Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Above: Stephen Davis, author of Hammer of the Gods, interviews Robert Plant about Celtic mythology, glorified statuatory rape, and shaking his dong in people's faces.
If you are familiar with this blog, you may already be aware of my dislike for Led Zeppelin ('Stirring The Shit Pot', April 7, 2009). I think that they were a so-so band at best, completely overrated, blown out of proportion and equipped with enough original ideas to (maybe) fill a thimble. So it might come as a surprise that I just finished reading Stephen Davis' Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga, a pandering, bloated, and disgusting look at four of the biggest egos to ever stalk the rock and roll pantheon. Why did I read it if I hate the band so much? Good question. I felt Zeppelin deserved a second shot, that perhaps I had cast judgement on them prematurely before hearing all sides of their story.
To Zeppelin's credit, I have indeed misjudged them.
They are, without a doubt, even BIGGER assholes than I had ever guessed, and deserving of WAY more scorn than I had heaped upon them in the past.
What I had known about Zeppelin in the past proved to be only a tip of the iceberg, that their douchebaggery ran much, MUCH deeper than the casual observer might guess. Unoriginal? Shit, Zeppelin were straight-up plagiarists, stealing songs from just about anywhere, making minimal changes, and then passing them off as their own, providing absolutely NO songwriting credit to the original artists. These guys got ludicrously wealthy as nothing but a glorified cover band, recycling other people's ideas to an unsuspecting audience in return for fame, glory, and groupies galore. I've never enjoyed their music ("Immigrant Song" and "Out On The Tiles" being the only exceptions), but little did I know that almost all of their music was ripped off from somewhere or another, uncredited and thinly disguised.
For example: "Dazed And Confused", a big hit off of their first album, took its main riff and lyrical content directly from a song entitled "I'm Confused" by folk singer Jake Holmes, a fact that Jimmy Page admits openly. When confronted with the fact that Zeppelin made millions off of his track, Holmes conceded quickly, knowing that he was no match for Zep's million-dollar legal team.
And what about "Stairway To Heaven", their calling-card anthem? Did you know that that riff was lifted from a song by Brit-rockers Spirit? True. Most of their early material was "written" based on old blues songs by guys like Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson, with just enough musical and lyrical difference to avoid lawsuits. Realizing that they were walking a thin line, Zeppelin planned to play some sort of benefit for a blues museum in the South in the 70's, but quickly scrapped the idea when they figured out that a "benefit" wouldn't make them any richer. They also plundered Traffic and Joan Baez for ideas, and amazingly never faced ANY legal ramifications.
Luckily, you can check out many of these musical burglaries in mp3 form on this Listropia list. Pay SPECIAL attention to "Dazed and Confused" and the stolen Spirit riff on "Stairway To Heaven". It's pretty amazing.
What makes the whole deal even more infuriating was the way bootleggers were treated by Zeppelin's road crew and security team at the pinnacle of their popularity. Fans caught with cameras or microphones at concerts would be brutally ejected, often having their equipment smashed in the process. How DARE they try to get a piece of these songs that Jimmy Page stole FAIR AND SQUARE?
Zeppelin was indeed the Metallica of their day in terms of douchebaggery, waging a war on fans who were just trying to snap a picture or record a live song. Bear in mind, John Bonham already owned 21 cars at this point.
Yet another shitty chapter in the Zep legacy was their misogynistic treatment of women (especially their wives). When they hit the Los Angeles "scene" in the early 70's, Zeppelin was known as a sexual circus, with rumours abound of women being tied up, gang raped, or worse. 75% of the band were married with children at this point, and while they don't deny their sexual escapades, they went to great lengths to keep pictures of themselves cavorting with their sexual conquests out of the media. Several stories have John Bonham punching women in the face, or more often attempting sexual assault in public places.
Stephen Davis paints Jimmy Page's early 70's affair with 14-year-old groupie Lori Maddox in an extremely "romantic" light, considering the fact that she was "kidnapped" (her words) by Zep roadies and locked away in a hotel room to avoid press interference. Page would return to L.A. after tours, visiting his 4-years-underage "mistress" to have his way with her between affairs with other women. Never prosecuted for this statuatory rape, the incident is remembered fondly by all involved, and serves as a grim reminder of just how FUCKED UP Zep's view of women really was. FUCK those guys.
I know, I know. "It's all about the music". But whatever. I HATE their music. I HATE them as people. And I HATE everything that Led Zeppelin stands for.
While we're on the subject of shitty bands that everyone else seems to like: FUCK YOU TOO, TOOL, you artsy, pretentious, fake-metallers. And FUCK YOU, Mastodon. There are thousands of bands out there doing what you do, only BETTER.
Sorry, just needed to get that out of my system.
To lighten things up a bit, let's check out "Stairway" backwards -- You know, the version with "Sad Satan in the toolshed" and whatnot?
PS: The only mention of Black Sabbath in the entire book is on page 298, when Davis dismisses them as Zeppelin "clones" along with Cheap Trick, Heart, and Foreigner. Way to do your research, Steve.