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The Residents covered Led Zeppelin in 1971!
06.30.2014
01:49 pm

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Music

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Led Zeppelin
The Residents


 
Although I suppose it’s better than being haunted by something by Cher, Kylie or Justin Bieber, I have to admit that I’m getting really sick of hearing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” wherever I turn. In restaurants. At supermarkets. The gas station. At Trader Joe’s. The airport. At red lights being pumped out of someone else’s car… You can’t escape. I know those new Led Zeppelin remasters are out, but it’s not like this song was exactly scarce before that!

Yikes, I need some mental floss… wait, I know…

Long before they covered The Beatles, Cannibal & the Headhunters, James Brown, Elvis, George Gershwin or Hank Williams, in 1971, the Residents rudely took on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (rechristened “Holelottadick” and letting the intention of Robert Plant’s lyrics really hang out there) on their unreleased (but widely bootlegged) Baby Sex album.

Baby Sex was once broadcast in its entirety on Oregon radio station KBOO-FM during their “Residents Radio Festival” in 1977. The album’s second side is an astonishing studio collage piece titled “Hallowed Be Thy Wean” which includes a live recording of The Residents at San Francisco’s Boarding House in October 1971 with Snakefinger, the first time that “The Residents” moniker was employed by the group.

Baby Sex also features a ripping cover of Frank Zappa’s “King Kong,” that could almost be the Mothers of Invention themselves playing. The Residents’ direct musical and sonic debt to Zappa (and Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict,” for that matter, “sampled” at length in “Hallowed…”) becomes much more obvious after you’ve given Baby Sex a listen. (Original Mother Don Preston would later collaborate with The Residents on their epic Eskimo album).

Elsewhere on the album, the cryptic ones “steal this riff” from Tim Buckley’s “Down By The Borderline” (from Buckley’s Starsailor album, which was probably not so coincidentally released by Zappa’s Straight Records) and manage to sound like a geeky version of Santana!
 

 

The Residents live at The Boarding House in San Francisco, October, 1971

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Led Zeppelin: Their very first time on TV, 1969
05.01.2014
05:48 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Led Zeppelin

Lzsca69
 
There’s only so much hyperbole one can use when describing music (“rip-snorting,” “mind-blowing,” “tearing-up the house”) before the reader becomes inured and thinks, “Yeah, well, okay…” and moves on to something with more nouns and verbs and fewer adjectives (or just plays the music). However, this early Led Zeppelin concert recorded for Danish TV just six months after their first gig (where they were billed as “The Yardbirds”) deserves every hyperbolic phrase going, as it gives a powerful intimation of why Zeppelin were set to become the greatest live band of the 1970s.

Recorded at the Gladsaxe Teen Club, Denmark, for TV Byen/Danmarks Radio on March 17, 1969, Led Zeppelin perform “Communication Breakdown,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” and “How Many More Times.” Impressive and tight, it is a cracking showcase.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The worst, most bass slappinest Christian cover version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ EVER
03.24.2014
08:07 am

Topics:
Belief
Kooks

Tags:
Led Zeppelin
Christianity


 
A “Stairway to Heaven” double-header over at Christian Nightmares this morning. First up is Bold for Jesus, a former rocker who is now a “radical” Christian YouTuber. I think his definition of radical can be gleaned from his “Christian yelling” videos, such as this one, where he shouts stuff at cars for 16 minutes in front of a Toyota dealership.

Here’s his own description of what ye of little faith are about to receive:

I have not played the real Stairway To Heaven song since 1981. You can hear me talk at the end about slamming a pie on top of a teacher’s head. I had fun. I lived a radical rock n’ roll life for 10 years, and now I live radical for Jesus Christ.

Yes, this is the worst, most bass slappinest for Jesus cover of “Stairway to Heaven” that has ever existed. It goes on forever, but it gets funnier and funnier as forever plods goofily along. Then he tells a story about an absolutely hilarious (well hilarious to him) high school pie throwing incident.
 

 
And then, as if that wasn’t enough, here’s Paul Crouch Jr, the son of televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch—as you can see the nut didn’t fall very far from THAT particular tree—exposing the Satanic messages that are revealed in “Stairway to Heaven” when the song is played backwards back in 1996. Does Bold for Jesus know about this???
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Shine On You Shitty Diamond: Worst Pink Floyd cover band. Ever.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Worst Led Zeppelin cover of all time? Disco duo Blonde on Blonde cover ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ 1979
01.24.2014
09:49 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin
Disco
Blonde On Blonde

Blonde on Blonde
 
Comprised of two “Page 3 Girls”—women who’ve achieved the prestigious honor of appearing topless in the British tabloid, The Sun, Blonde on Blonde was the sort of act that made more sense in an environment with a lot of cocaine. I suggest you brace yourself for the actual song—the ladies are a bit more photogenic than they are musical, though the vacant stage presence kind of distracts from their disco hotness.

And if you’re under the impression that I might be slighting two very serious female singers with an unshakable artistic bond, rest assured that I am not. The line-up changed pretty frequently, only consistently maintaining Nina Carter, so apparently the other blondes in Blonde on Blonde were considered interchangeable.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Jimmy Page: Led Zeppelin’s guitar maestro turns 70
01.09.2014
10:54 am

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Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin


 
Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page turned 70 today. Looking at recent pictures of the man, it seems within the realm of occult possibility that the maestro made a Faustian bargain to retain his good looks into his old age (Actually considering the amount of debauched mileage Page’s body has been put through over the decades, Dorian Gray is perhaps a more appropriate fictional name to evoke.)

Look at that unlined face. For a guy his age, he looks great, but for a guy his age who lived through the excess of Led Zeppelin, it’s doubly impressive. Look at Keith Richards for contrast. In the footage shot at the O2 Arena Led Zeppelin reunion in 2007 (and later released as the incredible Celebration Day), Page was every bit the guitar-wielding marauder of his younger days.
 

 
I had the great pleasure of meeting Jimmy Page once. He’s a very elegant dude, and very friendly, putting me immediately at ease with the information that both his wife and a friend had gifted him with my Book of Lies occult anthology for Christmas that year. I’m not going to pretend like that wasn’t a thrill… because it was.

The unused Jimmy Page score for Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising:

 
“Train Kept A Rollin’” with The Yardbirds.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Night Flight: Inside Led Zeppelin’s private jet, 1973
12.22.2013
03:38 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin


 

Led Zeppelin used to park themselves in big city hotels (New York, LA, Chicago, Dallas) and then fly in and out of the smaller cities and back that same night, ferried to and fro between hotels, airports and concert halls via a squadron of limousines.

“The Starship,” as the former United Airlines Boeing 720 passenger jet was re-dubbed by its owners (Ward Sylvester and pop singer Bobby Sherman) had been modified at the cost of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, with the intention of renting it out to touring super-groups. Swivel chairs, a bar, and a 3/4” Sony U-matic videocassette player and TV were installed (The plane’s library contained films ranging from Deep Throat to the Marx Brothers), and a bedroom, for “privacy” was built into the back of the plane. Shag carpeting, champagne, the Starship had it all, even President Nixon’s Air Force One didn’t compare. There were two stewardesses on the plane and it cost $2500 an hour to run.

John Bonham was once rumored to have flown the jet from Los Angeles to New York. Legend also has it that he once drunkenly tried to open the jet’s hatch to take a pee while the plane was flying over Kansas City…

Having your own private jet these days, no big deal. Back in 1973, only demi-gods owned them…
 

Page and Plant on-board.
 

A fireplace?
 

Robert Plant and groupie Audrey Hamilton, the inspiration for “Hot Dog.”
 

Robert Plant and Zeppelin’s tour manager, Richard Cole, enjoy a quiet moment in the Starship’s master bedroom.
 

Jimmy Page chatting with one of the stewardesses.
 

John Paul Jones plays the Hammond organ built into the bar, as Atlantic Records head honcho Ahmet Ertegun looks on.
 

Audrey Hamilton, this time with Jimmy Page. Apparently John Paul Jones loathed her.
 

The Starship’s exterior.
 
Footage shot inside Led Zeppelin’s Starship…  

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Robert Plant is still embarrassed about his ‘Does anybody remember laughter?’ ad-lib
11.23.2013
02:38 pm

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin


 
Is there any song more synonymous with “classic rock” than “Stairway to Heaven”? Damn few. The eight-minute acoustic-to-electric meditation on bustles and hedgerows, among other things, has become the 800-pound gorilla of the classic rock song repertoire. More than any other, it’s the one song that evokes the phrase “album-oriented radio,” and it’s the one song that, at least according to Wayne’s World, guitar store owners have banned because every would-be Jimmy Page just has to have a crack at it. It’s the great rock-and-roll albatross, the song nobody can stand and yet frequently tops the surveys of the greatest rock song ever recorded.

In the 1976 concert movie The Song Remains the Same, recorded over three gigs at Madison Square Garden, after the line “and the forests will echo with laughter….” Plant exuberantly engages in a bit of unrehearsed crowd work, crying, “Does anybody remember laughter??”

For anyone who’s seen the movie, the phrase can function as an automatic killer laugh line when the conversation hits an unexpected lull or needs that extra bit of non-sequitur levity—it communicates that you know your rock and roll history but also that you can deflate a bit of rock and roll grandiosity. Even when the listener doesn’t get the exact reference, somehow Robert Plant or someone like him is evoked, in all of his 1970s bombasity and idealism and excess.

Apparently Plant himself cringes every time he hears it.

In Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin, the following story is told:
 

Planning was meticulous, with all the remixing of the new DVD and CD of The Song Remains the Same and track sequencing and artwork for Mothership completed by May [2007]. Unlike the DVD and How the West Was Won package of 2003, where Page was in charge of every aspect of production, this time Plant took the helm. Kevin Shirley, the talented young South African producer who had worked with Jimmy on DVD and How the West Was Won and now found himself working with Robert on the re-jigged The Song Remains the Same, recalls how “Jimmy wasn’t that bothered this time around it seemed but Robert was really insistent on being there with me. When we came to that bit on ‘Stairway to Heaven’ when he ad-libs, ‘Does anyone remember laughter?’ he winced and asked if we could delete it. I said, ‘No, you can’t erase that, it’s what people remember, part of history!’ So he very reluctantly allowed me to keep it in. There were a couple of other smaller ad-libs that I did take out for him here and there—a few of the baby, baby, babys—just to keep him happy.”

Thus we see the high price of being a rock and roll icon—people will love and fondly remember even the stupid things you say…...
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Hail Satan: Man sings ‘Stairway to Heaven’ backwards
11.21.2013
10:38 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin
Stairway to Heaven


 
Well if this isn’t some freaky Black Lodge speak, then I don’t know what is. According to what I could find online, Dutch artist Jeroen Offerman spent three months learning how to sing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. He then filmed himself singing the ditty backwards and reversed the footage (at least that’s what I think is going on here). The whole thing is… really something.

On some level this has to be a riff on the whole “backmasking” rumor that has dogged the song for years when alarmed Christians played the record backwards and discovered certain apparently “demonic” messages could be made out:

“Oh here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He’ll give those with him 666, there was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan…”

I applaud Jeroen’s commitment.
 

 
With thanks to WFMU

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Jimmy Page on the art of songwriting, a Dangerous Minds exclusive
09.19.2013
11:37 am

Topics:
Books
Music

Tags:
Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin


 
The following is an exclusive extract from Isle of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters, a superb new book by Daniel Rachel published this month by Picador. Inspired by Paul Zollo’s seminal Songwriters on Songwriting, Rachel has managed to bring together a truly impressive ensemble of British tunesmiths, including Ray Davies, Jarvis Cocker, Mick Jones, Robin Gibb (why the hell not!) and Johnny Marr, among others. The results are hugely enjoyable, and the mind veritably boggles imagining the kind of cajoling and legwork Rachel must have put in to coax this rich and eclectic ensemble out of their country piles—not least the notoriously taciturn, the notoriously notorious Jimmy Page…
 
Daniel Rachel: Do you have any introductory thoughts about songwriting?

Jimmy Page: I know what my contribution is and I know how that kicks off in the early stages. Coming from the guitarist’s point of view, I’ll start with the music first. That’s the essence of the key ideas and then I’ll work on those. Sometimes I’ve written the lyrics myself. For example, on the first Led Zeppelin album I had a number of things where I had the chorus, like ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ . . . well, that line gets repeated a number of times so there’s not a lot of lyrics in that (laughs). ‘Good Times Bad Times’ I wrote the chorus. I had the music for it and I was writing for this thing that was going to be put together for the band. The whole thing on ‘Good Times Bad Times’ is recognized by John Bonham’s bass drum, isn’t it? Initially I had a sketch for it and then Robert supplied lyrics to the verses. I was very keen on concentrating on the music, and whoever I was going to be working with, for them to be coming up with lyrics. I didn’t think that my lyrics were necessarily good enough. Maybe they were in certain cases, but I preferred that very close working relationship with whoever was singing, whether it be Robert Plant, Paul Rodgers or David Coverdale. The starting point would always be coming from the music, whether I had written that acoustically or electrically.

Daniel Rachel: It’s very noticeable in your music how song structures seem far more classical than pop in their construction.

Jimmy Page: Well, very much so, because I had very much the view that the music could set the scene. One of the things that you’ll see in the Led Zeppelin music is that every song is different to the others. Each one has its own character; musically as much as lyrically. For example, ‘Ten Years Gone’ or ‘The Rain Song’, which has got a whole orchestral piece before the vocal even comes in. So yes, it was crafted in such a way that the music was really of paramount importance to setting the scene and most probably inspired the singer, in this case Robert, to get set into the overall emotion, the ambience of the track of what was being presented, and then hopefully inspire him to the lyrics.

Often we just had working titles. A good example of this and how it would change and mutate was ‘The Song Remains The Same’ leading into ‘The Rain Song’. The original idea I had for that was an overture—as ‘Song Remains The Same’ is—leading into an orchestral part for ‘The Rain Song’. I had a mellotron and I’d worked out an idea—John Paul Jones did it much better than me—coming into the very first verse. If it’d worked that way there wouldn’t have been any vocal until the first verse, you would have had this whole overture of guitars and then into the orchestral thing that opened up into the first verse. But as it was, when we were rehearsing it then it actually became a song; the structure changed, there was another bit put in and then Robert started singing.That wasn’t a bad idea to have an overture, a whole musical segment that took you into ‘The Rain Song’, but it worked out really well as it was (laughs). Whatever it was you were constantly thinking all the time about it.

Daniel Rachel: Writing in movements was a very unusual step to take as a songwriter, considering Led Zeppelin was preceded by predominantly verse, chorus structures to suit the three-minute single format.

Jimmy Page: Although I’ve already said on the first album there were some choruses there, it got to the point where some of the things didn’t have what you’d call the hook. The reason was we weren’t actually writing music that was designed to go on the AM stations in the States at the time. You had FM, that were called the underground stations, and they would be playing whole sides of albums. Well, that’s a dream, isn’t it?—because people are going to get to hear—it’s not necessarily a concept album—the whole body of work that you’re doing on one side of an album and on the other. That was really a nice way to be able to craft the music into that. It was going to go like that anyway, but it was just really useful. The essence of the contents of these albums was going contraflow to everything else that was going on, and again this was intentional. Whereas on Zeppelin II you’ve got ‘Whole Lotta Love’, on Zeppelin III . . . with other bands it’d be something very close or reflective of if they’d got some sort of hit, and we just weren’t doing that. We were summing up the overall mood and where we were on that musical journey at each point in time.

Daniel Rachel: Did you write songs in sections and then join together collated ideas?

I worked very much in that way. I’d be working at home on various ideas and when we were working on something in a group situation I’d think, ‘Oh, I know what I’m going to put in this,’ if you hadn’t already put it together. Some things, I had them really mapped out, and other things—this is as the group goes on—would be on the spot. ‘Ramble On’ and‘What Is And What Should Never Be’: I had those structures complete.

Daniel Rachel: Can you explain how a riff comes to you?

Jimmy Page: A riff will come out of . . . this whole thing of do you practise at home and all that. Well, I play at home and before I knew where I was things would be coming out and that’s those little sections or riffs or whatever. At that stage it’s selection and rejection. It’s whether you continue with something or you go, ‘No that’s too much like something else,’ and then you move into something else. If you’ve got an idea and you think that’s quite interesting then I’d work and build on it at home. ‘Rock And Roll’ was something that came purely out of the ether. We were working on something else and John Bonham happened to play—just as you do sometimes, because we were recording—this intro from ‘Keep A-Knockin’’ from Little Richard and I went, ‘Oh, that’s it!’—I did this chord and half a riff that was in my head – ‘Let’s do this.’ It was really quick to do and we could write like that.

Get yourself a copy of Isle of Noises right here
 

 
Below, Jimmy Page gets his Chopin on at the ARMS Concert:
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Led Zeppelin: Rip-snorting live ‘Communication Breakdown’ w/ great Jimmy Page guitar work, 1969
07.25.2013
12:43 pm

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Led Zeppelin


 
There’s something almost punky about this frantic romp through “Communication Breakdown,” taped in Denmark on March 17, 1969 for TV-BYEN.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Led Zeppelin perform for a bunch of bored French people, 1969
06.19.2013
02:13 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin


 
Little-known footage of Led Zeppelin performing “Communication Breakdown” and “Dazed and Confused” on French television in 1969.

The first bit is rehearsal footage. It’s shot poorly, but the group’s performance is as spirited as the French audience’s reaction to it is not.

This is Led Zeppelin and they just sit there!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The album Led Zeppelin recorded BEFORE ‘Led Zeppelin’
06.01.2013
08:38 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin
PJ Proby


 
Most Led Zeppelin fans are unaware that the band’s first recordings were actually not the songs that became Led Zeppelin I, but rather P.J. Proby’s quirky Three Week Hero album recorded shortly before their debut was and released in 1969. Even if they have heard of it, chances are they haven’t heard the actual music. I’m here to help!

John Paul Jones, who like Jimmy Page, was then a very much sought-after session musician and arranger got the gig working with the, um, mercurial front man—Proby was, and is, a man considered mad, bad and dangerous to know, one of rock’s original madmen, inexplicably still alive—via producer Steve Rowland. Jones asked if he could bring in his own group for the session, thinking it would serve as a rehearsal of sorts before they went into the studio themselves and Rowland agreed. Jones told Chris Welch:

“I was committed to doing all the arrangements for the album. As we were talking about rehearsing at the time, I thought it would be a handy source of income. I had to book a band anyway, so I thought I’d book everybody I knew.”

It’s not known exactly when the two-day recording commenced, but August 25th, 1968 is probably the correct date, and would mark the very first time that Led Zeppelin, then still-known as The New Yardbirds, would enter a recording studio together.
 

 
Proby had already worked with Jimmy Page before, as the young rhythm guitarist had played on his 1964 debut long player, I Am P.J. Proby, with legendary session player “Big Jim” Sullivan supplying lead (The slight, baby-faced Page was then informally known as “Lil’ Jim Pea” to differentiate him from the slightly older Sullivan).

From an interview with P.J. Proby on the Led Zeppelin fansite, Finding Zoso:

FZ: One of my favorite records of yours, which was actually your last record with Liberty [Records] was Three Week Hero. A lot of people don’t know that the entire lineup of Led Zeppelin backed you up on that album. Can you tell us a little bit about that album and what it was like?

PJ: Yeah, after that session, Big Jim Sullivan was the most sought after lead guitar player in England so he was on everybody but everybody’s sessions. At that time Jimmy Page couldn’t really pick lead all that well. So he went off and wasn’t heard for a long time and the next thing I knew he was in The Yardbirds. About 1968, a friend of mine from Hollywood, Steve Roland had come over to London and had done pretty well as a producer for [the group] Dave, Dee Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. So I went down to Steve and asked him to produce my next album, EMI wanted one out now. I listened to some stuff he had there, demos, and he said, “I’ll put a band together for you.”

So when I got to the studio that day, there was what they called, “The New Yardbirds”. There was Jimmy Page, lead guitar player, a great lead guitar player by now and John Bonham and another guy Paul Jones and Albert Lee [Huh?]. Anyway, we recorded that album, I think it was in two days. We even undershot, we recorded it with about thirty-five minutes left over, and so Roland yelled down, “Why don’t you all busk it? We shouldn’t waste the studio time.” I told the boys, “Y’all start picking and I’ll write as you pick.” So the three last numbers on the album, [the medley], I just made up as the boys played.

Afterwards, I said, “Man, y’all did a terrific job. I’ve got some tours coming up, would you back me?” They said, “We’d love to, we’ll be your backing band, but first we’ve got two obligations we’ve got to honour in California and they named two places in California that I had just come back from playing with a band of mine that was called Canned Heat. The boys told me they were going over to play in San Francisco and all that, and I said, “Look, from what I’ve heard and the way you boys played tonight, not only are you not going to be my backing band, I’m going to say goodbye right now, because I don’t think I’m ever going to see you again. That’s how successful you’re going to be. You’re exactly what they want, you play all that psychedelic stuff and everything.“

The heavy metal word hadn’t been invented then, it was just hard blues and stuff. So I said, “You’re going to go over there and go down so great I don’t think you’re ever going to come home.” They didn’t ever come back until they changed their name to Led Zeppelin and stayed over there and came back huge huge stars.

FZ: Did you ever manage to catch up with them once they became big stars?

PJ: No I never have and I have never seen Jimmy Page since. I said goodbye that day when I cut that album and I haven’t seen one of them since.

In case you’re wondering, Robert Plant played harmonica on Three Week Hero. He doesn’t sing on it.
 

 

 
If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan and you’ve never heard “The Day That Lorraine Came Down,” before, prepare to have your ever-lovin’ mind blown. Easily in my top 100 favorite songs:
 

 
This improvised in the studio number, “Mery Hopkins Never Had Days Like These” was not on the Three Week Hero album, rather appearing on the B-side of the “The Day That Lorraine Came Down” single. As if there could any doubt—trust me, there won’t be—Proby calls the players out by name (including the great Alan Hawkshaw who is playing organ), but I’m not sure if this is John Bonham here as Proby refers to the drummer as both a “fat man” and bald.
 

 
“Jim’s Blues”—basically the prototype for Led Zeppelin‘s “You Shook Me.” “Jim” probably refers to Proby (real name James Marcus Smith) and not Jimmy Page.

Below, a scant two years later and Led Zeppelin were headlining at the Royal Albert Hall:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Communication Breakdown: Japanese Led Zeppelin TV commercial, 1969
04.11.2013
01:51 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin


 
Wonderful Japanese TV commercial for the first Led Zeppelin album. “Jimmy Pagi,” “Robert Planto,” kawaii (cute) John Paul Jones and John Bonham in their only TV spot.

Plus a promo film for “Communication Breakdown” that caught me totally by surprise:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Houses of the Holy: The backstory to the famous Led Zeppelin album cover

image
 
One of the most iconic record covers of the 1970s is Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, 1973’s Houses of the Holy and it’s also one of the most mysterious. Fans have long speculated about the “meaning” of this cryptic image of naked, golden-haired children crawling around an apocalyptic landscape towards… what? Was it a reference to the creepy 50s sci-fi film Village of the Damned? An apocalypse cult? Or was there some “occult significance” to Jimmy Page? I’m sure there must have been quite a lot of stoned, meandering conversations back then about this one.

The cover, produced by the legendary London-based design firm, Hipgnosis, was shot on the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Aubrey Powell, the Hipgnosis partner who actually designed the cover, told Q magazine in 2003 that the concept was based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, where hundreds of millions of Earth’s children gather together to be taken off into space.

But there’s an odd factoid or two about the Houses of the Holy album cover that might surprise you: First off, it was not a small army of naked children with wigs on, it was only two kids, a brother and sister, who were photographed over the course of ten days at dawn and at dusk. One of them went on to become a world famous TV presenter, Stefan Gates, of the BBC’s popular Cooking in the Danger Zone show.

Gates said of the shoot, which he did at the age of five with his older sister Samantha:

“We only got a few quid for the modelling and the chance to travel to places we had never been before. Our family wasn’t well off, we certainly couldn’t afford holidays, so it worked out great for us.

“For the Zeppelin cover we went to Ireland during the Troubles. I remember arriving at the airport and seeing all these people with guns. We stayed in this little guest house near the Giant’s Causeway and to capture the so-called magic light of dawn and dusk we’d shoot first thing in the morning and at night.

I’ve heard people saying they put wigs on several children. But there was only me and my sister and that’s our real hair. I used to love being naked when I was that age so I didn’t mind. I’d whip off my clothes at the drop of a hat and run around having a great time, so I was in my element. My sister was older so she was probably a bit more self-conscious.”

Designer Aubrey Powell said of the shoot:

“It promptly rained for ten days straight. I shot the whole thing in black and white on a totally miserable morning pouring with rain. Originally, I’d intended the children to be gold and silver. Because I shot in black and white and it was a gray day, the children turned out very white. So when we hand-tinted it, the airbrush artist, by accident, put a kind of purple tinge onto them. When I first saw it, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ Then we looked at it, and I said, ‘Hang on a minute, this has an otherworldly quality.’ So we left it as it was. Everybody was so cold, and so freaked out because it wasn’t working, that the only thing I could keep everybody together with was a bottle of Mandrax and a lot of whiskey.”

Oddly, in 2007 Stefan Gates claimed to have never listened to the album and that he felt there was something perhaps sinister about the cover image. “It carries too much significance for me,” he said at the time. “A part of me wants to go out to the Giant’s Causeway with a big pair of speakers, strip naked and play it just to see if I have some kind of great epiphany.”

Samantha Gates, now living in South Africa, recalls:

“I remember the shoot really clearly, mainly because it was freezing cold and rained the whole time.

“We were naked in a lot of the modelling shoots we did, nothing was thought of it back then. You probably couldn’t get away with that now.”

Stefan Gates believes shooting the album at the age of five has a huge, but mostly subconscious, role in his life. “Although it’s just my naked behind you can see, perhaps being a part of something like that at a young age made me seek out more ambitious and adventurous experiences.”
 
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Above, Stefan Gates holds the famous album cover at the site of the Giant’s Causeway in Nothern Ireland. Below, the image from the gatefold of the Houses of the Holy sleeve, shot at Dunluce Castle.
 
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The February 2010 BBC 4 radio show Stefan Gates’s Cover Story saw him return to the Giant’s Causeway to experience the album there for the first time, played on a boom box (but presumably clothed).
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Stairway to Heaven’ tribute at Kennedy Center Honors moves Robert Plant to tears
01.07.2013
05:26 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Led Zeppelin
Heart


 
Holy shit is this amazing. I had no expectations of anything when I hit play, but I was absolutely blown away by Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson leading this truly great version of “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors. It really is as good as everyone’s been saying.

Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, played drums. As the song progresses, back-up singers, a string section and the Joyce Garrett Youth Choir come onstage.The bowler hats on Bonham and the singers, were meant as a tribute to John Bonham, who passed away in 1980.

The President and First Lady, fellow honoree David Letterman, Jack Black, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and a visibly moved Robert Plant watched. The performers got a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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