Get the Led Out
In honor of Led Zeppelin being presented with a Lifetime Grammy award, I offer you a partial past effort, on the meaning behind Zep songs, and a short survey. And a gratuitious picture of me in a Led Zeppelin shirt (and Dorothy Hammil haircut and perky boobs), circa 1976.
There was a time when I considered Led Zeppelin to be gods. Most people my age went through that phase. We quoted lyrics left and right and debated the meaning behind each song. Plant and Page were geniuses, deep thinkers, philosophers.
Yea, right. What is deep thinking to a 14 year old mesmerized by heavy guitars and pounding rythms and Robert Plant's hair turns into foolishness and pretension when you take away the haze of few joints and flights of teenage fancy.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!
Did we really sing these lyrics out loud? Valhalla, I am coming? How did we not break into fits of laughter when we said those words?
On we sweep with threshing oar
We must have been really stoned.
Sure, they had plenty of tunes that were about love and sex and things other than faeries and Norse gods. But those weren't the lyrics that were endlessly debated. Those were not the lyrics quoted as if they were the mantra of your life.
We sang The Battle of Evermore as if we were story tellers. We felt the pain, the despair, the anguish. Oh, we were so deep, so in tune with our lyrical heroes.
Queen of Light took her bow, And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone
You know, we had no idea what they were going on about. It just sounded good. It sounded like poetry. It sounded deep. In turn, we thought it made us sound scholarly and deep when we sat around ruminating about the Prince of Peace and his Queen.
Our favorite song at one point was No Quarter:
The winds of Thor are blowing cold.
They're wearing steel that's bright and true
Maybe our Tolkien-drenched minds kept us from finding the lyrics to be amusing and pretentious, like I do now. We were living in this outer realm, where hobbits existed and wars were fought between inhuman creatures. Plant knew that, he knew the mindset of the kids those days. And he played on it. Either that or he did a lot of acid.
Now, forgive me for this next part. I know that some of you consider Stairway to Heaven the Greatest Song Ever. I sure did back in the day. But please, look at these lyrics.
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
One summer night, five of sat on the open tailgate of a someone's mom's station wagon, parked in the last row of a drive-in theater (double feature: Kentucky Fried Movie and Groove Tube). For two hours, we discussed the meaning behind the lyrics to that song, spending an awful lot of time on the "bustle in your hedgerow" line. We each had a different interpreation of the song. We each took our own meaning from it. And that was deep, man. I mean, wow...they spoke to each one of us in a different way. How fucking cool!
It was only years later that I realized the words probably mean nothing except that Robert Plant read a lot of books. He strung some thoughts and words from his favorite novels together, mixed them in a blender and called it Stairway to Heaven.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.
Anyone care to explain that line? To be a rock and not to roll. They revisited that theme again in The Rover with the line You got me rockin' when I ought to be a-rollin', which took on a decidedly different tone than the rock and the roll from Stairway. Maybe he was just running out of words at this point, a consideration to be taken seriously when you realize that the next Zep album was Presence.
I still do listen to Zep once in a while, and there are far, far better songs than Stairway to get my old school groove on to. After careful consideration, I'd have to say my favorite Zeppelin song is either Trampled Underfoot or Ramble On, both for very different reasons. Though you can still find me playing air guitar to Black Dog every once in a while.
So, what's your favorite Zeppelin song?
[I just remembered to add this - last week we went out to eat for a Chinese New Year celebration at a local restuarant - they had a meal time show with dragons and dancing and a 40 minute drum/gong/cymbal solo, during which I yelled out Moby Dick..Dick...Dick...!]