This story is as old as time: parents try to show their kids “good” music, kids roll their eyes and proceed to put their headphones back on / tune out / leave the room. Whatever that generation’s go-to “blow your parents off” move is… I did the same to my parents and my kids have done the same to me.
For me, my musical journey to date had involved discovering hip hop through Run DMC and rock music through Living Colour. Getting into rock music brought me to many new places, from liking Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue to INXS and Depeche Mode. One place I had yet to explore, mainly due to “hearing” it so often from my parents, was classic rock.
That all changed when my friend Brian continually talked about how good Led Zeppelin was and I did my best to pretend I knew exactly what he meant. Of course I knew the name Led Zeppelin. In fact, I heard them many times over the years, but I didn’t actually listen.
Luckily, my parents had a few records and tapes I could listen to when they weren’t home or paying attention. I got hooked. (I also listened to their Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, and Heart records while I was at it…)
My favorite Zeppelin album has to be their sixth, Physical Graffiti, the double album released in 1975. (Listen) It’s a long listen, but I also think it’s the band at their creative peak — exploring and combining many of their styles and influences like Middle Eastern music, funk, metal, jazz, pop, country, folk, blues, and prog rock. It’s quite the journey.
I was overjoyed to come across a used copy at Revolver Records a few years back, as I was browsing the “just in” used crates. It’s a regular spin that we like to enjoy — and by “we” I mean the entire family. Amazing how that worked out!
Here are the notes from my recent focused listens:
Zeppelin kicks off their album with an upbeat groove — wound up, loud blues with lyrics chock full of Robert Plant’s patented sexual double-entendres.
The band continues the high powered album opening with a combination of Southern rock, blues, and metal. Serious swagger. Some of Jimmy Page’s best guitar work, in my opinion.
In My Time of Dying
My oh my, John Bonham’s drum playing starting at around the 3:50 minute mark are some of the craziest beats — literally playing along with the guitar, matching Page’s riffs. The Bonham video I included in the video section below highlights many of the ways he was a unique, innovative, and powerful drummer at the time (and his legend has only grown since he passed away.) It’s a long song, but that passage alone is worth hearing.
Houses of the Holy
Originally recorded for Zeppelin’s previous album of the same name, it finally made the cut and we’re the better for it, as it’s one of their most popular songs. I hear some pop influence, which definitely carries over into the next song.
Trampled Under Foot
Influenced by Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, this song rocks the funk/Southern rock/blues crossover with serious swagger again — love it.
My favorite Zeppelin song. Absolutely epic in every way. Apparently it was written after a long trip down a straight, seemingly never ending road in the desert of Morocco. We played this song many times on our two cross-country road trips, so it makes total sense. A perfect song for driving. A perfect song.
In the Light
One of the few songs Zeppelin was never able to play live, as they couldn’t replicate the synthesizer sound outside the studio. It was also meant to be a follow-up to “Stairway to Heaven”. Almost orchestral, the psychedelic keys and slow groove would have surely been a crowd pleaser for the era.
Down by the Seaside
Another holdover from a previous recording session, this song slows things down even more after the instrumental interlude of Bron-Yr-Aur. Written almost 40 years ago, the lyrics are still so appropriate for today’s fast paced, over scheduled world:
Down in the city streets
See all the folk go racing, racing
No time left, oh no
To pass the time of day
Ten Years Gone
Lyrically, one of my favorite songs. Like this opening verse:
Then, as it was, then again it will be
And though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea
Flying skies of fortune, each a separate way
On the wings of maybe, downing birds of prey
Kind of makes me feel sometimes, didn’t have to go
But as the eagle leaves the nest, got so far to go
Musically, there are little hints here and there of Zeppelin’s usual groove. The bulk of the song is slow with a pop and orchestral influence, which fits well with the break-up theme of the lyrics.
I’d put this as the weakest song on the album. Thankfully it closes out the slow section of the album, as tracks 7 through 11 really took things down a notch after the blistering opening.
The Wanton Song
Zeppelin is back with the loud, blues influence groove on this track. The song began as a sound check during the 1973 tour and eventually morphed into what it became on Physical Graffiti. I really dig the main riff.
Boogie With Stu
An impromptu jam with Ian Stewart who played piano on Zeppelin recordings (as well as with the Rolling Stones.) Stewart didn’t play live with Zeppelin, so this song was also never played in concert.
Black Country Woman
Another song intended for Houses of the Holy. An acoustic track recorded in Mick Jagger’s garden. Essentially another filler to extend the playing time to fit a double album.
The closing track — an uneven song about a groupie. The song shines in moments, but falls apart just as quickly.
And as a final note to parents out there: don’t give up. Most importantly keep listening to music together, no matter what. Music is such an important part of our world… it brings people together, it can teach empathy and love, it can be political on one end and it can be a mindless, fun release on the other.
I’ve been known to enjoy a few pop songs that my kids dig. Thankfully, my girls have done the same with musicians I like, in fact we took the family to see Snail Mail for one daughter’s 11th birthday, including a front row spot and a guitar pick / set list from Lindsey Jordan herself. Another daughter is learning Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for her bass recital and my third daughter is playing a Beach Bunny song for her drum recital. So proud.
Music is life. Give that to your kids.
To accompany this issue’s theme, here is a playlist of some of my favorite classic rock songs from the 60s and 70s.
- All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
- Somebody to Love- Jefferson Airplane
- Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- You Really Got Me – The Kinks
- Baba O’Riley – The Who
- Paranoid – Black Sabbath
- Barracuda – Heart
- Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
- T.N.T. – AC/DC
- Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
- Runnin’ with the Devil – Van Halen
- Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
- Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
- Surrender- Cheap Trick
- Heart of Gold – Neil Young
- The Spirit of Radio – Rush
- Vitamin C – Can
- Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
- Roadhouse Blues – The Doors
- Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
Here are a few recent albums I’ve been listening to:
- Drunk Tank Pink by Shame (Listen)
- Uppers by TV Priest (Listen)
- Welfare Jazz by Viagra Boys (Listen)
- Blame Game (EP) by Beach Bunny (Listen)
- Conflicted original motion picture soundtrack by Griselda & BSF (Listen)
And a few older ones on repeat:
- Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans (Listen)
- Day for Night by The Tragically Hip (Listen)
- O by Damien Rice (Listen)
- Mean Everything to Nothing by Manchester Orchestra (Listen)
Musical Moving Pictures
A text thread with some friends had us talking about underrated bands. My list included:
Doughboys, Garden Variety, Idlewild, Kerosene 454, McClusky, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, The Posies, Saintseneca, Shades Apart, Shudder to Think, Wintersleep, Verbal Assault, and The Van Pelt.
My friend Chris (AKA The Itinerant Printer) shared his:
Wampire, Jesca Hoop, Old Canes, The Good Life, Into Another, Owls, Bold, Dungen, Embrace, Deer Tick.
What bands do you think are underrated? Share in the comments!
That wraps up the fourth issue. Feel free to send me feedback, questions, ideas — anything. I’d also love if you shared this newsletter with anyone you think would enjoy and encourage them to subscribe.
See you next time.