RECORD CRACK: The loss of Connie Zimet, the voice of “The Sensuous Woman”

A few hours before 2012 comes rolling in, I decided to clear out some of my old e-mails, and came across an e-mail from one Connie Zimet. In the mid-00’s, I contacted this legendary voice-over artist for a possible interview, as I had wanted to interview her about her work on a record most people were not aware that she did. I hadn’t heard from her, then as I was clearing my e-mails out in 2007, I wrote to her again. One thing you do not want to do is bombard people with your requests, but I figured it was two years, I was okay. She wrote back, and said “don’t know if you’re going to send those questions but am going in for surgery tomorrow and will be out of commission for two weeks.” I resent my questions, and waited. No response, but that was fine.

Her e-mail was out of sight but never out of mind. I did a search for her, as I was aware that she used to have a website for potential clients (that’s how I initially contacted her) but discovered that she died from ALS two years ago.

It was an interview I hoped to have because as a record collector, the album she appeared on was always of interest, and I figured why not go to the source. The album in question was The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman, released on 1971 on Atlanic Records (SD 7209). The record was meant to be a partial audio interpretation of the 1979 book by Joan Garrity, who credited herself simply as “J“. The book become a phenomenon, as it was “the first how-to book for the female who yearns to be all woman” and for years, no one knew who “J” was. While the album may suggest that the album was verbalized by “J”, the album credits showed that the female voice was by one “Connie Z.” It was revealed later that this Connie Z. was indeed Connie Zimet, whose voice was not only used by countless companies and advertising agencies, but was used for a number of animated features, far more than what IMDB currently lists.

While I did not get a full interview from Zimet, we did exchange a few e-mails in 2005 where she touched on some of the memories she still had from that project, which she clearly remembered. For one, anything odd and peculiar about the great world of vinyl was of interest to me, and Atlantic Records were not a label know for their sex records. This was clearly a sex record, released at a time when pop culture were shocked about free love and unique ways of having relationships, so I wanted to touch on that too.

Zimet stated that similar to radio and television commercials, this was nothing more than a new job/task to do, part of the job. While the recording on record was just under 45 minutes, the full recording session probably had taken 90 minutes for her to do. The two sides of the album may have sounded seamless, but any coughing, hesitations in the script, or any gaps in silence were of course edited out during post-production. I had asked if she knew anything about the music that can be heard in the background on the album, but she knew nothing about it, or at least it wasn’t as if a man or woman playing a Moog was in the studio as she spoke her lines. It was just her and the engineer. (NOTE: As for the musician who was on the Moog, that was Tony Camillo, who would have big success when he played on and produced Gladys Knight & The Pips‘s “Midnight Train To Georgia“, her only #1 song. Camillo would have a novelty hit with the song “Dynomite“, a take-off of the catchphrase comedian/actor Jimmy Walker made famous on the CBS television show Good Times. “Dynomite” was credited as Tony Camillo’s Bazuka, and was his only hit song as Bazuka.)

Zimet did reveal one secret that most people may not be aware of. Most of her close friends and associates were fully aware she was the “Connie Z” on the album, kind of a “no brainer” thing. The reason it had been somewhat of a secret was that in order for her to maintain voice-over work, she did not want to present her resume and show that she did work on an “audio sex book”, which might delight free thinkers but not an advertising agency selling something to a specific clientele. The secret was not that, but the fact that when the album was released, her voice is heard at a higher pitch. The reason is because the producer of the album wanted “The Sensuous Woman” to sound more youthful and vibrant. Zimet was an ancient 30 when these recording sessions happened, and it wasn’t so much her age that was a factor, but that her natural and “work” voice was slightly lower. Apparently she said it was like “a Brenda Vacarro voice”, and having that voice promote sensuality in 1971 was equal to a grandmother offering phone sex. Keep in mind that the album featured no photographs whatsoever, so no one knew what Connie Zimet looked like. Hearing the record without a visual aid was meant to stimulate the mind, and whatever you did while hearing the record, that was your private ordeal. Even though she was using nothing but her voice, it was treated like a commercial in that advertising agencies say youthfulness sells, and the perception of being/sounding older would mean losing your sales potential. The idea of a woman 30 years or older participating in a project like this would not be an issue in 2012, in fact it would be a major selling point, but back then it was a risk. Regardless, the album worked although it was the first and last time Atlantic Records released a sex record.

What I also wanted to know about The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman album were things Zimet probably did not know about, and that was the technical side of the record itself. Atlantic Records had just started a relationship with Warner Bros. Records, which would lead to the creation of WEA (later Warner Music Group). Out of the many records Atlantic had did up until that point, why did they choose to take a risk with a sex record? Sex records (or “stag records”) were common, but they were not found in the record section of your local Sears, JCPenney, or Woolworth’s. Daring record stores would sell them, but they were sold behind the counter, away from public view, not unlike some comedy records with “adult” content. Other places you would be able to find The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman: adult sex shops and head shops. If you wanted to buy some rolling paper or a new bong, you could bring The Sensuous Woman back home with you.

Atlantic had officially become a major label with their union with Warner Bros., so did they expect for this to sell? Was this done merely as a means to cash-in on the sexual revolution of the early 1970’s?

Another thing I had wanted to ask. Being a record collector, I looked at the catalog number. The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman was Atlantic SD 7209. I know this was released in 1971, and I was aware that one of the biggest albums on Atlantic was also released that year. I had taken a look and… Led Zeppelin‘s untitled 4th album had a catalog number of SD 7208. Significance? None, other than one followed the other in Atlantic’s catalog, which lead me to wonder: for daring record stores in larger cities, would you enter and see both LZ’s 4th album and The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman next to one another? If so, did LZ fans also pick up this audio sex guide? Or after playing The Sensuous Woman, did people slap on LZ’s 4th and get more energetic, hot, steamy, passionate, or go “oh man, this “Evermore” song just made me go flaccid”? Regardless, by having similar catalog numbers, this would mean that the release date for The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman was November 7, 1971, give or take a week.

While Zimet would not record other projects like this, the album would help spawn a number of audio knockoffs by others, including The Sensuous Black Woman and The Sensuous Black Woman meets The Sensuous Black Man. Both were Rudy Ray Moore projects, with the latter album reissued under the title The Rudy Ray Moore Zodiac Album.

I had wanted to find out any more information about The Way To Become The Sensuous Woman album, but also to talk about her experiences in radio, television, and advertising, as “the magic of the airwaves” has always been of interest to be, but I did not get the chance. Nonetheless, her voice-work continues to be an inspiration for those who wanted to or have followed in her footsteps as a voice-over artist/on-air announcer.

DUST IT OFF: Led Zeppelin’s (untitled 4th album): 40 years later

How does one add to the discussion of an album that has never been away from the recorded music and pop culture spotlight for 40 years? Some well known random facts:

1) It is the first Led Zeppelin album to be released without a proper title. The album is represented by four symbols that have been misinterpreted, tattooed, and written on notebooks, Pee-Chee folders, and school desks for generations of youth. The album has a number of unofficial titles, including Led Zeppelin IV, Zoso, Zofo, Runes, and Four Symbols (Peru simply released it as The New Led Zeppelin Album.) Since there is no actual title, I choose to call it (untitled 4th album), since that’s what it is and I know exactly what I’m referring to.

2) Each of the four symbols are said to represent each member of the group. Robert Plant, being the lofty vocalist who once wore jeans that did not hide his breathing patterns, was represented by a feather within a circle. Awwwww. The complex funky drums of John Bonham was represented by three circles, which were chosen for different reasons but I like to think it represents the fact that his one bass drum and wicked foot sounded like his drum kit had three bass drums. That would called a flashback to my assumption, feel free to share your own.

Regardless of what the symbols actually meant or represented for each member, it seemed to help give the group identities in an unexpected way. The group were not teen sensations by any means, but the mystery of each symbol made it possible for listeners to come up with their own associations. John Paul Jones‘ symbol might be a way to describe his complex bass playing, while Jimmy Page‘s could be Satanic, a viking something or other, or absolutely nothing. Some may not have known or cared about the members until they were represented with a “symbol”, but for the last 40 years we can look at the four symbols and say “oh, that’s Jimmy, John, Bonzo, and Robert” in that order, placing it alongside “John, Paul, George & Ringo”.

3) The album would feature vocalist Sandy Denny in “The Battle Of Evermore”, becoming the first and only non-LZ member to appear on an album throughout the band’s entire discography. Denny, better known as a vocalist for Fairport Convention, was 24 when she did the vocals with the group. Just as Billy Preston will forever be known as “the fifth Beatle”, Denny was credited on the album with her own unique symbol as well, three triangles that is said to represent pyramids.

She would die seven years later of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 31.

4) The band specifically did not want to give the album a title, nor did they want anything on the cover to identify it as being a “Led Zeppelin” item. Atlantic Records thought the band was nuts, either Jimmy Page was consuming too much demon dust or he was confident enough to understand the popularity of the group and take a risk to say that their music could be represented by symbols and imagery. Atlantic felt there had to be one way to show it was a Led Zeppelin record, so they compromised. On the record itself, the record label is the only place on the entire album where you see the words “Led Zeppelin” printed.

Their name was not printed anywhere on the cover, including the spine. In fact the spine lacks any type of identification, including label name and catalog #. Outside of knowing how the cover looked beforehand, the only way you could identify it as Led Zeppelin was their name on the sticker placed on the cellophane.

The inner sleeve does reveal a production credit to Jimmy Page (and manager Peter Grant as “executive producer) but not a band name in sight.

The UK and US were the band’s primary markets, so Atlantic in both countries granted the compromise. However, that did not stop other Atlantic divisions in other countries to place the words “Led Zeppelin” on the spine or cover, or in some instances, calling it Led Zeppelin IV, done so since their second and third albums were called Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III. It also didn’t stop Atlantic from printing their name on other formats for the album, so if you purchased the cassette, reel-to-reel, and a decade later on compact disc, you would see their name on places other than the label:

5) It was the first Led Zeppelin album to have a lyric sheet, although in this case it was only just for “Stairway To Heaven”, so that added immediate emphasis on that song. Was it special? Like the lyrics indicated, did the song also have two meanings? The song was the band’s double rainbow, because everyone continues to ask what the song really means? People thought the song was a disgrace, if not blasphemous, because they were a hard rock/”acid rock” band singing about something with spiritual and religious references, which you did not do. If people used to think John Lennon‘s suggestion that his group were treated as if they were more popular than Jesus Christ was a means for a public burning, one can only imagine what the moral majority thought about a bunch of savage, British long hairs, who were open about having sex, drinking, and “loving the blues” (which was a “savage endorsement” for anything that was black), singing about going to heaven looking as they did.

In the entire song, the word “heaven” is only mentioned three times: the beginning, a verse long before the drums kick in, and the ending. Yet people feared this song as if it was the coming of the apocalypse. Was it the piper calling everyone to join him, and if so, who was the piper? Satan? It sounds funny, as if it was some Saturday Night Live Church Lady skit, but it was these people who later felt that by backmasking, the technique of playing the record backwards, you would be able to detect the song’s true “double meaning”. If you do so, there’s a part of the song which sounds like Plant is singing “here’s to my sweet Satan/the one who’ll lead the path, who makes me ad, whose power is Satan”. WHOA! THIS ALBUM AND BAND ARE DEMONIC!!!

The song would become the one song out of many that would help define the group permanently. In many articles throughout the years, “Stairway To Heaven” is defined as the song that explains the power and majesty of their sound in under 8 minutes, from the gentle and delicate ways of the singing and acoustic guitar, to the introduction of the rhythm section, to the moment when Page creates “the parting of the skies” with the pathway towards his guitar solo, and then that guitar kicks in and vacuums everyone into the sky before Bonham pulls everyone in with one serious pull with his flourishes, the brief calming heard with Plant singing brief harmonies which leads us to the climax of Page’s solo, which then leads us to the inevitable walk down the road where we eventually see the lady we all know whose brightness keeps us looking before she tells us how everything still turn to gold, and some how if we all listen very hard, the truth will come to us at last. WHAT?!??!?! You’re listening with open ears and open eyes, and then the revelation comes in: “when are are one and one is all/to be a rock and not to roll!” Now everyone is climaxing on each other, everyone is touching each others skin for the first time, and then the afterglow allows the listener to finally settle down. What can one possibly do next? In the old days, you would clean your afterglow off and go on a “Misty Mountain Hop”, where you talk about walking in the park the other day and what do you, what do you think you saw? The lady? Who knows, but then again, you know how it is, right?

Despite its popularity, the song was never officially released as a single. In fact, Led Zeppelin insisted that none of their songs were to be released as singles, since they didn’t need it. Singles were a representation of “pop success”, and they were what you would call an “album oriented” band, a group that sold on the power of their albums. Atlantic UK did not release any LZ singles, but the U.S. market did have singles. In different articles over the years, Page and Plant would say they were a bit angry by Atlantic in the U.S. trying to push them as a “singles band”, and yet they continued to this throughout the group’s existence until Bonham’s death. Atlantic did press up a promotional, radio-only 45rpm single with “Stairway To Heaven”, compressing the song’s 7:55 length onto one side of a little record. 7″ 45rpm singles sound good up until a point, the general rule by pressing plants is that a song should be 3 minutes and 30 seconds or less for optimum quality (if you collect ska/reggae/dancehall records, many artists and producers obeyed that pressing plant golden rule). The moment you go over 3:30, quality suffers due to a need to compress the sound in order for it to fit it on one side of a 45. 4:00 to 4:30 is okay, 5:00 to 5:30 is pushing it, but an 8 minute song? It’s laughable to think that there were radio stations who used that promo 45 as the only way to play “Stairway To Heaven”, and with that kind of compression, one false touch and the record could have a skip/scratch that would lead to record replacement.

As for the public, they did not have a choice. “Stairway To Heaven” was played on FM radio constantly, and since there was no U.S. 45 released for it, fans had to buy the album in order to have the song at home. It has been said that the (untitled 4th album) was purchased at a rate similar to buying a 45, which helped it not only climb the charts, but helped to keep that album selling for years and now decades. (When the Philippines released it as a 45, it was separated as Part I and Part II. Not sure how radio stations are programmed there, but there may be a small population of Filipino LZ fans who may have never heard Part II.)

The (untitled 4th album) finally broke the band into pop territory without them making that effort, there was not a deliberate effort for the group to be teen sensations (other than to whatever young groupies were showing up backstage after a show). It was because of this that fans realized: there are seven other songs on this album. At a time when record buyers “obeyed the ritual” of listening to an album in full, fans discovered the band’s musical diversity, which lead to some buying the band’s previous three albums if they didn’t do so, and perhaps sticking around for future releases. It was with this album that Led Zeppelin became mega superstars, and that would stay that way until the end, for better or worse.

If there’s one Led Zeppelin album you’ll find at yard and garage sales, thrift store and charity shops, and of course used record stores, it’ll be this one.

6) “Stairway To Heaven” would become the band’s metaphorical holy grail, it was the song you chose to understand but never meddled with it. You dare not be any other band and cover it, even though many would, with terrible results. In pop culture, it was put to the test in Cameron Crowe‘s Fast Times At Ridgemont when Side One of the album was part of the Mike Damone 5-point plan in insuring a great make out session. However, when that plan was used by Rat when he went on his date with Stacy Hamilton, you heard “Kashmir”. For years I assumed it was because Rat was a dork and simply bought the wrong tape, but Crowe revealed that Atlantic Records did not grant them permission to use anything from (untitled 4th album), so “Kashmir” from Physical Graffiti was used instead. Rapper and deep music fan Rusty Redenbacher states that some probably assumed it was an intentional mistake, but it was not, and that using “Kashmir” was better for dramatic effect than anything on the (untitled 4th album). While that can be argued, Crowe did eventually get to use more Led Zeppelin songs in his 2000 film Almost Famous. with one scene shot with “Stairway To Heaven” in mind. Page and Atlantic ended up not granting Crowe permission to use the song, but the scene was used (sans-“Stairway”) on an extended version of the film released on DVD as Almost Famous: Untitled. The viewer was given instructions on when to play “Stairway To Heaven” during that specific scene. The DVD of Almost Famous: Untitled was packaged to look like an old bootleg record. The same can be said for the vinyl pressing of the movie’s soundtrack, complete with ringwear and a photo that looks very similar to Led Zeppelin’s arrival in Honolulu with the band holding multitrack tape boxes for what would become Led Zeppelin II. The Untitled subtitle for the director’s cut DVD and the vinyl soundtrack is a reference to the (untitled 4th album).

Actor Mike Myers would use it in the Wayne’s World film as his Wayne character and Tia Carrere‘s character, Cassandra Wong, would walk into a music store, attempt to play a certain guitar melody which lead to the cashier telling them to look at the sign and obey the unspoken golden rule. Music store employees rejoiced.

7) Of course, this album is much more than just the “Heaven” song. The album begins with the sound of what sounds like someone starting up the tape machine, and Page and Jones tuning up and checking their strings before the song begins. Led Zeppelin would have a reputation for starting out their albums with incredible songs with maximum impact, and “Black Dog” is a perfect example of this.

Because of its popularity among fans and radio DJ’s, it became one of three songs that helped represent the album, the other being “Rock’N’Roll”. Anyone who has listened to their music or read articles and books about them know how much their influences played a role in what they recorded, written, and played. Plant had a huge fascination with American rock’n’roll from the 1950’s, and “Rock’N’Roll definitely played on his love of Elvis Presley, which he would also do in the live version of “Whole Lotta Love” on The Song Remains The Same when he had to “shake it one time” for him. In the band’s live bootleg album legacy, Plant and the band would make it a regular practice to honor Presley and other 50’s songs with full on medleys, often done within the context of “Whole Lotta Love”. Whatever came to Plant’s mind at the time is what they ended up playing, which is the same process they’d use in the studio. That process ended up with great songs, but it also lead to eventual litigation as singers, songwriters, and musicians who heard their own songs on Led Zeppelin’s wondered about the lack of songwriting and publishing credits. But for “Rock’N’Roll”, it was pure admiration and homage to their childhood fantasies, and over the years its frequent time on the radio makes it feel as if it gets more airplay than “Black Dog”.

The folk qualities of “The Battle Of Evermore” may have some as a surprise, if not a shock, to those who loved the band’s vibrant electricity, but it was a way to calm the listener down a bit, at least in theory, as it was something they did in concert, especially when they started to incorpirate acoustic material with Led Zeppelin III. The mammoth attack of “Stairway To Heaven” would lead to listeners flipping the record over and becoming playful with the happy “Misty Mountain Hop”, and what exactly was this bop, perhaps discovered once the listener went over the hill? As Plant may have hinted, he really didn’t know.

I remember as a kid hearing “Four Sticks” and wondering if it referred to Bonham’s drum sticks, since the song had a cool rhythm to it and it sounded fuller than someone who normally played with the regular two sticks. (The Wikipedia entry for “Four Sticks” reveals that Bonham did indeed play the song with two pairs of drumsticks, or “four sticks”, thus the song title.) The song starts out with a 5/8 time signature, moves into 3/4 (or a 6/8) briefly before bouncing back into 5/4, then back to 3/4. Page eventually introduces a moody guitar solo/passage which keeps the song at 3/4 for a bit before the band move back to the 5/4 and 3/4 thing. I always thought that was cool, since the standard pop/rock song would always be in 4/4, and maybe a 3/4 just to be adventurous. To go back and forth like that with time signatures appealed to me, especially as I was a young Pink Floyd fan who wanted to hear more bands like this, which lead me to Yes, King Crimson, and the vast world of progressive rock, which would play around with different time signatures and tempos throughout an album, if not the same song. As a math nerd, all of this was cool to me because I felt I discovered the secret to the song by understanding the time signatures, and little did I know that this was also influencing a younger generation of music fans and musicians to where it would lead to the sub-genre of “math rock”.

Speaking of Pink Floyd, while the album lacked any proper credits, it should be noted that with Jones, the group incorporated the piano, organs, keyboards, and synthesizers in a way that would not overwhelm or completely change the band’s sound. In “Four Sticks”, Jones is credited as playing the VCS3 synthesizer, which was used extensively by Pink Floyd as the hypnotizing melody in Dark Side Of The Moon‘s “On The Run”. Jones never shied away from playing instruments other than the bass throughout their catalog, making “The Rain Song” on Houses Of The Holy reach a slight country music feel in the second half, or turning “Kashmir” into a distant-yet-familiar masterpiece with its Mellotron wall mixed in with an Indian orchestra, or making “In The Light” sound spacey and out-of-this-world. When the band released In Through The Out Door in 1978, many fans and critics cited it as a far departure from their core sound, with some assuming that by being a “dinosaur rock band” competing in the disco era, they had to conform to the “modern ways” when Jones had been using some kind of keyboard instrument since the debut album, such as the organ in “Your Time Is Gonna Come” and the Mellotron in “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”.

The band got acoustic again with the charming “Going To California”, showing a respect for musicians that would help to create and define what is now known as The California Sound. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the band always loved acoustic music, and maybe due to half of the 4th album being recorded in California, it may have been a subtle tribute to the place they spent a lot of time in.

The untitled 4th album ends where things began: with the blues. “When The Levee Breaks” was pulled from the Memphis Minnie songbook, and it became the album’s official climax. If the band were slowly reaching higher, perhaps heavenly heights on Side 1, they allowed themselves to return down to Earth as mortals by bringing things back down to the people and more specifically the mud and flood waters that have often been used as metaphors for countless blues songs. That incredible loud and booming drum sound came from Bonham’s drums being placed in a long hallway, and the microphones being positioned above in the distance that would allow it to catch the reverb and the “sound of the room”. In the 50’s and 60’s, before producers and engineers would mic a drum set in complex ways (sometimes for each piece of percussion so that the hi-hat would have a mic, the bass drum would have a mic, the snare, etc. so that it would result in a preferably cleaner and “accurate” sound during the mixing phase of the drum track and eventual song), they would simply place a microphone above the drummer and that’s the sound you would get on tape: the immediate sound of the drums below and a bit of the sound of the room which catches the reverb of the drums bouncing off of it. Countless pop, rock, soul, R&B, and jazz records of the 50’s and 60’s were done this way, and as Bonham was a huge fan of James Brown‘s records, Page was able to capture that feeling in the band’s early records, including “When The Levee Breaks”.

Also, the reason the song has a slightly eerie and sludgy feel was due to two reasons. For one, the song was recorded at a certain tempo and key. In order to give the song an earthier, bluesy feel, it was slowed down by a few percent. For those of you who play around with audio programs, ripping the song from a standard redbook CD will result in a WAV file at 44.1 kilohertz, or kHz. Adjust (not convert) the sample rate so that it will be at 48 kHz. Doing this will compact the song from 7:07 to 6:33, and by doing this, you will hear the instrumental backing track as it was originally recorded.

Another reason why “When The Levee Breaks” and a few other songs on the album have a slightly muddy feel was, according to Page in interviews, the equipment used in the mixing process. The entire album was recorded before Page decided to mix the album at Sunset Sound Studio in Los Angeles, which had been used for countless albums over the years, including The Beach BoysPet Sounds. Page, who not only produced the band’s music but oversaw the mixing sessions, was not happy with how those mixes sounded. Time being of the essence (and of course money), and while Page came close to scrapping everything and mixing the entire album from scratch, he decided to delay its release until dealing with the consequences, touching up a few spots, and releasing it as is. The sound of the album was distinctive for its slightly muddy, perhaps American, sound, compared to the cleanliness of how music was recorded in the band’s native England. In fact, with The Beatles being lovers of all that was American, during one of their many American visits, they visited the Capitol Records recording studio to investigate and see what kind of equipment was found in their studios. It was there and in other American studios that they found the tools that they had hoped to duplicate in their recordings, but were not able to since the equipment at EMI in London (build by and made to the studio’s specifications by EMI themselves) was made differently. For a short time, a number of 7″ 45rpm records were mixed and mastered in the U.S. by one Dave Dexter, Jr., who did not like the mono mixes meant for single release. He would use echo and reverb in a way that was distinctive to a number of records on Capitol, and some were even mixed in Duophonic, Capitol’s way of creating “fake stereo”, or where one channel would be mixed with a lot of low end, the other channel with a lot of high end, to create a false sound image of “stereo”. Some fans hated it and felt it was not what The Beatles intended, and yet there are a few interviews with Beatles members who, when asked about the Capitol “Dave Dexter Jr.” mixes, they said “I actually prefer that one”. It may have been one way for The Beatles to sound like some of their musical heroes, to drench it in that “country & western” reverb that would make them sound like Buck Owens records. (On the other hand, as some Beatles fans hated the Dave Dexter Jr. reverb, done by running it through Capitol Records’ echo chambers made exclusively for the studio, Beach Boys fans praised the same echo chambers when Brian Wilson used it for their music in the 1960’s, including Pet Sounds, an album that prompted Paul McCartney to answer back with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which has its share of audio quirks that made it sound very different from what the band had recorded before.) During the same year that the (untitled 4th album) was being mixed, the Rolling Stones would find themselves at Sunset Sound in L.A. recording and mixing what would become their double LP masterpiece, Exile On Main St., a record that would also become known for its doomy, gloomy, and murky/muddy sound, which was perfect for the band’s own blues fetish. That album comes off more American than the band themselves, and yet 39 years later still stands out as incredible genius from the group.

8) Led Zeppelin had a bit of life ahead of them, but with the (untitled 4th album), their fate was sealed. It would become one of the most important rock’n’roll albums of all time, one of the most influential hard rock and heavy metal albums, it became everything that every music artist wants to achieve: immortality. I’m certain there are people who do not have any other Led Zeppelin albums in their hard copy or digital collections, and for a lot of them there’s no reason to. By limiting themselves to just this album, released on November 8, 1971, they are missing out on a band who loved what they did and played their hearts out, and they definitely rocked out with their cocks out, from London to Seattle, with special oils and mud sharks. With this album, they moved away from playing college venues to playing bigger arenas, and eventually stadiums when the mid-1970’s made that a common practice among rock’n’roll’s elite.

They wanted bigger, better and more, and Led Zeppelin experienced all of this. They became bigger than life by making an album that seemed to follow a “back to the essence” mentality a lot of artists were going through. Joni Mitchell wrote the song “Woodstock” even though she wasn’t at the festival, but her words “we got to get ourselves back to the garden” helped to define the Woodstock generation when it was covered by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young a few months after the festival. You would see bands known for their big sound and themes creating albums with artwork that was simple in tone. Some might say as rock’n’roll started to become ROCK, it started to become believers of its own hype, but some were saying “get out of the concert hall, stop inhailing that hashish and breathe in some fresh air.” For a few years, a number of artists did.

I had parents who saw that I loved my music a bit too much, so they would say “go outside, play with friends, go to the park, ride your bike, go to the store get some ice cream.” Which I did, and I’m forever grateful. I grew up in Hawai’i, surrounded by loads of trees, ponds, rivers, streams, and oceans. Seeing all of these images was just automatic, it was part of my childhood, so there’s all of these associations with growing up and these album covers. Which of course leads us back to Led Zeppelin. As the song once said, and it makes me wonder when I see the cover of the (untitled 4th album) and I ask mysef “what does it mean?”

Who is the old man, carrying the weight of a bundle of sticks? Is it really an old 19th century painting that Plant found somewhere during his worldly travels, or was that nothing more than B.S. to cover the truth? If it was a then-new photo, who is the man and does the image signify anything? We do know that the word “fag” means “a bundle of sticks”, and in England it is slang for a “cigarette stick”. “Fag” is a derogatory term for a homosexual, and in Led Zeppelin’s travels it has been said that some people did not like them because they were long haired men who looked feminine. Is the old man carrying a bundle of sticks a reference to some metaphorical “old man”, a/k/a establishment, carrying the weight and burden of the new generation of “young girly men”? If so, then is “Four Sticks” double entendre as a slur for the four men in the band? As a kid, one could come up with a bunch of theories and upon reading a Led Zeppelin article or book, you’d discover… absolutely nothing. Then you open up the cover and see a man holding a lamp on a mountain top, perhaps getting up there with the help of a misty mountain hop, but you see a long haired man trying to reach the old man with the lantern. Who are these people? Then you’d read on how some interpreted the river in the painting as that of being the Styx River, as depicted in Green mythology as being “a river that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead.” Is this a myth? Is this Biblical? What does it mean? If this is indeed the Styx River, does the Styx have anything to do with the bundle of sticks and “Four Sticks”?

Let’s get deeper. You look at the front cover again and of course note that the portrait of the old man with a bundle of sticks is on a wall, but when you look at the back cover, you see that this is an abandoned wall and behind it, an apartment building that looks quite “modern” compared to the relic imagery of the man. You then think “why is this portrait hanging on this wall, and is this wall an abandoned or condemned building or home that has to do with the apartment building in the distance? Is this to suggest that one day, that apartment building now considered modern will become like an old man, and be viewed as a relic with a future generation? What else lies in the distance, and can we as Led Zeppelin fans do anything to resolve this, if it is meant to be resolved at all?”

Then to go even further, there’s the theory that the inside painting, which is called The Hermit and is credited to one Barrington Colby, reveals something else. If you go to a mirror and place the gatefold image onto it, the mountain that the hermit is standing on allegedly reveals the face of a “black dog”.


Getting back to reality, I did find the truth to where that apartment building is. According to an article I found at, the building is located at Butterfield Court in Eve Hill, Dudley, England, and was still there as of December 2010. There are still theories as to what the cover represents, one being that the front is meant to represent the England of the past, but behind the demolished wall is modern England, one can say that you are seeing a level of progress. Is that progress a metaphor for the band’s growth and/or success? If so, what’s the significance of going to a place like Butterfield Court? Or if it is true that Page wanted the album to be as anonymous as possible, were the images merely random things meant to fuck with people’s heads for decades?

Perhaps that’s the point. We all enter the world seeing people, buildings, books, portraits and paintings unsure of their actual origin, so that all we have to do is apply a bit of guesswork and motivation to research and see where our minds (and curiosity) end up. The same could be said about the music, although I existed in “the life of the album”, so it was of my life even though I was too young to comprehend any of it when it was released. The cover was placed in our laps and we wondered if the imagery and symbols had anything to do with anything. As a kid it was cool to figure out the why’s and what’s, but we allowed ourselves to just take in the music and let that consume us. The cover was just that, a book cover that wrapped up a mighty audio dialogue that lasted a mere 42 minutes and with that that last “spank” of the guitar at the end of “When The Levee Breaks”, it was over. Yet 40 years later, we are still talking about the band, this album, the songs, the imagery, and everything extra that has little to do with one simple fact: four British guys loved writing, playing, and recorded music. They enjoyed reading about different theories and belief systems, along with different styles of music played by different cultures and ethnicities, and by looking at various aspects of the world and including it in their music, some viewed them as being evil. They were and still remain “a band of the occult”, and that could very well be why The O’Jays wrote and recorded a more spiritual song about their “Stairway To Heaven”, just so that mythical place would be nicer to hear about without the Satanic overtones.

Whatever. Those who bought Led Zeppelin III discovered there was a secret message written in the matrix (run-off groove) of the record. It said “Do What Thou Wilt, So Mete It Be”, a quote credited to the composer of the Satanic bible, Aleister Crowley. That fact alone has made millions of people play records backwards and try to find the truth behind their music and alleged demonic ways. Yet if you take away the Satan out of the equation, read the quote. You can interpret it as “do what you want, just let it be.” But the truth is that Crowley actually discovered the phrase from celebrated American, the 6th President of the United States, Benjamin Franklin. Not only was he a man of science and theory, but apparently he was an 18th century freak and an alleged occultist as a member of the Hellfire Club. Perhaps the last laugh was on Page, who may have understood how a bit of controversy could stir up attention and no surprise, most of the controversy surrounding their 4th album and “Stairway To Heaven” has originated from the United States. Page could’ve easily said “but friends, all of this wizardry you assume us in having comes from us being curious by the ways of the land that is the United States.” If you do a bit of research, it suggests that these devilish clubs were nothing more than political and scientific nerds gathering to talk shop, get drunk, find some nature to be influenced by, and have fun. In many ways, this is exactly what Led Zeppelin did in a late 20th century context. Perhaps the hermit in The Song Remains The Same movie, portrayed by Page,is meant to be a metaphor for past scientists and theorists, and maybe Page was saying nothing more than “I love to read, I love to think, and I’m not a genius, but I’m a bit more smarter than the dumb things you assume me of being.”

So mete it be.

EPILOGUE: Led Zeppelin were one of the most bootlegged bands in the vinyl era, not bad for a group that only released eight studio albums and one live album during their existence. There are some fans who now avoid the studio albums and feel the true Led Zep can be discovered in live recordings, where the band went out of their way to perform songs that were different from a performance the night, week, month, and year before. There have been a wide range of bootleg albums dedicated to studio outtakes, including those for the (untitled 4th album), and outside of a small handful of unreleased tracks, Page has never given an outtake project to Atlantic.

The second half of 2011 has revealed an overwhelming wealth of reissues, deluxe edition, super deluxe editions, amd mega super deluxe editions of various albums by respected bands, with a Smiles Sessions box from the Beach Boys to a number of massive Pink Floyd box sets which include demos, outtakes, live performances, and video footage, packaged in a way where you’ll know that will be the final version you’ll ever need. With the recent announcement that major labels will most likely stop releasing compact discs at the end of the year, it would have been the perfect time to give the (untitled 4th album) a super massive mega deluxe edition treatment.

According to an archived thread at the boards, The International CD Exchange (ICE) newsletter had posted that in 2002, there were plans to release a 2CD edition with the original CD and a disc with unreleased studio outtakes and tracks. The final word at the time was that a representative for WEA said that it was not going to happen.

With the release of Pink Floyd Immersion Box Sets, that has left some fans to post their ideas for what they’d like to see and hear if they could have a hand in making an Immersion-type box set for the (untitled 4th album). One thread, also at, show that many fans are aware of what exists, such as original mixes, specific outtakes and unreleased tracks, live performances of songs on the album recorded in 1971, and any existing footage that may be in the vaults for DVD inclusion (Page went out of his way to document Led Zeppelin’s career, but has held the majority of it in seclusion.) Some music fans over the years have created unofficial 5.1 surround sound mixes for the album, and it has been suggested that it would be cool for the album to be given an official surround sound mix. In the days of quadraphonic, there had always been rumors there would be LZ albums mixed in 4-channel stereo, but that never happened. The 40th anniversary for this record is here and now, it would have been the perfect opportunity to put together a box but no such luck. For now, you have to resort to the bootlegs such as All That Glitters Is Gold and IV Outtakes, or random compilations like Studio Gems. If there is ever a chance this album is compiled into a super deluxe edition, it would be great to witness its creation, or at least to hear it all in one place. Maybe in the digital era it will simply surface eventually and become a free download, but until then, the bootlegs are the only way to discover what else lurks behind the old man with a bundle of sticks on his back.

Happy 40th birthday, (untitled 4th album).

(For a look at the original Los Angeles billboard that promoted the album, click over to


RECORD CRACK: P.S. I Love You – Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (Japan)

I’m going to try a new series, not sure if I’ll have a new series each month but I’ll initiate it here. Record Crack is all about my love of all that is vinyl records, the different quirks, a bit of turntable information… basically a mixed bag of anything and everything.

This new series is called P.S. I Love You, which is the title of a Beatles song, but amongst record collectors, the term PS stands for “picture sleeve”, usually in reference to sleeves that are sold with 7″ 45rpm singles. P.S. I Love You is a subtle way of saying that I love picture sleeves, and I do. In the last 17 years, we have moved from caring about album/CD cover artwork, to wondering if it looks good as a forum avatar. Music fans often celebrate artists, songs, albums, and videos with a clever avatar, but as the MP3 has opened the virtual door to an endless stream of musical content, they may not realize that for earlier generations, singles and albums were represented by specific images. Many of them were represented by picture sleeves that were mass marketed and sold to the public, and a lot of times they were treated like a bag of potato chips/crisps, thrown on the bedroom or living room floor as the record played over and over until there were too many skips, surface noise, or someone stepped on it.

With music fans, seeing a picture sleeve often brings back a nostalgic feeling. For record collectors, it’s interesting to see how those songs/singles and albums were represented in other countries, who would often release records with sleeves that was unfamiliar to people outside of the home country of the release. The Beatles made it possible to discover the differences between US and UK releases, but one song could have been released in multiple ways with completely different sleeves. In many instances, countries would release singles that were not released in the US or UK.

P.S. I Love You is not going to be a series about every single different picture sleeve out there. This series is about some of my all time favorite picture sleeves, a mixture of records that were/are in my collection, or sleeves I may have seen in books, magazines, websites, or blogs. Each entry will feature a brief story, and while some of these are well known to fans of these songs and artists, there are some who will be seeing these for the first time, as the image is not one they see in their minds when thinking/hearing of the song. It’s simply another voyage into the cool and wacky world of record collecting, and there are many collectors who will do anything in their power to obtain that special picture sleeve, their “holy grail if you will”. There are even collectors who don’t want the records, it’s sleeves and sleeves only.

For my first installment of P.S. I Love You, we go to Japan.

My childhood was filled with a good share of hard rock and heavy metal, either from uncles who praised bands like Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, or a father who never held me back from listening to whatever I wanted. My first Led Zeppelin album was a Taiwan pressing of Led Zeppelin III, with its cheap-ass flimsy paper/plastic cover and blue label. Incredibly scratchy unlike the Atlantic pressing my uncle had, but it was still Led Zeppelin. I grew up with the albums, but would read articles on how the band refused to release singles in their home country. Meanwhile, Atlantic in the U.S. insisted on releasing singles, as they were promotional tools not only to promote the act, but to help sell the album. There’s a side of Led Zeppelin’s legacy based on what Atlantic released as potential hit singles: “Black Dog”, “Rock’N’Roll”, “D’yer Ma’ker”, “Trampled Underfoot”, “The Immigrant Song” (with its praised non-LP B-side “Hey Hey What Can I Do”) and a few others. Each of these songs were not big hits on the pop charts, but remain classic rock staples today.

The release of Led Zeppelin’s debut album in 1969 showed Atlantic that these New Yardbirds could sell some records, but at the time they were targeted to college kids who loved that abrasive “heavy blues”. The band may have been signed by Atlantic in the hopes they could be as hit-worthy (or teen sensations) as The Yardbirds were in some circles, but Jimmy Page wanted to try something new when his New Yardbirds settled to become something much mightier. When the band came out with Led Zeppelin II, Atlantic U.S. chose to release the opening track as a single. “Whole Lotta Love” is hugely influential today, but back then the song was considered too weird because of its avant-garde mid-section. Some felt the guitar feedback and moans from Robert Plant was a bit too sexual, and that lead to Atlantic creating a radio friendly version which eliminated the mid-section. That seemed to do the job, as the song would gain a bit more airplay and find time in jukeboxes across the country.

Other countries would take a cue and release “Whole Lotta Love” as a single. When record store customers saw the single, that was the song to pay attention to. The single was king, and that attention and awareness could lead to concert ticket sales if that band played in other countries.

Atlantic Japan released “Whole Lotta Love” as a single, and while there are many different LZ picture sleeves to choose from, I always liked this one because it features an action shot of the band that is fairly uncommon. If you read articles about the band, you’ll see the same set of photos over and over. This one consists of nothing but Plant letting out a wail while Jimmy Page is seen in the foreground. You don’t see nothing but his arm, his hair, and the neck of his guitar, complimented by the band name and song title in kanji and the obligatory Atlantic Records logo. That’s it.

When people think of “Whole Lotta Love” and have to come up with an image, it’s usually of the Led Zeppelin II cover, or perhaps a photo from the first album. This picture sleeve shows the kind of care Japan put into making their products stand out, an aesthetic that not only was a standard for all of their music, but one that can be seen in all of their products. It just looks cool because it’s different. Awesome.

VIDEO/OPINION: Kanye West’s “Runaway: The Movie”

  • As reported a few days ago, Kanye West revealed the cover art for his new album, now having an additional word in the title: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In Twitter, West stated that the cover was banned, at least in the U.S. The buzz had begun. A day later, West said that the banned cover would be one of five different covers. In my editorial piece, I felt that perhaps it was nothing more than a promotional tactic, the idea that a cover can be banned in 2010 is out but not entirely out of the question. Even before the news of this being one of five covers, I felt that perhaps he would just reveal a new image each week, and maybe the week before the release date, we’d see the final version.
  • This isn’t the first album cover that has been banned or changed in some fashion, nor is it the first album to be released with multiple covers. Jane’s Addiction‘s third album, Ritual de lo Habitual, featured a portrait put together by vocalist Perry Farrell that pictured him with his wife and lady friend. While it was illustrated nudity, some felt it was too naughty, so Farrell released the album in a “freedom of speech”-type cover. It was released this way on vinyl, cassette, and CD.
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    The Rolling Stones are known for the Andy Warhol-designed cover for 1971’s Sticky Fingers, but in Spain, their record label didn’t want people to see Joe Dallesandro‘s, um, “impression”, so an alternate cover was made. Arguably, a photo of fingers in what may be cranberry sauce almost comes off as blood, and maybe more sinister.
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    Led Zeppelin released six different covers for what would end up being their last album, In Through The Out Door.
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    The Police released not two, three, or six, but 36 different covers for their 1983 album, Synchronicity. A Tribe Called Quest released three variations for their album Midnight Marauders, The Roots played with alternate covers not once, but twice, for Things Fall Apart (five different covers), and The Tipping Point (promotionally, each member of the group had their own cover made up for them, although in stores and online, two covers were made and released.)

  • Playing with album cover art may be an oddity in 2010, especially as there is a belief that the album format is dead, but artists like West are letting fans realize that it’s not, it is still very much about the full-length experience. This leads us to West’s new thing to experience, that of his 33 minute “film”, Runaway. In my day, we called it a long-form video but since music videos are no longer on MTV and VH-1, people only remember videos by what they see on YouTube. People are comparing Runaway, directed by Hype Williams, to the works of Michael Jackson, since he was known for being extravagant with his videos, but take a look at it. It is nothing more than a very good, artistic, abstract “highlight reel”, on cassingles and CD singles they would call this the equivalent of a “snippet tape”, where all you would hear are excerpts. This video serves as a sampler of what’s to come on his album. I wouldn’t compare this to MJ as I would to artists who created long form videos that served as a sampler for their albums, including Tin Machine:


    and The Roots.

    So what about the West video?

  • For one, it is obviously a big budget music video, or for the sake of not arguing, a film. It’s a “mini-film” that represents the music that is on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and if you’re watching to hear the music, it shows that he is still being very intricate and deliberate with what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. You can complain about his methods of promotion, of his music or self, but he’s putting an incredible amount into his music and that pays off in the end. As for the imagery, it is not typical of an average music video, although you might see it in a lot of videos from Mexico or Spain, or something more arty in the indie rock world. I will go as far as to say the video reminds me of some of the more left-of-center films of the 70’s, such as Ken Russell‘s The Devils, Pier Paolio Pasolini‘s Salò (The 120 Days of Sodom), and Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s The Holy Mountain. All of these films play with spirituality and human nature, and while West’s video is not religious in tone, you do have the visuals of a bird that may be a fallen angel, which of course leads to the questions “who is the fallen angel?” and “who exactly does the fallen angel represent?”

    Fans on blogs and boards have touched on West’s use of mythology, bringing up something Brian “B+” Cross stated in a reply to me on Twitter: “what is he really saying retelling the Phoenix myth? Neoclassical navalgazzery?” In comic books, one of the more celebrated stories in the Marvel Universe and X-Men legacy involves Jean Gray, known earlier on as Phoenix or Dark Phoenix. There was a storyline where Gray commits suicide, something you never experienced in a comic book, especially not in the 1980’s. Now, I haven’t been into The X-Men since the 80’s, but I definitely remember the image on The Uncanny X-Men #136, citing the death of “the child of light and darkness”.
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    Now go back to the album cover. Is West suggesting that he is “the child of light and darkness”, the dark beast and the woman of light complexion, of good and evil, two opposite forces uniting as one?

    I think that will be a recurring theme for him in the next two years, the idea of renewal and resurrection of himself and hip-hop, if he is exploring the idea that hip-hop is dead. Is that what West is doing, and if so, is he doing it well? Maybe the unique imagery is fooling us into thinking this is good, or as B+ stated, “Runaway was like anorexic Cocteau”, in reference to filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

  • Compared to most hip-hop music videos, even the more independent works, this is fairly avant-garde and it may move someone to question West and whether or not he’s evil, demonic, or a disciple of Lord Satana. In a recent tweet, West said he calls his works “commercial art” and mentions it almost as if it was an epiphany. He is a commercial artist creating art, that’s what an artist is, but in a time when the public is unsure of what they’re seeing and hearing, that art is either unknown or brushed off as being too high-brow, especially by a black artist, as if great works of art by black people or anyone “of color” does not (or cannot) exist.
  • It’s not exactly a color thing, but it will be brought up because that is what’s being presented in the artwork for the cover and the imagery in the video. You see an ugly beast on the cover, that’s one issue. You see a ballerina on another cover, what makes one more beautiful and accepted over the other? Is it the colors and shades used, or are we in control of the unseen and unknown beast, as portrayed on the cover? Do we put blame on the beast when it is evil and sinister, and do we only praise what’s beautiful when it has an established and accepted look? Watch the video, it’s very elegant, and when was the last time you said that for a hip-hop video? It’s not hip-hop, and yet the nature of hip-hop suggests that it is. Hip-hop, at its best, has always been about a sponge that sucks up anything and everything, and spits it out in a new way. Writer/journalist Todd “Stereo” Williams watched the video, and posted on Twitter that “(The Pharcyde) did the ‘white servants’ thing in the “Runnin” video 15 years ago, because Runaway features scenes that look like it could have been pulled from that video. In a recent Twitter search about the “white servants” in the video, a lot of people are taken aback by it, but it was done before to great effect.

    While it may not be 1995, it’s 2010, and a younger generation who have no idea of the references and suggestions might thing it’s revolutionary, but they’re not. The execution is great, but what I’m more fascinated with is more or less the telling of the story, whatever the story may be.

  • If anything, Runaway: The Movie and his latest music is making people discuss and decipher the art. Everyone knows what it’s like to go into the club, talk in the club, get high in the club, and drink up and sigh in the club, maybe get a little nub while piling up on the grub. Now, he’s giving you maybe not something different, but “something else”. That “something else” has existed for years in other places, but now it’s being presented to a new audience, a new generation, in a nicely dusted fashion. It’s the telling of the story that will determine its fate, and we’re only in the intro of the telling of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Maybe the end credits to this story will roll on December 20, 2012, the day before the much hyped end of the world, and maybe that beast on his album cover will “dominate and smile over us for all eternity (or its last 24 hours). Either that, or he’ll laugh at it all and start on his next album, to be released on the end of the world’s first anniversary in 2013.

    (Mahalo nui to B+ of Mochilla for the feedback and last minute addition to this article, and Donald Ely for reminding me of the crotch ID error. I wrote this article late in the evening, I’ll blame that.)

  • VIDEO: Bilal’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You (Live)”

    With Bilal about to drop a new album very soon, he has been making the rounds with a number of live shows. In this video, he performs Led Zeppelin‘s classics blues staple “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. The original Led Zeppelin song was released 40 years ago on the Led Zeppelin III (Atlantic) album. 40 years later, it makes a (slight) return for those who may not know about the “worried” mind.

    VIDEO: Zepparella’s “When The Levee Breaks”

    Tribute bands are getting more attention these days for being quality tributes. AC/DC fans have Hell’s Belles to deal with, and Led Zeppelin have Lez Zeppelin to deal with, but there’s also another band Zep fans have been enjoying, consider it a non-existent battle that is merely a celebration (Led Zeppelin III, track 3) of the riches Valhalla provides.

    Zepparella are very good at what they do, and they just released their version of the Led Zep arrangement of Kansas Joe McCoy & Memphis Minnie‘s “When The Levee Breaks”. Enjoy.

    OPINION: Mary J. Blige records Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” for new album

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    (photograph by Andrew McLeod)

    When I read this article from the Los Angeles Times, I cringed somewhat. A part of me wants to hold to the goofy “sacred cows” of rock’n’roll, but a part of me is also thinking cool, someone is trying something different from their norm, but I have a few mixed feelings about this.

    The article by Shirley Halperin states that as Mary J. Blige was in Los Angeles to record the updated version of “We Are The World” to raise relief funds for Haiti, she was recording music for her forthcoming album. In this case it was a recording session that featured guitarists Steve Vai and Orianthi, drummer Travis Barker, and bassist Randy Jackson, all handled by producer Ron Fair. The song is Led Zeppelin‘s “Stairway To Heaven”.


    I’m a huge Led Zeppelin fan and I respect the power of that song. I grew up with it, loved it, understand the Wayne’s World joke, and now it’s a classic rock staple, the staple of all staples to where if it’s on the radio, I turn it off. I’ll listen to it every few months, but that’s it. When people talk about Led Zeppelin, it eventually leads to discussion of “Stairway To Heaven”, it is their epic song from one of the biggest selling hard rock albums of all time.

    However, as someone who calls herself a longtime rock’n’roll fan, it just seems so cliche to do that song. I can already see it: the hard rock/heavy metal kids will hate it. Some of Mary’s fans will say “oh no, she’s gone off the deep end now”. Blige was criticized years ago for working with Elton John and George Michael, that’s fairly tame compared to what this song will do because there are people who still feel Led Zeppelin are monarchs of hell, with Satan found in their music, artwork, and mysterious demonic symbols on the cover with the band carrying a bundle of sticks. There will no doubt be some minster who will reverse the Blige version and say “now listen, the evil shared by England’s Led Zeppelin has been modernized to talk about gang warfare, crack cocaine, the Talbian, and Lil’ Wayne”. Blige will become the new Satan, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

    Personally, it would have been cooler to hear Blige cover something not-so-obvious:

    King Crimson‘s “Epitaph”
    Whitesnake‘s “Slow And Easy”
    Y&T‘s “Eyes Of A Stranger”
    Queensryche “I Don’t Believe In Love”
    Aerosmith‘s “Nobody’s Fault”
    Metallica‘s “The Things That Should Not Be”
    Kiss‘ “Do You Love Me”
    Black Sabbath‘s “Solitude” or “Children Of The Grave”
    Metal Church‘s “Watch The Children Pray”
    Mudhoney‘s “This Gift”
    Tad‘s “Stumblin’ Man”

    Since I’m mentioning Mudhoney and Tad, imagine if you will, a Mary J. Blige cover of Mercyful Fate‘s “Gypsy”:

    If “Stairway To Heaven” will turn Blige to Satan for some people, I can’t imagine what would happen if Blige was open enough to cover something sung by the almighty King Diamond.

    I don’t know, I would not mind hearing Blige cover more rock and pop, no harm in that. Yet out of all the songs to do, “Stairway To Heaven”? I’m sure some of the people involved are thinking “fuck a sacred cow” but… how about “Thank You”, “The Rain Song”, “That’s The Way”, “In The Light”, or “Since I’ve Been Loving You”? The choice of “Stairway To Heaven” is similar to saying “I love rock, but only what I heard on the radio. What are the big rock hits?”

    We’ll have to wait a few more months to see what will happen. If this moves Keri Hilson to cover Black Sabbath‘s “Sign Of The Southern Cross”, I’ll throw up my devil horns. In truth, hard rock and heavy metal has always been a means of debate between those who have seen the music and creators as evil, and fans who know of the music as a means of escape and dealing with the realities of the world. A lot of hard rock and heavy metal have “heavy” subject matter, but we all know countless bands, especially the ugly ones (you know who I’m talking about), have done songs on everything from love, loss, fears, and hopes. Could be a Maxwell or Raphael Saadiq album. Maybe next time, when a soul/R&B vocalist covers a rock song, I hope it’s one that challenges them, the original song, and the fans.

    SOME STUFFS: Robert Plant Is Now Royal Like Orleans

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    Who would ever think? 40 years after the debut of his debut album with Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant is now the Commander of the British Empire (CBE), an honor given to him in London today by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

    Plant is not the only member of Led Zeppelin that has official royal ranking, for Jimmy Page has an OBE (Order of the British Empire). Apparenly Plant’s CBE is higher in rank than Plage’s OBE, and I’m sure Zep fans will be debating the true meaning of this for years.

    (News source: Associated Press)

    SOME STUFFS: “It Might Get Loud” honors the power and volume of the guitar

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    This movie is being described this way:

    Rarely can a film penetrate the glamorous surface of rock legends. It Might Get Loud tells the personal stories, in their own words, of three generations of electric guitar virtuosos – The Edge (U2), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), and Jack White (The White Stripes). It reveals how each developed his unique sound and style of playing favorite instruments, guitars both found and invented. Concentrating on the artist’s musical rebellion, traveling with him to influential locations, provoking rare discussion as to how and why he writes and plays, this film lets you witness intimate moments and hear new music from each artist. The movie revolves around a day when Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge first met and sat down together to share their stories, teach and play.”

    Directed by Davis Guggenheim,, It Might Be Loud will open in NY and LA on August 14th, and in other cities soonafter.