Monday, December 04, 2006

dreams of you all through my head

I can't remember hearing Stairway to Heaven for the first time. It just seems like one of those songs I'd always known - like Happy Birthday or Hey Jude, but I do remember the first time I really heard Black Dog - and it lit a lightbulb in my head. Did I know of the song before really hearing it? Sure, but apart from knowing the song on a musical level there was a moment where I first really listened to it and I heard
that sex.

Last week I wrote about my non-relationship with metal and briefly mentioned Led Zep, but for me, Zep was never about metal. In a previous Musical Monday of mine I'd written about Nick Cave and how hearing his music opened my eyes to that primal sexual energy that rock music had. But I was younger then - Nick Cave brought up feelings that I didn't really know how to categorise but with Led Zeppelin there was no confusion about it. While Nick Cave was the black dog, dangerously tiptoeing that line between sex and violence - Led Zeppelin were and have always been, to me anyway, about the sex. I don't even think I really knew how the guitar could have been an extension of the penis until Jimmy Page came into my world. But after he did, the self indulgent (? depends who you ask I'm sure) guitar solos of men in rock bands made sense. If the guitar is the penis - then Led Zeppelin is the dirty throbbing sex that goes with it, no? I guess that's up to individual interpretation as well. The role of women, apart from as an 'object' for LZ is worrying to say the least but anyway.. In any case, whatever it is - it isn't vanilla.

The details of hearing the song, I suppose aren't really that important but anyway it was - Me. Lying on my bed. Listening to the oldies station - gold 104 before they became gold 104. 19 years old. Pants off (comeon, it was my room!). Sunday night, I think. They were doing a retrospective on the 70s and I was eagerly taping songs off the radio, which was one of my favourite things to do. The mixed tapes I had were always on high rotation on my walkman, which in turn went with me everywhere I went.

Since I was 12 that had always been the modus operandi anyway - me and my walkman. My hearing is shot these days - boy did I play it loud. I have always played my walkman at full blast - headphones never seemed to keep up with the constant 11 level I put them on. In fact the walkman itself could never withstand the pounding I'd give it and I went through heaps of them. They went on trips flying across the room, were constantly being dropped, roughly pulled apart and tapes shoved in, slammed shut and hit when they didn't work. I've had people balk at how loud I played that thing though - but I could never really explain to anyone in a way that they could understand that I just had to be inside the music. I never really listened to music loud on the stereo for all to hear - I have always listened to it where it belonged - loud, vibrating through the dark passage straight into my brain. I never got out of the habit - I still listen to it the same way - full blast - on the earphones. I can't see that ever changing - it's been a 16 year tradition.

But Black Dog was taping that night while me on my bed in my undies - just listened in wonderment and felt...it. I turned off the radio show after the song finished taping and listened to it a few more times before...err, bed. Then again on the walkman everyday on my way to uni. I still remember the order of the songs on that tape - Stairway to Heaven (as Judith Lucy mentioned tonight on "My Favourite Album" - would be happy not to hear this one ever again - talk about overrated!), Black Dog (LZ), Blitzkrieg Bop (The Ramones), I'm Bored (Iggy Pop), Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones), Road to Nowhere (Talking Heads)...after that it gets hazy. But it was that Black Dog that pushed me into listening to Whole Lotta Love and Dazed and Confused with new eyes too. That's what happens when you grow up - a re-appropriation of meaning from old to new - and I guess 19 is on that cusp of child/adult where your true identity is being formed under the confusion or angst or whatever it is that keeps you on the fence between nervous tension and complete apathy. I hated 19 - I miss 19 - nothing seems quite so new to me anymore.

Anyway, Black Dog is not my favourite Led Zeppelin song but it's a signpost anyway.

Black Dog - Led Zeppelin

And in case you had any doubt left here's something that explicitly spells it out.

Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin

...incidentally I've been listening to L.Zep while doing my reports (no wonder I'm so behind). Years ago I would have thought that my teachers were listening to Patsy Biscoe or maybe a bit of John Denver while writing reports. How's about the crazy Art teacher listening to Led Zep, eh? Disturbing and wrong in too many ways to count.