Led Zeppelin: Katie Melua on rock'n'roll riffs that rake the psyche
Friday 07 December 2007
My light Spanish picking is far from Jimmy Page's epic guitar solos, but that doesn't mean late at night I don't pretend to be able to play them. I can do the dreaded intro for "Stairway to Heaven"; it's a rite of passage for any guitarist. Occasionally, the eight year-old Katie comes out and I have to jump up and down on the bed playing air guitar to "Black Dog" or "Immigrant Song". It's lucky I have good noise insulation at my West London flat because you have to play them really, really loud.
All my guitar friends, mostly blokes, are fans. We share the passion for Led Zeppelin, but it's not the type of thing I generally share with my girlfriends, although if they bought the Led Zeppelin albums Physical Graffiti and Led Zeppelin IV they would be astounded at how many of the songs they recognise. Teenagers always hear a Led Zeppelin song and say "Who's that? I love that song!"
I wasn't around in their heyday, I'm only 23, but I grew up in Georgia with my uncles who listened to Led Zeppelin, Queen, Metallica and Black Sabbath. It was Led Zeppelin that stood out. As a very young child, I'd sneak into my uncle's room which was covered with Led Zeppelin posters. I'd head bang and play air guitar and jump on the bed to the songs on my favourite album, Led Zeppelin IV.
Musically, they are complicated, with seven to eight-minute songs, huge extended intros, with odd time signatures. At a young age the hooks and riffs went straight into my psyche and the songs are bound to capture anyone of any age. It's rare to hear a hardcore metal band and still have the song going round in your head because it is so catchy.
I rediscovered Led Zeppelin when I was 15 years old and I'd moved to England. Songs such as "Kashmir" from Physical Graffiti, and "Whole Lotta Love" from the album Led Zeppelin II, blew me away. Also I started to appreciate the folkier, more experimental songs such "When The Levee Breaks". The guitar riffs of Page were the lifeblood of the songs but Robert Plant's vocals sounded as if he was playing an instrument. Listening to Led Zeppelin, it almost felt as if there was a competitiveness between them that raised the stakes and made the music even better.
Obviously, Led Zeppelin hasn't influenced my music on the surface, as it doesn't sound anything like Led Zeppelin. I think the band has influenced my live work more than my music because I try to rock out on stage, improvise and be energetic. I've seen footage of them performing, but I've never seen them play live.
I suppose a lot of people my age wouldn't be in to Led Zeppelin but most musicians like them. There is nothing dated about their music. There is still that innovative spirit to it. They are not the kind of band you listen to in a romantic situation. Mainly I listen to Led Zeppelin when I want to fall in love with music. Again.
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