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Led Zeppelin alert! January 14, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben would like to interrupt Silence Dogood’s ongoing posts about winter coleslaw recipes (not that I don’t love slaw, but really) with an update that should thrill all diehard Led Zeppelin fans (such as yours truly). If you know in your heart that Led Zeppelin was the greatest rock band, Jimmy Page the greatest rock guitarist, and “Stairway to Heaven” the greatest rock anthem of all time, read on. (Everyone else is welcome to read on as well.)

There’s a new book out about Led Zeppelin that sounds like a must-have. I know, I know, there are already bazillion books out about Led Zeppelin; our friend Ben had sworn never to buy another one until Jimmy Page writes one himself. But reading a review of this one changed my mind. Get the Led Out: How Led Zeppelin Became the Biggest Band in the World by Denny Somach (Sterling, November 2012, $29.95) is no Hammer of the Gods. (Which of course I enjoyed enormously.)

Author Somach decided to take a different approach to Zeppelin. Rather than focusing on the facts that anyone could read on Wikipedia (born, school, training, marriages, kids, etc.), he decided to base the book on 5,000 hours’ worth of interviews with the band and those who knew and know them best, and add tons of gorgeous illustrations of posters, photos, etc. to make the book more a coffee-table treasure than yet another tabloid expose of notorious (and not always true) Zep exploits.

This gives the book both a sense of immediacy (as in when a record-company executive walked into Jimmy Page’s backyard and heard him playing the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time: “he just froze; he couldn’t believe what he was hearing”) and the rich visuals that will satisfy the cravings of those of us who weren’t old enough to attend the concerts or buy the posters and other memorabilia, who came to Zeppelin after its fabled demise.

One thing that stupefied our friend Ben was the pricing of concert tickets back in the day. One poster featured in the review of the book, from 1971, advertised tickets to a Led Zeppelin concert for—are you sitting down?—$6. Yes, that would be six dollars. Given that tickets to fifth-rated performers at our regional theater now cost $60-plus, and tickets to fan faves like Jimmy Buffett are astronomical, Silence and I make do with the CDs of those we choose to follow. But oh my, to time-travel back to 1971 and plonk down $6 for a ticket to see Led Zeppelin! Six dollars. Okay, Ben, get a grip.

The book is apparently also peppered with entertaining factoids that should fascinate hardcore Zeppelin fans. And for those who’re just dipping their toes into Zeppelin waters, do you know how the band’s name came to be? Someone remarked on hearing that they wanted to merge blues and rock that their band would go over like a lead zeppelin. The band embraced the concept, but were concerned that people would misread the name and pronounce it as “leed”–as in, in the lead—rather than as the heavy metal for which it was named, giving an entire genre its name. Thus, “Led.” Another of our friend Ben’s all-time favorite bands, Dire Straits, was named because someone pointed out to the group that if they were depending on their music to support them, they were in dire straights. Both Led Zeppelin and Dire Straits clearly had a sense of irony and a sense of humor, as well as being fabulous musicians.

At any rate, I’ll be heading to Amazon.com today to place my order for Get the Led Out. And I’m still hoping for that book by Jimmy Page.

Love guitar? Watch this! August 20, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben loves guitar, and my all-time guitar hero is Jimmy Page. (Sorry, Mark Knopfler, Steve Vai, and Stevie Ray Vaughan; you guys are definitely next in line.) So when I discovered a documentary on Netflix called “It Might Get Loud,” featuring in-depth interviews about guitar-playing plus plenty of actual guitar playing by Jimmy Page, U2’s The Edge, and Jack White of The White Stripes fame, I rushed to add it to our Netflix queue. Unfortunately, it landed behind approximately 2 million of Silence Dogood’s historical dramas. I thought I would never live to actually see it.

But Silence is currently on deadline, so I cunningly suggested that she had no business wasting time watching movies and should turn the Netflix queue priority list over (temporarily, at least) to yours truly. She agreed, and I saw “It Might Get Loud” over the weekend. What a treat!!! The interviews were great, the playing was great, the archival footage of all the bands was great.

Our friend Ben didn’t think I could learn anything new about Led Zeppelin—surely the greatest rock band of all time—but I did. I learned plenty. Such as how Jimmy Page first came to use a double-necked guitar, so he could play “Stairway to Heaven,” the greatest rock anthem of all time, live.

And it was fascinating to see the varied paths by which the three guitarists had found their voices. (Jack White, one of ten children in a Southern family, found an abandoned guitar in one of the apartments his family rented. Elvis and Johnny Cash would have been proud. Given the battered, cut-into guitar he plays in the documentary, he may still be using it.) 

So our friend Ben urges everyone who loves rock guitar to find this DVD, rent this DVD, own this DVD. You won’t be sorry! And if you happen to know of similar films about Mark Knopfler, Steve Vai, or Stevie Ray Vaughan, please let our friend Ben know. Hey, guys, what’s the holdup here?!!

Beatles or Stones? August 17, 2011

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Silence Dogood had once again dragooned our friend Ben into watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel/food show, “No Reservations.” Why Silence, a passionate vegetarian, is so obsessed with this show, which seems to focus entirely on killing and eating meat, I can’t say. Whole episodes pass in which not a single vegetable is consumed. The show’s host loudly and constantly abuses and despises vegetarians. I can only conclude that one of Silence’s life goals is to cook for Tony and force him, not to convert to vegetarianism, but to recant as far as his antipathy to all things vegetable is concerned. 

At any rate, this episode was a bit different from the others we’ve seen in the series in that Tony interviews four “contestants” at the start of the show to determine where he’ll go next (in the event, to Saudi Arabia). At one point, interviewing a musician who’s trying to lure him to Buffalo, NY, Tony asks: “Beatles or Stones?” When the musician answers “Beatles,” it seems to seal his fate as a non-contender.

This of course set our friend Ben and Silence off bigtime. If Tony Bourdain had asked us this question, the answer would have been an unhesitating “Zeppelin.” We despise the Beatles’ hokey, self-indulgent ballads. Our friend Ben almost committed murder when taking acoustic guitar lessons after the instructor announced that the lessons would be based on the Beatles’ thump-thump playbook. (Silence does acknowledge that George Harrison became pretty cool once he managed to escape from the band.)

As for the Stones, our friend Ben simply found them discordant, loud, and boring (the latter trait shared with the Beatles), but Silence was totally revolted: “Vile, vulgar, ugly, and gross! Who would find that attractive?!” The Stones don’t give us no satisfaction, for sure.

Give us Led Zeppelin any day. Great music, great drama, no sappy, sentimental whining or pathetic pseudo-macho posturing disguised as music. Zeppelin was genuinely sexy. And it made genuinely fabulous music, thanks in large part to musical genius and founder Jimmy Page. If there’s another song from the entire rock era that can even approach “Stairway to Heaven,” we’d like to know what it is.

So, Tony, take your Beatles and Stones and eat them. Then listen to some real music. And think about expanding that famous “no reservations” attitude to include some vegetarian fare. It’s not brown, boring “health food” any more. And you don’t have to apologize* for killing a baby camel or trembling, terrified armadillo to enjoy it.

* Not that we’d expect a meat-eater to apologize for eating meat, but for whatever reason, Tony does so fairly often on the shows if the animal is killed on-air before being prepared and served, especially if it’s inherently appealing.

Lyrics for summer’s end. August 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Frances of Faire Garden (http://fairegarden.wordpress.com/) inspired me to think of this post today when she mentioned Led Zeppelin in one of her always-marvelous posts. Jimmy Page is one of my guitar heroes. But for some reason, Frances’s post made me think of the end of summer, especially since this is the last day of August and, conventional wisdom bedamned, I always think the first of September is also the first day of autumn.

Thinking of Led Zeppelin made me wonder if any song captured the end of summer the way Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” captured its beginning. And yes, there is a perfect end-of-summer song, from Jimmy Buffett of all people. If you only know Jimmy from “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” or “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” this poignant song will take you by surprise. It’s my all-time favorite Jimmy Buffett song, perhaps because it’s about Pensacola, the delightful North Florida area where I spent my family vacations every year as a child, and where I have such glorious memories of shelling and beach walking, riding the waves, and daring the Man-of-War jellyfish to sting me. Like Jimmy’s, my Pensacola was a quiet place, with beach houses, sand, and ocean. The “hot spots” were all farther down the coast. I guess, to hear this song, that’s not true any more! But still the memory lingers.

             When the Coast Is Clear

They’re closing down the hangouts

The air is turning cool

They’re shutting down the super slide

The kids are back in school. 

 

The tourist traps are empty

Vacancy abounds

Almost like it used to be

Before the circus came to town.

 

That’s when it always happens

The same time every year

I come down to talk to me

When the coast is clear.

 

Hello mister other me

It’s been a long, long time

We hardly get to have these chats

That in itself’s a crime.

 

So tell me all your troubles

I’ll surely tell you mine

We’ll laugh and smoke and cuss and joke

And have a glass of wine.

 

That’s when it always happens

The same place every year

I come down to talk to me

When the coast is clear. [repeat]

 

The music that accompanies these lyrics is great. If the early nights and late light at morning, the cool temperatures, the return to work and onset of winter are getting you down, check out this soulful song. Then maybe put on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” to take you far, far away from your troubles! (And don’t forget “Marrakesh Express.”)

           ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

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