Feb 25, 2007

Led Zeppelin: Great Band, or the Greatest Band?

Um, this was an either/or question. I'll just go ahead and put you down for "the greatest."

Some interesting developments have been occurring 'round here. I mean, there's the obvious - the ongoing "development" of Dean Green, who is now noticeably swishing around in there and occasionally punching me in the waist. Yesterday I was in the car and he jabbed me rather insistently, so I jabbed him back to see what would happen - he kinda got the hint and quit sloshing for a minute or two, then went back to shoving. That kid's a nudge already.*

Work at the Hazel House is ongoing. I don't think I've written about that before here, but to summarize - both the Teej and I owned real estate when we met, something I refer to as the "Philadelphia Problem."** When we got married, I moved into his place, which is charming but smaller than mine, and we started working on some ongoing issues with mine (henceforth to be called Hazel House, or alternately the Country House). Ongoing issues means that it was a semi-beat-up 1910 house that I was chipping away at with the help of Al and Christine, Lauren and Eytan, and other past housemates. Some significant work got done two years ago, when I redid the upstairs bathroom and some ceilings up there as well - put in a skylight, etc. But the fact still remained that the kitchen was a disaster and the back of the house was sort of falling into the ground. Now we're addressing those issues with a real contractor (unfortunately at real contractor prices) and I've been involved in trying to push things along so that we can move in there before Dean Green moves in with us! The details of all that will be a post for another day.

On the home front here at Kater House/ City House, a few noteworthy items from the past couple of weeks are blogworthy, but I will tell you about one of them here and save the rest for another post:

TJ is becoming a foam-sword-basher-wannabe after all. Remember when I admitted that I secretly should have been a foam-sword-basher but I couldn't muster the conviction? Part of all that arose in high school when I overheard my dad listening to some Steeleye Span on the reel-to-reel. I couldn't tell you why, but it grabbed me - the first song I started getting stuck in my head was "Two Magicians" from Now We are Six (Shanachie, 1974). I made him make me some cassette tapes of that album and he threw in Hark! The Village Wait(1970), Please to See the King(1971), Below the Salt (1972), Parcel of Rogues(1973), and All Around my Hat(1975). *** Thus began my nagging, accidental obsession with all things Traditional Ballady.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, we really got lucky (not me personally, I wasn't around just yet) in that Folk Rock became a semi-acceptable popular genre. I'm not talking about the Byrds and Bob Dylan, I'm talking about British/Celtic traditional ballads in their raw form being arranged for electric guitar solo, best exemplified by Steeleye and the Pentangle. Can you believe it? Believe it. Sometimes I listen to this stuff and really feel like I came out in the wrong decade, but what's done is done. Anyway, some of this purer stuff influenced bands like Jethro Tull (Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses, 1977-78), Fleetwood Mac, and Led Zeppelin to name a few.

So, like, obviously TJ would already be a Zeppelin fan because he is a Guitar Guy. In fact, on our "minimoon" in Big Sur, we tried to buy some music for the car trip back down the coast via San Simeon - unfortunately, the pickings at the Ventana Inn and Spa were slim, so we wound up with a classical guitar Zeppelin tribute album. It turned out to be AWESOME, and somehow we continue to listen to it all the time because it reminds us of our nice time last summer. Well, ironically, when you take Jimmy Page playing "Black Mountain Side" (from their debut album, 1969) and have a guy with a classical guitar do an instrumental rendition of it, what you get is precisely the arrangement by Bert Jansch called "Blackwaterslide" (1966). I pointed this out to the Teej, and he was thus introduced to Bert Jansch as a result of my father having supplied me with lots of such cassettes in my youth.

So now, TJ liking and appreciating Zeppelin is a no-brainer, and TJ liking Bert Jansch is cool but also kind of obvious since they both involve seriously righteous Guitar Guys. But I always got the feeling that TJ wasn't that interested in singers or lyrics or singing in general, and was mostly grabbed by Hella Tight Guitar-Playing.

So you'll imagine my surprise when one day he comes home and announces that he downloaded a bunch of Steeleye at school and he's been listening to it. Only weeks earlier, I had gotten a bunch of it in mp3 form (as opposed to my old cassettes) and had been revisiting the albums in a way that I honestly assumed had annoyed the hell out of him, but he had tolerated nicely - you see, I sang really loudly through about 5 straight albums one night, and he had to retreat downstairs. I just didn't think he would go for it - this stuff is very lyric-heavy and involves a lot of cheesy storylines about maidens and lost maidenheads and sailors and bandits and class differences and blacksmiths and miners and stuff. But the next thing I know, he's singing about all of those things in a ye-olde accent, and seeming to get a kick out of it.

I guess that's the end of the tale, but I can't even tell you that it makes me really happy in some nebulous kind of way. Like, he likes something I like and I didn't even force him! It makes me want to sing a jaunty ballad about it. I love TJ for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that he just sort of gets a lot of things that are either cool or important or both. The recent secret-foam-sword-lover revelation is really just icing, but it's fun and I appreciate it.

(I'm gonna quit and publish here so I don't miss my haircut, but probably when I come back I'll have to go back and edit this whole rambling thing until it makes any form of sense...)

*(In case it is not obvious, I am chuckling to myself right now and I did not abuse my fetus by shoving him hard, this is all kind of a joke and all that.)

** Not to be confused with the L.A. problem (two cars, one parking spot) or the New York problem (two rent-controlled apartments) or the hideously dubbed "two-body problem."

*** My Dad was always making me tapes of stuff I expressed interest in. Now that I think about it, almost everything we sang in chorus in college, he put on a tape for me and sent me - he owned recordings of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater, the Poulenc Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana, and about twenty other things we had performed. When I still kept my tapes in meticulous order, I'd transcribe all the tracks onto the liners in a certain way with a certain color pen and all was right with the world.


Blogger Capella opined...

In the battle for your tummy, I am rooting for Dean.

I am impressed that you are a grownup and have houses - plural. You should sell them both and move to the country and get a mule, like Jeanne Marie Laskas and her husband.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

So...when you move back into the Hood can I have your house in The Downtown? Or are you going to keep it as a pied-a-terre? Or rent it out to other Yuppies? Actually you'll be in good company out here in the Wild Wild West, baby-wise. Two friends of mine on Cedar have just given birth to darling little chilluns - one apiece. I see more and more mommas pushing their young-uns around the hood in strollers, some even jogging and pushing those special jog-a-baby numbers. Also if you get back here by the end of April you may be able to attend my next Abbraccio reading. But you sure missed a wild party at Cassidy's opening.

10:19 PM  
Blogger AEW opined...

Funny that nobody wants to comment on the music part. Babies and real estate over Steeleye Span?

What I love about Led Zeppelin is that they appeal to three distinct appreciators: guitar people, maidenhead ballad people, and blues lovers who don't hate them for stealing and making famous some very good songs by people who were better musicians. I count myself as a secret member of all three of those clubs, although my love for maidenhead ballads stops mid-way through Jethro Tull's oeuvre, and my love of the blues is pretty fairweather. Also, I am not especially a guitar rock lover; more like a secret craver, in the way that one wants to eat chocolate chips from the bag when they are left in the cupboard after someone else made cookies.

Anyway, as you know, I love, love, love Led Zeppelin. Steeleye Span -- well, see above about Jethro Tull. I am just not beknotted in quite that Celtic way. But the same textures I love in Zeppelin songs sometime appear in early Elton John and Rod Stewart, two artists who bridge my covert love for guitar rock and piano ballads. And that of course points to Billy Joel! I unabashedly love his early albums (The Stranger, Turnstiles), which is how I know I really love MY husband. When he first found the Billy Joel records in my collection (yes, records; I've had them since elementary school), he scoffed. Jeered, even. Then one day he put on the Stranger and became addicted. So much so that he played it for six months straight every time he made dinner. (I finally had to put the ixnay on the illybay oeljay, but not before successfully introducing Steely Dan -- also cheesy, but for different and equally compelling reasons.) It is very important to me that Josh loves Billy Joel, even if Billy Joel is one of the most reviled (we like to say "misunderstood") artists in the world. One day, we will make Elton John/Billy Joel mix tapes for EEK and she will discover her own secret love for John Mayer. Ew.

Who will Dean Green like? June Tabor?

10:47 PM  
Blogger Dubin opined...

Ah HAH! I just scored 100 on that Elton Billy quiz, first try. We rule.

There is still much more to be said on this topic, but for now I will note that this is why AEW and I are FRIENDS. Although I am still embarrassed about that time I dragged her to the Freight to see June Tabor, and instead of giving up the traditional goods, June had to go and get all contemporary on us and it was highly unsatisfying. She still has the best voice in the genre, tho.

By the way, I didn't know you hearted Billy Joel. I obviously knew that you were sitting in a tree with Led Zeppelin, but how did I miss this Billy Joel thing?

8:26 AM  
Blogger AEW opined...

I kept it a secret for a long time. For so long that I forgot why I was keeping it a secret. I guess B.J. didn't jive with the dirty hippie persona I tried to cultivate in college, the art fag persona I tried to cultivate in SF, or the indie rock persona I tried to cultivate in grad school. In the end, though, B.J. won out. Still, I have a lot of trouble listening to the Innocent Man record. And can I admit that I even had the Storm Front cassette in high school? I still remember the words to "Downeaster Alexa."

Seeing June Tabor was the first and only time I went to the Freight. I remembering feeing pretty cool when we smoked out front; the rest is lost to the ether. So my memory is of a cool night!

I think Dean Green should be named Eamon. Eh?

11:16 PM  
Blogger karen opined...

what a conicidence that i just read this, and then jon brings this thing home from "the onion" to show me:
Unreleased Jimmy Page Guitar Riff To Be Retrieved From Secret Vault To Save Rock And Roll
my fave LZ story- like 10 years ago i'm driving around listening to this song on the radio going "wow- this is really awesome. whoever these guys are, they're so fresh & modern. they're really reinventing music as we know it." ...um, it was an old zeppelin song of course.

4:47 AM  
Blogger hilsbells opined...

so i'm totally late on this whole thread, but the segue into billy joel reminded me of a few things. someone at the fountain walk house had a billy joel songbook and i remember singing with dubin - we didn't start the fire - one lazy day. not the best in his repertoire.
i have to admit i always had a secret love of billy, but it has been horribly scarred by my mother's decision to take me to see movin' out on a trip to new york. it's hard not to hear the songs without a vision of a coked out vietnam vet doing pirouettes on stage. and yes, it was that bad.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Dubin opined...

Oh man! I just had a memory that Karen will probably never come back to this post to read about, but here it is:

When we were about 15, she sent me a letter (this was before email when friends who met at camp KIT'd with paper) saying she was going to be in St. Louis or something. I asked her what she was doing there, and when she wrote back she said she had gone to a Jetrho Tull concert. In my mind, I was like, "Ok, I have heard of them but I don't know anything about them so I'll just take that at face value."

Turns out she didn't really know who they were either, but she was just embarrassed because secretly she had gone to a NKOTB concert and didn't want to tell me lest I judge her! HAH! But she later admitted it anyway.

9:38 PM  

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