Tuesday 29 January 2008

Zep at the O2 - a belated tribute

A very pixellated photo of Led Zeppelin taken on my mobile at the O2 on 10/12/07.

I've been meaning to scribble down a few musings about Led Zeppelin at the O2 and a recent tribute to the venue in the free rag, The London Paper, has jolted me into action. I picked up the paper yesterday on the tube and read guest contributor, Louise Claridge's article "Why the O2 arena rocks my world". I enjoyed her celebration of a great venue in East London so much I felt compelled to add my experience of returning from December 10th's Led Zeppelin reunion concert. Hopefully you will find her article here: http://www.thelondonpaper.com/cs/Satellite/london/talk/article/1157150430729?packedargs=suffix%3DArticleController

Oh how sad, it says I wrote my contribution at 1:18 this morning but I know for a fact that I hit my pillow at 12:30!

Guest_Eclectic Trains says: Great article. I saw Led Zeppelin before Xmas and got home in a jiffy. Couldn't contain the smug smile on my face as the majority of fans headed West whilst I was a mere 4 stops from Upton Park (home). Bring on the rise of the mighty East London! It's been a long time... Tuesday 29 January 2008 01:18 Mark as offensive (what's that about?)

I wasn't a Led Zeppelin fan the first time round. "Stairway to Heaven" was enough to put me off. In 1976, aged 12, I had just graduated to Pink Floyd and Punk came along. The albums "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Animals" had to be hidden as The Clash, Pistols etc... went to the front of my LP box. Punk was pithy, angry, urban and cool and rock was what local biker gangs listened too. They were tough but they weren't cool. But like a lot of people whose music tastes were shaped in the 1970s you signed up to the revolution but also, over time, began to appreciate the evolution. What I mean is the raw energy to be fun in "Pretty Vacant" by The Sex Pistols could also be found in "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin. In fact the first drummer we had in our teenage punk band, was a orange-dyed haired, proto-Rotten look-a-like called "John the Punk" who used to entertain us with the opening drum break from "Rock and Roll" just to get an ironic laugh out of us. Once we managed to shut him up, Downstream, our band, went on to pen little Oxfordshire punk classics called "Punk Rock Superstar (what a hypocrite you are)", "Harlequin Man", "Apocalyptics" and "(Living in these) Financial Times". Oh those were the days...

Anyway my simple point is that Led Zeppelin have attracted wave after wave of new fans since their real demise in the late 1970s because they have a distinct and awesome sound. I think a housemate in Nottingham lent me the tape of "Houses of the Holy" in 1986. I didn't listen to it straight away, but a few years later I found it again, played it and started to get hooked (thanks Grant - I've still got your tape!). I'm no mystic. The mystic lyrics of "Kashmir" make me smile but they don't transport me. The relentless power of the music blew me away on the night and their performance of that song will stay with me for a long time. I enjoy the groove, from hard rock to funky riffs to spacey experimentation. Very rarely do lyrics catch my imagination. But on the night of the gig, whilst I was waiting to meet my brother, who had luckily, and legitimately, been sold 2 guest list tickets, I was moved to text him with some trivial and banal Led Zep (LZ) lyrics that were blasting through my iPod headphones as I emerged with fellow LZ fans up the North Greenwich escalators to the O2 Mecca. Here is my text:

------ SMS ------

To: +44**********
Sent: 10 Dec 2007 18:58
Subject: "Night Flight" by LZ
"Night Flight" by LZ

"I received a message from my brother
'Cross the water,
He sat laughing as he wrote 'The End's in sight'.
So I said goodbye to all my friends
And packed my hopes inside a matchbox
Cos I know it's time to fly...
Ohhh yeah come on meet me in the morning,
Meet me in the middle of the night..."

Nuff said. I'm here!

Pop Music is about capturing a musical moment. When it works special songs can coincide with moments in your life. I think I probably reverted to an over-excited teenager just for one night and Led Zeppelin at the O2 are to blame for that.


Graham said...

I know just what you're getting at - the way our youthful tastes evolve over time and you realise there's a not such big break in pop music in the mid-70s. Dick Lucas is saying the same thing in this YouTube clip (assuming I am technically competent to add it on): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ydt3kH8IzRc (not that Led Zep and the Subhumans make for a meaningful comparison...)

Richard Woolfenden said...

Thanks for the link, Loneliest Jukebox. I know what you are getting at but I think Dick Lucas of the Subhumans is actually arguing something different to me. He is saying that his new found affinity with "old", 40+ rockabillys that he used to laugh at when he was a young punk, is based on that fact that he is now a 40+ year old punk who is still taking the message to the kids. My point is more that the partisan music tastes that you develop between the ages of 12-22 start to melt as you appreciate a wider, more eclectic mix of music and inevitably you feel less self-conscious about what your music tastes may say about you. It is an identity thing and also a music evolution thing, I suppose.