“Went up Nigs and done some more recording. Mart P came up. Borrowed Led Zep II”
OK, lets have ‘confession time” shall we?
Despite all my early love for music and my subsequent career within its hallowed portals, I never really “got into” Led Zeppelin until fairly recently – maybe just a couple of years or so ago.
Certainly as a teenager I never fully appreciated what they represented, either in terms of the folk/rock hybrid sound they pushed into the mainstream OR how just, well, massive they were as a band.
I don’t know if my diaries will mention or admit this, but a couple of years after this first exposure to the band, I got a ticket for one of the shows Zepp did at London’s Earls Court to support their album “Physical Graffiti“. I think I was happy to sell the ticket to a fellow student for the same price I bought it for. That seems just so very CRAZY now given the price tickets were allegedly being scalped for at the band’s 2007 ¾’s of a reunion concert at the O2. (Reports of £20,000 being offered for a £70-ish ticket??)
Anyway, back to “Zeppelin II”…
It was the band’s first UK & US chart-topper (and America it knocked The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” off the #1 spot) and sold over half a million copies in its first year of release, 1969. (30 years later it was recognised for having then sold over 12 million!). It was also a Number One album in France, Australia, Spain and Germany.
Trivia freaks may like to be surprised by the fact that it reached #32 on Billboard‘s Black Album chart, its use of a blues-derived sound evidently crossing over.
The album has what is often referred to a ‘live studio’ feel, everything mixed just enough to make it sound raw but nevertheless produced (by Jimmy Page)
It contains some of the band’s most popular and enduring cuts… as well the pre-requisite ‘filler’
“Whole Lotta Love” kicks things off nicely, the familiar distorted guitar riff disolving into Robert Plant’s orgasmic grunts and moans. The band (initially) *ahem* “borrowed” some of Willie Dixon‘s “You Need Love” to pad out the lyrical content. (A 1985 settled-out-of-court lawsuit eventually gave Dixon credit – and, I suspect, suitable retrospective monetary recompense). The song was the theme music for seminal UK music show “Top of the Pops” during the 1970’s and 80’s.
“What Is and What Should Never Be” features Page’s phased guitar (listen to it travel from speaker to speaker!) under Robert Plant’s own lyrics (his first piece of songwriting for the band, no less)
“The Lemon Song“* was a teenage fave of many, its sexual innuendo evident with lyrics such as “squeeze my lemon ’til the juice runs down my leg”. Whilst I liked that, obviously – hey, I was a teenager okay? – I was as much of a fan of John Paul Jones’ extremely funky bass playing that underscores the performance.
“Thank You“*closes Side 1. I know it features mainly keyboard work (John Paul Jones, again), but its not a cut that conjures up anything for me personally, other than that one point where the (Hammond?) organ fades away to almost nothing than comes crashing back a few seconds later.
Side 2’s opener “Heartbreaker“*features a Jimmy Page guitar solo which has been voted the world’s “16th Greatest” by Guitar World magazine. Personally, I find the actual song’s riff to be more magnificent than the solo.. but that’s just me, obviously.
Heartbreaker segues straight into “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)“*which is allegedly about a groupie the band encountered earlier in their career. A so-so track as far as I am concerned.
Things get better with “Ramble On“*which despite its dodgy & nonsensical “Lord of the Rings”-influenced lyrics just manages to stay the right side of credible. I try and ignore them and instead concentrate on the wonderfully jangly guitar work.
“Moby Dick” is an instrumental and more famous as a live favourite moreso than a studio cut. Mainly because it often allowed for John Bonham’s ‘drum excesses’ with some reports suggesting he could solo for up to 20 minutes at some shows. I’m sorry, but drum solos – even ones by Keith Moon – are the ‘music of the debbil’ and should be banned.
There’s similar “Whole Lotta Love” controversy surrounding Led Zepp 2’s closing cut, “Bring It On Home“. Although originally billed as a unique Plant/Page composition it borrows heavily from Willie Dixon’s song of the same name, and originally made famous by Sonny Boy Williamson. Once again, it took a lawsuit for Dixon to get proper credit. The song is perhaps closer to the material on Led Zeppelin’s debut album than anything else on “II” – that crossover blues/rock hybrid to the fore.
Pub quizzers may like to know that in addition to the band members airbrushed into that tinted cover shot (originally Manfred Von Richtofen’s – the Red Baron‘s – WW1 “Flying Circus” division of the German Air Force), the other faces seen include Led Zepp’s (infamous) manager, Peter Grant, bluesman Blind Willie Johnson and, for whatever reason, Glynis Johns (the actress who played the mother in Mary Poppins!)
But, like I said – and a few chosen cuts aside – I didnt really get ‘into’ this album until MUCH later in life. Perhaps in 1973, it just wasn’t ‘prog’ enough for me, or I was just too young to properly appreciate all the influences?
*NB:- At the time of witing this there seems to be some kind of ‘issue’ between Warner Bros/Led Zeppelin & YouTube, with the latter apparently pulling any videos featuring the band themself. There’s PLENTY of awful cover versions of these songs – search them very much at your own risk!