But not only did it make me dial the Magnificent 7 to the Led Zeppelin station, it made me remember. A while back, at my stupid old blog, I once wrote this:
• 25 Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin
Our family christmas tradition was kind of two part. On Christmas eve, we would exchange gifts; this was when you would get socks and pants and other plebeian gifts. Then, after us kids were in bed, the ‘rents would unload the toys and fun gifts, as if Santa had come. Naturally, there was no way we could sleep or even wait until daybreak to see what we got, so we would barely fall asleep, then sneak quietly downstairs to grab the most likely stuff, and creep back upstairs (carefully missing the squeaky step). Invariably, my Dad would wake up, and yell up the stairs to go back to bed until it was really morning.
So this one year, I received an AM/FM transistor radio. Avocado colored. With little round speaker holes Completely 70’s.. And at 4 AM, this happened to be one of the things I grabbed as we creeped back up to our bedrooms to get an early start on the Day. Unpacked, plugged in batteries (did they come in the package? Don’t even remember. Unimportant details, my friends). And tuned in to some Madison rock station…
That monster riff came squeaking out of the tinny speakers, and Robert Plant screeching about something or other and the drums even at low volume distorting the little tiny speaker to some extent and it went on longer than any song I’d ever heard and I’ve never fully recovered and I don’t think I want to.The sound, THAT SOUND, drilled directly into my synapses from my tiny ear-holes, kicking my brain-stem like you’d kick a rented flatulent orange dog.It’s a song that everyone has heard, of course, countless times. It’s maybe not that great a song, it’s probably not even that great a Zeppelin song. But that winter morning, it realigned something fundamental in that little Rotten head and every time I hear it, I remember that undefinable excitement of feeling that here – HERE_ is something with power.
And then my Dad yelled up the stairs, telling us to shut the hell up and go back to bed. which we did. I took the earphone.
As soon as I could, I got a job delivering papers so I could buy a stereo.
OK, the thing here is that I am a contrary zombie fuck, and it so happens that even after that, pretty much the first Zeppelin album I got was In Through The Out Door, and damme, but i love that album. Actually, now that I think about it, I recall that 1812 Overture (the record store; remember when you had to leave your fucking house to buy music?) was giving the cassette away when you bought some amount of music, so I got comped.
However, not long after that, I got all punk and shit, and listening to LZ was kind of out.
But; time moves on, and so do we; life makes you eat your words, and as time goes by I have discovered that punk music had more in common with Led Zep than anyone would ever have admitted, and that the music holds up amazingly well 40 years later.
What the hell, but when Robert Plant toured this year, I said fuck if I won’t and got tickets, good ones too. First option on tix always goes to Wife Sublime, and she was willing to accompany me, much to the dismay of several of my friends who were hoping for back up positions.
Oh shit. Let me set the stage; Riverside Theater, we are stage left, front row; 3000 seats or so. And his band hits the stage and they are fucking awesome. A command of American music vernacular, and from time to time I kept looking up and I WAS 30 FEET FROM A FUCKING ROCK LEGEND. And he was having a good time, and so was the band, and so were we; I looked to my side, and there was the woman I loved, and I looked down, and there was a very good beer. They played old stuff, and new stuff, and the band members’ stuff, and it got louder and Louder and LOUDER until I started to find myself crying in simple joy at the wonderful, life affirming noises that humans make.
And we all had a wonderful time.
Humans do this stuff; we make art and we make things. And we do it knowing that it all comes to dust, in the end; we do it because if we don’t howl into the void, we might as well just eat the bullet.
A few years back, my mother was dying. She had been bedridden at home for some time, but was being relocated to a hospice; cancer is a fuck and there was not any particular hope. I traveled to Madison as frequently as I was able, and my younger brother was doing awesome work taking care of her and my Dad as things deteriorated.
Finally, Larry called me and said “you should get here before the end” and I did. She was not incoherent, but she was sedated; we said the things you want to say.