Physical Graffiti

[Music] Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin (1975)

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!

Read up on my thoughts on:

My history with Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin II

Led Zeppelin III

Led Zeppelin IV

Houses of the Holy

This week, we look at Led Zeppelin’s sixth album, Physical Graffiti (1975)

At the end of summer 1993, I packed up my things and headed 6 hours southwest to London, Ontario to live with my sister and attend my first year at the University of Western Ontario. By this time, she got bitten by the classic rock bug and had amassed a small collection of rock albums herself, thanks in part to her membership in Columbia House where she could get 10 CDs for $1 (remember that?). This is how she owned Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti before I did!  The Wonton Song was one of our favourites, and since I had it already on the complete Orange box set, and we’d rock out to it when my sis came to visit, she got her own copy of the song by buying Physical Graffiti. Hey, there was no YouTube, streaming, downloading, or buying the MP3 back then! 

I enjoyed Led Zeppelin’s sixth album so much that by 1995 when she moved back to Sudbury, I had to get my own copy to add to my collection. I unfortunately don’t recall exactly when, but I remember where: the same place Houses of the Holy was bought – Dr. Disc in London, Ontario. (I loved that place!). Physical Graffiti has the noteriety as being the last Led Zeppelin album I purchased until Kevin entered my life. I still have it, though it’s a bit scratched up! 

As for the album’s music, Physical Graffiti is a very listenable album. Led Zeppelin mostly shed its dirty bluesy sound of their yesteryear albums for accessible radio rock, and I don’t think that is a bad thing. Each song, 15 in total, is mostly straightforward, and the music sticks to the rock genre pretty steadily. This double album starts with Custard Pie – a simple rocker that kicks from the start. In My Time of Dying, an 11-minute rocker has the best drums! Just listen to that bass drum go! Ten Years Gone, a quiet love ballad, is probably the only song I ever heard kudos from my Mom, who actually purposefully came up to my room one afternoon to ask what song was playing (I was playing the song from the Complete orange box); it happens to be my second favourite song on the album. Kashmir is probably one of the most played Led Zeppelin songs on the radio, and arguably their best. I mean, P Diddy liked it so much, he rangled Jimmy Page to play guitar on his take of the so- um I mean his song called Come Go With Me (rapping “yeah, yeah, yeah”)

I also like how Led Zeppelin have kept in the bloopers, the mistakes, and the quirky one-lines in their songs here. In My Time of Dying gifts us with this where at the end of their 11-minute song, someone coughs in the background, to which Robert Plant sings, “cough”. John Bonham can be heard saying, “That’s got to be the one, hasn’t it?” Or even Black Country Woman, where an airplane can be heard overhead, to which Plant says, “Keep it in, yeah.” It shows a humour and humanity to the band. It also demonstrates how they persevered for the best takes for their albums. 

For the most part, every song on Physical Graffiti is solid, but this being a double album, there are a few songs that I feel could have been scrapped. In the Light is not a favourite of mine AT ALL. It sounds to me like this one took work to lay down the track. The song has a great melody at its core once we get there, but I have a feeling no one had any idea how to start it, so they tack on this distorted beginning that doesn’t mesh well with the rest. The beginning part of the song “If you feeeeeeeeel <pause>THAT-YOU-CAN’T GO ONNNN”…disturbed me the first time I heard it (ever listen to it in the dark? It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!). Then it goes into the rock part which is pretty good. I feel like they could have done better with that one or should have left it off the album. My second least favourite is Down By the Seaside: I’ve never been a fan of it. Another environmental message with Jimmy’s toodle-y guitar and Plant cooing away. Maybe I don’t like it because it’s an unexpected style from them? “People Turn Away” indeed! And how about that Boogie with Stu? Yeah…it would be better suited on a B-sides album, I think and fails following a tune as strong as the Wonton Song

Led Zeppelin really outdid themselves with the album art in Physical Graffiti. The vinyl sleeve is truly a work of art: the cover photo of a tenement in New York City, the windows cut out, and different images passing through the cut-out windows as you release the vinyl from the sleeve is a lot of fun. Figures from history such as Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, and the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, are interspersed with pics of the band. The CD sleeve doesn’t even come close to doing the vinyl gatefold justice: a plain static cover image, and a lousy booklet that only contains an image of the cover, flattened and boring. It really doesn’t convey the artistic message the original vinyl sleeve does.

Overall, Physical Graffiti is a pretty good rock album; a few bumps compared to the other Led Zeppelin albums I’ve reviewed so far, but I still like it a lot.

4 / 5

Physical Graffiti (1975)
Led Zeppelin
Producer: Jimmy Page

Now go read Kevin’s take!