This no country for old men. If rock music is demonic - in the best, Bloomian sense - and it seems it is at least Dionysian - then hard rock is more so; and the true fathers of heavy metal are Led Zeppelin, satyrs of swing, starting in '69. It is hard to think of a string of albums (I-IV) that are more intensely thrilling, varied, and yet of a piece - the core quality of these albums is a darker sublime: bluntly, music that mirrors youth's reckless exploration of sexuality, excess, and realms of the spirit angels sometimes fear to tread in. "The Battle of Evermore" still sends shivers down my spine (I first heard it in Berlin). They're a great band - easily better than The Stones or The Doors, The Who or you name it. Put on a Led Zeppelin album, and you are in a sensuous hell of your own making, one that tempts you with the idea that's the best place to be. This power, and this skill, in terms of vocal and performative ability - a striking, unsurpassed pop culture charisma - is nearly uncanny at moments. It led to bad - or at least debauched - things happening. It made people money. It somehow became a subject of humor (Spinal Tap is what happens next). Now they are playing, even as I write, in London. Roll over Bo Didley, and tell Crowley the news.


Andrew Shields said…
I-IV are brilliant, but what about the overwhelming "Houses of the Holy"? :-)
Stu said…
And let's not forget 'Physical Graffiti'... up til then they could do no wrong.

But barring a couple of tracks ('Achilles Last Stand' has a lot to answer for with its galloping bassline), the final two studio albums ('Presence' and In Through the Out Door') weren't so hot, IMHO.
They are great the Led Zeppelin but the other bands mentioned here, The Stones, The Who are greater.
I think the most mythical album of the rock's history is Who's Next. I think Pete Townsend lead guitar there goes almost beyond any other except Mike Bloomfield and Jimi Hendrix maybe.
Stu said…
Yeah, I have to say my eyes widened a little at the Zep / Stones / Doors / Who comparison.

I think the Stones at their best are at least the equal of Zep, though the comparison becomes nonsensical if we're talking about audacious musicianship.

There's the question of scope: Zep's blimped blues and epic questing vs. The Who's fat-themed operatics. For the most part the Stones stuck close to the source (i.e. the delta and the blues/hoodoo mythology around it), an area Zep and The Doors also mined very effectively. The Who never really ventured there - they went their own concept-driven way. The Doors had the bardship of Morrison, obviously, but a couple of very fine albums aside, I think they're dwarfed by their own myth.

All told, Led Zep and the Stones were on equally good terms with the devil. Score draw?