Christie Eliezer looks at Led Zeppelin’s continued massive influence on modern day culture.
It’s a little known fact that when Led Zeppelin began rehearsing in September 1980 for a North American tour, they had been speaking to Australian promoters about playing here the year after.
But John Bonham’s death on September 24 was the end. He’d begun drinking at breakfast (a ham roll downed with four quadruple vodkas), through the day’s rehearsals and then at Jimmy Page’s house in Windsor until midnight when he was put to bed. The next day, about 1.45 pm, John Paul Jones and the band’s tour manager found him dead. He’d choked on his vomit.
On 4 December 1980 they announced they were disbanding.
This decision was also an “out” for Plant. He had not wanted to do that world tour. Today he is the single obstacle for another Zeppelin world tour. He’s hated the reunion shows they’ve done since. He called their set at Live Aid “atrocious”.
He even has bad memories of their much-lauded 2007 reunion in London: it was too much pressure. Afterwards, pop royalty like Oasis’ Gallagher brothers came backstage wanting to hang out. Instead, he fled to a nearby pub, polished off four bottles of lager and half a bottle of vodka and went home. He explained to Mojo: “Because I had to get away from it. I’d done it. Had to go. [It was] too heavy. Beautiful – but talk about examining your own mortality . . . Crazy.”
The expectations are not surprising, really. Led Zeppelin sold 200 million albums worldwide, half of these in America. Rock critic Mikal Gilmore suggested that “Led Zeppelin—talented, complex, grasping, beautiful and dangerous—made one of the most enduring bodies of composition and performance in twentieth-century music, despite everything they had to overpower, including themselves”.
Thirty years after Bonham’s death, they hold a massive influence over modern rock. It’s still debated as to who invented “heavy metal” — Zeppelin? Jimi Hendrix? Blue Cheer? MC5? But an American reviewer took the line “heavy metal thunder” from Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” to describe the intensity of the first Zeppelin album. Since then every major metal/rock band from Metallica to Maiden to Van Halen have taken their sound, stage movements and even their stage costumes.
Zeppelin were more than just a metal band of course. They threw folk, country, reggae, rock, electro and funk into the mix. The artists who have covered their songs range from jazzers as King Curtis to troubadours as Jeff Buckley to pop singers as Gabriella Cilmi to hip hop acts as the Beastie Boys.
For Page, Zep’s crowning achievement was not any of the hard rock tracks but “Kashmir”, born more of Eastern drones and red deserts.
To Plant it’s the Presence album. “That’s got a lot of reality in it. I had a girlfriend, not that long ago, and we used to play ‘Achilles’ Last Stand’ really loud. She said one day, ‘I wouldn’t like to be left alone in a room with this.’ That’s great.”
Through the boxed sets compiled personally by Page to give a better perspective of the scale of their vision, new generations discover how Page is one of the most exquisite and accomplished players. He approaches his riffs using architecture theories. His production of Zep records make them sound timeless. His passion and technique touch emotions in fans that few others. His solo on “Stairway to Heaven” was voted the greatest of all time. “Stairway” is the most requested rock song ever on American radio. Zeppelin are the most bootlegged in British history: in August 1999, there were 384 different bootleg titles around.
They are still both a teenager’s sex fantasy about being a rock star. They used violence to get their way. Yet at the same time they evoke the flower power of the mid-60s and the cosmicness of the ‘70s. Their hellraising, with shark tales and motorbike races inside five star hotels, are legendary. Yet Page was given an OBE medal by the British government in 2005 followed by Plant’s CBE four years later.
The awards keep coming. A Grammy lifetime achievement (2005), Polar Music Prize (2006), voted the best live act ever by the readers of Mojo (2008), ranked #1 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock, and third greatest band of all time by Spin. In June this year, the BBC Two series I’m In A Rock ‘n’ Roll Band! named them best rock ‘n’ roll band of all time.
Zeppelin changed the way bands do business. They invented stadium rock alongside the Stones, and took the grosses. Their album artwork broke new ground. They refused to do TV or release singles in the UK.
They popularized interest in the works of Tolkien and satanist Aleister Crowley (the snake on Page’s pants? The “fallen angel” logo? Does “Stairway” really say “I live for Satan” when played backwards?).
Fashion designers are mesmerized by the Zep look. Simeon Lipman, head of pop culture at Christie’s, observed, “Led Zeppelin have had a big influence on fashion because the whole aura surrounding them is so cool, and people want a piece of that.”
They cast their shadow on film makers who use their music in Shrek the Third, One Day in September, School of Rock and Small Soldiers among others. Video game developers want them too but the band has turned them down.
But to Jimmy Page it’s just the music. “It’s been a great legacy. That’s what I’m proud of is the legacy of it. The fact that it’s turned so many people on to want to play. That’s what pulled me into playing, is hearing musicians who really really sent shivers down my spine. So that’s it. That’s the legacy and that’s what I’m really proud of.”
Philip Morris, Rock Photographer
In February 1972 Led Zeppelin toured Australia for the first and only time, playing shows in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Sunday February 27 was a typically hot Sydney summer afternoon, but what made the Sydney Showground really sizzle was the 25,000 fans who had turned up to see a band at the peak of their powers. Bob ‘Lefty’ Townsend has commented on ledzeppelin.com
that “none of us had ever seen a PA that big before. The show started with ‘Immigrant Song’
and the memory of that riff and Page’s scream still gives me goosebumps today… It was like listening to a brand new Zeppelin album through a brand new stereo. To this day, it‘s still the best concert I have ever attended.”
Footage from the concert is featured on disc 2 of the Led Zeppelin DVD, released some thirty years after the event, which captures the extraordinary energy of the performance. Led Zeppelin IV raced up the charts as a result of the tour, peaking at #2 for several months but was ultimately held off the number one position in Australia by Cat Stevens’ ‘Teaser And The Firecat’ then Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’.
Only a handful of photographers were officially engaged to capture this extraordinary concert. Philip Morris, who was working on behalf of Go-Set Magazine and WEA Records, was one of them.
Philip Morris is the inimitable Australian rock photographer who today boasts one of the most extensive photo archive libraries of Australian rock music. Born in Narrandera, Australia, Morris started his career behind the lens in Sydney at the age of 15. He got his first official gig as a contributing photographer for the first national Australian pop publication Go-Set in the late 60‘s. His career continued to soar into the 70’s when he was a contributor to all the major music magazines in Australia, including ‘RAM’ and ‘Juke’. During this time he shot Australian legends, the Easybeats, on their last national tour, as well as almost every international band touring the country including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney. Shooting AC/DC’s first ever photo session in 1974, Morris is still the only photographer to have shot the hard rock legends at the famed Alberts Studios.
Morris has shot album jackets for such bands as Midnight Oil (‘Head Injuries’), John Paul Young (‘Hero’), Johnny O’Keefe, Sherbet, Daddy Cool, Marcia Hines, and The Angel’s ‘Face To Face’ – which won a best album cover award in 1978 – and he has contributed much to various books including AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’, Peter Allan’s ‘Boy From OZ’ and most recently to two highly acclaimed contemporary music history books, ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘Friday on My Mind’.
Tonight, you have the opportunity to view and purchase a rare selection of Philip Morris’ Led Zeppelin photographs in the foyer. Visit www.rockphotograph.com to see more of Philip’s amazing photography.
You have just heard the concert – and you have been blown away with the impact, the energy, the emotion and the sound, and now you just want to get home so that you can re-create the experience in your lounge room – right! The reality is more likely to be – wrong!
Neighbours aside, there are a few reasons why you will never recreate this experience in your living room, one of the more obvious is trying to cram a thousand people into the room so you can feed off the collective atmosphere created when that many like-minded people come together into an enclosed space. Secondly, forking out for a few kilowatts of amplification can be tough on the budget. Plus, did you see the size of those speakers at the venue? Try fitting them into your lounge room!
The good news is that you can do something about the last couple of points. Speakers produce sound by moving air, and physics (and common sense) dictates that if you want to move a lot of air you are going to need a big speaker, and the necessary power to drive it. This is where many modern domestic systems fall down. Over the last decade or so there has been a tendency for system and speaker design in particular to be driven by aesthetic values rather than performance. The result is that speakers are becoming smaller, and in some cases the bass portion of the sound has been separated into a separate box to create what the industry calls sub-sat (subwoofer-satellite) speaker systems. The upper midrange and high frequency signals are covered by two small (left and right) satellite speakers, and the rest is covered by a single bass box. The advantage of these is that they can be placed inconspicuously in a room – the downside is that they generally sound worse than average.
I believe that there are three main reasons for this:
A small satellite speaker cannot handle any bass at all, so the frequency at which the music is divided between the satellite speaker and the bass speaker usually occurs in a critical listening area of the music – and I have never heard a sub-sat system where this crossover point was flawless. Most sub-sat systems suffer a suck-out in the midrange area – the most critical for musical enjoyment.
There is some truth in the argument that you cannot tell stereo imagery in low frequency notes (below 80Hz), which is why you can get away with one subwoofer in a Home Theatre system. Because the brain cannot determine where a bass note is emanating from it is tricked into believing that it is coming from where the action is. The problem with sub-sat designs is that the bass box can handle frequencies of up to 1,000Hz and beyond – where stereo imaging is still obvious.
I believe that possibly the most important reason is that manufacturers of sub-sat systems believe people are more interested in design than performance, so they don’t really care much about the end result themselves.
(Don’t get me wrong – sub-sat speaker systems have a rightful place in the Audio and Audio/Visual marketplace, they can produce some very pleasant and enjoyable music – but they are not High Fidelity!)
So you have discounted the idea of a sub-sat speaker system – great. There is a large number of small stereo bookshelf speakers that do a remarkable job of reproducing recorded music. Fabulous timbre, stunning pin-point imagery, crystal clear yet liquid sweet high-frequencies, open spacious mid-range, deep rich… hang on… where’s the bass?
A good quality bookshelf speaker, correctly positioned in your room, can do a remarkable and immensely involving job of recreating recorded music. This is provided you are not expecting to listen to it at very high volume levels, or to reproduce those very low notes of bass. One of the greatest sins a bookshelf speaker can make is to pretend it has bass when it really doesn’t. The result is always a bloated lower mid-range/upper bass. While at times this can sound pleasant, it is never accurate. I would much prefer to have a speaker which will accurately reproduce the lowest notes that this particular design is capable of reproducing, without adding or subtracting anything.
This brings us back to the problem of recreating the concert experience at home. Sorry – but the only way that you can do this is with cubic capacity. Yes, the industry is now getting a lot more out of smaller box’s than it did a decade or so ago, both in terms of volume level and low frequency reproduction. However is it any coincidence that the next model up in any speaker manufacturers’ range is larger than the model below it. If you want high volume and/or low frequencies you will need to move a lot of air, and as I said to do this you will need a lot of cubic capacity, plus a lot of (genuine) power to drive the speakers to move this air.
I doubt you will ever really recreate the live event in your living area – but you can come close – size permitting. www.lenwallisaudio.com.au
By Len Wallis
by Christie Eliezer
“You don’t know what a joy it is to sing these songs,” Dave Gleeson of the Screaming Jets told the crowd midway through “Whole Lotta Love”. That was obvious in the way he leaped, ran around the stage and swirled his butt at the audience. He was one of the night’s singers brought together by Sydney guitarist and music director Joseph Calderazzo of CCEntertainment.
Tonight was not a by-numbers gallop through the Zep songbook. Rather it was a celebration which reassembled the songs respectfully and captured the spirit that originally drove the music. The hammering riffs of “Rock and Roll”, “The Ocean”, “Black Dog” and “Immigrant Song” kept purists happy. But the others threw in Zep’s palette of Middle Eastern, blues and celtic that transcended a music created by four white males. “Battle of Evermore” took on Eastern tinges and “Four Sticks” a blistering blues workout, that highlighted the light/shade of Zep music.
So the roll-out of singers wasn’t confined to males Gleeson, John Swan, Dave Larkin, Steve Balbi of Noiseworks and Simon Meli of Sydney’s The Widowbirds. Adelaide’s Zkye Compson-Harris and Ngaiire, ex of Blue King Brown, put in thunderous performances, while keys player Charmaine Ford, who shone on synths and piano on “No Quarter”, took turns on guitar and percussion.
The most magnificent moments came when the ensemble, joined by the Sydney Lyric Strings, stretched to 15 minutes utterly glorious “Stairway To Heaven”, “Rain Song” (with such wonderful guitar interplay by Calderazzo and Peter Northcote that at the end they shook hands), “Moby Dick”, with a drum solo from Gordon Rytmeister, and the peak with “Kashmir” where you could see the red sands. The night finished with the entire ensemble on “Whole Lotta Love” to a standing ovation.
This show was the first foray to Melbourne by CCEntertainment which has been holding such celebrations of Eagles, Stones, Beatles etc in NSW and ACT. Given the crowd reaction to “Whole Lotta Love”, we should see more of theses in Australia’s most musical city.
by Jake Schatz (Schatzy)
CCEntertainment’s Annual ‘WHOLE LOTTA LOVE’ Led Zeppelin Celebration made it’s Melbourne debut on Friday the 1st of October.The well reputed show has grown to be a staple performance at Sydney’s Enmore theater each year, and it was an absolute pleasure to have the show in Melbourne on it’s 8th anniversary.
Generally speaking, tribute band’s aren’t my thing. Not in their usual sense anyway, with people dressing up like the original band members and imitating something that they are not. However, this wasn’t a typical tribute show, and the performers were certainly not trying to blatantly copy the music of the greatest rock band to ever exist. They were merely celebrating the music with combined musical brilliance, and a ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for Led Zeppelin.
It is undeniable the effect that Led Zeppelin have had, and are still having on rock music. Many of the greatest and most imitated guitar riffs have come directly out of Jimmy Page’s guitar playing. If there were ever four absolute legends of music to form a bond as a band it was Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. All four were absolute masters of their individual instruments, and together they created music that was godlike.
The host of incredibly diverse and talented musicians that tore up the stage at the Palais Theatre last Friday night did Led Zeppelin perfect justice, in giving their own renditions of Zeppelin classics with an evident mutual love for the band. For a tribute band to receive a standing ovation is something very special indeed.
Renowned vocalists including John Swan (Swanee), Dave Gleeson (The Screaming Jets), Steve Balbi (Noiseworks), Simon Meli (Ooh La La), Ngaiire Joseph (ex-Blue King Brown) and Dave Larkin (Dallas Crane) all gave impressive takes on songs taken from Led Zeppelin’s 12 year career. The idea of rotating vocalists appealed to me because it kept the performance fresh and exciting, and helped separate the show from the typical tribute show stereotype.
Steve Balbi particularly impressed, with a rendition of Kashmir that was both unique and innovative whilst bringing on the vocal power and prowess that Robert Plant was famous for. I’ve listened to a few of my Dad’s Noiseworks records, but Balbi was the bassist for the band and as far as I’m aware I had never heard him sing before. I am currently on the hunt for some of his solo records, because his voice is absolutely phenomenal.
In my eyes, the stand-out performer of the night was Adelaide born vocallist Zkye. Her entire performance of ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ had me in chills. The brilliant guitar soloing of Joseph Calderazzo was exhilarating, and had the crowd absolutely roaring. The live strings section were incredible, essential in the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ performance. Charmaine Ford’s virtuosic keyboard solo during ‘No Quarter’ was breathtaking, firmly stating to the hordes of people in the packed out theater that she is one of New Zealand’s finest performers.
After this incredible show, I looked into CCEntertainment and discovered that it was one of many shows in a Classic Rock series. I would love to see more of the shows brought to Melbourne. As a kid born at the wrong era of music, it is painful to think I will never have the opportunity to see Led Zeppelin perform, along with bands such as The Doors, Pink Floyd and of course The Beatles.
It’s this knowledge that prompts me to think that while music is timeless and lasts forever, live music opportunities shouldn’t be ignored, you never know what tragic accident could lie around the corner ready to rob a new legion of fans from seeing their favourite band perform. So long time Eagles and Rolling Stones fans, you would be crazy to not go and see them on their upcoming runs around the country, every show could potentially be their last one.
If this Led Zeppelin celebration show was indicative of all of the CCEntertainment’s production’s, I am convinced that it really is the next best thing to seeing the actual band perform. Rather than cheaply ripping off a legendary act, the musician’s celebrate the band’s music with the raw passion and love for the act that has deeply influenced their careers.
CCEntertainment, you have found yourself a new customer.