Friday, November 14, 2008

27. Led Zeppelin - IV

This is the album that defined my youth, for better or worse. I can still hear in my head the slight hiss right before Black Dog starts up and if I sit here in silence long enough, I can play the entire album in my head right up until the part where I'm all worn out from air guitaring on When the Levee Breaks, and it will be the mid 70's all over again and I'll be in that fort we made above Dennis's garage or in my bed with the headphones on or in Gloria's room with the black light posters and everything smells like pot and my mouth tastes like Parliament cigarettes and warm Miller beer.

A word or two on that song. I used to think this song was the greatest thing ever written. I thought it was deep and full of existentialism. I spent many nights debating the meaning of the line "to be a rock and not to roll." It was until many years later that I realized the words probably mean nothing except that Robert Plant read a lot of books. He strung some thoughts and words from his favorite novels together, mixed them in a blender and called it Stairway to Heaven.

The problem here is that Zep inadvertently invented a formula for overrated songs: The plaintive singing of cryptic lyrics about five stanzas too long, followed by a guitar solo that makes one envision the guitarist standing on top of a mountain, wind blowing through his hair while his screeching riffs conjure up all kinds of inclement weather because it's that good. And don't get me wrong. I love Zep. But Stairway makes me cringe. Maybe I'm just embarrassed that I used to believe this was the greatest song ever written. Then again, I also used to believe that you could see the Statue of Liberty in the reflection of a lake on Bear Mountain, but both those beliefs were born of the same drug.

Favorite song: When the Levee Breaks (the only song on this album I will still rock out to)
1971 Rolling Stone Review of IV


Solonor Rasreth said...

I think this album gets picked on because of Stairway. It's really almost perfect. I sill like I and II played back-to-back better, but IV is one of the best albums ever.

Sean Hackbarth said...

"Stairway's" lyrics make no sense. I don't care. The music and the singing create something timeless. It's still a great, great song.

Arjun said...

When the Levee Breaks is my favorite song here too and then I started liking it even more after I heard the original Delta Blues version (you can hear/see it on YouTube). The weird thing here? My 8 year old is playing Stairway on the fuckin RECORDER at his upcoming school concert. A class full of 8 year olds doing Stairway on the recorder. Nothing in my life has prepared me for this.

michele said...

Wow. And I thought it was cool when my daughter's class played "Gangster's Paradise" on the recorder.

Flowerdew Onehundred said...

I love Four Sticks. It's probably my favorite song of theirs, though that's more like a list than a single song.