Thursday, May 07, 2015

Led Zeppelin Admission

[Warning: the following will be of interest to only fans of Led Zeppelin... and possibly fans of my personality cult]

Zeppelin has remained my favorite band for decades now.  As a teenager, I remember my friends introducing me to their albums and I just fell in love, even when they moved on to the Who (who, har, I greatly respect, more on that later) I stayed with Zeppelin.  They have the fewest proportion of bad songs of any long standing band (and I can listen to the crud... usually).  I also possess every bootleg I can get my digital hands on and they are a great treasure trove.

What's the admission?  Well, as a teenager, my friends denigrated Presence in favor of In Through the Out Door, which they considered musically more adept.  Nonetheless, after years of listening and fandom, I have to say that ITTOD is their weakest album by far, containing two of their lowest quality songs ("I'm Gonna Crawl" and the poignant and heartbreaking yet not-very-good "All My Love"). Presence, on the other hand, has a great start ("Achilles Last Stand" is freakin' awesome) and it's only weak entry is "Tea for One." 

The real scandal though, is that I actually like their last album, Coda, a heckuva lot.  The only weak entry is their redone "I Can't Quit You Baby" (a holdover from their early note-for-note Blues mimicry*), and many of the tracks are very fun: "Walter's Walk" (another admission, I also like "The Crunge" so that could disqualify me), and "Darlene" (which is a better parody of country music than "Hot Dog"). 

Naturally, I hold the trump for last: "Bonzo's Montreaux" - so good they later merged it with "Moby Dick" (halavai they should merge in one of the "Pat's Delight"s).  Of the later albums, ITTOD just doesn't hold up, even compared to Coda!   Throw tomatoes if you must.

* = when I first heard the early Zeppelin, and early Rolling Stones, I thought their blues songs were atrocious, and I judged the bands accordingly.  I thought that they were young and untrained and only later were able to refine their skills.  Then I heard the original blues songs they were covering and found out that they were equally as bad.  Gadzooks!  I love the blues, as every red-blooded American male does, but not so many of the early bluesmen were listenable.  There are a handful of supermen better than their British successors - Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker - but a lot of the early stuff is as bad as the early UK blues-rock.   More tomatoes now I assume.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Songs About Making Songs

I have asserted to my musicologist wife that at least in Rock n' Roll (my bailiwick), I had noticed that whenever a band - which regularly wrote (the de rigueur) love songs - had a breakup song, the latter would be above average for their quality.

Recently, I think I can expand on that to suggest three more genres to add to (1) breakup songs: (2)  songs about the creative process, (3) the sequela of that, songs of insomnia, and (4) songs about the struggles of fame.  The latter is not as interesting as the others, but all four have in common the theme of anger.  And maybe anger is actually a great artistic muse (either that or it's frustration, same thing in this context).

Here's a current list of these types of songs, starting with #2, songs of the creative process.
  1. The Who "Guitar and Pen"
  2. Eagles "Certain Kind of Fool
  3. (arguably): Foreigner "Juke Box Hero"

Just for fun, some (#3) insomnia songs:
  1. Chicago "25 or 6 to 4"
  2. Green Day "Brain Stew"
  3. Beatles "I'm So Tired"

The breakup songs (#1) that I have in my own catalog: [roughly defined]
  1. The Beatles "For No One"
  2. Billy Joel "And So It Goes"
  3. Bob Seger "Still the Same"*
  4. The Commodores "Sail On"
  5. The Commodores "Still"*
  6. Elton John "I'm Still Standing"* 
  7. Elton John "Empty Garden"**
  8. Elton John "Sad Songs (Say So Much)"**
  9. Elton John "Candle in the Wind"**
  10. Jay & the Americans "She Cried" ***
  11. The Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
  12. U2 "One"
  13. U2 "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
  14. U2 "With or Without You" ****
* = do all songs with "Still" in the title count as breakup songs?  Discuss.
** = Elton John has cornered the market with eulogy songs, which are a subset.
*** = This possibly ruins my thesis because this band barely makes decent music.
**** = I'm stopping at 3.  Did U2 even write a love song?

Please add some if you know of any favorites.  Sure, there are lists on the internet, but these are songs I've heard first and then categorized.