Sacred Cows, Led Zeppelin and Does the Song Remain the Same?
I just wanted more of that stuff flowing through the veins of "Ramble On" through "When the Levee Breaks." That sonic blues crunch. These more Celtic/Folk-oriented songs represented the band's necessary evolution toward HOTH and PG, both of which appealed to an almost wholly different population. I heard a creative fault line between Led Zeppelin IV and HOTH and I stayed on the side of the former for many years. The majority of my friends completely abandoned the first four records for HOTH and PG and even went on to spout some propaganda-laden madness about Presence and In Through the Out Door (Swan Song, 1979) being superior to those early recordings.
Stop it. Now.
So, what was the problem with TSRTS? The movie for one thing, and I was not the only one that thought Deep Throat (Bryanston Pictures, 1972) was vastly better produced and directed. Even Page stated in the year the movie was released that:
[TSRTS] is not a great film, but there's no point in making excuses. It's just a reasonably honest statement of where we were at that particular time. It's very difficult for me to watch it now, but I'd like to see it in a year's time just to see how it stands up.
Well, it didn't improve after a year either...or another year, or another year. What really bugged me about the film was Page's noodling around with a violin bow and his absolutely unnecessary use of an Electro-Theremin (something better used on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations"), not to mention close-ups of Robert Plant's inflated manhood testing the resolve of his Levi's. It was this I had in mind when I characterized the album as, "guitarist Jimmy Page's masturbatory opium dream full of noodling around and self-pleasing aggrandizing (translation: "boring")." To be fair to Page, it was the 1970s, and self-indulgence was not unique to Led Zeppelinmay we say "The Grateful Dead," but that is a whole other river of opposition, though 50+ minutes of "Turn On Your Lovelight" at Woodstock could possibly be considered excessive by even to most dedicated fan. The same might be said for 26+ minutes of "Dazed and Confused" a song never out of the Zeppelin book. Like the song-whose-name-I-dare-not- repeat: enough, already. "Dazed and Confused" and "Moby Dick" would eventually chase the casual listener into a burning building.
But, then again, we are not casual listeners.
When first released, my perspective of TSRTS was that it did not contain nearly enough IV and had way too much HOTH, a personal preference to be sure. Today I realize that was by design. When the original two-LP version was updated in 2007, adding "Black Dog" and "Misty Mountain Hop," I was partially mitigated, but How The West Was Won (Atlantic, 2003) had proven earlier that TSRTS was just a bad night and that Led Zeppelin was indeed capable of live greatness, and they could perform like the rock gods they were. There are dozens of bootlegged performances capturing a much greater Led Zeppelin than on TSRTS. To call it any kind of a definitive statement is simply not correct.
My other complaint with TSRTS was the timing of its release. The live album enjoyed its release October 22, 1976. The album this live performance promoted, HOTH was released March 28, 1973. The album after TSRTS, Presence, was released March 31, 1976. What is wrong with this picture?
Physical Graffiti, released February 24th, 1975.