Thursday, April 13, 2006

Random Musical Revelations

  • Listening to Led Zeppelin is not conducive to highly technical work. It is very difficult to care about the current non-support of duplicate IP addresses in the ol’ corporate network -- even though multicasting does, in fact, require duplicate IP addresses -- while listening to “Hey, hey mama, said the way you move/Gonna make you sweat/gonna make you groove.”
  • Listening to Led Zeppelin is, however, conducive to rediscovering Sandy Denny. That’s her singing on “Battle of Evermore” on Led Zeppelin IV/Zoso/Runes/The Satanic Stairway to Heaven Album. She was the lead singer of a band called Fairport Convention, a bunch of folk rockers most famous for taking ancient traditional English folk tunes and tarting them up with electric guitars and a backbeat. She got drunk, fell down a flight of stairs, and died of a head injury at the ripe old age of 31. Sad. But wow, could she sing.
  • Led Zeppelin had a secret J.R.R. Tolkien fetish. Aside from entitling a song “Misty Mountain Hop,” they also wrote a blues song (“Ramble On” from Led Zeppelin II) with the line, “But Gollum, the evil one, ran way with her.” It’s hard to fathom the choice between a virile, chest thumping, preening, golden-maned Robert Plant and the slimy Gollum, and that some hippie babe might choose Gollum. But there you go. Who would have figured? No wonder Robert’s heart broke (listen to “Heartbreaker,” from the same album, if you don’t believe me) and he felt the need to ramble on.
  • Bands who use Roman numerals in album titles are really pretentious. The band Chicago really mastered this ostentatious twaddle, making it all the way up to XXIII or XXIV, I believe, but Led Zep was no slouch in that department, either. Get over it, guys. This is rock ‘n roll, not Virgil’s Aeneid.
  • My favorite Roman numeral is X. That’s also the name of a perfectly wonderful band. They had a lead singer/bassist named John Doe and a drummer named D.J. Bonebrake, both of which are better names than Robert Plant, which was far too docile and vegan-like for a rock singer. Check out Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun, and More Fun in the New World.
  • Using an iPod in shuffle mode is generally the way to go (I like to think of it as the world’s greatest radio station, WHIT), but sometimes the transitions can be brutal. Like going from The Ramones to Rachmaninoff. Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, and Sergei.
  • Listening to Led Zeppelin IntraVenous (IV) reminded me of the great Backwards Masking controversy that surrounded this album in some Christian circles. The backwards masking conspiracy theorists cast a pretty wide net, and at one time even implicated The Carpenters, who purportedly embedded the message “That’s not the way and video sends the message” in their hit song “Close to You.” Scary stuff. Okay, nobody said that the backwards masking had to make sense. But at any rate, various fundie preachers claimed to hear Satanic messages when they played “Stairway to Heaven” backwards, particularly when they listened to the line “It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.” So, to alleviate your fears, I decided to listen to the line backwards, and here’s what I heard: “neeewk yaim uht rof neelk nyirps uhtsuhj stih.” Hail Neeewk Yaim. Here’s the thing, kids: don’t try to listen to music backwards. You can hear plenty of crap just by playing it forwards, the right way. But you won't hear all that much if you listen to Led Zeppelin IV, which still sounds like a pretty great album.


Mark K. said...


In the theme of clasic rock, I've heard that Ray Davies has release a solo album. Do you know anything about it?

Andy Whitman said...

Mark, I've heard it, and I'm not too impressed. Like a lot of old farts who have released okay/decent albums in the past couple years -- think McCartney, The Rolling Stones, etc. -- the Davies album has received a lot of positive press because it's better than the dreck that preceded it in the previous decade or two. But it's still a far cry from his best songs with The Kinks.

The latest issue of Paste Magazine has a song from the new Davies album on the CD sampler. Have I ever mentioned Paste Magazine here? Great rag.

Andy Whitman said...

Oh, the best Kinks band going these days is the appropriately named Deathray Davies. I like them far better than anything Ray Davies has put out for years.

Anonymous said...

X, what a great band. You may remember that the female lead singer's name was Exene Cervenka (it's even difficult to type), and that at least one album included Dave Alvin as a member, at which time they recorded their version of one of Dave's greatest songs, "Fourth of July" (at least I think that was the title). Now I'm going to have to look up all those old vinyls and tapes.

As I recall, X was in their heyday about the time you and Kate were dating/first married. I know the decade, but don't care to share it here. Seems like the day before yesterday, a long time ago.

e said...

Wow. Robert and Jimmy got mentioned nearly in the same breath with Virgil.

Ovid would be pleased.

Come to think of it, so would Virgil.

Those guys were the toga equivalent of the Stones and Zep. Minus the drugs. Or minus the same kind of drugs.

Rock on:

"Against the Tiber's mouth, but far away,
An ancient town was seated on the sea;
A Tyrian colony; the people made
Stout for the war, and studious of their trade:
Carthage the name; belov'd by Juno more
Than her own Argos, or the Samian shore.
Here stood her chariot; here, if Heav'n were kind,
The seat of awful empire she design'd.
Yet she had heard an ancient rumor fly,
(Long cited by the people of the sky,)
That times to come should see the Trojan race
Her Carthage ruin, and her tow'rs deface;
Nor thus confin'd, the yoke of sov'reign sway
Should on the necks of all the nations lay.
She ponder'd this, and fear'd it was in fate;
Nor could forget the war she wag'd of late
For conqu'ring Greece against the Trojan state.
Besides, long causes working in her mind,
And secret seeds of envy, lay behind;
Deep graven in her heart the doom remain'd
Of partial Paris, and her form disdain'd;
The grace bestow'd on ravish'd Ganymed,
Electra's glories, and her injur'd bed.
Each was a cause alone; and all combin'd
To kindle vengeance in her haughty mind.
For this, far distant from the Latian coast
She drove the remnants of the Trojan host;
And sev'n long years th' unhappy wand'ring train
Were toss'd by storms, and scatter'd thro' the main.
Such time, such toil, requir'd the Roman name,
Such length of labor for so vast a frame."

John McCollum said...

I think I ought to start a "best backwards masking" rumors game on my blog...

Mark said...

I also like using shuffle on my ipod and the squeezebox which drives our home stereo. I kind of like the extreme jumps but the jumps bothered Libby. It came to a head one night when the play order was something like: John Michael Talbot, John Zorn, Madonna, Sex Pistols, Big City, JS Bach, Daniel Amos, Dixie Dregs, WOW, and then Cockburn. Since then the "random" mode on the squeezebox is restricted to related genres rather than everything in our collect.

The other fun radio station is http:/w/ which has helped be discover some artisted I didn't know.

woodsmeister said...

Speaking of the guys and gal from X, they have a roots rock/rockabilly side band called "The Knitters" that has just released a kick-butt album of mostly covers called, with tongues firmly in cheek, "The Modern Sounds of The Knitters"