Lex on Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin III)

“Out On The Tiles.”

Of all of my favorite Led Zeppelin tunes, this one would have to rank at number one.  Like a lot of Led Zeppelin songs, this one makes me strut back and forth like a rooster on the prowl.  The best songs by this classic rock band makes me feel a certain, intangible something that makes me want to live life to the fullest at full-throttle.

The same can be said about Led Zeppelin III.  When I discovered this album back in the early 80s, the band had already come to its end.  Bonham had passed on, Jones was taking a break, Plant had  released his first solo album, and Page was doing soundtrack work. Nothing that they were doing at that point was as good as the music they played together in the previous decade.  Even after they called it quits, their legend ruled the  FM rock radio stations in Los Angeles. Even as a kid in the 70s, I knew when they were in town; and, of course, my mom would tell me that I was too young to attend their concerts.

George and Tony, two Latino “hard rock-loving” brothers in my junior high school class, were Zeppelin freaks.  In South Central L.A., these two were the “keepers of the flame.”  Through my aunt Ava, I heard the first two Zeppelin albums, as well as their fourth.  It was pretty great stuff for an aspiring guitarist (me) to hear.  When asked by George and Tony if I had heard the third album, I told them I had not. The next day, Tony handed me a cassette copy of the third Zeppelin album in second period.  “Here, man.  Let me know what you think tomorrow.”

I listened, and I have to admit that I just didn’t get it.  It sounded nothing like the first two albums, which were filled with blues-based rock gems, some acoustic parts, and lyrics that I could understand -after all, blues lyrics were written for “everyman.”  After repeated listens that night, I walked away with 4 favorites, and let the others rest for a few years.

“The Immigrant Song.”  Two-note rock riff, driving drums, and a wail that sounded like someone conquering the world.  It shook me, and made me sit up straight.

“Celebration Day” came close to the galloping, swaggering sound that I had come to know as Led Zeppelin.  It was the classic sound, period.

“Out On The Tiles” was instantly my favorite song on the album.  There was something in that song that meshed perfectly with my musical brain.  It made sense.

“Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.”  I fell in love with “Thank You” from the second album, as well as “You’re Time Is Going To Come” from the first.  I could understand that Zep’s acoustic music could convey a strong message without turning up the volume and pressing the electric. “Stomp” was fun to listen to, and the solo acoustic passages were fun to attempt on my first acoustic guitar.

It would be another 6 years when I finally got the full impact of Led Zeppelin III. I was a different person at 19 than I was at 13.  I could take in “the different.”  I started replacing my Zeppelin vinyl with new-fangled CDs, and I bought them in order and played the hell out of each one until I bought the next.  When I revisited Led Zeppelin III, it all started to make sense.

After those first two albums, Page and Plant went to the country to write.  It gave their music an emotional depth and power that would not have existed if they stayed in a London recording studio.  With no running water or electricity in their rented cottage, they were forced to go acoustic.  This was the Zeppelin album where Plant would start to become a formidable writing partner, tackling lyrics that went beyond his recycling the blues.  Dig “That’s The Way.”  There is very little on the first two albums that indicate that his lyrics were heading in a different direction.

Page, who originally started out as an acoustic guitar player in his early teens, creates some of the most moving acoustic arrangements to come out of rock music.  “Gallows Pole” still moves, bobs, and weaves its way through the minds of many guitarists today.  “Tangerine,” one of the most beautiful and moving pieces on the album, was one of the first songs that made me think, “I gotta buy the Zeppelin song book to play this correctly.  Playing this one by ear is an injustice to the writers.”  And so, I did.

So after 6 years, I finally got it.  And Led Zeppelin III would be the most played Zep album in my collection.  It’s not just “Zeppelin goes acoustic.”  It’s the sound of Zeppelin growing into the powerhouse band that would give listeners some of the most compelling and challenging music of all time.  And if that weren’t enough, this is the Zeppelin album that made it all the way to #30 in what was then called “Billboard’s Black Album Chart.”  Yes, even the brothers in the ‘hood were down with these funky English cats, man.

(Sidebar:  Turns out that Rolling Stone Magazine didn’t like this Zeppelin album.  They didn’t like the two that came before it, or the five that came after it.  When I discovered this fact, I started buying all of the albums that the magazine would pan; often I was delighted with my choices.)

January 9th finds Jimmy Page getting one year older.  I’d like to say thanks to Jimmy for being a prime inspiration in the development of my being a guitarist.  For my money, he is the true “riff-meister.”  Happy birthday Jimmy!  Next time you’re out in Vegas, I invite you to my place.  I’ll cook Italian if you’d show me how to play that sweet,opening solo from “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”

(One more sidebar: Will someone get smart enough to add “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” as a bonus track on this album?  It was the B-side of “The Immigrant Song,” after all.  And it’s a sweet track, to boot!)

(Please note:  This album was originally released on October 5, 1970)

Currently listening:
Led Zeppelin III
By Led Zeppelin
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~ by Poppermost on January 10, 2009.

One Response to “Lex on Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin III)”

  1. hi Lex, happy birthday! (ON LATE…). Do you “remember”? 😉

    I still read your posts…

    bye bye, DF

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