Can we talk about why Presence by Led Zeppelin is the best album ever made when you're actually listening to it, but it's easy to forget about when you aren't listening to it?

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In the current Zep cover story in Rolling Stone, Mikal Gilmore wrote --

"Presence conveyed the sense of a band up against bad odds, fighting back. The opening two tracks, "Achilles Last Stand" (about the car accident) and "For Your Life" (about hell and drugs and terror, and about how life inside the band may have been developing), featured the best solos Page would ever play -- abstract, desperate, raging. "Presence was pure anxiety and emotion," Page said later. "We didn't know if we'd ever be able to play in the same way again. It might have been a very dramatic change, if the worst had happened to Robert. Presence is our best in terms of uninterrupted emotion."

Over the years, Presence hasn't sold as well as most of the band's catalog. It's more or less the forgotten album, its feelings are too hard, too intense and probably too insular to stay close to or very long. In effect, Led Zeppelin accomplished something akin to Eric Clapton's achievement on Derek and the Dominos' Layla: They forged the spirit and purpose of blues into a new form, without relying on blues scales and structures. Presence is clearly singular in Led Zeppelin's body of work, and it's likely the best album the band ever made.

"It was really like a cry of survival," Plant said. "There won't be another album like it, put it like that. It was a cry from the depths, the only thing that we could do."


When I read that, I figured Gilmore was on crack and was just playing up the melodrama. Guess you had to be there to feel the intensity, because I don't remember any of the songs. I don't remember them being horrible, but just didn't leave an impression. But there are at least a couple people here who might agree with Gilmore to an extent.

I think with the exception of II, all the Zeppelin albums are inconsistent. I never understood what anyone saw in Physical Graffiti aside from "Kashmir" and "Houses of the Holy." So I'm open to hearing Presence again and entertaining the possibility that it's, like, their, um, fifth best. I'll pick up a used copy tomorrow.

Fastnbulbous (Fastnbulbous), Thursday, 10 August 2006 03:36 (9 years ago) Permalink

Great thread. Why "Presence" figures so largely in my Zeppelin love is because I found out about it after I was sure that I had purchased their entire catalogue, including Coda. I was a kid who obsessed over Zeppelin, so when I stumbled across it in a music store, i thought it was some type of obscene joke.

"Achilles Last Stand" is absolutely friends and i used to listen to that song for hours. "Tea For One," in my opinion, seems like a b-side to "Since I've Been Loving You," but a b-side that is just as enjoyable as the a-side.

Presence in its entirety would not be a good introductory album, but it is one of my top 5 Zep albums.

Think i'll give it a listen. It's been long enough.

J. Grizzle (trainsmoke), Thursday, 10 August 2006 03:53 (9 years ago) Permalink

I'm giving it a relisten now, and it's just fantastic. Many OTM upthread about the awesomeness of the guitar work.

Andrew (enneff), Thursday, 10 August 2006 05:06 (9 years ago) Permalink

I pulled this out last night and remain fascinated. It's like a dirty secret. One of those things that I understand often happens with television - where you're not supposed to be fascinated but you are anyway. Can't you just imagine someone in jail singing "Nobody's Fault But Mine"? Anyway I didn't quite get through the whole album without changing it to something else so I'm determined to get to Tea For One today and make up for that properly, because I remember Tea For One being especially good.

Kiss My Grits! (Bimble...), Saturday, 12 August 2006 14:24 (9 years ago) Permalink

It was 1976 the year for punk, folks. Yep. And they hadn't even done In Through The Out Door yet. Wow.

Kiss My Grits! (Bimble...), Saturday, 12 August 2006 14:27 (9 years ago) Permalink

And were they trying to do disco towards the end of For Your Life? I guess 1976 was the year for disco too. What was the year for disco? Fuck if I know for sure. I don't mind the song at all, though. I like disco when it's good, which isn't always.

If anyone here is old enough to actually remember this record when it came out in 1976 and can comment on the overall musical milieu it was born into, I'd love to hear about it.

Kiss My Grits! (Bimble...), Saturday, 12 August 2006 14:38 (9 years ago) Permalink

5 years pass...

i like their later period albums. prefer the vocals to plant in his supposed peak. he sounds like hes not trying so hard on presence. just relaxed. more like himself. and the riffs are still great. theres just an easier going charm about this era of led zep, you know theyre not trying so hard, have less to prove etc, but rather than = lazy, theres something appealing about them just doing what they do.

titchy (titchyschneiderMk2), Saturday, 27 August 2011 12:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

Surprised Bonham doesn't get more mention here. To me his drumming is on fire on this rek. That said, it's pretty much the case on everything. I love the guy to death.

senomar, Sunday, 28 August 2011 18:59 (4 years ago) Permalink

When I did my Zep POX, I started from the premise of Presence + 3, then looked at the rest of the catalogue for songs strong enough to knock any of Presence's songs out. (My POX was 3 out of 10 Presence... before I managed to whittle it down, it was 5 out of 15 Presence.)

― truck-patch pixel farmer (my crop froze in the field) (Rock Hardy),

Took me a minute to decipher my own post there. But yeah, this is the absolute biznis, always will be to me.

Halal Spaceboy (WmC), Sunday, 28 August 2011 19:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

8 months pass...

bringing this back up to the top for Sunday morning readers...

Here he is with the classic "Poème Électronique." Good track (Marcello Carlin), Sunday, 6 May 2012 08:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

it's brilliant stuff, Marcello. Thank you for that. Still a huge fan of this, probably 3rd fave Zep record.. Bonham is so phenomenal on this, the whole thing does have that "room sound" that puts me in mind of what Albini strives for

Stormy Davis, Sunday, 6 May 2012 08:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

also, as massive a Zep geek I am, did not know that bit about the Stones coming in for 'Black and Blue'!

Stormy Davis, Sunday, 6 May 2012 08:36 (4 years ago) Permalink

seriously fantastic piece, Marcello

cosi fan whitford (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Sunday, 6 May 2012 09:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

This isn't even LZ's best album but it's good enough for me.

Moka, Sunday, 6 May 2012 09:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

Great post -- thanks! Very evocative -- I was instantly listening along in my head as you described sections.

improvised explosive advice (WmC), Sunday, 6 May 2012 14:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

As i said on twitter, an amazing piece of writing Marcello. kudos.

EZ Snappin, Sunday, 6 May 2012 14:21 (4 years ago) Permalink

dude, marcello, A+. for real. and i hate everything and everybody! makes me want to work harder.

scott seward, Sunday, 6 May 2012 16:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

Presence is going on the turntable now.

Trip Maker, Sunday, 6 May 2012 16:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

Damn, that was a great piece.

Mule, Sunday, 6 May 2012 20:17 (4 years ago) Permalink

that was great

(could do without the 'if you aren't feeling _____, you aren't really listening' tho)

mookieproof, Sunday, 6 May 2012 22:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

3 years pass...

Anyone heard the new presence out takes "10 ribs and all?"

calstars, Wednesday, 29 July 2015 00:27 (11 months ago) Permalink

lol @ some corny Pitchfuxor giving Presence a 7.6 (and ranking ITTOD higher?!) -- it's better than 90% of the records on Best New Music

five six and (man alive), Wednesday, 29 July 2015 03:08 (11 months ago) Permalink

I guess 10 ribs will be available on Friday. Intrigued by the description of it as yacht rock and happy that's it's about 5 minutes long.

calstars, Wednesday, 29 July 2015 13:18 (11 months ago) Permalink

this album + headphones + weed could prevent (or at least postpone) a suicide

Wimmels, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 01:45 (11 months ago) Permalink

yes and the new pod song is great even if it's a pastiche

calstars, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 01:55 (11 months ago) Permalink

The opening chords sound like a sequence in the first track on the new Jim O'Rourke (who was just quoted praising Presence).

five six and (man alive), Wednesday, 5 August 2015 01:58 (11 months ago) Permalink

Anyone heard these remasters? Worth replacing my old LP copies (and 90s era CDs) for?

I have this semi-regular argument with my wife about how the 90s were the worst decade for mainstream rock, but listening to Presence again, so much of it sounds like a blueprint, it almost makes me want to reevaluate a lotta that bullshit: the obvious Stone Temple Pilots theft of the "For Your Life" riff, the double bass intensity on "Achilles Last Stand" that people think Metallica invented on "One," the "la la la" parts of "Hots On For No One" that invents Jane's Addiction, etc. I reckon any decade that could draw so much influence from this fucked up and amazing album can't be so bad.

Wimmels, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 15:09 (11 months ago) Permalink

I've mentioned before that "Achilles Last Stand" pretty much renders the Mars Volta's entire discography redundant.

the top man in the language department (誤訳侮辱), Wednesday, 5 August 2015 15:15 (11 months ago) Permalink

the double bass intensity on "Achilles Last Stand"

That's a single bass drum. Bonham only played a double-bass setup once, on a demo of "Communication Breakdown" that was never released. Accounts vary, but supposedly either JPJ or Page felt that Bonham on a double-bass kit overwhelmed the rest of the band.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 5 August 2015 15:24 (11 months ago) Permalink

That's insane.

I guess, then, you could say "double bass-like intensity!"

Wimmels, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 15:26 (11 months ago) Permalink

My favorite moment on this record has always been the breakdown in "For Your Life" – the spectacularly overdubbed descending Page riff, Bonham's empty but relentlessly steady beat, Plant singing, "Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it when you wanna..." It's such a brilliant reminder of everything that made Zeppelin great.

Naive Teen Idol, Saturday, 8 August 2015 04:00 (11 months ago) Permalink

That's insane.

I guess, then, you could say "double bass-like intensity!"

― Wimmels, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 15:26 (4 days ago) Permalink

Bonham had a notoriously fast right foot, however the kick hits on Achilles aren't really that rapid most of the time, it's sort of an aural illusion created by the interplay between the drums and JPJ's percussive bass part.

five six and (man alive), Sunday, 9 August 2015 02:54 (11 months ago) Permalink

However "One" is an interesting touchstone to bring up, because the "DARKNESS/IMPRISONING ME" section definitely echoes the breakdown in Achilles.

five six and (man alive), Sunday, 9 August 2015 02:56 (11 months ago) Permalink

Yeah, that's the part I was thinking of. It really didn't even strike me until recently.

Wimmels, Sunday, 9 August 2015 14:34 (11 months ago) Permalink

Most insane drumming Bonham ever did: "Good Times Bad Times," especially during the "I sure do wish I was at home" part. Those bass drums you here are all his right foot!! I tried to play it myself, oh Lord how I tried.

Mr. Snrub, Sunday, 9 August 2015 16:24 (11 months ago) Permalink

Praising Bonham's drumming on tunes like "Good Times Bad Times" is kind of like that old SNL skit about Larry King's USA Today column where he spouts controversial observations like, "John McEnroe was a very good tennis player."

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 9 August 2015 19:23 (11 months ago) Permalink

This is probably kind of a weedy thing to say, but it just occurred to me that Achilles Last Stand really is, like, their last stand. They just never go that hard again either for the rest of the record or on ITTOD.

five six and (man alive), Monday, 10 August 2015 04:14 (11 months ago) Permalink

Most insane drumming Bonham ever did: "Good Times Bad Times," especially during the "I sure do wish I was at home" part. Those bass drums you here are all his right foot!! I tried to play it myself, oh Lord how I tried.

― Mr. Snrub, Sunday, August 9, 2015 11:24 AM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

It is great, but I think there is plenty of competition for that. The one that always gets me is the breakdown in In My Time of Dying.

five six and (man alive), Monday, 10 August 2015 04:15 (11 months ago) Permalink

Yeah, that's the part I was thinking of. It really didn't even strike me until recently.

― Wimmels, Sunday, August 9, 2015 9:34 AM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

On that part it's actually just heavy snare hits combined with bass, the kick is only hitting a few times.

five six and (man alive), Monday, 10 August 2015 04:16 (11 months ago) Permalink

The triplet lick on For Your Life reminds me of Woody Woodpecker

five six and (man alive), Tuesday, 11 August 2015 15:05 (11 months ago) Permalink

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