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In Praise of Led Zeppelin

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Everywhere in the older Chinese writers he encountered praise of music as one of the primal sources of all order, morality, beauty and health. — Hermann Hesse

One of the good things about being a baby boomer is that when you tell your boring old-folk stories about the musicians you’ve seen in concert, they aren’t boring, they’re cool.

My Dad used to tell me about seeing Frankie Lane at Blinstrub’s, a ritzy club in Boston where national performers appeared to do gigs, and he raved to us, many times, about how fantastic Lane was. I’m sure Frankie was great, but the impact of the tale was largely lost on me. My mom talked about seeing Glenn Miller, the thought of which would excite me today, but then it was strictly corny old folks stuff. That was the divide between generations back then… what did they call it? Oh yeah, gap, the generation gap, which has all but closed today, one of the great triumphs of the 60s.

Sure, there are lots of other areas where the gap continues, but as far as music, these days toddlers sit on their parents shoulders and hear Dylan sing… well, rasp, “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Jack White and Dave Matthews sing onstage with Mick Jagger and the Stones. It’s all different now.

So when I tell younger people about how I saw Led Zeppelin on their first American tour, January 1969, at The Boston Tea Party, paying four bucks to get in, they listen with a kind of reverential awe and borderline disbelief. Ticket prices for the recent Zeppelin one-shot reunion gig for Ahmet Ertegun, with John Bonham’s son Jason on drums, were selling in the neighborhood of $10,000 a pair, so you can see why my first concert experience with Zep seems at the same time both terribly ancient and completely current.

The Tea Party held about a thousand people. It was a place where lots of hippie bands played during the 60s. They had a mirror ball and strobes and those oil and colored-water projectors, first created by the Joshua Light Show, making trippy liquid designs on the wall next to the stage. The place itself used to be a synagogue, a big rectangular room with the stage at the end, huge high ceiling, no seats except a few folding chairs along the side and the bolted down seats in the balcony. It was like a hippie high school auditorium. On other nights I saw The J. Geils Band there, Jethro Tull, Sons of Champlain and some more obscure bands I can’t recall at the moment. But the Led Zep show was a big thing.

The first album was out and “Communication Breakdown” was an FM Radio hit. The music was so different than what we’d been hearing, so new and hard and driving, crunching guitars, pounding drums, high, screaming vocals. There’s wasn’t even a name for it back then, but soon it would come to be known as the future institution, hard rock. The record had only come out in stores the week before, nobody knew anything about the band, who looked so girlish on the back record cover, with their big heads of puffy hair and pale English skin, that it embarrassed me and most of the guys I knew – I was 17 and back then, anything ‘faggy’ was to be positively shunned, but the band was so good, we decided to let it slide. And they were singing about girls, in a way that raw and sexual, so we figured they were probably all right with us.

About Will Brennan

  • Seetheshow

    Will,

    Great praise to one of my favorite bands!!! They did play one other time as Led Zeppelin. It was for Atlantic Records 40th anniversary concert. The concert was held May of 1988 at Madison Square Garden. The show was 12 plus hours long. Led Zeppelin with Jason B. on drums closed the show. It was the only band of the show that Ahmet Ertegen introduced and he introduced them as his, “favorite”.

  • Will Brennan

    hi Seetheshow

    Thanks for correcting that. I missed that factoid. I wonder if that show was recorded and is available.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    they also played together at their induction to the RR Hall of Fame.

  • http://roofscapemagazine.blogspot.com/ Roofscape

    Cool.This makes me want to read on. I tried to check out some of your other stuff, but clicking on your name brings up a list of articles by others, for some reason.

    I enjoyed the description of the Tea Party. I missed its first incarnation. It was like Max’s Kansas City on Lansdown by the time I got there. I think the first band I saw there was the Kinks. J. Geils used to play my high school. They definitely got booties shakin’.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Hi Roofscape,

    If you click on the “In Praise Of” link just under the author’s name at the top of the article, you can find the other articles in this series.

    To see all the articles written by Will Brennan, click on the “Will Brennan’s BC Writer Page” link in the box under the article.

  • stephanie

    one of the best articles i’ve read on zeppelin…and I’ve read a lot. thanks

  • http://www.myspace.com/rokarony ronnie

    i had a wonderful time reading this article! i am 23 and i have led zeppelin at the top of my list for rock bands. generation gap haha!

  • Will Brennan

    thanks to all for your comments… rock on…

  • lee litif

    those led zeppelin january and may 1969 boston teaparty performances are so immolating and transonic and i own both bootlegs anyway [Personal contact info deleted]

  • lee litif

    will brennan i have a copy of led zeppelin january 26th 1969 boston teaparty show on cassette if your interrested i willbe in salem mass in two weeks and i love record exchange store anyway [Personal contact info deleted]