date: that’s it; that’s all. The tantalizing exception was the one-off 2007 London reunion concerted documented on the mesmerizing ‘Celebration Day.’
The hype and hope for a full-scale tour were eventually quashed by one man, Robert Plant. God knows how many gazillions of dollars he’s left on the table. While his band-mates and their fans all wish the sensational space shifter would travel backward, you absolutely have to admire the mighty re-arranger’s refusal to revisit the heyday of his fame. Everybody can pound sand. His steps as a solo act upon Led Zep’s dissolution were tentative. He took years to find his own sound as a big 80s log rolled over 29 palms. No rocker from my teenage years has shed quite so heavy an anchor to evolve into such a vibrant and current artist in his own right.
Think of it: Roger Waters is still tearing down ‘The Wall.’