Several years ago, I had planned to start doing a series of blog posts about the albums in my CD collection (proposed title: “Touring the CD Tower”). Then I got busy. Then I got rid of my CDs (burning them to MP3 first, and donating the physical discs). And subsequently, said tower, too. Of course, the intent was not necessarily to talk about the objects themselves, but both the music contained on them and the context in which I purchased them.
Well, the content is all still valid, in my head somewhere, so there’s no reason not to write about these albums I own, even if now it’s just in ones and zeros on an external hard drive. Tonight on the way home from dinner at longstanding Eastside diner Badger Cafe, I somehow got Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” in my head (maybe it was playing in the restaurant?), and it reminded me how hugely influential that debut album by the iconic British rock band was on an impressionable, young Pj, which led me to recall this blog series I meant to start years ago, and … well, here we are.
Led Zeppelin was not the first album I owned by Robert Plant & Co. I inherited Led Zeppelin IV (a.k.a. ZOSO, a.k.a. untitled, a.k.a. The One With Stairway to Heaven On It) on cassette from a parent, probably my late biological father, when I was in my early teens. I think. I could be totally wrong. But the self-titled debut I purchased on cassette when I was already driving age and super into iconic classic rock–specifically The Doors, The Beatles and Pink Floyd–so it made more of an impact. And if you’ve ever listened to Led Zeppelin (the album, not the band), you know that it makes for incredibly awesome driving music. “Dazed and Confused.” “Communication Breakdown.” “Good Times Bad Times.” They’re all there, along with the gut-wrenching, balls-out blues numbers like the aforementioned “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” “You Shook Me,” and “How Many More Times.”
I played the crap out of that cassette in my ’85 Honda Accord, surrounding myself in every Plant lyrical flourish, every Jimmy Page guitar lick, every John Bonham drum fill, every John Paul Jones walking bassline. And then I read all about the band and the album’s production. This was pre-Internet, hence pre-Wikipedia, and that meant reading books like Stephen Davis’ Hammer of the Gods or features in magazines like Guitar World.
Several years later, I repurchased the album on CD, probably through one of those Columbia House ads that required you to only send in one penny for like 12 albums, none of which I ever paid a penny more for. And when it came time to produce recordings for one of my mid-1990s bands, it was the lessons learned by reading about Jimmy Page’s production techniques on Led Zeppelin that informed my own process.
It’s been years since I listened to that album in whole (because, man, I just do not listen to my music collection at all anymore in the age of Spotify and Pandora and nonstop work), but I’m doing so tonight as I write this, and unlike a lot of music from my youth I loved, it still stands up. I still love it. And I’ll bet it’ll sound great on my next cross-desert drive.