RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#341: Led Zeppelin vs. New Kids on the Block
Led Zeppelin had just released their first monster box set to great excitement and fanfare. Long time Zeppelin fans eagerly investigated the new remastered tracks (a novelty at the time), and the four unreleased treasures. It seems amusing from today’s perspective that only four unreleased tracks (well, actually three – “Hey Hey What Can I Do” was a B-side) sent fandom into a frenzy. Today we have entire bonus CDs for each album. Back then, all we got was four songs. How times have changed! In Zeppelin’s case, more is always better, but in 1990 just four unheard songs seemed to shake the Earth.
I mean, it was Zeppelin!
Promotion went into overdrive with two brand new Zeppelin music videos. The first one was for the slippery, slide-guitar infested “Travelling Riverside Blues” recorded in 1969. What an incredible song. Hearing it, I knew right away that I needed to get some Zeppelin my collection, and that box set would be the perfect place to start. Especially since I really wanted “Travelling Riverside Blues”. Such an amazing electric blues performance.
On Canada’s MuchMusic, New Kids on the Block still dominated the video charts. In addition to their weekly countdown, Much introduced a new show called Combat Des Clips. On Combat Des Clips, one music video would be put up against another, and battle for viewers’ votes. The champion would return the following week to take on a new challenger. New Kids’ clip for “Tonight” (which, I’m embarrassed to say, my mom thought was a cover of a Beatles song) had dominated against all comers, for nine weeks straight. Now, it was Zeppelin’s turn to take them down.
I hadn’t really paid much attention to the show before, but now it was a must. The opportunity for Zeppelin to take on New Kids was an epic battle that hit home. My own sister had fallen for the evil New Kids, while I was finding myself enamored with older authentic rock like Zeppelin. This was more than a battle between two bands. For me, this was personal!
Much played the clips from both challenger and champion, and I phoned in my vote. One vote for Zeppelin. As the hour dragged on (you had to sit through plenty more videos as the show went on) the votes for both artists climbed. It was close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. For the first time ever, someone had knocked New Kids off the pedestal, and it was Led Zeppelin. Yes, that’s correct: the first band ever to dethrone New Kids off Combat Des Clips was Led Zeppelin. It was a joyous victory, as I taunted my sister over it. She didn’t even want to know. They played “Riverside” one more time at the end of the show; this time as champion.
MuchMusic took a few calls and faxes (no email back then!) from disgruntled New Kids fans. “I can’t believe the awesome New Kids were beaten by a bunch of old men!” read one.
Zeppelin did not have long to rest on their laurels. A week later, a new challenger rose to take on the sitting champions. This new challenger wasn’t even a real person. It was a yellow-skinned cartoon character named Bart Simpson, who had just scored his first hit with the video for “Do the Bartman”. I am sad to report that Bart Simpson succeeded in knocking Zeppelin off the pedestal. It wasn’t even really close.
Even though their reign only lasted a week, Led Zeppelin should be proud to know that their “Travelling Riverside Blues” – not even a proper album track, but only a forgotten BBC recording – knocked down the evil New Kids.
Their work was done.