#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

ZEPPERS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

Christmas 1990 was another major turning point in my musical life. I know others who can say the same thing for the same reason. Led Zeppelin had released their first box set, a 4 CD collection of 54 essential tracks, remastered by Jimmy Page himself. This was the impetus I needed to finally take the Zeppelin plunge.

Prior to this, I had stayed away from Zeppelin.  I only knew a couple live videos from MuchMusic, which didn’t appeal to me at all.  A rock band wearing sandals?  The fuck was this?  I couldn’t wrap my head around the violin bow solo, nor the band.  I remember watching the old live “Dazed and Confused” video with my friend Bob.  “You can tell that guy’s on drugs,” he said of Jimmy Page.

That was in the 1980’s.  By the turn of the decade, I was starting to tire of plastic sounding pop rock bands. I was craving authenticity, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Bands like Warrant were wracked by controversy, when it was revealed that they employed two guitar teachers to write their guitar solos and teach the members how to play them. Too much fakery for me — at that point I decided to stop listening to them.  I sold my Warrant tapes.  Warrant in turn accused Poison, the band they were opening for, of using backing tapes live. All kinds of bands were accused of using backing tapes. Sebastian Bach was quoted as saying, “The only band out there that doesn’t use backing tapes live today is Metallica, and that’s a fact.”  (I am fairly certain Iron Maiden are above such tom foolery as well.)


The old “Dazed and Confused” video that Much used to play

I didn’t want backing tapes, I wanted authentic pure rock music. There was a bustle in my hedgerow. I wasn’t satisfied with the new releases coming out either. A lot of groups that I really liked released disappointing albums in 1990.  From Dio to Iron Maiden to Winger, there were too many bands that failed to impress that year.   A band like Zeppelin seemed to have not only authenticity, but solid consistently.  They were hailed as the greatest rock band of all time by just about every rock group I heard of!

I received the box set from my parents on Christmas day 1990. The following day, Boxing day, I had set aside to listen to the entire box set from start to finish – about five and a half hours of listening. I took a brief lunch break between discs 2 and 3. I emerged from my room that afternoon, dazed, but not confused at all. There were some songs that I didn’t care too much for – “Poor Tom”, “Wearing and Tearing”, “Ozone Baby” – mostly songs from Coda. They were vastly outnumbered by the songs that absolutely blew me away, even though I had never heard of them before: “Your Time Is Gonna Come”, “Immigrant Song”, “Ramble On”, “The Ocean”, “All My Love”…I could not believe the sheer quality of the music.

Sure, Led Zeppelin’s songs weren’t produced as slick as I was used to. They were a far cry from Whitesnake. Jimmy Page wasn’t a shredder like Steve Vai, but I felt a personal shift. I thought bands like Whitesnake and Cinderella had been exhibiting the epitome of integrity, with the ace players and incredible musicianship. Like athletes, musicians only seemed to achieve loftier heights over the decades with their playing. This was exemplified by a guy like Steve Vai who pushed guitar into entirely new frontiers. Cinderella, on the other hand, had even worked with Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, who provided strings to their bluesy Heartbreak Station LP. I thought Cinderella were the blues! But now, my eyes were really opening.  It was like Obi-Wan Kenobi had prophesized:  “You’ve just taken your first step, in a larger world.”

IMG_20150114_182807Led Zeppelin (and also ZZ Top) were talking about blues artists I never heard of. Muddy Waters? Lightning Hopkins? Robert Johnson? Who were these people that were so influential that Zeppelin were known to lift entire songs from them?

I had a thought: “From this moment on, I will never be able to listen to rock bands the same way again. I used to think Cinderella were authentic blues. How can I ever go back to listening to Cinderella with the same feeling of passion? How can I play bands like Slaughter and Judas Priest, and think for a second that these guys are any better than the old guys like Zep?”

Fortunately I found that eventually Cinderella, Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin could co-exist in my collection. Liking one does not mean you can’t like the others. Even though Led Zeppelin raised the bar to extraordinary heights, I found it wasn’t too hard to “lower my standards” sometimes and enjoy a little “Slow An’ Easy” with David Coverdale. Zeppelin simply opened my eyes: that there was an entire history of blues that I hadn’t really been aware of before. My musical life journey was about to expand exponentially.

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51 comments

    1. …and now you know! Yeah I remember reading it in a guitar magazine. I didn’t want to believe it but it was by their own admission. Shoulda read the letters section in the following issue man!

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        1. This was right at the height of Cherry Pie. I was already upset that the Cherry Pie intro sampled Dee Snider’s scream from the song “I Want This Night o Last Forever” uncredited. Beau Hill produced both…just used the same tape. Fakery!

          Have you ever noticed that one before?

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Amen Brother! – When I started going to the source of what influenced my heroes, it changed my life…the blues “ain’t nothing but a good man feeling bad”. And I still go back to seeing Johnny Copeland (best blues guitarist you never heard of) in my early 20’s -I was a small minded rock fan and this old guy (maybe 40 at the time?) ripped my friggin’ head off! It has never gone back on my body since.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Wayne! Well said. The blues have such a rich history but one thing common through the ages is that it comes from the heart. And you can hear it filtered through rock and roll through the ages, living forever.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post. I don’t quite understand your not liking them prior to the boxed set (who cares if they’re wearing sandals, how does the music sound to you?) but coming from the 80s rock in youth I suppose that’s understandable.

    I came to Led Zeppelin from the other end – I had a lot of the old blues guys they were borrowing heavily (ahem) from before I had the Zeps. As you’ll no doubt recall, I had the ablums before the boxed set – I sold my albums to you (when I tired of them) and then much later bothered you endlessly about which boxed set was better (this one, and its companion, or the black one). I have since replaced all of the albums on CD, I own this boxed set and II, and so far I have all of the reissues on deluxe LP (here’s hoping for Physical Grafitti at Valentines Day?). I’ve come back to Zep in a big way, though we’ve had our differences in the past.

    Your post may have inspired a (somewhat) copycat post from my own collection. Gimme time!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fair enough, allow me to perhaps elaborate a bit.

      In my world and in my mind, back pre-1990, image was an important factor. Almost all my new music intake came from the Power Hour, so it was a visual exposure. I’d never seen a band that looked like Zep before. Only one guy wearing black leather?

      But what did it sound like to me? Well, the songs I got via Much (all live) all went way over my head. Dazed and Confused was so long and I couldn’t grab the jamming. Meanwhile, after the commercial break, here comes the new video by Whitesnake! Modern production. Catchy melodies. Guitar riffs chemically designed to scratch an itch in your brain. I just wasn’t ready for Zep yet. My taste hadn’t matured enough yet.

      I am looking forward to this post you are talking about! And I hope you are feeling well. I’m just catching up on my comments and I saw you were ill. Feel better and rock with us soon my friend!

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      1. Style over substance, gotcha.

        Thanks Dude, it’s rare I get sick but when I do, I do it up right! Yesterday was worse, today is middlin’, figure tomorrow I’ll be back to my fighting form. Whatever it was I caught, I strongly recommend against any of you catching it for yourselves. Ugh and blah!

        Thinking how to approach that boxed set idea, and even trying to remember when the heck I got it. I’ve narrowed it down to a 3-5 year period.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I received this box set as well that Christmas. It was both my first box set, and my first cd’s. What an introduction. Digitally remastered by Jimmy Page. Awesome. Right up there with my best Christmas present ever. Including an 8 track stereo set in 1979, a Sears ghetto blaster in 1980, and Bob & Doug, For Those About to Rock and Nature of The Beast in 1981.
    The early 90’s were a confusing time for me. I still loved my metal, but radio stations and Much Music were playing them far less. Also at this time I made the fateful walk up the stairs of Pop the Gator. I was introduced to live blues music that night, and I have never been the same since. That was the first time I heard Mel Brown play. WOW. Was he awesome. The only blues I had really listened to were SRV and ZZ Top, but they were Texas Blues. Mel Brown showed me what the blues were really about. Led Zeppelin sampled the blues, but Mel Brown was the blues, and he was a resident of Kitchener. While most people my age at the time were happy going to The Twist to listen to crap music(mainly because that was where the girls were), I wanted to see Mel play again and again. I saw him hundreds of times, and he was one of only 3 musicians I cried for when they passed. Dio and Freddie Mercury being the others. Also around this time I won an MCA compilation cd at a bar. I went home and listened to it, and it had an unknown band named Nirvana playing Smells Like Teen Spirit. I knew they would be big, but I didn’t know they would change the face of music. so in 1990 I was introduced to most of the best songs from Led Zeppelin, the blues, and early pre-grunge Nirvana. Wow. Like you, I thought the world revolved around 80’s hair bands and NWOBHM. Was I ever wrong.
    Thank you Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin for helping to open my eyes. I still love your music. I don’t care how often I hear a Led Zep song on the radio, I will never tire of it. Also, Thank you Mel Brown. I miss you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Brian, thank you for this heartfelt comment.

      I am going to talk about the first time I heard Nirvana some time this year. It’s a significant event for those who remember it. My story is no more interesting than anyone else’s but it’s my take and I got nothing better to talk about ;)

      Thanks again for this great comment. RIP Mel Brown.

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  4. Great post, Mike – it took me a while before I really dug Zeppelin and even at that it was just one album (IV). Still working at it, though and I’ve been listening a wee bit more the last couple o’ months …

    Liked by 1 person

        1. It is certainly an excellent album. It’s kind of like splitting hairs comparing them. It’s akin to “do I prefer the filet mignon or the top sirloin?” So hard to choose sometimes!

          Liked by 1 person

        1. Fantastic – I like finding those old reviews and seeing if I agree with my past self. My folks found a page recently where I had rated the wonderland rollercoasters, I haven’t been in years, but I’d be curious if I’d still agree with my early teenage self!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Mike, I had a very similar experience with this boxed set. I bought my copy from a guy at school who didn’t like it. I think I gave him $25 for it. Like you, it was my first real exposure to Zeppelin and it blew my mind. Being a huge Tesla fan at the time, the juxtaposition of acoustic and electric guitars was right up my alley. Soon, I would investigate another legendary band and my tastes would be forever changed: enter the Beatles.

    My evolution went from 80s “hair” metal to Zeppelin to the Beatles to Nirvana to Pearl Jam. After I delved into alternative music and grunge, it became so very difficult to listen to 80s metal again. Bands like Warrant seemed so ridiculous to me. I completely abandoned that genre for a good eight years or more—selling or trading off most of my metal CDs.

    Now, I’m at peace with it all. I can enjoy lousy bands like Warrant (sometimes) and great bands Tesla without a trace of guilt. In my library, Aerosmith and AC/DC sits nicely next to Alice and Chains and Arcade Fire—Whitesnake next to the White Stripes—Wilco next to Winger.

    My tastes are all over the place… and it honestly all began with the Zeppelin boxed set.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh Tesla. I still like those guys. Similar to you, I had just started getting into Tesla before I got into Zeppelin. Tesla’s acoustic live CD really impressed me, and it’s still great.

      I’m looking forward to a future post about the first time I heard certain grunge bands and how I felt about them then. I’m sure that will be great for more discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember my Dad having the same box you are talking about. One day I heard him playing “Communication Breakdown” on his stereo. Given that my musical wings – so to speak – were expanding and discovering different paths of flight (excuse the imagery).

    Thinking to myself: “This sounds cool”, he passed me along the box after he was done listening to it. This broke me onto Led Zeppelin. I have my Dad to thank, yet again, for another ingenious bit of discovery there.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep. I even gave him the new Blues Pills album and he loves it! Share and share alike.

        Definitely. That reminds me…I must pass him the ‘House of the Holy’ remaster.

        You’re welcome!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. She does for a lot of bands Nick, but there are just as many bands that she does not like. (Rush for example.) On the other hand, of the music she listens to today, I don’t hate any of it. Mostly classic rock, canadian rock, that kind of thing, is what she listens to today.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed this a lot. I know you and I talked about this boxed set, which I also received in 1990. I had some Led Zep, but this set really blew my mind. I promise to write about it. Yes, I will! :)

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  8. I enjoyed this one. My mum told me to listen to Zeppelin when I came home with my first ever metal tape, ‘AC/DC Fly on The Wall. She said she thought I’d like them and I thought ‘ yeah, well, whatever, old woman’ …

    Funnily enough it was the recorder on ‘Stairway To Heaven’ that got me hooked!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great story, Mike! Listening to the entire box set at once must have been quite the experience. Was this the first that you’d heard most of their music?

    If I had to pick only one genre of music to listen to forevermore it would have to be the blues. “Lifting entire songs”–haha :) yes they did! They were so outstanding with what they did that the bar was raised across rock, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

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