Has Led Zeppelin Dated Poorly?

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I should begin by saying that, like a lot of people, when I was 16, there was no one I was more obsessed with -- from albums to books to bootlegs, I couldn't get enough of Zeppelin.

But nearly two decades later, I wonder if that 16 y/o absorbed all that there was to be absorbed then. Listening to the all-Zep XM LED channel on XM Radio in the car--a great idea, btw--I'm finding surprisingly little to sink my teeth into. For one, there are very few new layers to be gleaned from the remastering (which we'd been told was done from vinyl copies on those early 80s CDs). Sure, Robert Plant could grate and Jimmy Page's solos ("Heartbreaker" for one) were always ridiculously slapdash -- but the productions for which the latter was so highly touted, while certainly passable and filled with clever overdubs (often his own), don't amount to much overall. If anything, recorded Led Zeppelin to today's ears is surprisingly flat and two-dimensional.

It's amazing: by the late 1980's, it was almost a given in the then-emerging classic rock circles that "Stairway to Heaven" was "the greatest song of all time." Today, you'd be hard-pressed to even put that song AMONG the greatest songs in Zeppelin's catalog, much less the history of rock. And truth be told, few of the epics have gained power with age. "Ten Years Gone" on (the now trendy "We knew it was their best all along") Physical Graffiti used to captivate me with its melodies and puzzling suspended chords -- today, it's just ponderous and seems to drag on for the titular length.

Mostly, though, I wonder if LZ suffer from the steady repudiation of the blues rock genre that's gone on the last 15 years. It's most obvious if you listen to tracks from the first few records -- "The Lemon Song" or the epic "How Many More Times." Where the latter was among the highlights in their career for me as a teenager, filled with power and innovation, today it sounds like little more than a workman-like mish-mash of riffs and blues cliches (oddly, not that different than what the critics said of them at the time). Or the break in "In My Time of Dying" -- once-gloriously orgasmic with Bonham's bass-pedal work now seems to go on forever, which makes Plant's vocals about Gabriel blowing his horn more silly than apocalyptic.

On track after track, I'm surprised by how much Bonham's drums don't sound like the heavens crashing down anymore or how Page's riffery sounds good-but-not-exceptional, and above all, how so much of the essential power of their music--that feeling that hit you in your gut and sustained those 10-minute epics--has gone the way of the dodo.

Now before I write them off entirely, there's one big caveat to all this: this band absolutely smoked live, the more heroin-addicted the better, it seemed. In fact, there's a good argument to be made that LZ may have had no peer in terms of 70's hard rock. Until recently, all that existed for the fan the rather unimpressive Song Remains the Same and bootlegs, my favorite of which was the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, 1977. But for anyone who thinks the band wasn't extraordinary in concert, I give you this, recorded about a year before Bonham's death (at Knebworth, I believe):

http://youtube.com/watch?v=RoEhWnTTKLM

What say ILM of this sacred cow?

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:06 (twelve years ago) link

Just listened to "The Rain Song" this morning. Still holds up. Will we say the same about, say, Beyonce or Beck or the Pussycat Dolls or Linkin Park in thirty years?

Fuckin' doubt it.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:08 (twelve years ago) link

led zep sound super 70s. but who cares? bach sounds super 17th century. and down w/the whole notion of sacred cows.

Dominique, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:14 (twelve years ago) link

Fair point, that.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:14 (twelve years ago) link

yeah, they went out with Paris Hilton!

Mark G, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:15 (twelve years ago) link

No

chaki, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:16 (twelve years ago) link

Just listened to "The Rain Song" this morning. Still holds up. Will we say the same about, say, Beyonce or Beck or the Pussycat Dolls or Linkin Park in thirty years?

I think we'll be saying it about Beck but not the others.

Grandpont Genie, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:21 (twelve years ago) link

Zep still pretty consistently sounds awesome to me, maybe even moreso as I get older and have more and more musical interests beyond classic rock. The production from their era has dated better than most rock production since.

Alex in Baltimore, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:22 (twelve years ago) link

Why do you think their production has dated better than most (examples explanation, please, I'm curious)?

curmudgeon, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:28 (twelve years ago) link

It's hard not to describe their production without saying something really obvious or redundant like "the drums sound like John Bonham" or "the guitars sound like Jimmy Page," things that other people have spent the last 30 years trying and failing to emulate. But it still punches through FM frequencies better and sounds more viscerally kickass than almost any radio rock that came after, which is what I was measuring it against in that statement.

Alex in Baltimore, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:34 (twelve years ago) link

Although it's kind of kicking a dead horse to say anything older sounds better than 80's gated snares or 90's/00's super-compressed guitars.

Alex in Baltimore, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:35 (twelve years ago) link

i would agree LZ production has "dated better", which to me just means that it seems more of a factor in modern rock productions than, say, the Guess Who's production or Cream's production or whoever. LZ made their records sound bigger than just the sound of 4 guys playing blues rock. Like, "when the levee breaks" is a big, ultra-compressed, numb production, and very drum heavy -- not conceptually dissimilar to any number of harder rock productions you hear now. Like, the production Nevermind is pretty much the same concept, just w/90s technology -- huge sound, huge drums, sound is *everywhere* (and also similarly chorus'd, panned out over the entire mix).

The question is did the music world need LZ to come up w/this, or would it have happened anyway? Who knows!

Dominique, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:36 (twelve years ago) link

I'm surprised by how much Bonham's drums don't sound like the heavens crashing down anymore

you need your ears testing. or a new set of speakers.

Thomas, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:39 (twelve years ago) link

No

-- chaki, Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:16 AM (23 minutes ago) Bookmark Link

deej, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:41 (twelve years ago) link

thats agreeing w/ chaki not disagreeing w/ thomas

deej, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:41 (twelve years ago) link

It might've happened w/out Zep, Dominique, but it would've happened differently. There are a lot of hallmarks of heavy rock production/playing that are very specifically descended from them.

Alex in Baltimore, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:42 (twelve years ago) link

well i agree - and not least because a lot of these rock *bands* were also listening to and loving LZ

Dominique, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:44 (twelve years ago) link

The question is did the music world need LZ to come up w/this, or would it have happened anyway? Who knows!

It's not so much that LZ came up with it, it's that they came up with it with Glyn and/or Andy Johns engineering. It had to be that combination of band and engineer(s).

Standing In The Shadows Of Bob, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:50 (twelve years ago) link

My mate told me that Page insisted they have a different engineer for each album so people would know their sound was largely down to him. My mate is quite full of shit though, so it might not be true.

chap, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:52 (twelve years ago) link

Out of NYCAlex's list of hypothetical longevity artists from our time and speaking from a US perspective, I don't see how anyone but Beyonce can be seriously considered as an artist/performer people will still remember 30 years from now; she has the most commercial success, the most critical success and the most media exposure of anyone listed there.

Music geeks are going to remember Beck but EVERYONE is going to remember Beyonce; she's been around for too long at too high of a profile to be forgotten, regardless of what you think of her music. She has basically been set up as the new Diana Ross at this point.

HI DERE, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:55 (twelve years ago) link

this band is unfuckwithable

Shakey Mo Collier, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:56 (twelve years ago) link

plus beck already sounds dated! xp

gff, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:57 (twelve years ago) link

I certainly don't think they have.

Michael White, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:58 (twelve years ago) link

How many 2008 kids remember Diana Ross, just out of interest?

Dingbod Kesterson, Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:58 (twelve years ago) link

Dan, putting that much effort into debunking an offhand Alex in NYC diss is almost like trying to engage Geir in a debate.

Alex in Baltimore, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:00 (twelve years ago) link

My mate told me that Page insisted they have a different engineer for each album so people would know their sound was largely down to him.

LZ I - Glyn Johns
LZ II - Eddie Kramer, George Chkiantz, Chris Huston, Andy Johns
LZ III - Andy Johns, Terry Manning
LZ IV - Andy Johns
Houses - Andy Johns
Physical - Keith Harwood, Andy Johns, Eddie Kramer, Ron Nevison
Presence - Keith Harwood
In Through - Leif Mases

Standing In The Shadows Of Bob, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:03 (twelve years ago) link

Beck hasn't even held up well to now so I don't see how he's going to hold up well in 30 years.

Hurting 2, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:11 (twelve years ago) link

I need my old college radio buddy who liked the Yardbirds better to disagree with all of ya...

curmudgeon, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:12 (twelve years ago) link

thats jeff beck not beck beck

Thomas, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:14 (twelve years ago) link

i don't think they've dated that much, or to the extent that they have, it doesn't matter much since there has been plenty of 'new' rock music (the white stripes, for one) that shows the influence. these things are pretty cyclical; 15 years ago it would have been more apprpriate to consider LZ dated than now, I think

akm, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:14 (twelve years ago) link

People will remember Beyonce and think: Holy Crap, what an insane amount of time, attention and money was abjectly wasted on an egomaniacal, undercooked, overblown 'talent.' She's a pretty face and little more beyond that.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:15 (twelve years ago) link

'people'

gff, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:17 (twelve years ago) link

Interesting, so not a single person here agrees with me.

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:17 (twelve years ago) link

Diana Ross not being remembered by the teenage boy music dorks that will grow up to be ILXors =/= Diana Ross not being remembered

Hurting 2, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:17 (twelve years ago) link

NTI, I think you might just have a case of "I'm not 16 anymore"

Hurting 2, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:18 (twelve years ago) link

teenage boy music dorks that will grow up to be ILXors

what? ILXors are grown-up?

Thomas, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:20 (twelve years ago) link

Well, they're not teenagers anyway. Crut1s is at least 20 now, right?

Hurting 2, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:21 (twelve years ago) link

Well, there's a lot of music I listened to as a teenager that hits me just as hard if not harder now. Some (say, ELP) doesn't. But maybe, say, in the case of Bonham, we just take that sound for granted now. I was just shocked at how little of it really knocked me the fuck OUT.

However, you really need to watch that Kashmir live vid I linked to at the top...

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:26 (twelve years ago) link

People will remember Beyonce and think: Holy Crap, what an insane amount of time, attention and money was abjectly wasted on an egomaniacal, undercooked, overblown 'talent.' She's a pretty face and little more beyond that.

Just like they do with Diana Ross, whose music still gets played at the drop of a hat.

You hating her doesn't mean people won't still be playing her music at wedding receptions, Alex.

HI DERE, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:26 (twelve years ago) link

True.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:30 (twelve years ago) link

holy shit at the Bonham head-fake at 1:06

Hurting 2, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:31 (twelve years ago) link

dan otm on this one

x-post

Shakey Mo Collier, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:32 (twelve years ago) link

But has Killing Joke dated poorly and will they be remembered as well as Beyonce? x-post to Alex in NY

curmudgeon, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:33 (twelve years ago) link

Ugh ppl we had reached a resolution here, do we need to do the poorly-reasoned baiting thing on every thread?

HI DERE, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:35 (twelve years ago) link

NTI-you just may be tired of them. Although I don't like LZ nearly as much as some similar bands from that era, I don't think they sound especially dated. I think LZII sounds dated, but the stuff they did after that sounds really fresh to these ears, especially III and PG.

Bill Magill, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:36 (twelve years ago) link

Whether "people" remember KJ or not is ultimately immaterial. They never achieved the heights of popularity of either Zeppelin or Beyonce. Their own will remember them. That's all that matters.

Alex in NYC, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:37 (twelve years ago) link

it's kinda funny how when any other drummer plays kashmir or when the levee breaks, they play two bass drum notes on the downbeat to try to simulate his huge sound. even on that live clip it sounds like he has a delay on the kick (but he doesn't!).

Jordan, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:43 (twelve years ago) link

xpost weren't Killing Joke, like, Nazis?

Thomas, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:44 (twelve years ago) link

oh god

HI DERE, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:45 (twelve years ago) link

Ugh ppl we had reached a resolution here, do we need to do the poorly-reasoned baiting thing on every thread?

-- HI DERE, Thursday, February 28, 2008 5:35 PM (9 minutes ago) BookmarkLink hehe yes!

Thomas, Thursday, 28 February 2008 17:45 (twelve years ago) link

Yeah, Royal Albert Hall recording w/overdubs. xpost

Sir Lord Baltimora (Myonga Vön Bontee), Thursday, 4 July 2013 15:08 (seven years ago) link

I know the OP is 5 years old now but I hear variations on this sometimes:

Jimmy Page's solos ("Heartbreaker" for one) were always ridiculously slapdash

Are there even any 'slapdash' moments after the first two albums, let alone ones that are ridiculously so? I definitely don't think this is a sensible thing to say about e.g. "Achilles's Last Stand".

The comments about the production seem insane too.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Thursday, 4 July 2013 23:17 (seven years ago) link

Hot dog solo is remarkably pathetic

the Spanish Porky's (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 4 July 2013 23:26 (seven years ago) link

OK, I don't listen much at all to that album, admittedly, and never thought of "Hot Dog" as more than throwaway filler. "Always" is pretty OTT though.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Friday, 5 July 2013 00:36 (seven years ago) link

"Good Times, Bad Times" is one of the greatest Album 1, Side 1, Track 1s of all time. OF ALL TIME.

― This amigurumi Jamaican octopus is ready to chill with you (Phil D.), Thursday, July 4, 2013 8:16 AM (12 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Also, "I'm Gonna Crawl" one of the most affecting Last Album, Side 2, Last Tracks of all time.

Lee626, Friday, 5 July 2013 01:24 (seven years ago) link

no

mookieproof, Friday, 5 July 2013 01:32 (seven years ago) link

yes.

even if it wasn't intended to be their last album, but that's part of why it's so affecting for me.

"In Through The Out Door" was the only Zep album i'm old enough to rembember when it was new. I only listened to pop/top-40 radio at the time, and it sounded like nothing else I'd ever heard on the radio. It also didn't sound much like any other Led Zeppelin album. I still think it's underrated, at least compared to their other albums.

Lee626, Friday, 5 July 2013 01:54 (seven years ago) link

they sound a hell of a lot better to me now than they did in the 80s, so i figure they've dated rather well

Me and my pool noodle (contenderizer), Friday, 5 July 2013 02:09 (seven years ago) link

Hot dog solo is remarkably pathetic

― the Spanish Porky's (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, July 4, 2013 6:26 PM (2 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

They really should have flown in James Burton to overdub that one. Jimmy was aiming for it, but the H was taking it's toll that day.

Mr. Mojo Readin' (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 5 July 2013 02:10 (seven years ago) link

Eh, so his timing and articulation are off a bit. I still think "Hot Dog"'s a great little anomaly in the Crunge/D'yer Maker tradition.

Sir Lord Baltimora (Myonga Vön Bontee), Friday, 5 July 2013 02:23 (seven years ago) link

Ha, those are the two songs that bring down HotH from 10/10 status for me.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Friday, 5 July 2013 02:28 (seven years ago) link

I mean, it would be hard to flawlessly master all the styles Page tried to play with.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Friday, 5 July 2013 02:29 (seven years ago) link

But e.g. "The Rover" and "Stairway" are two more really elegant, memorable solos on top of the one I mentioned. Pretty much everything on Presence is very well-played and well-constructed imo.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Friday, 5 July 2013 02:32 (seven years ago) link

Some of JP's weeeirdest soloing on "Presence" too! All that Fender wangbar abuse.

Sir Lord Baltimora (Myonga Vön Bontee), Friday, 5 July 2013 03:09 (seven years ago) link

(Love "The Crunge", don't care much for "D'yer Maker" but they both served my point anyways)

Sir Lord Baltimora (Myonga Vön Bontee), Friday, 5 July 2013 03:11 (seven years ago) link

seven years pass...

Hell yeah

https://traxman1.bandcamp.com/album/traxman-vs-zeppelin-e-p

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 20 November 2020 16:53 (one week ago) link

What fresh, hot garbagey Hell is this?

SQUIRREL MEAT!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Friday, 20 November 2020 17:14 (one week ago) link

Guess I should have posted on the footwork thread

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 20 November 2020 17:32 (one week ago) link

Oh god, why?!

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Friday, 20 November 2020 17:39 (one week ago) link

Let's remix Led Zeppelin but squash the drums -- the best part -- and replace them with extremely shitty digi-hats and handclaps!

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Friday, 20 November 2020 17:40 (one week ago) link

Ok

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 20 November 2020 17:44 (one week ago) link

(LZ drums are all-time but still don't stand up to an 808 on a soundsystem)

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 20 November 2020 17:45 (one week ago) link

This is definitely Not For Me™️

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 20 November 2020 22:22 (one week ago) link

sorry Jord, swing and a miss lol

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 20 November 2020 22:23 (one week ago) link

omg

mookieproof, Friday, 20 November 2020 22:28 (one week ago) link

I find myself appreciating Led Zeppelin more than I ever did other than the time in my life when I was just being exposed to loud, guitar-based music and they served as one of several gateway drugs. And with this newfound appreciation, I find the band's music to be both a perfect encapsulation of a long-gone era, but also somewhat timeless.

See AC/DC for an even better example of what I speak of.

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Friday, 20 November 2020 22:30 (one week ago) link

(LZ drums are all-time but still don't stand up to an 808 on a soundsystem)


This must be why no hip-hop act has ever sampled Zeppelin.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 20 November 2020 22:35 (one week ago) link

mix isn’t great but I’d rather hear it than any of their classics

Left, Friday, 20 November 2020 22:40 (one week ago) link

You do you!

SQUIRREL MEAT!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Friday, 20 November 2020 22:50 (one week ago) link

it gets much worse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO8m6yilFSI

early-Woolf semantic prosody (Hadrian VIII), Friday, 20 November 2020 22:58 (one week ago) link

I'm a drummer, I looove JB, but the 808 clap has made more people dance than his snare drum sound.

(also if the kick is also meant to be the source of bass in the track, it's usually layered with other samples)

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 20 November 2020 23:23 (one week ago) link

Too lazy to ctrl + f for Page/Mattix jokes but I’m sure ILXors of Time Past got that covered.

pomenitul, Friday, 20 November 2020 23:45 (one week ago) link

People will remember Beyonce and think: Holy Crap, what an insane amount of time, attention and money was abjectly wasted on an egomaniacal, undercooked, overblown 'talent.' She's a pretty face and little more beyond that.


Evergreen.

pomenitul, Friday, 20 November 2020 23:47 (one week ago) link

^ better joke than the "Whole Lotta Love" remix
xp

actually-very-convincing (Sund4r), Friday, 20 November 2020 23:48 (one week ago) link

(Sorry Jordan!)

actually-very-convincing (Sund4r), Friday, 20 November 2020 23:49 (one week ago) link

I’m not even a huge beyonce fan but comparing her to zeppelin is almost unfair on zeppelin

Left, Friday, 20 November 2020 23:52 (one week ago) link

TS: ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’ vs songs about the One Ring.

pomenitul, Friday, 20 November 2020 23:58 (one week ago) link

Ring Cycle obv

actually-very-convincing (Sund4r), Friday, 20 November 2020 23:59 (one week ago) link

otm

pomenitul, Saturday, 21 November 2020 00:00 (one week ago) link

(LZ drums are all-time but still don't stand up to an 808 on a soundsystem)

What the fuck are you smoking dude

calstars, Saturday, 21 November 2020 00:04 (one week ago) link

In 2005, I had a chance to see Destiny's Child and I passed it up because of 'school'. I don't know why I air quoted school, I actually had a test. I thought I could catch them on the next tour, but I think you know what happened.

You can still see Beyonce.

All I would see are the two that aren't there.

actually-very-convincing (Sund4r), Saturday, 21 November 2020 00:04 (one week ago) link

Jordan's convinced me. All drum tracks should be retroactively swapped out with 808s. Cause dancing, sound systems, etc.

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Saturday, 21 November 2020 01:13 (one week ago) link

*Throws challops flag*

calstars, Saturday, 21 November 2020 01:23 (one week ago) link

this is the purest calstars bait (that doesn't involve bars) <3

mookieproof, Saturday, 21 November 2020 01:40 (one week ago) link

It does kind of involve children where they shouldn’t be though

early-Woolf semantic prosody (Hadrian VIII), Saturday, 21 November 2020 02:01 (one week ago) link

this isn't even a well-used or well-mixed 808! It sounds like shit!

longtime caller, first time listener (man alive), Saturday, 21 November 2020 05:15 (one week ago) link

^^^
Is this guy intentionally defecating on all sides of the beat?

Like I could see elements (mellotron, etc.) of No Quarter being used in a bobbins way, but this dude (gotta be a dude) wants shooting.

the colour out of space (is the place) (PBKR), Saturday, 21 November 2020 13:05 (one week ago) link

I love footwork but Traxman has always bamboozled me and err... yeah not a fan of this

Specific Ocean Blue (dog latin), Saturday, 21 November 2020 13:36 (one week ago) link

Ok I'm not going to die on this hill, it's just a silly EP of chopped Led Zep samples in a juke context.

Buuut speaking of context...if the 'When the Levee Breaks' break sounded good in fast dance music, it would be used in fast dance music. JB's drums are huge, wide, and aggressive and so they're usually sampled at slower tempos when you want that rock energy (Beastie Boys, Bjork, blah blah blah). There's a reason why he's not sampled much in drum & bass (although sure, anything's possible).

And 808 bass/kicks/claps are not objectively worse than even the best drummer when it comes to recorded music, they're just different. There's also a reason why you hear them 1000000000x more than Led Zep drum loops, and it has to do with how effective they are, which partly has due with the sheer frequencies involved, and the cultural weight at this point. I really should not have to explain this in 2020.

change display name (Jordan), Monday, 23 November 2020 17:46 (five days ago) link

Dunno, who did Led Zeppelin go out with?

Mark G, Monday, 23 November 2020 17:47 (five days ago) link


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