Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on Led Zeppelin! Each week, we will be reviewing a Led Zeppelin album on our respective blogs! So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!
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This week, we look at Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, Untitled, also known as Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Led Zeppelin’s fourth album has been called several names: Untitled, Zoso, and the Symbols album, but I’ve always referred to it as Led Zeppelin IV. Here we circle back to the start of my journey with the band, the first Led Zeppelin album I ever owned. If you have been reading this series, you’ll know the story – I took a gamble on this album, only knowing a couple of songs. I was attracted to its cover art of urban decay and mystified by the tiny symbols.
It was my aunt who purchased Led Zeppelin IV for me for passing my driver’s license exam, September 11, 1990. It was a gift I think my aunt regretted, and it blew my chances of convincing her to get me the Led Zeppelin Complete Box Set for Christmas that year.
Growing up, my aunt always gave the air of being “rich” as she was always forthcoming with “the cool pricey gifts”. The truth was she never married and had more disposible income, while my mom, a widow raising two kids on her own, was constantly prioritizing her finances. We never went without mind you, but looking back, I can understand how my aunt’s gifts could appear to undermine my Mom constantly. My aunt spoiled my sister and me as we would pretty much get what we asked for (except for that Atari we asked for…never got one of those)…
My aunt and I were close, always looking forward to our weekly outings to a local restaurant to share a meal. She always drove the newest model car. I only cared that she was driving around in a car with a tape deck since our family car didn’t have one. I’d choose a cassette from my collection and we’d listen to it in the car on our way to the restaurant. Surprisingly, she liked most of what I’d listen to. Depeche Mode, INXS, even New Order were bands I’d hear her say, “this is a really nice song,” or “this is a lot of fun…”
The newly purchased Led Zeppelin IV goes into the tape deck, and her mood transitioned quick. Black Dog starts up, and she holds nothing back:
“Can you turn that down?! Lower. Looower.”
She didn’t dig it. That was basically it for LZ and my aunt.
Unfortunately, the dislike didn’t stop there. My mom was not too pro either, telling me to “turn it down,” and closing my bedroom door whenever the music was on (she likes Bach over Bachman). My Step-Dad (then only a boyfriend) jokingly called it hippy music, but was far more receptive to the rock, as he had Bat Out of Hell tucked away in his Delta 88’s glove compartment for those times he wanted to hear the Loaf. My girl friends didn’t dig this music. It was my guy friends that were into Zep; I found myself hanging with them more and more.
Don’t like Led Zeppelin? My internal attitude was always That’s Too Bad For You, because Led Zeppelin IV lived in my tape deck and Walkman. The music was a departure from what I was listening to those days, opening the door to some harder rock, blues and folk, and Led Zeppelin did each well.
Led Zeppelin IV has carried me through the thread of my life. Listening today, I recall Plant’s duet with Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention fame on Battle of Evermore making me jealous in my 20s, having practiced Denny’s part repeatedly in the solitude of the shower and wishing I was back in ’71 singin’ along with Percy. Misty Mountain Hop will always remind me of my days as a student in London, Ontario, visiting the Magic Mountain store located next door to my favourite vintage shop, Layman House on Richmond St. (It sold cool patched jeans, and smelled strongly of incense).
A lot has been said about Stairway to Heaven, so I’ll just say this: It was one of the only songs I knew from Led Zep IV before purchase, and although it’s ubiquitous as the last song played at a dance, I remember the one and only school dance I attended that wasn’t a Much Music Dance Party (remember those?) and them playing Stairway. That song is freaking awkward to dance to! Slow dance, speed up, white man’s overbite….
When the Levee Breaks is the song that made me want to listen to more Led Zeppelin. Bonzo’s sludgy drum beats that have been sampled over and over by other artists, the wailing bluesy guitar, and Plant’s desperate cry makes for a great sound.
Unlike Led Zeppelin’s first effort, I feel Led Zeppelin IV is a balanced album, lyrically and musically. Robert Plant’s voice really came into itself here and showed his range as someone who can effectively sing blues, rock and folk. Jimmy Page let the music speak for itself on this album, only subtly adding some effects, except where it counted. Relistening to it brings up some unforgettable memories.
Producer: Jimmy Page
Now go check out Kevin’s take!