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Thread: Help me understand Led Zeppelin?

  1. #1

    Help me understand Led Zeppelin?

    I have in the past admitted to being a non-fan of Led Zeppelin. (Or bragged about it. Whatever.) But I want to understand the phenomenon that surrounds them, why so many people think they are the peak of rock'n'roll. So please help me understand.

    OK, so. I watched the footage of "The Song Remains The Same/Rain Song" that was recently posted on another thread, and it helped a little. I've heard a limited amount of their live material in the past. This wasn't bad, though it didn't make me sing. I'd never heard TSRTS before, but "Rain Song" is notably superior to the studio version.

    (As footage, it was bad. Very bad. They never once focused the camera on Jones or Bonham, who are to my mind the best thing about LZ; and about half the clip is taken up with some bullshit medieval fantasy footage of Plant running around on horseback and fighting with a sword. But let that pass.)

    I still found Plant's vocals rather annoying, but they were significantly less screechy than they are on the studio records. (Is this a deliberate choice? Did they speed up his vocals or something in the studio?) He's pretty commanding as a stage presence.

    Page is clearly a very skilled guitarist, but for most of the song, I didn't hear a lot of heart in the playing, more see-how-fast-I-play bluesy noodling without real melodic content.

    Bonham is a heck of a drummer. He makes me think of a slightly less energetic but way more disciplined Keith Moon.

    And John Paul Jones is just fucking fantastic.

    So ... just what is it about this band that makes people think of them so highly? They seem like a pretty good blues-rock band.
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  2. #2
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Someone must have compiled a "proggiest Led Zeppelin" playlist before.

    I like Zeppelin but am not an expert - they're one of those bands where I don't know all the song titles, which songs are on which album in many cases, etc. But I like them, and they do have a lot of songs that seem either proggy or very dynamic to me.

    Stairway to Heaven is actually a pretty good example I think - I never get tired of hearing it, the same way I never get tired of hearing Hotel California. Both songs just have a certain amount of ear candy that works for me.

    I usually gravitated to Zoso and Houses of the Holy rather than the earlier Zeppelin albums - how much have you checked those out? But you do seem to get a mix of rock/blues and slightly more ambient bits on most albums. I could definitely see Plant's voice being a deal breaker for some, though I like it. TSRTS movie is a bit tiresome to me.

    Someone can give a more coherent answer than me, I'm sure!

  3. #3
    Moderator Sean's Avatar
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    It's down to the tunes. They are really cool. And I don't mean the early blues ripoffs, that shit is dull regardless who plays it. The later stuff when they came into their own is the good stuff. For me anyway...

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    In my opinion they're a bit overrated but still pretty great. Unlike the OP I prefer them in the studio mostly...Plant's range suffers on the live stuff and they are generally prone to overstaying their welcome (Dazed and Confused being the worst offender). But every studio album up to and including Physical Graffiti has great tunes and great variety, from the folky stuff up to IV to the proggier stuff on Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti, which I guess are the two albums most popular on here.

  5. #5
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean View Post
    And I don't mean the early blues ripoffs, that shit is dull regardless who plays it.
    bzzzzzzzzt!
    WRONG!

    It isn't dull when Howlin' Wolf and others originated it!
    Steve F.

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    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  6. #6
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    I like
    I
    II ( a lot !!)
    Houses of the holy
    A few tracks here and there: Black Dog, ( the overplayed) Starways...

    and thats about it.

    Bonzo has a syncopated jazz-swing that makes a hell of a difference to other hardhitters, Page is the riff-master but a lousy improviser, Plants voice is an amazing instrument (he sounds like noone else), John Paul Jones keeps it together and on II plays a fantastic and tight bass (Ramble on studio) - his blues bass on Lemon song is just amazing or the vibratobass on Heartbreaker!
    The lyrics are in general... ahem... but isn't that what rock lyrics are...

  7. #7
    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    My "take" is that they transcended the limitations of, and constraints inherent in, the prevailing three-piece blues-rock style. With regard to composition, arrangement, instrumentarium, performative prowess, stylistic eclecticism, and hip ideas, they illuminated a path of potential for moving beyond the stilted, stunted, and formulaic proclivities of an army of also-rans.
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  8. #8
    Moderator Sean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    bzzzzzzzzt!
    WRONG!

    It isn't dull when Howlin' Wolf and others originated it!
    Maybe at your house...

    I done quit hollerin', I do believe I'll skip all tham blues.

    It would take a hellhound on my trail to change my mind.

    Down by the crossroads, of course.

    Keep in mind, I live in the South and every fucking time I turn around someone is playing the blues. If I went a year without hearing any or any Southern rock I would be a happy man.

    Funny, thing. At the root of my playing is the blues, it's the first thing I learned to play and it informs much of what I play when I solo. But I admit I didn't know shit about them before I picked up a guitar or paid any attention. I definitely got it second hand from Clapton and the Brit guys and still prefer their take on it. I just can't identify with the original guys. I have about as much in common with a prohibition era black man as I do with a purple elephant. I respect them though, even if I don't identify. And they are fun to play.

    For about ten minutes.
    Last edited by Sean; 1 Week Ago at 01:52 PM.

  9. #9
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    Nothing to understand. You like something or you don't. There's plenty of highly revered music out there that I don't like (Trout Mask Replica, Bitches Brew) but feel uncompelled to change that. I don't know if ever believed LZ was the pinnacle of rock music, but I am a fan even if their time was winding down by time I became an active fan of rock. I don't think modern LZ fans are too put out because someone dislikes something they like. This isn't soccer after all.

  10. #10
    What the Beatles were for the 60's the Zeppelin were for the 70's. They wrote great, catchy rocks songs, always maintaining a certain artistic level. The "blues rock band" tells only the story of the first 2 records, and that partially. In terms of volume and dramatic intensity they were bringing the house down, playing to the limit. Heavy metal? Sure, why not? Already from III there begins a period of eclectic experimentation: folk, psych, eastern influences, even reggae or funk later on, blend in the music to create a unique combination. Compare with the Free for example, who were indeed a "blues-rock band".

    I love everything up to Physical Graffiti, which to me is their pinnacle, and stands as a masterpiece of quality rock music.

    But the Who were better....

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Sturgeon's Lawyer View Post
    So ... just what is it about this band that makes people think of them so highly? They seem like a pretty good blues-rock band.
    Just listen to "When the Levee Breaks" and how Bonham is hammering the coffin while the rest of the band is moaning in the mud, and if you can't feel any goosebumps or get a hard-on then forget about them...
    Last edited by spacefreak; 1 Week Ago at 02:02 PM.
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  12. #12
    Member Jerjo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mogrooves View Post
    My "take" is that they transcended the limitations of, and constraints inherent in, the prevailing three-piece blues-rock style. With regard to composition, arrangement, instrumentarium, performative prowess, stylistic eclecticism, and hip ideas, they illuminated a path of potential for moving beyond the stilted, stunted, and formulaic proclivities of an army of also-rans.
    That's a good take. Page went beyond the blues ripoffs to becoming one of rock's best riffmeisters. Add to that Jones' considerable skill at coming up with riffs and his advanced arranging skills. Bonham took the behind-the-beat style of blues/R&B drummers and gave it thunderous power yet somehow never went over the line, unlike so many of his followers. Ever listen to Mike Portnoy try to cover Zep? It's maddening. And they were eclectic. It wasn't just heavy blues and RAWK. There's the folk stuff, the funky songs, tunes approaching pop (albeit with the hammer slammed down), country influences, touches of jazz. They transcended the genre pigeonhole completely by III and never took the foot off the gas.

    Regarding Plant, you either like him or you don't. But he did pretty much invent his own school of rock singing, effectively mimicking a lead guitar. He synthesized a lot of influences of classic blues, R&B, and folk singers, not to mention Elvis. There have been countless guys who figured to imitate him all you had to do was screech over hard rock riffs, forgetting all nuance and control. As far as a lyricist, his efforts during Zep were no worse, and often better, than a lot of prog. His lyrics since the 90s have been particularly good but that's a different career. My wife can't stand his voice at all. Still, she attended a solo show with me in the early 90s hoping to hear the song 29 Palms (which he did do). She yelled in my ear about three songs in: "I still hate his voice but oh my god, THAT is stage presence."
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

  13. #13
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    I think they were the one major band deemed part of the 'hard rock' genre who truly transcended labels. I tend to agree that the third album was where that started with things like 'Friends' and almost all of its second side, which is mostly acoustic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerjo View Post
    Ever listen to Mike Portnoy try to cover Zep? It's maddening.
    *shudder*

  14. #14
    Member nosebone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mogrooves View Post
    My "take" is that they transcended the limitations of, and constraints inherent in, the prevailing three-piece blues-rock style. With regard to composition, arrangement, instrumentarium, performative prowess, stylistic eclecticism, and hip ideas, they illuminated a path of potential for moving beyond the stilted, stunted, and formulaic proclivities of an army of also-rans.
    ^Yup^
    no tunes, no dynamics, no nosebone

  15. #15
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zappathustra View Post

    But the Who were better....
    I prefer them too (with Moon).

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by spacefreak View Post
    Just listen to "When the Levee Breaks" and how Bonham is hammering the coffin while the rest of the band is moaning in the mud, and if you can't feel any goosebumps or get a hard-on then forget about them...
    hahhahaha lovely image!

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeuhlmate View Post
    (with Moon).
    why, was there ever another version?

  17. #17
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    I didn't ever really like them much either, barring a few specific songs. For me, the deal-breaker was Plant's voice - that combination of a male voice screeching up into falsetto, and his over-the-top "soulful" inflections and additions (which I was never nuts about even in R&B). Although it's funny, I don't mind Geddy Lee, who is often considered an inferior Plant imitator - it may have something to do with him sticking to the song and not turning the yelps and howls up to 11. And Ann Wilson's just fine with me - she's a Plant imitator better than the original, who has the proper genetics to sing at that pitch and is thus far less grating.
    Last edited by Baribrotzer; 1 Week Ago at 04:31 PM.

  18. #18
    Member Camelogue's Avatar
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    Nothing to "understand"

    Like it listen to it

    don't like it don't listen

  19. #19
    ALL ACCESS Gruno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camelogue View Post
    Nothing to "understand"

    Like it listen to it

    don't like it don't listen

    So true!

    I bought the original Zeppelin 4-disc box set in 1990. From that, I made a good single-disc Best Of. While I can tolerate Zeppelin, Hendrix was the one I just can't take.

  20. #20
    Casanova TCC's Avatar
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    Hello Gang!.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeuhlmate View Post
    I like
    I
    II ( a lot !!)
    Houses of the holy

    Bonzo has a syncopated jazz-swing that makes a hell of a difference to other hardhitters, Page is the riff-master but a lousy improviser, Plants voice is an amazing instrument (he sounds like noone else), John Paul Jones keeps it together and on II plays a fantastic and tight bass (Ramble on studio) - his blues bass on Lemon song is just amazing or the vibratobass on Heartbreaker!
    The lyrics are in general... ahem... but isn't that what rock lyrics are...
    Agree! ... and for me, it was really Bonzo who made the difference "following Page`s guitar: He would take the riff and he would make that his drum part ...".
    “The Stomp Groove" as JPJ called Zeppelin’s sound sometimes.

    For example:


    Me like:
    - II
    - III (love that Zep´s side!)
    - IV
    - Houses of The Holy &
    - The Song Remains the Same -- ... really enjoy it!.

    But, nowadays, I come back mostly to The Complete BBC Sessions if I need a Zep´s dose!.


    Regards!.
    Last edited by TCC; 1 Week Ago at 09:59 PM.

  21. #21
    Casanova TCC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zappathustra View Post
    why, was there ever another version?
    Touché!!.
    Pura Vida!.

  22. #22
    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    Never enough love for Presence. I love that album. The whole album.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by JKL2000 View Post
    Someone must have compiled a "proggiest Led Zeppelin" playlist before.

    I like Zeppelin but am not an expert - they're one of those bands where I don't know all the song titles, which songs are on which album in many cases, etc. But I like them, and they do have a lot of songs that seem either proggy or very dynamic to me.

    Stairway to Heaven is actually a pretty good example I think - I never get tired of hearing it, the same way I never get tired of hearing Hotel California. Both songs just have a certain amount of ear candy that works for me.

    I usually gravitated to Zoso and Houses of the Holy rather than the earlier Zeppelin albums - how much have you checked those out? But you do seem to get a mix of rock/blues and slightly more ambient bits on most albums. I could definitely see Plant's voice being a deal breaker for some, though I like it. TSRTS movie is a bit tiresome to me.

    Someone can give a more coherent answer than me, I'm sure!
    They benefited from good songwriting, riffs and, especially, timing. To the earlier point, they helped fill a gap left by The Beatles. But, there were definitely other bands that did, too, like Three Dog Night, who were actually the world's biggest-selling band from like '70-'73.

    LZ is one of those bands that I listened to a lot until I discovered so many other bands that did it better. Many of us simply grew out of them. (You could try going back to high school.) The excessive airplay didn't help.
    The White Zone is for loading and unloading only. If you got to load or unload go to the White Zone.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Sturgeon's Lawyer View Post
    So ... just what is it about this band that makes people think of them so highly? They seem like a pretty good blues-rock band.
    They're so much more than a blues rock band. Yeah, their stuff is often rooted in the blues and some of it is pretty straight blues. But they go way beyond that, even in the earlier albums, and more-so in the later albums. Not "Prog Rock," in my book, but they often dabbled with elements that Proggers used which give them a scope that a lot of harder edged bands in the 70s lacked. You may not like Zeppelin, but even a non-fan can't write them off as simply a "good blues rock band."

    But to me, the thing that keeps me returning to Zeppelin is their mastery of rock & roll swagger. Nobody had it like Zeppelin. Nobody. They have the tunes, but the tunes have an attitude that is palpable. They have enough to feed your head, but never lose lose sight of punching you in the gut like rock & roll is supposed to. It's a combination so few bands really master, and Zeppelin mastered it for virtually their entire career. If their stuff doesn't get your blood up, I don't know what to say, other than you're probably listening too much with your ears and not enough with your gut.

    Crank it up and enjoy it, and stop worrying about Plant's voice. Enjoy that he's giving it everything he had!

    Bill

  25. #25
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    I came to Zep a bit late. I was working on a radio station when "In Through The Out Door" came out and I did not own any Zep albums at that time. I eventually went back and picked up all of their albums. I still prefer The Who overall, but Zep was great at what they did and I can still listen to those albums today.

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