As a fan of music, you can probably remember certain musical moments in your life and they are often tied to an image or a memory in your head. Maybe they are attached to a person. I’ve written about all of these in this ongoing series. But sometimes, there are musical moments that are really clear and uncluttered. They are more about the music than anything else.
In my case, I remember clearly the first time I heard Led Zeppelin’s debut album.
I don’t remember the why behind it, I just remember sitting somewhere in the home I grew up in and my Dad taking the record out of the sleeve and placing it on the turntable. It’s ingrained in my mind like something out of the movie. I can clearly see him drop the needle into the groove, there’s a slight hiss before the record starts and then
Those opening chords just dug right into my soul.
I’m sure there are huge fan fights over which Zeppelin album is the best and honestly, I feel like I’d be a fool to enter into that conflict as I feel that the first album is the best representation of what Zeppelin was and maybe what I think Zeppelin should have been.
As much as the nerd in me loves the Lord of the Rings references in later songs and as much I like some of their more grandiose experiments like “Kashmir”, there is something really pure about Led Zeppelin.
Go in the studio, bang out a rock record, get it done. But in the case of Led Zeppelin, the record they banged out was better than anyone else could bang out. They were superior musicians, Jimmy Page as a producer, knew how to get a phenomenal sound out of his bandmates. No one could touch Robert Plant’s vocals in those years, no one.
There’s also something in the sound of Led Zeppelin that they never quite matched again afterward. Not in a good way or a bad way, just different. Maybe it was due to Page mainly playing a Fender on this album as opposed to a Gibson. Honestly, I’m not sure.
Steeped in the blues (probably too steeped judging by how song credits were eventually awarded), there is something about the songs on this album that make you want to join a band and play in bars but with the volume cranked.
In terms of song selection, I think this is the Zeppelin album that’s got no filler in it. “Good Times Bad Times” and “Communication Breakdown” hitting the straight-ahead rock moments. “I Can’t Quit You” and “You Shook Me” bringing the blues with “How Many More Times” bridging between the rock and blues. Then you have interesting experiments like “Black Mountain” and “Dazed and Confused” with their feet touching the psychedelic waters.
Don’t get me wrong, Zeppelin definitely has other good material but this is the album that as a kid, as a teenager and now as an adult, Led Zeppelin is the album I listen to the most and the one that I don’t skip songs.
It gets put on the CD player. The play button is hit. It plays until the end.