Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Are Not Prefabricated (1969)

led-zeppelin-1By Keith Altham

When is a hit single unnecessary? Apparently when it is a group like Led Zeppelin who have never released a single but have reached super group proportions in America when they packed the 10,000 capacity Pavilion in New York and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Largely responsible for the creation of this musical monster has been ex-session guitarist, ex-Yardbird Jimmy Page who last Thursday was back in London from America with the news that Jim Morrison now looks like the chief Rabbi of Brixton and Elvis Presley still looks like Elvis Presley.

“Things have happened so quickly it is unbelievable,” said Jimmy. “Our group will only have been formed a year this October and already some critics are giving us rave reports over Blind Faith. Mind you the only reason for that is that they had one or two bad gigs and everything has gone right for us.

Sales

“It impossible to convey just how big Zeppelin are now in the States but if I tell you that our album sold 20,000 copies in three days last week and is still pounding along it might give you some idea. You can turn on the radio and hear a Zeppelin track played three or four times a day.”

One of the criticisms levelled against the Zeppelin has been that they were a prefabricated group formed by four highly competent musicians to cash in on the American progressive pop scene.

Proportions

“No one can tell just how a group like ours would be received,” said Jimmy. “No one really expected for it to reach the proportions that it has.

“We were only prefabricated in as much as we deliberately set out to form a group. What happened after that was up to the public and you cannot foist something on the Americans now because you happen to be English. The last thing to happen in America which was English was Joe Cocker and that was last July.

Risks

“In many ways we took more risks than groups like Blind Faith and Humble Pie who carefully prepared their music before making public appearances. Our album was cut within three weeks of the groups formation and we began work almost at once so it could hardly be accused of being contrived or pre-packed in that sense.

“We’ve not managed to establish ourselves so heavily in Britain simply because most of our energies have been directed towards America. The mass media in this country is still not reflective of what the majority of young people want to listen to but in the States it is.

Discerning

“Audiences in Britain are more discerning than America – almost hyper-critical – because they get so many good groups, but we have been able to hold our own on the major concerts that we have played here. Contrary to popular opinion it is not the money that is so important to big groups in America – it is the venues and the number of people you can communicate to which is so pleasing. There are very few halls in England which can accommodate more than a few thousand people. This means it is only worthwhile playing the major cities say once every six months at those places.”

In spite of the fact that Jimmy feels an English group is no longer instantly acceptable in view of their nationality, there is obviously a very strong bias towards our groups in the album and heavy pop department, in America. Are English groups musically superior to their American counterparts?

Trends

“I think it is more a case of differing trends,” said Jimmy, “although we do have an incredible number of very talented musicians. In America now, they are veering towards a softer country and western approach, so any English group that steams in with heavy, earthy sounds are almost overwhelming to the audiences.

“There is a tendency to return to some of the early rock and roll songs now almost as a reaction against the heavy, intellectual and analytical forms it has been taking. It’s very understandable to me – we play it when the mood takes us. It’s the perfect balance – so simple. You can’t read anything but what there is into songs like ‘I’ve Gotta Woman’. Some music has just got a little too complicated for the public.”

Dominating

The guitar is still, of course, the dominating instrument on the popular music scene and as one of the more talented exponents of that instrument, I asked Jimmy if he could see the day when another instrument might take its place, and whether he felt as guitarists become more adept, it would find its own limitation.

“No to both questions,” said Jimmy. “Firstly the guitar is the logical replacement for the piano which everyone had in their home during the Victorian era. It has become more refined and is of course, easier to carry about. Where you once saw a piano standing in the corner of a room, now you find a guitar.

Limitations

“The only limitations you can put on the guitar are those you impose yourself. If you set out to be a blues guitarist, then probably the best you can get is BB King but most guitarists now are fusing all the influences of classical, jazz and blues into one style which is limitless.

“Even the unknown group guitarist round the corner has an original phrase or something which he could show to impress Hendrix.”

Strangely enough although the Zeppelin have never released a single they are now considering one and Jimmy revealed they will go into the studio after a months holiday to do just that. Will it be a deliberate effort to make a hit single?

“Everyone says that they will not do that, but I suppose that is what we will be doing, but I don’t see that we have to compromise our own standards. Jethro Tull managed to make a good quality single!”

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April 9, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin Are Not Prefabricated |

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