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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?!!